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Red Light Therapy for Psoriasis: Does It Work?

Managing Psoriasis

July 28, 2023

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Photography by Marekuliasz/Getty Images

Photography by Marekuliasz/Getty Images

by Stefanie Remson


Medically Reviewed by:

Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH


by Stefanie Remson


Medically Reviewed by:

Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH


You might be surprised by some of the benefits of red light therapy. Read on to find out if this add-on treatment is a good one for you.

Psoriasis (PsO) is an autoimmune, inflammatory condition that causes rapid turnover of skin cells resulting in thick, scaly, silvery plaques that may be itchy, inflamed, or painful.

Red light therapy (RLT), also known as low-level laser light therapy, may improve the symptoms of PsO skin plaques in some people.

If you have moderate to severe PsO plaques, or your PsO plaques have not responded to traditional treatments, your healthcare team may recommend RLT as a treatment option.

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What is red light therapy (RLT)?

RLT is a specific, low wavelength of red light that is directed at the skin for specific lengths of time to stimulate the natural healing process in the body.

This is usually done through specialized bulbs called light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or low-power laser diodes, with wavelengths around 620–770 nanometers. These specific wavelengths of light are believed to have therapeutic effects on the body. This therapy is sometimes referred to as low-level laser light therapy (LLLT).

The healing effects in the body work because of the way the cells absorb red light in their mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell).

RLT helps increase the production of our main source of energy: adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It also helps improve blood flow and activates stem cells to allow tissue repair and healing.

A good analogy is to think of RLT as a morning cup of coffee working to wake up the cells and get moving.

According to 2013 research, RLT may also help improve the appearance of skin by:

  • increasing elasticity (aka stretch) by boosting collagen production
  • increasing fibroblast production, which also helps produce more collagen and other tissue components
  • increasing blood flow and improving circulation
  • protecting cells from further damage
  • improving the appearance of skin texture, fine lines, and wrinkles
  • improving erythema (pinkness of the skin) and skin pigmentation

This clinical trial also found that RLT could:

  • rejuvenate the skin’s appearance
  • improve complexion
  • improve skin texture

Everyone’s PsO responds differently to treatments, including RLT. Most research on RLT for PsO has been done with very small groups of people, so more research is needed.

Before considering this treatment option, you should talk with your healthcare team.

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Does red light therapy work for psoriasis?

RLT may help relieve symptoms associated with PsO plaques as well as reduce redness, scaling, itching, and thickness of visible plaques. It may also help reduce inflammation, calm the immune system’s response, and enhance the overall health of the skin.

While RLT is not the most commonly used treatment for psoriasis, it may be used in combination with other PsO treatments such as topical creams, systemic medications, lifestyle changes, and even other light therapies (e.g., ultraviolet).

RLT may enhance these therapies or even provide additional benefits. The efficacy (how well it works) varies from person to person.

”I use RLT 3 times a week in conjunction with a biologic. With the biologic alone, I was still having a lot of breakouts. My skin is better managed since getting the RLT 3 times a week. My best tip is to start with clean skin, no lotions or oils, and stick to your schedule.

Jenni Weaver, Host of The Spoonie Sisters podcast, diagnosed with PsO in 2017.

How can I get RLT?

RLT is relatively low in cost when compared with other medical treatments for PsO. However, depending on your insurance plan, it may not be covered. This can be a big hurdle for obtaining this treatment.

Red light therapy can be administered using LED panels, handheld devices, or specialized light booths.

You can find RLT offered in medical offices, where the output and duration of therapy can be closely monitored. You may also find RLT offered at non-medical facilities, such as gyms and salons, but these are not recommended by medical professionals.

RLT treatment should be administered under the guidance of a physician with expertise in red light devices.

RLT can also be done at home with convenient, portable appliances intended for this use. However, the safety of these devices can vary. It’s important to consult your doctor before using an at-home device. These should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

And keep in mind, these are unlikely to be as powerful as the in-office options, so expectations should be realistic.

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How is RLT different from other light therapies?

RLT is one of the options for phototherapy for psoriasis, but it isn’t the first-line option many dermatologists consider when treating people with psoriasis.

Ultraviolet light therapies are much more common. RLT can be used in addition to these treatments if they aren’t managing the disease sufficiently.

Although RLT and ultraviolet are both light-based treatments that can be directed at the skin for treating PsO, there are some important differences:

  1. Red light therapy uses specific wavelengths of red light, typically in the range of 620–770 nanometers (nm), while UV light therapy employs ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths, mainly UVA (320–400 nm) or UVB (280–320 nm).
  2. The longer the wavelength, the deeper the penetration. So RLT penetrates the skin at a deeper level — as deep as 6 millimeters (mm), reaching the cells and tissues well beneath the surface. UV light therapy primarily affects the surface of the skin.
  3. RLT is generally considered safe and noncarcinogenic, whereas some research has shown UV therapies to increase the risk of skin cancer. However, the misuse of RLT can cause injury.
  4. RLT uses LED panels, handheld devices, or specialized light booths. UV light therapy often requires specialized cabinets, beds, or other equipment equipped with UVA and UVB bulbs.

The takeaway

Both RLT and UV light therapy should be administered under professional guidance with specific treatment protocols in place. These should also take into account the severity of the PsO lesions being treated.

RLT may be an effective treatment option for managing PsO plaques, but there is more research needed to determine its full benefit in the PsO community.

Medically reviewed on July 28, 2023

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About the author

Stefanie Remson

Ms. Stefanie Remson MSN, APRN, FNP-BC is the CEO and founder of She is a family nurse practitioner and is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient herself. She has spent her entire life serving the community as a healthcare professional and has refused to let RA slow her down. She has worked with The Arthritis Foundation, The Lupus Foundation of America, Healthline, Grace and Able, Arthritis Life, Musculo, Aila, and HopeX. You can learn more at her website and on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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