Does Red Light Therapy Work on Scars?
If you feel embarrassed about a scar, or if a scar restricts movement or causes pain and nothing has given you any relief, it’s important to find a way to reduce or even eliminate scar tissue.
You’ve probably seen articles telling you to try new cremes or home remedies, but these solutions won’t get to the root of the problem without a bit of help. Help from the latest scientifically backed healing tool that’s perfect for a variety of skin remedies, including scarring: red light therapy. Read on to see how it works for your skin.
Why Do We Scar?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, scarring is a normal part of the healing process. But not all wounds leave a scar. Whether you get one or not depends on a combination of biological processes that include the characteristics of the wound and how it heals. Infection or pulling off a scab too early, for example, can make getting a scar more likely.
In a way, scarring is pretty genius. It’s a fast and effective way to close a wound. During skin regeneration (which is a constant process), fibroblasts produce an organized lattice of collagen that results in normal skin.
However, when the body is in “emergency-response mode” after injury or surgery, the healing response is more like triage: the aim is to close the wound as fast as possible...how it looks afterward is a secondary concern. The result of this emergency-response healing is a haphazard collection of collagen—the visible scar.
Why don’t scars disappear over time? Skin cells regenerate about once a month. At the lowermost layers of the scar, newly formed cells push older cells to the surface. However, here’s the key: the emerging cells develop the same characteristics as the cells they are replacing; so cells in contact with scar tissue will become new scar tissue… and not normal skin cells.
Types of Scars and Common Treatments
There are five types of scars that can result from injury, burns, surgery, or disease.
Fine-line (“white”) scars result from cuts or surgery (such as a C-section), leaving a visible line. Silicone gel sheets soften and flatten white scars to minimize their appearance.
Keloid scars result from out-of-control collagen production in deep wounds. Keloid scars keep growing even after the wound has healed and scarring may extend beyond the injured area. Keloid scars are often painful, itchy, and may restrict movement. Treatment includes silicone sheets that soften and flatten the scar, laser resurfacing, and cortisone injections. Cryotherapy (freezing the scar) can be used on smaller scars, and plastic surgery minimizes the appearance of larger varieties.
Hypertrophic scars also result from excessive collagen production, but there is no scar growth outside of the boundary of the injury. Hypertrophic scars are often treated using silicone gel sheets, laser resurfacing and cortisone injections.
Pitted scars can result from chickenpox or acne. Chemical peels, dermabrasion, collagen injections, and punch grafts help minimize the “grapefruit” appearance of these scars.
Contracture scars are often caused by burns. A tough layer of collagen forms over the burned area causing painful tightness that can affect the nerves and muscles and restrict movement. Contracture scars are treated using pressure dressings, laser resurfacing, and plastic surgery.
Red Light Therapy for Scars
Red light therapy (also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) shows great promise as an effective treatment for scars. It goes beyond minimizing the appearance of scars and penetrates the body at the cellular level using specific wavelengths of light (630nm-700nm).
Human cells respond beneficially to these waves in much the same way that plant cells respond to natural sunlight: by producing energy and optimizing cell function. You can break this reaction down into three distinct areas: repair and regeneration, normal collagen production, and stem cell activation.
Repair and Regeneration
Red light reduces inflammation and supports tissue repair and regeneration by penetrating 8-10mm (⅓”) into human tissue. Once there, it stimulates cellular energy production, the lymphatic system, collagen and elastin production, and the formation of new blood vessels (for more efficient nutrient and oxygen delivery).
Normal Collagen Production
It may seem counterintuitive to want to increase collagen production with red light when scars are the result of excess collagen. However, red light stimulates normal cell growth and normal organization of collagen to form a lattice instead of a haphazard pile. This helps replace unattractive scar cells with healthy skin tissue over time, which can prevent or minimize scar appearance.
Stem Cell Activation
Red light activates stem cells, which are the body’s healing superstars. You can think of them as “potentials.” They’re unspecialized, and simply standing with the ability to develop into any type of specialized cell that’s needed. In the presence of a skin wound, these stem cells can become specialized (normal, healthy) skin cells. This stimulates the growth of normal skin cells with different genetic makeup than scar tissue.
Home LED Red Light Therapy for Scars
Like many areas of health, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to scar formation. This means you should treat your scars before they fully form. You can do this through high-quality wound care, combined with red light treatments that will stimulate normal skin cell production, as the wound heals.
If your scar is a bit older though, no fear. You can still see great success by using red light on scars that have already formed, but the result may not be as immediate or complete as you would like.
For the best results, use only a high-quality LED device that delivers the light output necessary to successfully penetrate the skin to a depth where healing (cell stimulation) can occur. Many masks and handheld devices simply don’t have this capacity.
To treat a scar, expose the affected area for 10-20 minutes every other day (approximately 4 times per week), at a distance of 6-12” from the device. Depending on the size and depth of the scar, continue treatment for 1-6 months. Consistency is important to get the best results.
From Scarred to Unmarred with Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy stimulates the production of normal, high-functioning skin cells that will gradually replace the abnormal cells present within a scar. Thanks to high quality LED red light devices like the BIO series from Platinum, you can now treat unsightly and embarrassing scars in the comfort of your own home.