Can You Reduce Summer Sun Damage With Red Light Therapy? Heck, Yeah!
Summer is almost upon us and we couldn’t be more excited, especially after such a gruelling winter of rolling lockdowns and isolation. But as we get set to enjoy the lazy, hazy days ahead, it’s important to remember that there is one thing we shouldn’t be lazy about: sun protection.
Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin damage and premature aging (also called photoaging). In fact, it accounts for 80% of all visible signs of aging, according to recent research. And it’s not just sunburns we ought to worry about - sun exposure is cumulative and can lead to early signs of aging even if you’ve never had a sunburn in your life. And, let’s face it, far too many of us didn’t take sun protection seriously in our youth, or simply lived in a time when tanning oil occupied more shelf space than sunscreen.
The key to fighting wrinkles, sun spots, and loss of skin tone commonly associated with photoaging is, as we all know, prevention. It’s much easier (not to mention less costly) to keep sun damage at bay than to attempt to reverse it down the road. Not exactly sunny news for those of us who lived through the tan-crazy early aughts. Well, here’s some better news: did you know that red light therapy can help you prevent sun damage and reverse it? Read on to find out why adding red light therapy to your summer skincare routine can help you maintain - and recapture - youthful skin until the last dog days of summer and beyond.
*Please note that in no way should red light therapy be used as a substitute for sunscreen and other recommended protective measures. Rather, it may be used in addition to these measures, and to help repair damage that already exists or has occurred despite protective measures. Remember, being sun smart is the #1 way to keep your skin looking young and healthy!
Red Light Therapy Primes Your Skin for Sun Exposure
You’ve surely noticed that early morning sunlight has much warmer tones than midday light. This is due to the sun’s rays having to travel farther through the earth’s atmosphere to reach the surface. Blue and UV light, having shorter wavelengths, are scattered in all directions, whereas light in the red and near-infrared range is able to more easily penetrate the atmosphere.
This early-morning dose of near-infrared light, according to some researchers, might play an important role from an evolutionary perspective by preparing the skin for more damaging midday sun exposure.
There is growing evidence that red light therapy may have a preconditioning effect for a variety of functions. Administering treatment before “insult or trauma” can help with a range of issues, including pain relief and healing post-surgery or medical procedure, and athletic performance. This preconditioning effect on skin before sun exposure is called photoprevention.
In one 2008 study, 13 participants received pre-treatment with red light at a wavelength of 660nm on one thigh before UV exposure to both thighs. The treated areas had significantly reduced erythema (redness) compared to the untreated side. Researchers observed an SPF-15-like protective effect as well as reduced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Red Light Therapy Can Repair Sun-Damaged Skin
Just as early morning sunlight has a higher proportion of red and near-infrared light compared to midday light, the same is true for late afternoon and evening sunlight. The evolutionary advantage may be somewhat different, however. Rather than prevent sun damage, late day sun may actually repair it.
This is certainly not to say you should lay out at sunset after a full day of sun exposure and the damage will be erased - quite the contrary. The sun at any time of day is far more likely to cause damage than it is to repair it, so you still want to wear sunscreen and seek shade throughout the day. This reparatory effect may be minimal and simply be a relic of a time when human skin was more accustomed to sun exposure (and perhaps less concerned with wrinkles and sun spots).
If you take UV light out of the equation, however, and administer red and near-infrared light in the form of red light therapy, there are numerous skin benefits that may counteract the signs of aging related to sun damage.
In fact, there are dozens of studies showing red light therapy to be effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkles and firming loose skin. It does so by increasing the production of collagen, the main protein responsible for providing structure and tone to all your body’s tissues and organs, including your skin. For a more in-depth look at how red light therapy can tighten loose skin, check out this blog post.
Note that it’s not necessary to use red light therapy immediately after sun exposure to reap the skin repair benefits. Frequent, consistent use is much more important than using it at a certain time of day. The latter is generally a matter of personal preference. You can learn more about the best practices for getting the most out of your red light therapy treatments here.
The Bottom Line
While red light therapy is certainly not a substitute for the sun protection practices recommended by experts, it can be a good supplement, especially with regards to repairing damage.
As we’ve mentioned, the key to seeing results from red light therapy is consistent use. With a Rouge Red Light Therapy device, you can benefit from daily treatments at a tiny fraction of the price of professional sessions. Plus, Rouge panels are more powerful and deliver more concentrated irradiance than the leading competition. Ready to kick sun damage to the curb? Shop the Rouge family of red light therapy devices here, and give your skin a second life (don’t forget the sunscreen this time!)