Light Therapy for Eczema: Is it Effective

Red Light Therapy for Eczema: Is it Effective?

light therapy for eczema

Red light therapy for eczema shows promise as a treatment that allows you to say goodbye to this troublesome and often difficult-to-treat condition.

Moderate to severe eczema is unsightly and irritating – but referring to it merely as a “skin condition” doesn’t come close to explaining how it can affect everyday life, disrupting sleep and interfering with daily activities. 

Eczema’s physical and psychological effects make finding relief a top priority. And while there is currently no cure, there are many treatments available, including lifestyle changes, over-the-counter remedies, prescription topical and oral treatments, systemic medications, narrowband ultraviolet phototherapy, and red light therapy.

In this article, we'll focus on red light as a groundbreaking therapy that treats eczema at the cellular level.

Although red light therapy has not been widely studied specifically for treating eczema, thousands of studies and scientific papers have shown it to be a promising treatment for numerous conditions and disorders. This vast body of research includes many peer-reviewed studies on the effects of red light on other chronic skin disorders, which show great promise in reducing symptoms; and more importantly, addressing the underlying causes.

During a 2018 clinical review, for example, researchers observed the results of a small number of trials related to psoriasis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease. The researchers concluded that although clinical trials are still small in number, red light therapy shows promise for treating psoriasis due to its deep penetration and positive effects on the body’s cells. 

An early study on 81 patients with the most common form of eczema, atopic dermatitis, found that red light therapy effectively decreased itching in 63 people with the condition and it reduced skin eruptions in 57 cases.

Below, we’ll discuss the research in more depth, and review how and why to use red light therapy for eczema from the comfort of your own home. 

Treating Eczema with Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy, which is also called low-level light therapy (LLLT) and photobiomodulation (PBM), is a common treatment for various chronic skin conditions. It involves exposing bare skin to wavelengths of red and/or near-infrared (NIR) light to promote healing at the cellular level. The term “red light therapy” is often used as an umbrella term for both red and NIR light.

The origins of light therapy date back thousands of years to when ancient healers prescribed natural sunlight as a healing modality.

The human body is very responsive to sunlight, with reactions varying based on wavelength. 

For example, ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) light ranges from 280 to 400 nanometers (nm) and is often used to treat skin conditions; however, overdoing UV treatments can lead to skin damage and potentially skin cancer. 

The key to treating with light is to isolate the most beneficial and least harmful wavelengths. According to a wide body of research, that's where red and NIR wavelengths come into play.

Red wavelengths are much longer than those of UV light. According to world-renowned red light therapy expert Dr. Michael Hamblin, red wavelengths range from about 600 to 700nm, and NIR wavelengths range from about 770 to 1200nm. 

Research has shown that the ideal range for health benefits is from 630 to 650nm (red) and from 810 to 850nm (NIR). This range is known as the “therapeutic window.”

woman with eczema

How Red Light Therapy Can Promote Skin Repair and Regeneration

Much research, including a study cited in this 2019 paper, suggests that red/NIR light therapy promotes skin regeneration and rejuvenation by increasing collagen and elastin synthesis. Collagen and elastin are two proteins that are responsible for healthy, supple skin. 

A 2013 study states that red light activates stem cells, the body’s “master cells” that are essential for healing. This discovery potentially makes red light therapy an important application in dermatology.

An exciting finding from a 2017 study was that atopic dermatitis may have a genetic cause; specifically, deficiency of a skin protein called filaggrin which helps shape individual skin cells and forms part of the skin barrier. A filaggrin deficiency can mean easier access for bacteria; and allowing too much moisture to escape, leading to skin dryness and itching.

Although there are currently no studies on the effects of red/NIR wavelengths on filaggrin synthesis, red light is known to stimulate the synthesis of other skin proteins. This holds promise for future studies in which red light could potentially be used to restore a healthy skin barrier.

How Red Light Therapy Promotes Cellular Metabolism

Numerous studies have shown that red/NIR light stimulates mitochondria, which are tiny organelles inside cells that produce fuel known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). One of those, a  landmark study co-authored by Hamblin, revealed that with the application of red/NIR light to the skin, “a cascade of events occur in the mitochondria, leading to biostimulation of various processes.”

When cells can't produce enough ATP, it can lead to a condition called mitochondrial dysfunction, which often contributes to chronic diseases. 

In contrast, cells that can efficiently convert raw materials into fuel are better able to perform their specialized functions. This enables cells to fend off bacterial infections that contribute to rashes and other eczema symptoms. 

How Red Light Therapy Boosts the Immune System

A strong immune system can fight off bacteria that can cause numerous disorders, including eczema. For those who suffer from autoimmune disorders, however, the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissue, which can lead to cell death. 

During a 2009 study, researchers from the United States and China found that LLLT can reduce premature cell death. As a result, more cells are available to "educate" immune cells in the thymus and bone marrow, effectively teaching immune cells to differentiate between the "self" and foreign bodies. This study finding means that red light therapy may potentially help treat autoimmune disorders.

How Red Light Therapy Leads to Reduced Skin Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a known cause or contributing factor in many chronic disorders. In a 2017 article published in the scientific journal AIMS Biophysics, Hamblin discusses red/NIR light therapy’s anti-inflammatory effects at length. 

Although the article does not specially mention eczema, it does mention psoriasis, which is an autoimmune skin disease that causes a buildup of dead cells (known as plaques) on the skin's surface. Both psoriasis and eczema are chronic inflammatory skin diseases.

Treatment for both psoriasis and eczema typically focuses on reducing inflammation, which is why red/NIR light therapy can be very effective. In his 2017 article, Hamblin explains that red/NIR light can “stimulate healing, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation.” Once inflammation is reduced, the body responds with better cell functioning and faster healing.

How Red Light Therapy Increases Microcirculation

Hamblin was also involved in a 2013 study that focused on red light therapy for skin. The study found that red wavelengths increase blood flow by stimulating the formation of new capillaries to improve oxygen and nutrient delivery to the skin. Similarly, red/NIR light affects the endothelial cells (which make up capillaries) in the lymphatic system, which removes toxins and waste that could contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction.

Researchers from Genoa, Italy conducted a study in 2019 that confirmed how NIR light protects the body against inflammation-induced endothelial dysfunction.

How Red Light Can Offer Relief from Eczema Symptoms

What about fast and effective relief from incessant itching, scaly patches, and pain?

When combined with conventional treatments, red light therapy has been shown in numerous studies to have a soothing effect.

A 2013 study on mice affected with atopic dermatitis revealed that red light therapy combined with an immunosuppressive drug reduced inflammation reduced the severity of skin lesions, and restored the skin barrier.

Combining red light treatments with hot baths also reduced the development of inflamed itchy skin, according to a 2015 study on mice specifically bred to develop skin lesions very similar to human atopic dermatitis.

More research on the effects of red/NIR light on eczema is needed. However, existing studies show promise in reducing itching and inflammation in people who suffer from the disorder.

The Problem With Common Eczema Treatments

Current eczema treatment options focus on managing symptoms. Symptoms and treatment responses typically vary from person to person, and using several methods together is often the most effective treatment.

Although these treatments may relieve eczema symptoms, they are temporary solutions and don't address the underlying cause of the disorder. And, some come with serious side effects.

The most common treatments include:

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Lifestyle changes, such as warm showers followed by a moisturizing oil or regimen;

Over-the-counter topical treatments, including cleansers, moisturizers, and anti-itch creams;

medicine and pills

Prescription treatments, such as skin barrier creams, immunosuppressants, and intravenous biologic drugs;

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Prescription phototherapy (typically ultraviolet light therapy). Ultraviolet (UV) light has been used to treat chronic conditions including severe eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne. Eczema phototherapy is not without risks, however. While UVA and UVB light therapy has some therapeutic effects, it is also known to damage DNA and can potentially lead to the development of cancer.

Because red/NIR light therapy has no known damaging effects – and has numerous benefits – the authors of this 2017 study support it as an alternative for UV photo-immunotherapy for autoimmune and chronic disorders, including atopic dermatitis.

Sometimes, the solution is to treat the symptoms and wait for the condition to resolve itself. Children who develop eczema will often outgrow it, but only after years of excruciating itching that can also leave emotional scars. People who develop eczema as adults may never get rid of this disease.

Red light therapy should not be considered a cure for eczema. But research has shown that it works at the cellular level to support the body’s healing mechanisms, potentially stopping the progression of the disorder and eventually supporting remission.

At-Home Red Light for Eczema

Unlike UV light therapy, which must be administered by a doctor and carries numerous risks, you can safely administer red light therapy in the comfort and convenience of home. 

The Right Device and the Right Wavelengths

Choose a medical-grade red light device for your targeted treatment area. These devices are fitted with LED lights and come in a variety of sizes.

If your eczema is localized (elbows and knees), a smaller panel will be effective. If you suffer from widespread eczema, choose a larger panel that can treat eczema in multiple locations on the body or the entire body in one treatment session.

LED light therapy devices are considered low-risk devices that are suitable for home use. When used as directed, they're as pleasant as tanning beds – but without the potential for skin damage.

You will get the best results using an LED device that delivers a combination of red/NIR wavelengths, which can target all the layers within the skin as well as underlying tissue. 

The PlatinumLED BIOMAX series features a potent combination of five different red and NIR wavelengths in a proprietary ratio based on comprehensive research.

red light therapy devices

Safety and Consistency

Be sure to wear goggles to prevent eye strain when receiving the treatment.

We recommend consistent light therapy sessions for five to 20 minutes daily or every other day to start. Remember that regular treatments promote healing at the cellular level.

This treatment for eczema is a long game. Expect it to take several weeks or months (depending on the severity of the condition) before you see satisfactory results.

LED light therapy is a safe treatment for moderate to severe eczema, and unlike UV light therapy, long-term use is supported by research. You can continue with red light therapy treatments on an ongoing basis to help prevent eczema flare-ups and reduce skin tenderness.

Benefits That Go Beyond Skin Deep

Among its many therapeutic uses, red and NIR light can also treat acne, enhance overall skin condition, treat premature skin aging, and improve skin elasticity and firmness – making it a useful tool for not only eczema treatment, but also for overall skincare. 

Countless peer-reviewed studies confirm that red light is beneficial for various health conditions, without adverse side effects. 

You can use red/NIR light treatment for arthritis, weight loss, hair loss, athletic performance, low back pain, and more. Check out the PlatinumLED blog’s Learn page to discover dozens of ways to enhance your health with a daily red light treatment.

What People Are Saying

Here’s a small sampling of what people are saying about the effects of red light therapy on their skin health:

Rebecca H. (verified buyer): “Excellent lights, helps my eczema. I purchased the BIO-300 early in the pandemic and found it really helps with my eczema. However, I decided that because of off and on neck pain that I really needed something with multi-spectrum coverage to reduce inflammation, something the BIO-300 wasn't able to do. So I purchased 2 of the BIOMAX 900 units and the horizontal rack stand. It is very comfortable to lie on a bed and do your treatment. I believe that it's better for my eczema than the BIO-300 but haven't had a chance to test it out on reducing my neck pain/inflammation. I will have to wait until I have a flare of pain to see if it helps.”

T S (verified buyer): “Shipped fast to Singapore! Helps with eczema. The device came in perfect condition and I’m happy with the results for my skin condition, eczema.”

Justin S. (verified buyer)Must have!! I am 32 and always trying to be in the best possible shape physically that I can be. I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was born and it’s been a battle with my skin and joints ever since. My hands flake, crack and bled daily until I introduced red light therapy to them on a daily basis. Also from a mindset standpoint, combining cold plunge therapy and redlight therapy following a cold plunge has been extremely beneficial.”

Laura H. (verified customer) “Enjoying it so far. It's only been 2 weeks, however, I notice my mood is better and my skin feels tighter. I have rosacea and psoriasis and feel it is improving both.”

Laurie C. (verified buyer): 21st Century Healthcare: I love my BioMax 900 and saw an immediate improvement in my cystic acne and skin texture/redness. My entire family is using my unit and the mobility of the horizontal stand makes use easy and comfortable. Highly recommend!”

Paul M. (verified customer): Already working! 9 days of using the combo red/infrared therapy lights and my skin is smoothing out and I even have more eyebrow hair growing where I have always had light eyebrow hair. My mood is up also. I have the time to use the full-body light 2-3 times a day totaling 50-60 min.”

Paula (verified customer): Highly Recommend! I’ve been using the Bio600 for about a month now. Very quickly, I noticed that I have more energy; my skin is looking and feeling better; and the pain in my foot from plantar fasciitis is lessening. I’m very happy I got this device!”

Katherine D. (verified customer): LOVING these therapy lights already. I've spent years studying these and other red lights for therapeutic reasons after using my friends and we are already, just after a week, thrilled with the results. They have helped me overcome hives, I feel more energized, my husband's hip is better and my skin looks better. AMAZING.”

Deanna D. (verified customer): Skin looks amazing. I bought the bio 450 series Light and have used it every day for 14 days so far and I can not get over how even-toned my face/neck look. I suffer with under-eye circles and I see a difference already. I love the light therapy facials each night. I feel like I'm sleeping more soundly. I just started using it on my stomach and left hip as well. I suffer from a left labrum tear in my hip. I haven't used it as much on that area to give any feedback or feel any differences. I'll update any progress in about a month.”

Patricia B. (verified customer): LOVE our new light. We recently received our Biomax 300. It's brilliant, we love using it and feel this will be a great addition to our post-exercise recovery protocol and skin anti-aging treatments.”

Check out our Testimonials section for more reviews from real users!

Get Relief from Eczema with Red Light

If you’re looking for an effective way to treat eczema, there are a variety of options from which to choose. From creams to oral medication to UV light therapy, you could spend weeks, months – even years – trying to find the best solution. 

One alternative stands apart as a long-term, natural solution that moves beyond treating symptoms to improving your body’s natural functioning at the cellular level: red light therapy. Discover the red light difference today!