Live your best life & take care
If you've scrolled through Instagram, you may have caught a glimpse of dermatologists raving about LED masks emitting red light, the secret, evidenced based weapon behind skin rejuvenation known as photo biomodulation. It uses low-powered light within the red to near-infrared range (wavelengths from 632 to 1064 nm) to induce a biological reaction aka stimulate cellular processes. The wonders of red light, also known as LLLT (low-level laser therapy), PBM (red light photo-biomodulation), or PBMT (photo-biomodulating therapy), extend far beyond non-invasive skin rejuvenation. I am not a fan of devices for home use, mostly because of lacking safety and/or efficacy, PBM definitely earned it's prominent spot in my skincare routine.
A summary of the benefts of red light with and without near infrared light for skin
Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of red and infrared light therapy for skin rejuvenation. A combination of red light and near IR light has proven to stimulate the production of collagen (I & III) plus elastin production (Li WH et al Int J Cosmet Sci 2021), enhance mitochondrial ATP production, cell signaling, growth factor synthesis, rebalance ROS (reactive oxidative species) and reduce inflammation. Stem cells can be activated allowing tissue repair and healing. Wrinkle and scar reduction was observed and it can reduce UV damage both as treatment and prophylactic measure. In pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo, it can increase pigmentation by melanocyte proliferation and reduce depigmentation by inhibiting autoimmunity (Pinar Avci et al. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013). It has the potential to activate both keratinocytes (epidermis) and fibroblasts (epidermal junction and dermis). With consistent use, you can expect a reduction of lines and wrinkles, improvement of skin tone and texture. PBMT (when done effective and safe) will compliment both your skin rejuvenating and regenerating at home skincare regimen and in-office procedures or even post-surgical skin recovery.
ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the primary source of energy for cellular processes and plays a crucial role in various biological functions. When red light with specific wavelengths (630 nm to 638 nm and 810 nm) is absorbed by the skin cells, it stimulates the mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cells responsible for ATP synthesis. This increase in ATP production is providing cells with more energy to carry out their functions effectively and has several beneficial effects on the skin like boosting cellular metabolism, promoting more efficient nutrient uptake and waste removal. The increased ATP levels facilitate collagen synthesis by fibroblasts, a vital component for skin structure, elasticity and firmness and reduction of lines and wrinkles.. ATP aids in the repair and regeneration of damaged skin cells. It accelerates the healing process, making it beneficial for wound healing, post-surgical recovery, and addressing skin issues such as acne scars.
ROS (Reactive Oxidative Species)
By modulating ROS levels, red light therapy helps reduce oxidative stress and its detrimental effects on the skin. ROS are highly reactive molecules that are naturally produced by cells as byproducts of metabolic processes. While low levels of ROS play important roles in cellular signaling and immune responses, excessive ROS can lead to oxidative stress and damage to cells and tissues. Restoring the balance of ROS result in improved skin health, reduced inflammation, and enhanced skin rejuvenation. Red light therapy has been shown to modulate reactive oxidative species (ROS) levels in the skin by promoting antioxidant defense mechanisms and reducing oxidative stress:
The difference between LLLT and PBM
LLLT refers specifically to the use of lasers, which produce coherent, focussed and an intense beam of monochromatic light, while PBM has a broader range of light sources, may include laser as well as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other non-laser devices. LEDs are often used in PBM because they are cost effective, versatile and have the ability to cover large treatment areas. LLT uses higher power densities with more energy and has a shorter treatment duration in comparison to PBM to achieve desired therapeutic effects. While there are similarities in terms of mode of action", there is a difference of light source, treatment application and parameters. Based on consensus, PBM and PBMT are considered the correct way to describe this photonic specialty for therapeutic applications. In this post I will focus on PBM and specifically LEDs.
LED masks and LED panels
LED masks specifically produced by the brand Omnilux (FDA cleared) are currently very popular for very good reasons; they are safe and effective when the LEDs emit the right wavelengths and used in the recommended frequency. Omnilux combines 2 therapeutically effective and complimentary wavelengths: 633nm and near-infrared 830 nm. Both wavelengths (more precise 630nm + 850nm) I would recommend to minimally look for in any red LED device, which will disqualify most LED masks and panels in the market! I've include some (not affiliated) links to devices below. Both masks and panels can be effective, however most panels are stronger in comparison to masks 60 mW/cm² vs mW/cm²), hence have the benefit of a shorter treatment time to get a similar result. Intensity and power of red light therapy devices are typically measured in terms of irradiance (measured in milliwatts per square centimeter, mW/cm²) and radiant flux (measured in watts, W), which quantify the amount of light energy emitted by the device. Wearing a mask during a hot summer or in a warmer climate will make you sweat and depending on the materials of the mask and straps, they may be very uncomfortable to wear. Panels have the benefit that they give a more even distribution of emitted light as masks are worn on the face and thus the LED bulbs are pushed on a small skin surface area, panels can cover a larger area (depending on their size) and are more versatile in use, as area's like neck, décolletage, or knees are easier to treat with a panel. With a mask you may be more mobile, although I would not recommend walking around while using the mask. My personal preference would be a panel for the reasons mentioned before and panels are more suitable (more hygienic) for family sharing. My son can use it after an intense workout to speed up his recovery and I like to use it for purposes beyond photo-biomodulation or skin rejuvenation, for example to improve my sleep. With a panel I get more "bang for my buck".
Red light and NIR (Near Infra Red light) have the ability to penetrate varying depths of the skin, resulting in distinct benefits, thus combinations of wavelengths will provide complementary effects.
630 nm Wavelength
This wavelength is often used for its skin rejuvenation benefits. It has a relatively shallow penetration depth and is absorbed closer to the surface of the skin primarily affecting the epidermis. 630nm light is associated with increased circulation, reduce inflammation, improved skin tone & texture, aiding in the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to skin cells, and stimulating the production of collagen, leading to improved skin elasticity and a reduction of the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles.
660 nm Wavelength
At 660nm, red light can penetrate a little deeper into the skin, reaching the dermis. It is known for its ability to stimulate collagen production, enhance cellular metabolism, and promote anti-inflammatory effects, helping to reduce redness and inflammageing. It also promotes wound healing, making it beneficial for post-surgical or post-trauma skin recovery.
810 nm Wavelength
Improve healing & recovery & accelerate wound healing.
830 nm Wavelength
Accelerate healing, reduce infection, improve aesthetic outcome following plastic surgery, increase endorfines (mood-enhancing), improve bone repair and growth.
850 nm Wavelength
Improve general inflammation body, enhance muscle recovery, improve wound healing, reduced fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
Always consult a qualified healthcare professional or dermatologist to determine if and what the most suitable red light therapy approach is for your particular skin condition and rejuvenation goals.
Hamblin, Michael R. "Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation." AIMS biophysics 4.3 (2017): 337-361.
Barolet, Daniel. Regulation of Skin Collagen Metabolism In Vitro Using a Pulsed 660 nm LED Light Source: Clinical Correlation with a Single-Blinded August 2009Journal of Investigative Dermatology 129(12):2751-9
Wunsch A, Matuschka K. (2014). A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and intradermal collagen density increase. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 16(5), 232-237.
Avci P, et al. (2013). Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, 32(1), 41-52.
Links to some devices which combine 630 nm and 850 nm:
FDA-approved devices ensure safety and regulatory compliance, however the panels are more powerful:
Omnilux(tm) Mask (FDA clearance)
Very affordable panel (no FDA clearance)
Affordable panel (no FDA clearance)
All Acne Ageing Aquatic Wrinkles Armpits Biostimulators Cleansing Cosmetic Intolerance Syndrome Deodorant Dermaplaning Diabetes Dry Skin Evidence Based Skin Care Exfoliation Exosomes Eyes Face Or Feet? Facial Oils Fibroblast Fingertip Units Gendered Ageism Glycation Gua Sha Hair Removal Healthy Skin Humidity Hyaluron Hyaluronidase Hypo-allergenic Indulging Jade Roller Licochalcone A Luxury Skin Care Lymphatic Vessel Ageing Malar Oedema Menopause Mood Boosting Skin Care PH Balance Skin Photo Biomodulation Polynucleotides Psoriasis Regenerative Treatments Review Safety Scarring Sensitive Skin Skin Care Regimen Skin Flooding Skin Hydration Skip-Care Sleep Slugging Sunscreen Under Eye Bags Vitamin C Well Ageing Skin Care Wound Healing Wrinkles