How Red Light Therapy Treats Stretch Marks

How Red Light Therapy Can Minimize the Appearance of Stretch Marks

red light therapy for stretch marks

We may give them pet names like angel scratches or tiger stripes, but the names don’t hide the ugly marks that can cause body image problems for people of both genders. Given the amazing clinically proven skin-rejuvenating effects of red light therapy, it could be the solution you’ve been looking for. Read on to discover how to use red light therapy for stretch marks to restore the normal appearance of your skin, and boost your confidence.  

Red light therapy shows great promise as an effective treatment for stretch marks. This natural therapy takes a different approach than surface treatments like retinoid creams. Red light therapy works on the cellular level to stimulate healing from below the stretch marks.

Note: Shop clinical-grade red light therapy panels in the Platinum Therapy Lights store


Why Do We Get Stretch Marks, and Why Won't They Go Away? 

A stretch mark is a type of scar called a stria, meaning, “thin, narrow scar.” In people who develop stretch marks, their skin has stretched faster than it can grow, such as during pregnancy, growth spurts, or rapid fat or muscle gain. 

How Stretch Marks Form

Rapid stretching causes ruptures in collagen and elastin, which are the proteins responsible for the skin’s structure and elasticity. This leads to tearing in the dermis, the thickest layer of skin that is beneath the outer layer known as the epidermis.

As the dermis tears, the body’s wound healing mechanisms activate to close the wound as quickly as possible in order to prevent further damage.

Normally, as the skin regenerates and grows, it’s an elegantly organized latticework of collagen and elastin. But when the skin tears, the body doesn’t have time to build a beautiful structure to fill in the gap. “Scarring is the result of a system that has learned to respond extremely quickly to a wound,”  says Dr. John Newman, a cosmetic surgeon, and researcher at the Laser Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach.
Instead of a latticework, collagen at the site of excessive pressure on the skin organizes in parallel bands, building “bridges” that ensure the skin won’t tear. Yet this organization is much weaker than the normal latticework of skin. It also does not contain elastin – which means the stretch mark can't stretch. (Ironic, isn't it?)

Minimizing rapid weight gain is the best way to prevent stretch marks. But once they've appeared, not all is lost. Time is your friend, since the color will lighten over time, and the appearance of stretch marks will fade and recede below the top layer of the surrounding skin.

You can accelerate this process using red light therapy … we’ll explain how shortly. 


Why Don't Stretch Marks Disappear Over Time?

The big mystery is why stretch marks don’t disappear over time as the skin regenerates. The key lies in the information that emerging cells receive from adult cells in the area.

Skin cells, whether they’re normal cells or scar cells, regenerate about once every 30 days. Growth of new cells begins at the bottom-most layer of the scar and older (dying) cells are pushed to the surface where they naturally slough off.

As Newman explains, however, emerging cells “learn” from their immediate neighbors and predecessors, and develop the same characteristics as the cells they are replacing. What this means is that emerging cells in contact with scars could become new scar tissue rather than normal skin tissue.

That’s why it’s often said that stretch marks are permanent.

Prevention may be easier than a cure, but it’s not always possible to avoid stretch marks. So let's get down to the business of using red light to get rid of them.


Red Light Therapy for Stretch Marks

Also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) and photobiomodulation, red light therapy is used to improve skin tone, reduce signs of aging, treat chronic skin conditions, reduce scarring, promote skin wound healing – and minimize the appearance of stretch marks.

Red light therapy uses wavelengths of visible red light ranging from 630 to 660 nanometers (nm); and invisible near-infrared (NIR) light, which ranges from 810 to 850 nm. The term “red light therapy” is often used to apply to both red and NIR light.

These wavelengths are applied to the skin via LED light therapy devices. It’s a safe, painless, natural, and effective way to boost skin and overall health

 

How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Stretch Marks?

Hundreds of studies have shown red light therapy’s effectiveness for treating a multitude of skin conditions, and it is particularly effective at wound repair. For example, this 2014 study showed red light’s ability to stimulate tissue repair and regeneration and thus, reduce the appearance of scarring. 

Human cells respond favorably to these wavelengths in a way that’s similar to how natural sunlight affects plant cells: by stimulating the production of more energy which leads to optimized cell function.

This energizes cells to perform their normal functions, from fighting off pathogens to performing self-repair and self-regeneration.

Here are the primary scientifically validated mechanisms by which red light therapy can promote normal skin regeneration that could, in time, drastically reduce the appearance of stretch marks:

Red Light Increases Cellular Energy

It may seem a bit far-fetched that increasing energy production within cells can influence healing, but it’s true. Tired or depleted cells cannot perform well; they struggle to perform basic functions. 

As Dr. Anthony Komaroff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explains in this 2018 article: “If you feel you don’t have enough energy, it can be because your body has problems producing enough ATP and thus providing cells with enough energy.”

According to an article co-authored by renowned red light expert and researcher Dr. Michael Hamblin, red light therapy stimulates cellular energy production as the first step toward healing.

When red light photons absorb into bare skin, they interact with light-sensitive chromophores in mitochondria, which are colloquially referred to as the powerhouses or “energy factories” of cells. The mitochondria are, in turn, stimulated to produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the body’s primary cellular fuel. 

This boost in energy gives cells the resources to perform their functions, including self-repair and regeneration. As cells become energized, there’s a ripple effect on the other cells in the area.

All cells that are irradiated by red light can benefit, including cells within the circulatory system, nerve cells (neurons), and fibroblasts which are responsible for the synthesis of collagen and elastin proteins.  

One reason cells may not be producing enough energy is that they may be suffering from oxidative stress due to inflammation. This is why reducing inflammation is another key step to supporting normal skin regeneration.

Red Light Therapy Reduces Inflammation

Acute inflammation results in the redness that’s noticeable in fresh stretch marks. This is a normal part of the tissue regeneration process. 

Acute inflammation, which is a natural function of the immune system, actually sets the stage for normal tissue repair and regeneration. Inflammation is quickly followed by the production of new skin structures – which are hastily assembled to ensure that the torn skin doesn’t become infected.

But sometimes the inflammatory process continues after the wound has healed, which results in chronic inflammation. It can lead to a variety of widespread problems throughout the body, including disease.

"Some inflammation is good,” says Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in a 2020 article. “Too much is often bad. The goal is to recognize when inflammation is simply doing its job, and when it can potentially cause problems."

Numerous studies have shown how red light therapy reduces inflammation on the skin’s surface as well as deeper in the body, and many were conducted by Dr. Hamblin. In the final report of a 2017 study, Hamblin refers to the “pronounced anti-inflammatory effects” of red light therapy.

Reducing inflammation may help reduce newly forming stretch marks by allowing skin cells and fibroblasts to function optimally.

And speaking of fibroblasts, these cells play a key role in restoring normal skin appearance.

 

Red Light Therapy Increases Intradermal Collagen and Elastin Production

Collagen and elastin fibers are key to supple, strong, youthful skin. They also play an important role in reducing stretch marks.

Because the skin around stretch marks is flexible, people may not notice that stretch marks themselves don’t actually stretch. This is because scar tissue doesn’t contain elastin. Stretch marks also don’t feel like normal skin because the organization of collagen within the stretch marks is different.

As mentioned previously, boosting the functionality and health of emerging skin cells is crucial; in other words, the cells that eventually work their way to the surface need to be supple and strong, with the characteristics of normal skin cells rather than scar cells.

Red light therapy boosts the production of fibroblasts, which are the cells that synthesize collagen and elastin.

A 2019 article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology states that red light (640 nm) in combination with NIR light (830 nm) is an effective treatment for boosting elastin production. 

It’s not just collagen that helps minimize the appearance of stretch marks; it’s the elastic nature of elastin that could be key in helping to prevent stretch marks from forming in the future.

In this way, red light therapy promotes the formation of normal, healthy skin cells (i.e., not scar tissue) as new cells form at the lowermost layers of the scar. Eventually, as the outermost layers of the stretch mark slough off, new, normal skin cells could replace them.


Why Is Collagen So Important?

So, if stretch marks are the result of the body’s triage-style attempt to prevent ruptures in the skin – and because this response involves “ugly” collagen organization – why would it be beneficial to increase collagen production? 

The key is to stimulate balanced collagen production as new tissue forms in the deepest layers of the stretch mark.

According to this 2013 study co-authored by Dr. Hamblin, boosting collagen production and organizing collagen into a normal latticework means the new tissue will be softer: more like normal skin than like scar tissue.

Another study from 2019 observed the effects of red light therapy on scar prevention. According to the study authors, LED red light therapy can modulate the processes involved in skin fibrosis (excessive growth of collagen proteins), supporting healthy skin regeneration rather than scar tissue.

Red Light Therapy Improves Blood and Lymph Flow.

 

Part of treating stretch marks also involves boosting circulation.

Fast healing and skin regeneration rely on proper blood circulation. Red light promotes the proliferation of endothelial cells, which make up the inner layer of capillaries (the tiny blood vessels that deliver blood to the outermost layers of the skin).

This was the focus of a 2017 study by a team of researchers from Austria, who found that red light consistently increased the migration and proliferation of endothelial cells. 

According to a 2017 study by researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin, red light therapy treatment also increases blood vessel diameter, which promotes circulation. The vasodilating effect of LED phototherapy can accelerate the healing process. 

But it’s not just blood flow that’s key to healing: the flow of lymph, or lymphatic fluid, helps remove toxins and waste that could contribute to inflammation and poor cell functioning.


Red Light Therapy Can Mobilize Stem Cells

During the skin-rebuilding phase, stem cells mobilize to the site. These unspecialized “master cells” can develop into almost any type of specialized cells that are needed by the body. Stem cells may,  for instance, develop into normal skin cells (rather than scar tissue) to replenish cells that were damaged or destroyed as a result of skin tearing.

Research has shown that red light therapy treatment can activate stem cells to increase tissue repair and healing. 

As Barbara Gefvert, former editor-in-chief of BioOptics World, explains in a 2017 article: “Recent research shows … that noninvasive application of light can boost the natural growth of an individual's own stem cells to enable exciting new treatments.” 

Why is this important in reducing the appearance of stretch marks? Stem cells can assist with the tissue regeneration process, and stimulate normal and healthy behavior in existing cells. 

This can gradually reduce the appearance of existing stretch marks and potentially prevent the formation of new ones.


At-Home Red Light Therapy for Stretch Marks

Until recently, red light therapy was available only in clinical settings and was expensive. Thanks to new LED technology, using red and near-infrared light therapy for stretch marks has never been easier – or more affordable. 

Instead of multiple visits to a dermatologist or other healthcare provider, you can safely self-administer red light in the comfort and convenience of your own home.

New stretch marks are easier to treat than old ones, so it’s important to be realistic. Here's what you need to know.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Newly Formed Stretch Marks?

The key to minimizing stretch marks is fast action; time is of the essence because the process of forming stretch marks is very fast. Treat your stretch marks early, as soon as you notice their formation, both to prevent their growth and to minimize their appearance.

Many people use retinoid creams or dermabrasion to treat new stretch marks. Although these can be effective, retinoids can be tough on sensitive skin and dermabrasion is a fairly harsh treatment that comes with the danger of skin damage.

As a last resort, some people will undergo plastic surgery to remove stretch marks: a testament to just how emotionally damaging these scars can be.

You can help prevent stretch marks by using high-quality topical ointments that soften the skin combined with red light treatments to stimulate skin health. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to use the products recommended by your doctor.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Existing Stretch Marks?

Can red light really help with existing stretch marks? The answer is yes – if you give it time.

If you treat stretch marks when they’re still in the early tissue regeneration phase, you’ll get more satisfactory results than if you wait until they are older than six months, and have faded to thinner, paler lines. 

Once a scar (including a stretch mark) is well established and thicker, it’s more challenging to treat simply because it takes longer for individual layers to slough off and regenerate. 

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just be prepared for the process to take longer, as more scar tissue will have to be replaced.

It is possible for thick stretch marks to be made thinner and for depressed striae to become flatter; again, it just takes time.

Minimizing the appearance of old skin wounds will take repeated red light therapy treatments over several months or years depending on the size, thickness, depth, and age of the scars. This applies to other types of scars as well as to stretch marks.

You don't need to visit a dermatologist or undergo expensive laser treatments to minimize stretch marks. You can use LED light therapy devices in the comfort of home to support the process and even enjoy some all-over skin rejuvenation and other full-body health benefits.


Steps to Success in Using Red Light Therapy for Stretch Marks

Along with supporting skin health with hydration and good nutrition, and minimizing rapid weight gain, here's how to use red light therapy to accelerate the process of reducing the appearance of stretch marks.

 

Use a High-Powered Red Light Therapy Device

For the best results, you’ll want to use a high-quality LED device that delivers the light output necessary to successfully penetrate the skin to a depth where new skin cells are produced. Many red light therapy masks and handheld devices simply don’t have the needed power.

How should you compare LED red light therapy devices? First, look for “mW/cm2,” an equation that stands for “milliwatts per centimeter squared.” This is the measure of irradiance, meaning the amount of light energy that absorbs into the body. The higher this number, the more powerful the device.

For example, the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX 600 panel delivers 174 mW/cm2, which is significantly more than its competitors.

The more energy the light has, the deeper it will absorb into your skin down to the skin layers where new skin cells are formed.

A large device such as the BIOMAX 900 will allow you to treat a larger area and will deliver more light energy than a small device. However, a compact device like the BIOMAX 300 can give you great results in a travel-friendly and space-saving version.

 

Use a Combination of Deep Penetrating Red and NIR Wavelengths

We’ve touched on the benefits of red light therapy as a whole; but it’s important to understand that the effects of red wavelengths are “skin deep”; and to get the best results in minimizing stretch marks, you’ll want to stimulate the cells in the subcutaneous layers of tissue by using near-infrared wavelengths.

Inflammation, for instance, could be lurking below the skin. Although red light can penetrate and support all skin layers, NIR light penetrates much more deeply. Research has shown that NIR wavelengths can absorb as deeply as 3 cm (1.18 inch). This deep penetration is necessary to benefit emerging skin cells. 

A combination of red and NIR wavelengths will allow you to treat every layer of the skin simultaneously.

Only one device on the market features a proprietary spectrum of five different red and NIR wavelengths in a ratio that ensures the most comprehensive coverage and benefits: the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX series.

You’ll enjoy the benefits of 630 and 660 nm red, and 810, 830, and 850 nm NIR light simultaneously for faster and more profound results. This combination will also give you the most power to treat arthritis joint pain, chronic skin conditions like psoriasis, peripheral neuropathy, and hair loss, among others.

Check out the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights Learn page to discover the many ways to use red light therapy to enhance your health and well-being.

In short, the combination of wavelengths ensures that you will experience the rejuvenating effects of red light therapy in every layer of your skin.


Practice Consistency, and Patience

Skin cells are regenerating constantly. So, consistent treatment is important to fully support your skin in regenerating and minimizing the appearance of stretch marks. Here is a suggested treatment plan.

Expose the stretch marks for 10–20 minutes every other day (approximately four times per week), at a distance of 6 to 12” from the device. You can safely continue treatment on an ongoing basis to keep your skin in top shape.

Remember to be patient and give your body time to repair itself. You'll be thrilled with the results.


What's the Difference Between Laser Therapy and Red Light Therapy?

You may have heard about low-level laser therapy to treat stretch marks, and this is not the same technique as LED red light therapy. Here are the differences.

Lasers can either be ablative, which refers to removing the top layers of skin to promote collagen production; or non-ablative, delivering light energy below the surface of the dermis to stimulate biological processes.

Red light therapy devices work similarly to non-ablative lasers by shining concentrated beams of red or near-infrared light onto the affected area. The wavelengths interact with cells to spark beneficial biological processes.

LED red light therapy devices are as effective as low-level laser therapy in treating stretch marks, but without the downsides that include the cost of treatments administered by a healthcare professional.


Red Light Therapy for Stretch Marks: Before and After 

Although everyone is different and results can vary from person to person, here are a few images of stretch marks successfully treated with red light therapy.

The following images are from a 2017 study that used infrared therapy delivered by pulsed lasers to treat stretch marks.

Although LED technology is different from laser therapy, it has similar effects in that it delivers concentrated red and NIR light to the body’s tissues. The difference is that you can safely self-administer LED light treatments at home. This article published in the Journal for Laser Surgery, Phototherapy, and Photobioactivation goes into more depth.

Does Red Light Therapy Help With Stretch Marks? The Science Says Yes!

Red light therapy for stretch marks could be the solution to boosting your body image and your confidence. Red light stimulates the production of normal, high-functioning skin cells that will gradually replace the abnormal cells present within the stretch marks. 

The benefits of red light therapy don’t stop there. Many people who start using red light to treat a specific condition quickly discover hidden benefits they weren’t expecting – and it’s a welcome surprise. 

From treating skin aging symptoms like fine lines and wrinkles to chronic conditions like psoriasis and eczema, check out these related articles on why red light therapy can be a valuable part of your overall skincare routine.

If you’re ready to start minimizing the appearance of stretch marks and boosting your overall skin tone, check out the most powerful red light therapy devices on the planet: the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX series.