Skip to Content

Can led light therapy help rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes facial redness, visible blood vessels, bumps, and pimples. It usually affects the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. While there is no cure for rosacea, various treatments can help control symptoms. In recent years, light therapy using LED lights has emerged as a promising option for managing rosacea flares and reducing redness. In this article, we’ll explore what rosacea is, how LED light therapy works, and if LED treatments can benefit those with rosacea.

What is Rosacea?

Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that primarily affects the face. It often begins with flushing or blushing more easily than normal. As it progresses, rosacea causes persistent facial redness, spider veins, acne-like breakouts, burning/stinging sensations, and thickening skin. The exact cause is unknown, but contributing factors may include genetics, immune system dysfunction, microscopic mites (Demodex), and the bacteria Bacillus oleronius.

While rosacea can occur at any age, it most commonly affects middle-aged women between ages 30-60 with fair skin. An estimated 16 million Americans suffer from rosacea. The condition is classified into four main subtypes:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea – characterized by flushing, persistent redness, and visible blood vessels
  • Papulopustular rosacea – characterized by acne-like breakouts and swelling
  • Phymatous rosacea – characterized by thick, bumpy skin
  • Ocular rosacea – characterized by dry, irritated eyes

There is no cure for rosacea, but it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medical treatments. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and laser/light therapies may help reduce signs and symptoms. Identifying and avoiding rosacea triggers is also important for flare prevention.

How Does LED Light Therapy Work?

LED stands for light-emitting diode. LED light therapy uses powerful, concentrated light from LED bulbs or devices to treat various skin conditions. The specific wavelengths of light penetrate the skin and stimulate cellular processes that reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, boost collagen, and accelerate healing.

Unlike harsh ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds, LED light is low-risk and doesn’t damage skin when used properly. LED devices deliver light at very specific wavelengths optimized for therapeutic benefits:

  • Blue light has antimicrobial effects that destroy acne-causing bacteria.
  • Red light has anti-inflammatory and collagen-boosting effects that reduce wrinkles.
  • Near-infrared light penetrates deeper to stimulate cellular regeneration.

When used together, these wavelengths create LED light therapy that can improve various skin issues from acne to rosacea to signs of aging. Most LED devices are painless, safe for all skin types, and require no downtime after treatment. Sessions typically last 15-30 minutes and are done 2-3 times per week. Improvement is gradual over a 6-12 week treatment period. Maintenance sessions may be recommended.

Can LED Light Therapy Help Rosacea?

While more clinical studies are still needed, existing research suggests LED light therapy may offer benefits for rosacea patients including:

  • Reducing facial redness and flushing
  • Minimizing bumps, pimples, swelling
  • Decreasing facial blood vessels’ visibility
  • Improving skin texture and hydration
  • Relieving stinging, burning sensations

The anti-inflammatory effects of LED wavelengths like blue, red, and near infrared appear most applicable for rosacea. Blue light targets acne bacteria while red light reduces inflammation. Near infrared penetrates deeper to stimulate healing factors.

One study had rosacea patients use an LED mask emitting blue and red light for five-minute daily sessions. After three weeks, 70 percent of subjects reported less redness, fewer bumps, decreased dilation of facial blood vessels, and improved overall appearance.

Another study found eight weeks of near-infrared LED light reduced inflammatory lesions and phymatous changes in rosacea patients. The light’s anti-inflammatory effects likely deactivated parts of the immune response causing swelling and outward symptoms.

While promising, more research on LED therapy for rosacea is still needed. But current evidence and clinical results suggest it may improve moderate to severe cases, either as an alternative to medications or combined with other treatments.

Benefits of At-Home LED Light Therapy

For the most convenient, affordable option, many people are now using at-home LED light therapy devices for rosacea. Potential advantages of at-home use include:

  • Sessions done in the comfort of home
  • Devices can be used any time
  • Often more budget-friendly than in-office treatments
  • Treatment takes just minutes per session
  • Progress seen gradually over weeks of use
  • No harsh chemicals/medications

Popular types of devices include LED masks, wands, and handheld units fitted with red, blue, and near infrared LEDs. Most modern options allow you to adjust light intensity and session duration as needed. When shopping for an at-home LED device, look for:

  • Medical-grade LEDs in therapeutic wavelengths
  • Adjustable light intensity settings
  • Coverage of entire face/targeted problem areas
  • Automatic shut-off safety feature
  • Reputable brand with warranty

It’s also wise to choose an FDA-cleared device and read reviews before purchasing as quality can vary. Most quality at-home LED devices range from $200 to $600.

How to Use LED Light Therapy for Rosacea

If using LED light therapy for rosacea, keep these usage tips in mind:

  • Cleanse and dry your face before each session.
  • Apply any creams/serums your dermatologist recommends.
  • Sit comfortably and hold the LED device against your face. Most models include an adjustable headband.
  • Start at the lowest light intensity setting and increase over time as tolerated. Don’t exceed device instructions.
  • Target your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin where rosacea symptoms concentrate.
  • Begin with 5-10 minute sessions a few times per week, working up to 15-20 minutes daily.
  • Be consistent for at least 6 weeks before assessing results.
  • Always wear included safety glasses during use.

LED devices meant for at-home use are very low risk. But it’s still wise to discuss using light therapy for rosacea with your dermatologist, especially if you take photosensitizing medications or have other medical conditions affected by light exposure.

Are There Any Side Effects?

When used correctly, LED light therapy is very safe with minimal risks. Potential side effects include:

  • Mild redness or dryness after use
  • Headache or eye strain from strong light (wear glasses to prevent)
  • Increased rosacea symptoms if settings are too intense (adjust to tolerance)

The biggest precaution is avoidance in those with light-triggered medical conditions or who take photosensitizing medications. This includes conditions like lupus, porphyrias, and polymorphic light eruption. Certain drugs like antibiotics, NSAIDs, birth control pills, and retinoids may also increase sun/light sensitivity.

It’s always wise to discuss LED therapy with your physician if you have an underlying health condition or take any medications that could be impacted by light exposure. For most rosacea patients however, medical-grade LED devices are very safe when used properly.

Is Light Therapy Effective for All Rosacea Types?

The benefits of LED light therapy may depend partly on your rosacea subtype:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea – LED therapy can calm overall facial redness and reduce appearance of broken blood vessels.
  • Papulopustular rosacea – Antimicrobial blue light is effective for reducing acne-like breakouts and bumps.
  • Phymatous rosacea – Thickened skin responds best to collagen-stimulating red/near infrared wavelengths.
  • Ocular rosacea – Infrared light goggles may provide relief for dry, irritated eyes.

Mild to moderate inflammatory rosacea seems most responsive to LED therapy. More research is still needed on treating phymatous and ocular rosacea with light devices. But the anti-inflammatory effects of certain wavelengths show promise for reducing symptoms of all subtypes when used properly over an extended period.

Should LED Treatments Replace Rosacea Medications?

For moderate to severe cases, LED therapy generally works best to complement traditional rosacea medications, not necessarily replace them. Oral/topical drugs like antibiotics, steroid creams, anti-inflammatories like ivermectin, and brimonidine gel for facial redness often provide stronger, faster relief of inflammation and lesions.

Some dermatologists recommend using prescription treatments to get severe rosacea under control initially, then transitioning to gentle LED therapy for maintenance and flare prevention. Laser treatments like pulsed dye laser can also help chronic redness and dilated blood vessels that may not respond sufficiently to LEDs alone.

Mild cases of rosacea may find satisfactory symptom relief from LED light therapy alone. But for most patients, LED devices are best suited as an additive treatment, not a substitute for medications if stronger prescription therapies are warranted. Discuss the most effective options for your individual rosacea type and severity with your dermatologist.

Takeaways on LED Light Therapy for Rosacea

While more research is still underway, existing studies suggest LED light therapy is a promising treatment option for many rosacea sufferers. The potential benefits of medical-grade LED devices include:

  • Reducing inflammation and facial redness
  • Improving appearance of skin lesions and vessels
  • Fewer acne-like breakouts
  • Increasing collagen production and skin renewal
  • Safe for regular, at-home use
  • Well tolerated by most users

LED therapy appears most effective for inflammatory signs like bumps, pimples, and swollen red skin. Results seem best when LED treatments are combined with other rosacea medications, trigger avoidance, and healthy skin care habits. Though more research is still underway, many rosacea patients see significant improvement from incorporating regular LED light sessions into their treatment regimen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does insurance cover LED light therapy for rosacea?

Most insurance plans don’t cover at-home LED devices for rosacea, since they’re considered an elective treatment. In-office LED treatments performed by a dermatologist may be covered if deemed medically necessary. Check with your insurer on possible reimbursement for in-office professional LED therapy.

When should I expect to see results from LED treatments?

It takes time to see changes, but most patients notice some gradual improvement after 3-6 weeks of consistent use. Maximum results take 2-3 months. It’s important to stick with it and not expect dramatic changes right away.

How often should LED light therapy be done?

Most dermatologists recommend 10-15 minute LED sessions at least 3 times per week, or daily for best results. Consistency is key, so aim for a regular routine. Maintenance sessions 1-3 times per week may help sustain results long-term.

Are there any risks to using LED therapy too often?

With medical-grade at-home devices, dangers of overuse are very minimal. It’s best not to exceed manufacturer guidelines, but no strong evidence shows harm from daily use. If skin becomes irritated, reduce session frequency. Discuss any concerns with your dermatologist.


While LED devices don’t cure rosacea, they offer a safe, non-invasive option for managing symptoms. Red, blue, and near infrared wavelengths can reduce inflammation, lessen redness, decrease breakouts, and improve skin texture when used regularly over weeks. LED therapy produces gradual, moderate improvements that may significantly lower the burden of rosacea. When incorporated into a comprehensive treatment approach, at-home light devices can provide lasting relief with minimal side effects for many rosacea sufferers.