I’ve been using LED light therapy for rosacea since June 2015. The first light I ever tried, an LED all-red light therapy powerhead, arrived on June 1, 2015, and I tried it that day. I tracked my progress for quite some time and blogged about it for months.
To this day, it’s still one of the things I’m asked about the most on my blog site and Rosy JulieBC YouTube channel. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a summary of my complete experience with LED light therapy until now.
How it all got started
When I first heard of light therapy, I’d already had rosacea symptoms for 15 years. I’d tried prescription medications – lots of them – as well as a number of different drugstore products. I’d tried some natural options with limited success.
For a while, I felt like I could live with a bit of redness on my cheeks, so I stopped trying. Sometimes, I forgot it was even there (provided that it didn’t feel like my cheeks were burning at the time).
Unfortunately, that didn’t last. Over time, my symptoms became progressively worse and I knew I had to do something about them. My rosacea became painful and ugly. It had moved on from the redness and burning of rosacea subtype 1, to include the papules, pustules and other spots that look like acne but that are actually rosacea subtype 2.
Why did I try light therapy on my rosacea symptoms?
One day, I brought it up in a conversation with a client of mine (I’m a freelance writer and book author in “real life”). I’d worked as a writer and editor for this woman and her mother for years as they researched chromotherapy, phototherapy and light therapy as a part of their business. The research was for purposes entirely unrelated to rosacea.
However, as fate would have it, rosacea was a focus they had been looking into for some time, for personal reasons. The daughter, who had taken the lead at the company by that point, had a number of theories based on credible, reputable research (conducted by universities and NASA, for instance) and based on what is known about wavelengths of light and the reaction of the skin in other areas.
Enter LED light therapy for rosacea
Here’s where I became very lucky. I was asked if I would be willing to test high powered LED red light on my rosacea-prone skin to see what would happen. I was sent the powerhead bulb, a clamp light and a pair of protective goggles (despite the fact that there is no evidence that this wavelength could harm eyes when used in this way, better safe than sorry, right?).
My client also added an high powered LED green light in case I could use it indirectly (shining it on the wall of a dark room) for its effects in reducing anxiety and insomnia; two conditions I have in spades.
Different colors (wavelengths) of light therapy for skin care
Since that first red LED light, I have tried several light therapy colors. Here’s how they worked on my symptoms:
- Red light therapy – I used red light therapy on my face on a daily basis (I missed very few days) from June through September. I documented my progress on my blog and even made a YouTube videos about it.
As this was a very high powered bulb, I needed to use it for only 90 to 180 seconds. Yup, a minute and a half to three minutes. I decided to be “scientific” and tested 90 seconds on one side of my face and 180 on the other.
The morning after the first use, I noticed a difference. I figured it was the placebo effect. My skin certainly didn’t look healed, but it didn’t seem as “angry”. It felt better, too. The burning wasn’t as noticeable. I contacted my client and she was happy for me, but wasn’t surprised. Apparently it’s not too uncommon to experience results on some level within a short time of starting LED light therapy.
Over time, I continued tracking my progress. I found a 2 minute balance for my skin that seemed to provide optimal results and the itching and burning essentially disappeared, the pimple-like bumps healed and over that summer, I had fewer flare-ups than I’d experienced in a long time. Was I cured? No. Absolutely not. However, this made a huge difference.
- Amber light therapy – I kept in touch with my client and by September, she’d come up with another theory and she asked me to test, involving amber (yellow) light therapy. After the success I’d seen with the red light therapy, I was certainly willing to test amber, too. Soon enough, I had a bulb and was shining it on my face.
I found this experience to be quite different. It was calming and seemed to ease the redness slightly more quickly than the red was doing, but the pimple-like bumps started to come back and while the amber soothed flare-ups, it didn’t seem to prevent them. The benefits were different, but incomplete for my type of rosacea symptoms. I documented this progress on my blog and YouTube channel, too.
- Red and amber combined – Being the rosacea treatment guinea pig that I am, I decided to combine the use of both the red and amber lights to see what would happen. They each had different benefits on their own, so I hoped to take advantage of them both.
Using both lights was more time consuming, and I had to figure out how to position both bulbs at the same time, but I got the hang of it.
It was definitely the best experience I’d had so far. The two lights seemed to provide me with a balance of both healing and calming.
Apparently my client had been looking into the same thing. While she’d had me trying out red and amber light therapies on my face, she’d been developing prototypes that would provide both colour wavelengths at the same time. By October, I had 2 prototypes in my hands and was among the people fortunate enough to try them out. The prototypes differed from each other in their red-to-amber balance. In my case, the light with more red than amber was the one that did the trick. That was apparently the consensus because that prototype became a real product in February 2016. It was so exciting to be a part of that trial and to see a real product being sold to customers and professionals alike. I was thrilled to tell people about it.
- Blue light therapy – I’ve since tried a lot of rosacea treatments, skin care, cosmetics and other products as Rosy JulieBC on YouTube and through my blog. Among them was a number of light therapy bulbs from another company. The lower-powered LED red and yellow bulbs still worked great, though they needed significantly more time, but what I found interesting was that I was also sent a blue light to try.
Blue light is often used to treat bacterial infections, including MRSA and even acne vulgaris. The owner of that company was curious to see if the blue light would either kill bacteria on the face that may play some unknown role in rosacea symptoms, or disrupt the life cycle of the demodex mites on the face (we all have them but for some reason many rosacea patients have more on their face than people who don’t have rosacea).
As this was a lower-powered bulb, the light needed to be held directly against the skin with a clear plastic cover over it to keep the bulb clean. I tested the same patch for three months without seeing any difference in my symptoms. That said, the light did indeed work to speed the healing of any occasional non-rosacea pimples that happened to pop up on my face!
In my case, blue light therapy didn’t do anything for my rosacea that I could tell.
- Green light therapy – After testing the blue light, I realized that I actually had another light therapy product in my possession that I could turn toward my rosacea: the green light my client had sent me a year and a half beforehand to treat my anxiety and insomnia.
I took on this test on my own.
I researched green light therapy and talked to some other rosacea patients through some forums in which I participate (side note: I highly recommend rosacea forums for support and great information).
I learned that green light therapy is known for being very soothing to the skin. While it’s often used to reduce sun damage and hyperpigmentation, to me the way the wavelengths are believed to function in the skin looked like they could also benefit rosacea symptoms.
I discussed this with a number of people and the conclusion to which we arrived was that using green light after red light exposure might do the trick.
My strategy was to use my red-amber light therapy bulb and follow it up by a green light therapy session. My goal was primarily to reduce the permanent redness I have on my face. After nearly 2 decades with rosacea, some of the redness simply doesn’t go away, even when I’m not having a flare-up.
After 3 months of daily use of the two lights (the red-amber and the green) I did see a small amount of progress in the permanent redness. My “mask” of permanent redness had receded slightly and I had two lighter patches forming in the very centre of my cheeks. The progress was slight, but it was there. I’ve been continuing the use in the hopes of maintaining this slow and gradual progress.
Overall, light therapy for rosacea has been among the most effective treatments I’ve ever tried. I still have some redness and I do get the occasional rosacea flare-up, but they’re few and far between and don’t last nearly as long.
My experience with the lights has been side-effect free, quick and easy. The lights I use are rated for a minimum lifespan of 25 years when used for far longer periods of time than I use them, so there isn’t anything that needs to be replaced. Now that I have them, I have a lifetime of treatments.
I wouldn’t call it a silver bullet. To be honest, I don’t think that exists. There is no rosacea cure because each case is unique to the patient and symptoms are caused and triggered by different things.
I’d also like to point out that I don’t use light therapy as a rosacea treatment on its own. I follow what I call a “Rosy Lifestyle.” It includes trigger avoidance (including identifying triggers and keeping away from them as much as possible), very gentle and consistent skin care and eating a nutritious diet that includes a healthy dose of antioxidants and ingredients known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
This combination is a very powerful one and while I wouldn’t say my rosacea is gone, I will say that it is under control the vast majority of the time. I also think it is continually improving. For that reason, I’ll be more than happy to use LED light therapy for rosacea as I keep up my Rosy Lifestyle for the rest of my life.