Most people welcome the first sunny day of spring, the sense of warmth, relaxation, and happiness. I’m the opposite. While I appreciate the beauty of a sunny day, I also feel scared of the inevitable severe allergic reaction. For the past several years, my sun sensitivity blossomed into a full blown sun allergy. Ever since, I’ve been experiencing a severe rash on the first clear day of spring as well as subsequent intense UV days. It starts as a burned sensation the moment my winter-pale décolletage sees the light. Then in a matter of hours, I get an itchy, pink rash all over my chest, neck, sometimes even my shoulders and my knees. It has no bearing on whether I’m wearing sunblock.
Then I realized I would be getting married outdoors in July, in an area famous for its scorching direct UV rays (among other regional charms 😓 like snowcapped mountains and stunning river views). There was no way I would wear a high-necked wedding dress to protect my skin. So I set out to naturally heal my sun allergy.
This wasn’t my first attempt at curing my condition. A few years ago, an acupuncturist/TCM herbalist prescribed me an herbal powder (to be mixed in boiling water). One of its main ingredients was magnolia bark, which has been used for many centuries in TCM to treat inflammation, among other illnesses. The medicine was designed to cool down my excessive yang and balance my energies. I’ve always responded rather well to TCM and acupuncture, so I eagerly tried this. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a huge improvement before I ran out of patience drinking boiling hot, bitter liquid. If I drink a hot brown drink, I want it to taste like chocolate!!
I also tried the Ayurvedic approach I learned about in a YouTube video, which primarily recommended aloe vera gel. Also designed to re-balance the overly pitta (fire) body, this seemed a gentle and harmless method. It can’t have *hurt*, but sadly it didn’t really work for me.
My red light therapy experience
When I had all but given up, I came across an article that red light therapy is used to treat frequent cold sores and eczema. I have both—and there’s nothing my cold sores love more than a bright sunny day spent outdoors! Cold sores are often triggered by stressors like fatigue, weakened immune system, and UV light. So I realized that red light therapy could condition my cells against the threat of UV light.
I started doing red light therapy once a month at my local spa. It involved lying still in a tanning-bed-like machine for 15 minutes, dressed down in underwear. The light used includes visible red light (for skin-level benefits) and invisible infrared light (for muscles, joints, etc). The sensation was mildly warm and pleasant during the session—but I really noticed a tingling relief after it was over. I felt loose, relaxed, and for some reason, as though my skin was being conditioned to withstand light.
After 3 monthly sessions, the long-dreaded “bright spring day” arrived. I spent the majority of the day outside, and immediately knew that the instant stinging discomfort that presages a future allergic reaction was GONE. The next day came and went without a reaction. And I immediately ordered an at-home red light therapy device so I can do the sessions more frequently. Don’t take it from me, take it from vegan actress Jenna Dewan! She tells New Beauty: “I have this red light that I put right on my vanity table, right in my bathroom. When I have the time to get ready and put on makeup, I turn on this light, and it makes me feel so good and relaxed and energized. At the same time, it’s good for collagen, anti-aging and going deep into the layers of skin.”
How does red light therapy work?
Mitochondria are energy production plants within our cells. Red light and near infrared light induce the mitochondria to create more energy. When our cells have more energy, they can carry out all their functions optimally. Besides healing sun allergy, red light therapy has the following benefits:
- Increased energy
- Weight loss
- Muscle recovery
- Decreased joint paint
- Increased collagen production
- Eczema, psoriasis, acne
- Faster wound healing
- Improved hormonal health
- Better sleep
Besides strengthening my skin, there are two major changes that I noticed. One is increased collagen production. I have noticed that my skin looks more youthful, fine lines more filled out, and my lips fuller right after the session (and also more long-term). Red light is also great for my achy joints: it’s as healing as Epsom salt baths that I have sworn by for the past four years. I’m so excited to indulge in this self-care ritual several times a week!
I purchased HG300 Hooga Red Light Therapy Device ($159) and couldn’t be happier.
Have you tried red light therapy?
Related: I Tried an Infrared Jade Roller Massage And It Was The Most Relaxing Experience
Photo: Billie via Unsplash; Hooga