Collagen supplements are all the rage on supermarket shelves, at health food stores, and online. Each seems to promise amazing results, smoother skin, fewer wrinkles, healthier hair, and increased muscle mass.
Those are some impressive benefits, but collagen supplements are expensive! Could red light therapy work just as well?
Let’s examine some of the current evidence surrounding red light therapy for collagen production.
Red Light Therapy for Skin
Light therapy is a safe and effective medical treatment for many health conditions, from genital herpes to depression. It has many applications for all kinds of body systems, but it’s an especially effective, noninvasive treatment for skin conditions like acne, cold sores, and canker sores.
Red light therapy isolates wavelengths of light from the red or near-infrared (NIR) spectrum and shines them onto the skin to aid the skin’s healing processes, improve blood flow, reduce inflammation.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein that your body naturally produces. It comprises nearly a third of all proteins in the human body and is the main structural protein in the body’s connective tissues.
Collagen plays a vital role in skin, tendons, bones, cartilage, and connective tissue. While researchers have discovered 28 types of collagen, type I collagen makes up about nine-tenths of the body’s collagen. Type I collagen is stored in the second layer of the skin, the dermis, so light can easily reach it.
Many people take collagen supplements, mostly in the form of collagen I, collagen II, collagen III, collagen V, and collagen X. Many nutritional collagen supplements come in the form of gelatin, but hydrolyzed collagen (which includes powdered collagens) is the easiest for the body to break down for use.
Collagen facilitates many processes in the body, including:
- Communication between cells.
- Tissue repair.
- Healthy immune response.
- Tissue health maintenance.
The normal process of aging slows collagen production. This, combined with decreased elastin in the skin, results in the wrinkles and sagging skin we associate with older age.
Red Light Therapy for Collagen Production: Is It Effective?
So can red light therapy really improve collagen production? Experts believe that red light helps fibroblasts, a type of skin cell, to produce more collagen. However, most studies so far focus on red light therapy and skin generally, not on collagen production specifically.
Some studies, though, use collagen production or collagen density as a data point to determine light therapy’s effectiveness, and the results look promising.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Buzney, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, red light therapy could reverse some of the signs of photoaging (sun-related skin changes).
For example, a 2009 study found that LED red light therapy at 660 nm was safe and effective in reversing age-related reduction of collagen production and improving skin appearance and texture.
Another 2014 study investigated the safety and efficacy of light therapy on participants who received either placebo or light treatment twice weekly. The participants treated with light therapy saw a variety of improvements in areas such as skin feeling, complexion, and roughness. They also exhibited greater collagen density versus their placebo counterparts.
Further evidence from a 2019 study suggests that red and infrared (IR) light therapy can increase collagen expression using even lower-energy levels than previously studied. Researchers also noted an increase in elastin, another structural protein that contributes to younger, healthier-looking skin.
Numerous other studies indicate that red light therapy contributes to increased collagen production and a more youthful complexion.
Red Light Therapy Products Available for Improving Collagen Production
If you’re looking to improve your body’s collagen production, there are many products available on the market today. You may or may not see marketing materials make claims like, “Red light therapy for collagen production,” but according to the studies above, these products should have a positive effect on collagen production.
Some of these masks use red light therapy, but others use blue light, combination red and blue light, or other light wavelengths (such as green light) as well.
Aphrona LED Facial Skin Care Mask
If you’re not looking to spend a small fortune on a light therapy product, Aphrona’s LED Facial Skin Care Mask is a great place to start.
The Aprhona mask shines green, blue, and red light evenly across the entire face for 15–30 minute daily treatments. The device automatically shuts off when treatment is complete, so you don’t have to keep track of the time. The Aphrona also comes with goggles for eye protection.
Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro
If you have a little more money to spend, Dr. Dennis Gross products are well known and well respected in the light therapy space. The SpectraLite FaceWare Pro uses combination red and blue light therapy and only requires three minutes of treatment per day.
The DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro has many positive reviews from people who have used this product for anti-aging effects with great success.
Skin Gym Wrinklit LED Therapy Facial Mask
Skin Gym’s Wrinklit LED Therapy Facial Mask is available at a lower price point than other masks. Like the Aphrona mask, the Wrinklit requires a 15–30 minute treatment time three times per week. Wrinklit uses red, blue, and orange light therapy on the entire face, is completely wireless, and can last through seven 15-minute treatments on one charge.