Infrared saunas and blue lamps: How light affects the body and skin

IF A FEW YEARS AGO THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY re – invented rotating and vibrating brush cleaners, but now manufacturers have switched to light gadgets, from acne spotting with blue light to illuminated masks that promise to “erase wrinkles.” We figure out what scientists say about such methods and how far they have gone from the office physiotherapy, familiar to us from childhood clinics.  

What kind of light is

Electromagnetic waves of various lengths are a huge spectrum, from gamma rays and X-rays to AM, FM and long radio waves. The spectrum visible to the human eye occupies only a small area – from 380 nanometers for violet to 740 for red light. Ultraviolet waves are shorter than violet (100 to 380 nm), and infrared is longer than the visible spectrum (up to 100 micrometers). All of these types of light are used in different ways for treatment, including skin conditions – but some of them can cause serious harm.   

Ultraviolet – evil or not

The ultraviolet spectrum is the one from which we actively protect the skin on sunny days, because it is it that causes burns, promotes aging, and increases the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Nevertheless, UV rays are used to treat psoriasis , urticaria , scleroderma (a disease in which the skin becomes dense and hard) and even some cancers, such as lymphoblastic leukemia with cutaneous manifestations. Sometimes, before therapy, you need to take a special medicine that accumulates in tumor cells, and then is activated under the influence of ultraviolet rays. Of course, this is a serious intervention that can only be carried out by a doctor on strict indications; this is one of the rare occasions where the benefits of ultraviolet light may outweigh its risks. Household devices for ultraviolet irradiation are not made.      

A severe lack of sunlight (for example, beyond the Arctic Circle) can lead to a deficiency of vitamin D. On the other hand, it is believed that almost everyone has a deficiency, because either we do not go to the sun often enough, or we protect the skin from its penetration rays – so this vitamin is recommended to be taken by almost everyone (and residents of Alaska are also advised to fly to Hawaii more often). Lack of sunlight can also cause so-called seasonal affective disorder – depressive symptoms that occur in the fall and winter. To combat it, light therapy is actively used in Scandinavia ; however, in this case we are not talking about ultraviolet radiation, but about the light of the visible spectrum, imitating the sun.        

Blue light against acne

The rays of the blue part of the spectrum have a peculiarity: they are able to destroy bacteria, including Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, which cause acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , blue light therapy results in cleansing of the skin in most patients. The studies were conducted mainly in small groups of people with mild to moderate acne and did not last long. Experts are cautious and note that blue light can be an effective component of complex treatment, long-term results have not yet been studied (that is, it cannot be argued that lamps will help get rid of acne once and for all), and the effectiveness in people with severe acne is still unknown.      

Nevertheless, a certain effectiveness has been demonstrated more than once, and every day there are more devices on the market for home skin treatment with blue light. This, for example, gadgets for spot application Foreo Espada and reVive Poof , working on a larger area of Clear Rayz and LightStim, or a whole mask for treating acne Neutrogena . You should not abuse light therapy with blue rays: the instructions for most devices indicate the exposure time from three to ten minutes. There is evidence that large amounts of blue light can also harm the skin, promoting the formation of free radicals that damage its cells. Moreover, experts advise spending less time staring at a smartphone screen, precisely because of the blue light it emits.            

Red light against wrinkles and inflammation 

Some of the acne treatment devices listed above emit both blue and red light – the latter designed to reduce inflammation in the skin. There are many publications on the benefits of red rays for a variety of diseases, but often their content does not correspond to the stated – it turns out that the authors meant photochemotherapy, when light is used in combination with special drugs to treat cancer, or they talk about the visible spectrum in general, which helps to fight depression … So far, only the benefits of the red spectrum in inflammatory processes and pain are clearly known , therefore it is used, for example, in rheumatoid arthritis. There is also evidence that red light may aid in wound healing.       

In theory, the rays of the red spectrum can stimulate the production of collagen, which means that the skin is denser and less wrinkled. In a 2014 study , where exposure to red light alone was applied to 58 participants, they noted an improvement in complexion and skin smoothness, and when measured with special devices, it turned out that the depth of wrinkles decreased and the collagen in the skin increased.  

Shines, but does not heat: infrared spectrum

Infrared radiation is most often used in saunas, for example, in sports centers – with the same thermal effect, an infrared sauna is less fire hazardous than a conventional one, it is easier to install (and, perhaps, it costs the owners less). In studies, it was observed that the infrared rays help to relieve chronic back pain , without any adverse effects. Without irritating the skin, infrared rays heat the underlying tissues, and although the mechanisms of further processes are not fully understood, it is known that such treatment improves the symptoms of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease.      

Today we are talking about embedding nanoparticles that study infrared rays into tissues and materials to create dressings and plasters – they can be used for local heating of certain parts of the body. So far, from portable devices on sale, you can find only warming up massagers like this – however, a rare infrared gadget called “Minin’s reflector” can be found on the mezzanine. The “blue lamp”, familiar to almost every Soviet person, is an ordinary light bulb designed to heat the nose area with infrared radiation. It has nothing to do with blue light therapy, just in this form the light penetrates the weakest through closed eyelids and does not blind.

local_offerevent_note June 22, 2021

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