Does Red Light Therapy Make Melasma Worse?

Melasma is a common skin condition characterized by gray or brown patches that mostly appear on the face.

The patches may, however, appear on any other part of the body that is frequently exposed to plenty of sun, for example, the neck, forearm, chin, nose, and forehead.

Red light therapy has been touted as an effective method of treating numerous skin conditions but does red light therapy make melasma worse?

Read on to find out more about melasma and the effects of red light therapy on this skin condition.

Causes of Melasma

Experts are yet to determine the exact causes of melasma. However, there are some indications that the condition occurs when the cells responsible for providing color to the skin produce too much color.

Common factors that may trigger melasma include sun exposure, hormonal changes, and skin care products.

Sun exposure

Ultraviolet light triggers the production of melanocytes, which can increase the risk of developing melasma.

This explains why the appearance of melasma worsens during the hot summer months. This is also the reason why melasma patches keep reoccurring.

Hormonal Changes

Pregnant women face a higher risk of suffering from melasma, a condition known as chloasma. Hormone replacement medication and birth control can increase the risk of melasma.


Harsh skin care products can irritate your skin and exacerbate the symptoms of melasma.

Common Signs of Melasma

The signs and symptoms of melasma are primarily physical.

The most common sign is the occurrence of the gray or brown patches on the face, cheeks, chin, forehead, along the nose, and on the upper lip.

Rarely, melasma may affect the neck and forearms.

Risk Factors

  • Women have a higher chance of getting melasma patches. Pregnant women are more prone to getting melasma.
  • Individuals with dark skin or brown skin are likelier to get melasma.
  • A family history of melasma can also increase an individual’s risk of contracting melasma.

Red Light Therapy and Melasma

Although melasma patches are not physically painful nor do they cause itchiness, many patients simply dislike the appearance of these patches on their skin.

This skin condition is quite evasive in that it can disappear, stay dormant for a while, and then resurface. This can make treatment equally challenging.

Red light therapy is widely praised for its ability to treat or alleviate the symptoms of various skin conditions.

Red light therapy wavelengths range between 633nm and 83nm and can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.

Red light stimulates the production of elastin and collagen, two compounds that are crucial for skin health.

The light also stimulates blood flow, which aids in delivering oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells, which can slow down the signs of aging.

In one study, researchers found that the safe and correct use of red light therapy can alleviate the symptoms of melasma with patients demonstrating improved skin texture, even skin tone, and a reduction of the appearance of fine lines.

Red light therapy for the skin is typically undertaken weekly. You should speak to a dermatologist before using red light therapy if you have melasma.

Improper use of light therapy devices can aggravate your skin condition.

Intense Pulsed Light and Melasma

You may have heard about intense pulsed light, which is also a form of light therapy for melasma.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) emits close to the same wavelengths as red light therapy but the light waves from IPL are delivered at a much higher energy level.

Due to the intensity of the light pulse delivered by IPL, there is a higher risk of burns and pain when you use IPL for the treatment of melasma.

IPL may, however, prove to be an effective treatment for the appearance of brown-colored pigmentation in people with lighter skin.

IPL may deliver fast and more noticeable results but this form of treatment may be unsuitable for people with darker skin.

Red light therapy is best suited for individuals with a skin condition that presents mild symptoms such as melasma.

This is because LED is less intense and provides long-term treatment, which is ideal for a skin condition such as melasma that presents a higher risk of reoccurring.

To manage the symptoms of melasma, commit to minimizing your exposure to the sun. If you must go out under the sun, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen that offers your skin adequate protection.


Although red light therapy has been proven to be beneficial in treating an array of skin condition, studies are still underway to determine the precise effects of red light therapy on melasma.

There is also no evidence that red light therapy worsens melasma. However, improper and unsupervised use of light therapy can worsen your skin condition.

Before using any light therapies, oral, or topical treatments for melasma, consult a doctor first. Bear in mind that there is no cure for melasma and the various treatments can only alleviate the symptoms.