Restoring normal skin appearance and functioning after injury or surgery is a complex process influenced by a number of factors. Examining that process reveals the promise of a breakthrough approach to treating wounds such as burns, abrasions, and scars. If you’ve ever wondered how to regenerate skin cells faster, you may find the answer here: red light therapy, which is at the forefront of a revolution in human health and shows amazing potential for accelerating the healing process.
What Happens During Healing?
Whenever the skin is injured, it triggers a complex cascade of events that result in healing. First, blood cells known as platelets clump together and clot, which protects the wound and stops blood flow. Once the clot has formed over the wound, the immune system responds with inflammation; redness, swelling, and tenderness are signs of inflammation.
During the inflammatory stage of healing, blood vessels open a bit, allowing fresh nutrients and oxygen into the wound. At the same time, cells in the epidermis known as keratinocytes begin proliferating to encase the wound and prevent infection.
Next, the wound begins to close. Spindle-shaped cells known as fibroblasts migrate to the damaged area where they produce collagen to quickly grow a protective layer over the injured area. As far as the immune system is concerned, wound protection is more important than beauty, which is evidenced by the downside of this emergency immune response: the formation of scars.
What Slows the Healing Process?
People often take the body’s miraculous ability to heal for granted. But as straightforward as it may sound, according to an article on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, “wound healing is actually quite complicated and involves a long series of chemical signals. Certain factors can slow or prevent healing entirely.”
Here are some common factors that can slow down the healing process.
Infection. Unlike surgical wounds, all wounds that are caused by injury are contaminated by bacteria. A healthy immune system will mobilize immediately to destroy the bacteria and sterilize the wound. Anything that interferes with the immune response, including poor hygiene, malnutrition, sleep disturbances, and chronic stress, can lead to infection.
Inadequate moisture. Since water is the main component of cells and regulates the balance of water-soluble minerals and other substances, skin cells must be hydrated to function. Dehydrated cells cannot function normally.
Inflammation. Although inflammation is a normal and necessary part of the immune system response, chronic inflammation interferes with healing. Chronic inflammatory disorders significantly hinder the healing process.
Poor circulation of blood and lymph. This causes tissue hypoxia (low oxygen) and the buildup of toxins, both of which interfere with normal cell functioning. Increasing circulation is a vital element of fast skin regeneration.
Poor collagen and elastin production
- Collagen, which is the main protein in connective tissue, makes up about 80 percent of the skin. It is normally present in a strong latticework responsible for structural support and closing wounds.
- Elastin is a protein that allows the skin to stretch. During the healing process, collagen organizes laterally across the wound as a protective sheath. This scar tissue is made up entirely of collagen and does not contain elastin, which is why scars won't stretch and bend. Over time, as normal skin cells grow beneath the outer layers, the scar may recede and the area may regain some of its elasticity.
- Photoaging (damage from UV light), smoking, the normal aging process, and oxidative stress slow down collagen and elastin production, which can complicate regeneration.
How to Support Rapid Healing
Along with normal wound care to prevent skin infections, what can you do to support the healing process? These lifestyle changes can help.
- Proper hydration. A 2015 study by researchers from Spain and Portugal found that proper hydration could positively impact normal skin physiology.
- An anti-inflammatory diet. Sugar is one of the top inflammatory agents found in the modern diet. Eliminating added sugar and eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants (leafy greens, nuts, fish, and fruit), as well as antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C, can help curb chronic inflammation.
- Boost circulation. Mild to moderate exercise promotes good circulation.
- Boost collagen and elastin production. This can be done through healthy eating, as well as avoiding sun exposure on the injury to prevent collagen-damaging UV rays.
You can check out this blog to learn more about "How to repair the damaged skin using red light therapy"
There is one factor that lifestyle changes alone won’t necessarily support, however, and that is a condition known as mitochondrial dysfunction.
Mitochondria, which are inside most cells of the body, are the primary cellular energy producers. They convert glucose to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary fuel of the body’s cells. When this doesn’t happen normally, it’s known as mitochondrial dysfunction.
How to Speed Up Skin Regeneration with Red Light
When your body’s cells don’t have the energy to do their jobs, the whole system suffers. Low fuel leaves the cell unable to do much more than survive. A breakthrough therapeutic method known as red light therapy could hold the answer to reversing mitochondrial dysfunction and restoring cellular energy.
Also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM), red light therapy works at the cellular level to accelerate skin cell regeneration process. It uses wavelengths of light that are measured in nanometers (nm), including red light (630nm to 660nm) and near-infrared (NIR) light (810nm to 850nm). The term “red light” therapy is often used to refer to both red light and NIR light.
The human body is very responsive to light. Red light has been widely studied and shows great promise in treating a wide variety of conditions, many of which are directly tied to mitochondrial dysfunction.
The human body also converts light energy into fuel. When red light photons interact with light-sensitive chromophores in the mitochondria, this interaction sparks the production of ATP. Very quickly, these newly energized cells begin to repair themselves, replicate, and do their jobs with renewed gusto.
A review by two researchers from the University of California, San Diego focused on mitochondrial photostimulation, which is the process of stimulating the mitochondria using light. The researchers found that red light improved normal cellular functioning and cell proliferation. This leads to a beneficial ripple effect throughout the skin, as cells can perform their functions and new, healthy cells grow to replace old and damaged cells.
Fibroblasts: Increased Collagen and Elastin Production
Research has also shown that red light simulates normal functioning in several types of cells vital to skin regeneration, one of which is fibroblasts. These are the cells responsible for collagen and elastin synthesis, both of which are essential for regeneration. Increasing fibroblast proliferation increases and normalizes collagen and elastin production at the deepest layers of a scar (the outer layers of a scar are dead cells). Over time as the outer layers are shed, new healthy skin emerges and the scar’s appearance may soften.
In 2014, researchers from Germany studied the anti-aging effects of red light on 136 volunteers. Among the treatment group, the researchers found significant increases in collagen density.
A 1994 study by Rochester General Hospital researchers found that red light increased the proliferation of normal fibroblasts. A more recent study, this one conducted in 2015, found that red light decreased the proliferation of keloid fibroblasts, which are raised scars that often inhibit normal movement if they are located on joints.
Endothelial Cells: Increased Circulation
The cardiovascular system is made up of the circulatory system (blood) and the lymphatic system (lymph). The circulatory system delivers oxygen, nutrients, and white blood cells to an injured area, while the lymphatic system removes harmful waste and toxins. Increasing circulation will accelerate the healing process.
Endothelial cells make up the inner layer of tiny blood vessels (known as capillaries) and lymphatic vessels near the skin’s surface. Increasing the number of capillaries is one way to promote blood flow to the affected area, as well as to remove waste and toxins that could damage the emerging cells.
In 2017, Austrian researchers conducted an in vitro study to determine the effects of red light on endothelial cells from human umbilical cord. The study found that red light promotes proliferation of endothelial cells.
In 1991, researchers compared the healing of a surgical incision in two groups of mice and found that red light stimulation resulted in faster regeneration of the veins and lymph vessels.
Reduced Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
A key cause of mitochondrial dysfunction is oxidative stress, which is an excess of free radicals. A 2013 study by researchers from China and Canada found that oxidative stress in the mitochondria can lead to damage including alteration of mitochondrial DNA, loss of mitochondrial functioning, and greater vulnerability to further damage.
Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress can result in chronic inflammation, often prompting a vicious cycle of more oxidative stress and more inflammation. This is one of the main factors that hinders the healing process.
A 2018 study co-authored by Dr. Michael Hamblin, a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and one of the world’s best-known experts on red light therapy, found that oxidative stress directly affects the metabolic activity of cells. He also found that when cells with oxidative stress were irradiated with near-infrared light, there was an increase in ATP.
In a 2017 paper, Dr. Hamblin wrote that red light significantly reduced inflammation in wound healing in several animal studies. He also cited human trials confirming that red light modulates the inflammatory response: in ways that are not yet fully understood, red light supports the acute (short-term) inflammatory response to promote healing; and once that function is no longer needed, red light inhibits a chronic inflammatory response.
Given the body’s remarkable ability to repair itself, red light therapy, along with healthy lifestyle choices, can accelerate the process of regenerating normal, healthy skin.
Self-Treat Wounds Using Red Light Therapy at Home
Serious skin wounds that require medical attention, including deep cuts that require stitches, severe burns, and deep abrasions, should be treated by a doctor. Minor injuries can be treated at home using red and NIR light, along with normal wound care and lifestyle modifications such as stress relief, good nutrition, and adequate rest. Using red light therapy for skin regeneration treatment is a viable option to speed up the healing process.
For best results, red light therapy should be applied using a high light-energy output LED device, rather than a handheld wand. This is because it’s important that light photons are delivered with enough energy to soak into the deepest layers of the dermis and epidermis.
While there is no set protocol for treating wounds with red light, you can apply it several times a week, for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, until the area has healed. Keep in mind that skin cells take about a month to grow. Skin cells don’t all regrow at once, so the process of regenerating skin can take many months. Be patient and stick with it.
LED panels that offer a combination of red and NIR light will yield the best results. A wound may be “skin deep,” in which case red light, with its shorter wavelengths, will stimulate the outer layers of the dermis. But you'll get an extra boost by preventing or mitigating inflammation deeper in the body. For this, you need the longer wavelengths of NIR light.
The PlatinumLED BIO series lets you choose 660nm (red) and 850nm (NIR) wavelengths, which you can use separately or simultaneously in a 50/50 ratio.
The PlatinumLED BIOMAX series uses five different wavelengths of red and NIR light simultaneously in a ratio that ensures every layer of the scar is impacted by the light.
Many people start using red light therapy for skin to treat a specific condition and are thrilled to discover how many other ways they benefit from it. A few of the widespread benefits of red light include faster muscle recovery, hair regrowth, and better overall health, just to name a few.
The Secret to Fast Regeneration from Within
Red light therapy stimulates cellular energy, collagen- and elastin-producing fibroblasts, and the workings of the circulatory system, while reducing inflammation and cell-damaging oxidative stress. As a result, red light treatment for skin or overall healing is highly effective.
The skin is the body’s largest organ and is truly amazing. Given the right support, it can become healthier than ever, and regenerate quickly after an injury. Red Light therapy for healing has numerous applications. For reference, check out these blog on wound healing and muscle pain recovery
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)Q. How often does skin regenerate?
Ans: Our skin will change continuously over a lifetime, for better or worse. In reality, the skin regenerates itself every 27 days on average. Maintaining the health and vitality of this protective organ needs proper skincare.