How Red Light Therapy Transformed My Skin
Hi there, it’s me, Kerri (I can hear the faint chorus of who?). I write most of the content on the Rouge site. While most of my posts are objective and scientific in nature, I thought there might be value in sharing my story as well. This article was entirely my idea and in fact I wasn’t sure it would be deemed appropriate to take such a personal stance amidst such science-based content. But as much as it’s important to discuss data and studies, the ultimate goal is to increase knowledge of red light therapy and its many benefits, and that includes how it helps individuals. Like me.
Plus, like most people who discover red light therapy, I’m just really excited about it (you can ask my friends and family how much I don’t shut up about it).
Before I continue, I want to be clear that I don’t have a financial stake in Rouge and that I didn’t receive any extra financial compensation or incentive to write this post. I'm also not a Rouge employee, I simply provide content on a freelance basis. Like I said, this was entirely my idea and I’m just excited to share my personal results with red light therapy.
I’d never even heard of red light therapy when I was introduced to Marc, the founder of Rouge, through a mutual writer friend. Of course, part of my research was to talk to Marc and hear his experience with the treatment (you can read about that in my very first Rouge piece here). He was so passionate about it I couldn’t help but be intrigued, but having recently lost a job due to the pandemic, my curiosity was more along the lines of, “wow, that’s really cool for other people”.
My psychology research background sure came in handy when writing about red light therapy, because there are LOTS of studies to parse and concepts to understand, and it didn’t take long for me to become a full photobiomodulation aficionado. And with every journal article I read and every blog post I wrote, my curiosity grew. Finally, I made the decision that I couldn’t not afford to get my own device.
The Issues: Why I Finally Decided to Try Red Light Therapy
I purchased the Rouge Tabletop as it fit best with my budget and my needs. It was mostly the skin benefits I was after. See, over my forty years on this planet, my face and I have been through it. Every dumb annoying skin issue you can think of, I’ve probably struggled with it at some point or another. Seborrheic dermatitis, hormonal acne, dandruff, melasma, you name it. If I didn’t moisturize immediately after showering, my face would turn white with dryness. It would randomly flare up in a mess of red scaly patches around my nose, eyebrows and hairline that would crack and weep histamine. Makeup would cover some of the redness but with the mega-drawback of accentuating the dryness and flaking. My skin felt rough and unpleasant to the touch. People would comment on my sunburn even though I didn’t have one. I still won’t return to one particular hat store whose owner commented on how red my face was (rule of thumb, don’t comment on people’s appearance unless asked).
I cried when a moisturizer that didn’t irritate my face (and that wasn’t, like, $75 for two ounces) was discontinued. I spent thousands of dollars on high-end “calming” product lines and medicated products. I couldn’t wash my hair with regular shampoo and actually probably single-handedly paid someone’s salary at Nizoral.
I bought probiotics, vitamins and supplements. I even tried to figure out if something in my diet was the cause of my Angry Face™ but nothing seemed to jump out as either the culprit or the solution.
There are few photos of me without makeup or when my skin was in a bad state (I wasn’t exactly jumping in front of the camera), but I managed to scare up a couple.
Here you can see how irritated the skin on my forehead is, with a spot above my right eyebrow that’s cracked and bleeding. This happened frequently and it was incredibly frustrating, not just because it burned and itched, but because I felt hideous.
The resolution isn’t great in this photo but if you look closely you can see the dermatitis on and around my eyebrows as well as on my nose and cheeks. You might not think it looks so bad, and you may be right (for me, it was all I could see), but it felt terrible. It felt like an allergic reaction, and it was constant. In fact, this was pretty much the baseline for my face; it would get worse from there and rarely better. Resting itch face, I call it. Even at its mildest it was itchy, oily, and always flaky.
The Hesitation: What If It Doesn’t Work?
My months of research on red light therapy had sold me on its credibility as a viable treatment option, but I still had reservations. A big part of me thought that I just couldn’t be fixed. But I also knew that it couldn’t hurt. I think that’s a common thought process in people who give red light therapy a try. The science is there, but they just can’t see it making a difference when everything else has failed. I was convinced it worked for other people and also convinced that it wouldn’t work for me. The thing that usually persuades them to give it a go is that it’s not going to do any damage and, with all the benefits it purports to have, odds are something will improve somewhere. That, and a tiny part of you is whispering what if?
The Results: It Worked!
I started treatments just after Christmas. Nearly every day I would spend fifteen minutes sitting in front of my Tabletop, listening to podcasts and wondering what my neighbours must think is going on in my living room (it’s not a subtle glow, let’s say). For the first couple of months I thought it might be working, but maybe it’s placebo, but maybe it’s working? No. Yes? No. And so on. There was a lot of time spent in front of the mirror. I didn’t think to take a before pic, probably because I didn’t expect much. The thing about red light therapy is that it works incrementally, so you don’t often notice your progress until one day it hits you like a ton of bricks. For me that day was when I ran out of moisturizer in the middle of March. This is the time of year, along with the onset of fall, when my skin is typically the most reactive.
I thought I had a spare tube stowed away under the sink but I’d been mistaken. I have to special-order my moisturizer online (of course), so I was going to have to go to the drugstore, pick something up and hope for the best. Only, I forgot. I didn’t make it to the drugstore that first day, and I forgot again the second day. And that’s when I realized that I just… didn’t need moisturizer. My skin simply wasn’t dry. It wasn’t cracking, it didn’t feel tight, it wasn’t crying out for its twice-daily soothing cucumber coating. I prolonged the test and went six days without moisturizing. I could have kept going forever. I only started moisturizing again when my regular stuff arrived in the mail. I do still moisturize daily; I just really like the feeling of moisturized skin. But the realization that I don’t absolutely need it? I could have cried.
That’s when I noticed that most of my other skin issues were essentially gone as well. I didn’t have scaly patches around my scalp and on the sides of my nose anymore. I wasn’t getting pimples (I would get them like clockwork on the right side of my face around my chin). My dandruff was also virtually gone. Since then I’ve stopped spending $20 a month on medicated shampoo. In fact, I don’t even know what shampoo I’m using currently, I just buy whatever is on sale. Imagine that!
I know for some these skin issues may seem trivial, but for me they represented a loss of freedom. I couldn’t just use my friend’s moisturizer if I forgot mine. I had to constantly escape to the bathroom to make sure my skin wasn’t flaking. My hair was usually greasy from using a baseball-sized glob of conditioner on my scalp and putting moisturizer on my part. Most days I couldn’t leave the house without makeup.
My skin problems also affected my confidence in a major way. I felt like the Girl with the Problem Skin, even though I’m sure I noticed it way more than others did. And my level of enjoyment of a social gathering or event was often determined by how much my skin was acting up that day.
That’s not to say I have perfect skin now. I still have melasma and uneven skin tone at times, and I’m still prone to slight redness, but that’s nothing a sheer layer of BB cream can’t fix (and, honestly, unless I’m Going Out, I don’t bother). The difference is these feel like normal issues and not some weird Game of Thrones of skin conditions, all duking it out for the title of Most Irritating.
Here’s a photo of me that I took while writing this piece, after several months of red light therapy treatment. This is without makeup or moisturizer, sans filter or blurring, and in natural light.
I’ve truly never been happier in my skin, and I actually get compliments on it. Compliments! On MY skin! Sometimes I’ve got to pinch my own cheeks to make sure it’s all real (and cause of how nice they feel now). I might sound like I’m piling it on for dramatic effect but I’m so blown away by how much my skin has improved that this is really how I talk about it. I guess this article is my version of shouting it from the rooftops.
If you think red light therapy might help you with a skin condition you’ve been struggling with, I urge you to take the plunge. Not only are Rouge Red Light Therapy panels some of the most powerful and effective on the market today (you can see how they stack up to the competition here), based on my own research, they’re the best value, too, pound for pound (the Rouge Tabletop, for instance, has almost double the LEDs as the Joovv Mini and it costs nearly $300 less).
I fully admit my bias toward Rouge. Marc is honestly just a great guy and the team is wonderful too, so I’m happy to support them. And, most importantly, I’m hooked. You’ll have to pry my Rouge device out of my cold, dead hands.
Thanks for reading my rambling love letter, and I’ll see you in the next blog post!