Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, is a non-invasive treatment that uses low-level red or near-infrared light to improve various skin conditions, including cold sores. Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear on or around the lips and are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Cold sores are a common condition that affects around two-thirds of the world's population. They are highly contagious and can cause significant discomfort, pain, and embarrassment for those who suffer from them.
Red light therapy works (in part) by increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the treated area, which can promote healing and reduce inflammation. The specific wavelengths of light used in red light therapy have been shown to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, two proteins that are essential for healthy skin. This can help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as promote overall skin health.
There have been several studies conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of red light therapy in the treatment of cold sores.
In a 2013 study published in "Clin Exp Dermatol" by Dougal G, and Lee SY, low-level light therapy using 1072 nm infrared light was found to be effective in reducing the duration of cold sores and improving healing time.
Another study, published in 2017 in the "J Clin Exp Dent" by Honarmand M, Farhadmollashahi L, Vosoughirahbar E, compared the use of a diode laser to acyclovir cream, and found that the laser treatment was more effective in reducing the duration of symptoms.
In 2006, a randomised double-blind study, published in "Clin Exp Dermatol" by Hargate G, compared the effect of 1072-nm light against placebo for the treatment of herpes labialis, results showed that there was a significant reduction in the duration of symptoms and healing time in the group treated with red light therapy.
A 2010 study published in "Lasers Med Sci" by de Carvalho RR, de Paula Eduardo F, Ramalho KM, Antunes JL, Bezinelli LM, de Magalhães MH, Pegoretti T, de Freitas PM, de Paula Eduardo C, investigated the effect of laser phototherapy on preventing recurrent herpes labialis, and found that the treatment was effective in reducing the frequency of outbreaks.
Additionally, a 2012 study published in "Photomed Laser Surg" by Muñoz Sanchez PJ, Capote Femenías JL, Díaz Tejeda A, Tunér J, found that 670-nm low laser therapy was effective in reducing the severity of symptoms associated with herpes simplex type 1.
A 2014 study published in "Lasers Med Sci" by de Paula Eduardo C, Aranha AC, Simões A, Bello-Silva MS, Ramalho KM, Esteves-Oliveira M, de Freitas PM, Marotti J, Tunér J, made a literature review on the laser treatment of recurrent herpes labialis
The mechanism of action of red light therapy in cold sores is not fully understood, but it is believed that the light may help to reduce inflammation, promote healing, and inhibit the replication of the herpes simplex virus. Red light therapy may also boost the body's immune response to the virus, helping to fight off the infection.
It is important to note that red light therapy should not be used as a substitute for traditional cold sore treatments, such as antiviral medications or topical creams. Rather, it should be used in conjunction with these treatments to enhance their effectiveness and accelerate healing.
Other cold sore treatments include antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, which can be taken orally or applied topically to reduce the duration and severity of cold sores. Topical creams and ointments, such as docosanol and benzyl alcohol, can also be used to relieve pain and itching associated with cold sores.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Red Light Therapy and Inflammation
Best Red Light Therapy for Cold Sores at Home
If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from persistent or recurring cold sores, red light therapy may offer a natural way to ease your discomfort.
Powerful red and NIR light devices are now available for home use. Our MitoADAPT, MitoPRO, and other product offerings may help prevent outbreaks when you use LED red light technology consistently to stimulate the mitochondria, boost circulation, reduce inflammation, and preserve your skin's optimal health.
If you are ready to experience the health and wellness benefits of red light therapy, review our wide selection of red light therapy devices and bring home your ideal device.
- Dougal G, Lee SY. Evaluation of the efficacy of low-level light therapy using 1072 nm infrared light for the treatment of herpes simplex labialis. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2013 Oct;38(7):713-8. doi: 10.1111/ced.12069. Epub 2013 Jun 3. PMID: 23731454
- Honarmand M, Farhadmollashahi L, Vosoughirahbar E. Comparing the effect of diode laser against acyclovir cream for the treatment of herpes labialis. J Clin Exp Dent. 2017 Jun 1;9(6):e729-e732. doi: 10.4317/jced.53679. PMID: 28638546; PMCID: PMC5474325
- Hargate G. A randomised double-blind study comparing the effect of 1072-nm light against placebo for the treatment of herpes labialis. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2006 Sep;31(5):638-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2006.02191.x. Epub 2006 Jun 15. PMID: 16780494
- de Carvalho RR, de Paula Eduardo F, Ramalho KM, Antunes JL, Bezinelli LM, de Magalhães MH, Pegoretti T, de Freitas PM, de Paula Eduardo C. Effect of laser phototherapy on recurring herpes labialis prevention: an in vivo study. Lasers Med Sci. 2010 May;25(3):397-402. doi: 10.1007/s10103-009-0717-9. Epub 2009 Aug 11. PMID: 19669856
- Muñoz Sanchez PJ, Capote Femenías JL, Díaz Tejeda A, Tunér J. The effect of 670-nm low laser therapy on herpes simplex type 1. Photomed Laser Surg. 2012 Jan;30(1):37-40. doi: 10.1089/pho.2011.3076. Epub 2011 Nov 2. PMID: 22047597
de Paula Eduardo C, Aranha AC, Simões A, Bello-Silva MS, Ramalho KM, Esteves-Oliveira M, de Freitas PM, Marotti J, Tunér J. Laser treatment of recurrent herpes labialis: a literature review. Lasers Med Sci. 2014 Jul;29(4):1517-29. doi: 10.1007/s10103-013-1311-8. Epub 2013 Apr 13. PMID: 23584730