Red Light and Near Infrared Light Therapy aids wound healing and reduces scarring.

Whether for the treatment of ailments, or for more cosmetic reasons, surgery is a common, and often necessary and welcome procedure. What’s less welcome is the resultant wounds and scarring that deter many from taking the plunge.

If you are considering surgery but concerned about the lingering after-effects of wounds and scars, a course of Red Light Therapy sessions may just be the answer you didn’t know you were searching for. 

To understand how Red Light and Near Infrared Light Therapy can aid in the reduction of scar tissue and speed up wound healing, it’s helpful to understand how scars are formed. 

What happens during healing, and how are scars formed? 

There are multiple events that the skin undertakes to heal fully.  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. 

During the initial 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. 

After this, the wound begins the process of closing up. Cells known as fibroblasts travel 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. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, scarring is a normal part of the healing process. 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 aim is to close the wound as fast as possible. The result of this emergency-response healing is a haphazard collection of collagen that we are not used to seeing on the rest of our skin—the visible scar. 

All 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. This leaves a constant process of your skin remaking the same scar over and over again, giving you the impression that it is not healing or changing.

Can Red Light Therapy help heal wounds and scars?

Research has shown some astonishing links being made between red light therapy and its known benefits, and it’s amazing potential for accelerating the healing process of wounds such as burns, abrasions, and scars. 

Regenerate Skin Faster with Red Light

A breakthrough therapeutic method known as red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM), works at the cellular level to accelerate skin regeneration. It uses wavelengths of light, including red light (630nm to 660nm) and near-infrared (NIR) light (810nm to 850nm). 

The human body 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.

Treating Wounds Using Red Light

Red Light Therapy is a great tool for accelerating the rate of wound healing once you have seen the doctor and all is stitched up or treated.

For best results, red light therapy should be applied using a high light-energy output LED device, such as the ones used at Red Lab, South Africa’s first Red Light Therapy Studio, 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.  A wound may be “skin deep,” in which case red light will target the immediate wound and accelerate the healing process with its shorter wavelengths (that don’t penetrate particularly far into the body). But you’ll get an extra boost by preventing or mitigating inflammation deeper in the body with the longer wavelengths of Near Infrared (NIR) light.

Skin cells are constantly regenerating and take about a month to complete this process individually, however skin cells don’t all regrow at once, so the process of regenerating skin can take many months. Be patient and stick with it.

Red Light Therapy for Scars

Healing the injury is sometimes only the first level of wound recovery, and often an obnoxious looking scar is left behind, the scar’s intense look will be significantly mitigated if you integrate Red Light Therapy into your recovery routine. Below are some ways that Red Light Therapy helps to prevent and treat scars.

REPAIR AND REGENERATION

Red light reduces inflammation and supports tissue repair and regeneration by penetrating 8-10mm 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

Scars are the result of excess collagen, so it may seem somewhat counterintuitive to want to increase collagen production with red light, however, red light stimulates normal cell growth and normal organization of collagen to form a lattice instead of a haphazard pile. This basically means that the scar is a crazy formation of collagen that your skin throws together in a panic to heal us and close the wound ASAP to prevent infection. The injection of collagen created through the boost of collagen formation gives our body more material to work with in the shorter amount of time, 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. These are neutral cells that have a special ability to morph into the exact cell needed at that moment, to replace our missing cells from an injured area. 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. 

When it comes to scar formation, prevention is the best medicine. This means you should treat your scars before they fully form. This is why we recommend that you start to immediately implement Red Light Therapy sessions into your recovery routine once you have seen your doctor for the initial heal. 

If however your scar is a bit older, 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. Depending on the size and depth of the scar, continue treatment for 1-6 months. Consistency is important to get the best results. 

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