How to Prepare Your Skin For Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is a cutting-edge treatment that can address many different skin concerns—like wrinkles, sun damage, and acne. Because this treatment uses targeted light, preparing your skin properly for light absorption will ensure you see the full results.

Quick Recap: How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Red light therapy, also called photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), uses specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light that are readily absorbed by the body’s cells. Once absorbed, these special wavelengths of light boost the function of the mitochondria—the powerhouse of the cell—boosting energy production at a cellular level.

By supporting energy production and cellular regeneration, PBMT reduces painful inflammation, boosts collagen production, and reduces the appearance of scars and other damaged skin tissue.

Learn more about the science behind photobiomodulation therapy.

Skincare Products & Red Light Therapy

Certain products can affect how red light therapy penetrates the skin or change the way it works inside the cells. Some products enhance the beneficial effects of PBMT, while others interfere with the action of red light therapy.

Makeup & Sunscreen

Any product that contains sunscreen will block some of the light waves. While manufacturers design sunscreen to block ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) light, it can also stop the red and near-infrared LED lights used in red light therapy.

Red light therapy can reduce the appearance of fine lines that can develop in the delicate skin around your eyes over time. Using an anti-aging cream or serum following your PBMT session may speed up results. For best results, choose products that contain peptides, retinol, vitamin C, or argan oil.

Salicylic Acid & BHAs

Salicylic acids and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) penetrate deep into the skin to clear clogged pores, reduce inflammation, and loosen and exfoliate dead skin cells. Treatments containing salicylic acid and BHAs work well with red light therapy. Still, many people opt for red light therapy to treat signs of acne because their skin is too sensitive for chemical treatments.

See how red light therapy addresses post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by severe acne.


Retinol, also known as vitamin A, is a common ingredient in moisturizers, serums, and other anti-aging products. Using retinol before bedtime is a great way to encourage cell growth and replacement while you sleep. Applying retinol after red light therapy can boost your skincare routine. However, you should never apply retinol before a PBMT treatment, as the combination can cause unexpected skin reactions and irritation.

Face Massagers & Rollers

Electric and mechanical massagers and rollers stimulate blood circulation to the treatment area. These handy tools also relieve muscle tension in the face. Massagers and rollers can also help deliver moisturizers deep into the skin to reduce wrinkles and enhance collagen production.

Guide to Preparing Your Skin for Red Light Therapy

Preparing your skin for red light therapy helps you get the most out of your PBMT treatment. Before your appointment:

  • Perform your skin care routine as usual in the days leading up to your appointment
  • Treat your skin nicely—avoid irritating your skin with aggressive exfoliant products or sun exposure
  • Clean your skin with a gentle, non-drying cleanser before treatment to remove any mineral-based sunscreen or makeup containing zinc

What you do after your red light therapy session is also important. Red light therapy helps your skin absorb creams and serums, making post-PBMT the right time to apply anti-aging products, moisturizers, and other cosmetic products. Before applying heavier moisturizers, start with serums and eye creams, which are lightweight and often contain concentrated doses of active ingredients. Apply sunscreen last, even if you do not plan to spend much time outdoors.

Ask your skin care professional for suggestions on the best products to use after red light therapy. In most cases, you can return to your regular skincare routine immediately after your PBMT session. Your skincare consultant may be able to recommend products to optimize the beneficial effects of red light therapy. Your dermatology professional can also help you identify and avoid any products that are not helping you reach your aesthetic or health goals.

Preparing your skin for red light therapy can help you optimize and enhance the results you receive from this state-of-the-art treatment.

This blog was originally published May 3, 2021, and was last updated January 12, 2022.

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