Photobiomodulation for Skin

The photobiomodulation (PBM) bed here at Peak bears a superficial resemblance to a tanning bed. But don’t let that superficial resemblance fool you. The two could hardly be more different in what they do. Heavy exposure to ultraviolet light, which is what sometimes takes place in a tanning bed, can cause skin cancer. It makes skin age and wrinkle faster. It also weakens the immune system and mutates DNA. According to an archived CNN report from 2010, frequent tanning-bed use triples your risk of melanoma. In other words, a tanning bed can damage your skin. A PBM bed, on the other hand, can rejuvenate your skin. That’s why I wanted to look at photobiomodulation for skin.

PBM Makes Skin Look Better

Researchers have recognized for at least eight years that PBM can improve skin. A comprehensive review of PBM in Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery describes how light in specific wavelengths can cause skin to rejuvenate. The article cites a number of studies that showed when skin cells absorb photons in those wavelengths, there are two major effects. The first is it stimulates production of a chemical known as ATP, which is the source of a cell’s energy. The second is it increases cell membrane permeability, which increases intercellular interaction.

A study of 136 volunteers published in 2014 found that PBM significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling. It also smoothed roughness and increased collagen density. When clinicians examined anonymized photographs of the participants, they confirmed these improvements.

PBM and Aging Skin

If you are a normal human being, however, you probably have a concern about the aging of your skin. After your 20s or 30s, your skin may wrinkle, become discolored, or lose elasticity. You may develop spider veins.

There is a wide array of dermatological treatments for aging skin, including acid baths, dermabrasion, chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and facelift surgery. Except for the last one, all of these treatments are based on the systematic destruction of the skin so it can heal itself. All are invasive and involve significant downtime as well as discomfort.

On the other hand, a 2014 paper showed PBM (which the paper calls low level laser-light therapy, or LLLT) has beneficial effects “on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and healing of burns. LLLT can reduce UV damage both as a treatment and as a prophylaxis. In pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo, LLLT can increase pigmentation by stimulating melanocyte proliferation and reduce depigmentation by inhibiting autoimmunity. Inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and acne can also benefit.”

Photobiomodulation for Skin

Since no one has documented any bad side effects for PBM, you might wonder why there isn’t a PBM bed in every dermatologist’s office. Well, according to the same study cited above, there haven’t been any large clinical studies to establish dose. So anybody who wants to use PBM has to figure out their own dose. Most dermatologists don’t have time to test it, patient by patient, when they can already offer acid baths, dermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser resurfacing.

In general, if you want to improve your skin with PBM, you’re on your own in determining frequency and duration of the sessions. At Peak, we limit your PBM sessions to 15 minutes, and we have never seen side effects. Safety is assured. As to whether it can make your skin look better, you just need to book a few sessions to see.