Red light therapy is one of the hottest wellness topics these days, especially in skin and tissue rejuvenation. It is an older technology from the 1990s used by NASA and has made a big come back in almost every age group. Here are some of the most promising red light health benefits.
Why Is Red Light Special?
Red light therapy (also called photobiomodulation) is a treatment modality that uses different types of low energy light. It is comprised of “red light” at a wavelength of about 650 nanometers, “deep red” light at about 750 nanometers, and “near-infrared” (NIR) light at about 850 nanometers. Infrared light is not visible to the human eye.
Red light penetrates through the skin and the underlying layer called the “hypodermis.” The longer the wavelength, the deeper the light penetrates into your tissue. When applied properly to the skin red light can penetrate to a depth of 5 to 10 millimeters.
Near-infrared light can penetrate your soft tissues, muscles, joints, and possibly even bone. Most devices use a combination of red and near-infrared light for maximal tissue depth exposure, although these wavelengths can be available separately, especially on commercial units.
Some devices also incorporate “yellow” (or amber) light, which has a shorter wavelength (about 600 nanometers) than red and near-infrared. Yellow light works at the top layer of the skin because it has a shallower tissue penetration.
Light is emitted from these devices and is absorbed by the body. The light stimulates mitochondria, the power-generating components inside each cell, to provide extra energy (from the formation of ATP from ADP) to function more efficiently. Peak performing cells are more capable of tissue repair.
Benefits Of Red Light Therapy
Many red light therapy health benefits come from its ability to energize cells to give them the ability to become more functional and useful. Red light treated cells can metabolize more nutrients, making them divide quicker to help repair surrounding tissues and decrease inflammation.
Adverse reactions to red light therapy are seldom experienced. Some users have reported irritability, eye strain, headache, and sleep disturbances or insomnia. These problems typically resolve quickly with discontinuation of the light therapy.
Here are some of the ways in which red light therapy is being used.
One of the most popular uses of red light therapy is for treating and rejuvenating the skin and nearby underlying tissues. It works by stimulating collagen production to help restore the skin to its original texture and complexion.
Beauticians use red light therapy to treat the skin, scalp, and subcutaneous tissues. Red light does not tan the skin. It provides the energy that allows your body to restructure and heal your skin with collagen and essential nutrients.
Specifically, red (and yellow) light therapy may:
- Decrease skin irritation and ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage
- Flush waste products from the skin
- Boost lymphatic flow, moving fluid back to the heart
- Reduce the appearance of tiny blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin
- Increase collagen production to decrease fine lines, crows feet, and wrinkles
- Improve the appearance of stretch marks, cellulite, and scars
- Reverse hair loss in those with androgenic alopecia
- Treat acne and rosacea without the need for prescription medications
Frankly, there is not a lot of published research to support all the positive results being touted by beauticians. However, there are many testimonials by people with a variety of skin and hair loss problems who claim that red light therapy has helped them tremendously.
Red and near-infrared light therapy are being used in many health care areas. These uses are generally backed by research studies and can run the gamut of everything from pain relief to depression.
Here are some of the ways that red light is being used to treat various medical ailments. Many of these treatments are still new or experimental.
- Pain Relief, decreasing or eliminating the need for treatment with medications
- Improvement of joint motion in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, especially after periods of immobility
- Psoriasis plaque improvement, red light is less damaging to the skin than ultraviolet light treatment
- Promoting wound healing by accelerating tissue repair, especially in decubitus and diabetic ulcers.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome symptom improvement by decreasing surround inflammatory and fluid retention
- Assisting in weight loss (general or in localized body areas) by increasing mitochondrial metabolism to consume additional energy
- Improving circulation to specific areas of connective tissue and muscle
- Stimulating the immune system to help recover from ailments by accelerating the body’s natural ability to heal
- Reducing the need (by photobiomodulation) for opioid medications to treat oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer
- Improving seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially in the winter – see How To Deal With Depression Alone – A Rejuvenating Self-Help Guide
Gyms and specialized personal training centers have adopted high-powered LED red, and near-infrared light technology, which they claim can improve muscle growth and strength. Light applications can also warm the muscles and surrounding structures to increase circulation to improve muscle function and speed healing.
Some people have claimed that routine treatments can:
- Reduce muscle soreness when used before and after a workout
- Improve muscle fatigue under a weight load
- Decrease muscle recovery time between workouts, even in injured athletes
- Augment workout results to eventually double muscle size and strength
- Shorten recovery time for both acute and overuse muscle injuries
LED devices are available in a wide variety of configurations including hand-held devices, compression wraps, mitts, pillows, and slippers.
Where To Get Red Light Treatments
From whom and where you acquire red light therapy will depend on your particular need and budget. Different applications may require specific light therapy device configurations (size, shape, and power output) and wavelengths (red, near-infrared, or combo therapy) to achieve the best possible outcome.
Treatment time and duration are also important. Average treatment time can range anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes and you will probably require at least 30 days to begin to see results. Therefore, travel time and distance from where you live or work may also be a deciding factor.
Red light therapy for wrinkles and other skin treatments are typically done by a salon beautician, particularly for facial treatments. Beauticians commonly use a single red light lamp to treat individual areas. Red light LED face masks are also available to expose the entire face’s skin in a single treatment.
Whole-body red light treatments that use a light bed, similar in appearance to tanning salon machines, are typically performed at a health spa. Some spas offer other treatments, such as massage, sauna, and steam room sessions, that can work in conjunction with red light therapy to make it more effective. Spa memberships may be pricey, so shop around to see where you can get a treatment package that will work for you at a price you can afford.
If you have severe skin problems or skin problems related to a disease such as psoriasis, you will probably want to have your treatments with a dermatologist. Your medical insurance may pay for all or a part of your red light treatment if your doctor determines that it is the best treatment for your particular condition or if you had a poor clinical response to other treatment modalities.
Light therapy related to athletics may be performed in a team environment such as a school or league or on an individual basis by your personal trainer. The treatments are typically designed to prevent or heal certain sports injuries or as an aid in accelerating muscle bulk and strength.
Doing Red Light Therapy At Home
Depending on your particular situation and therapeutic requirements, you may be able to have red light treatments at home. This is definitely the most convenient and cost-effective option, and it is a great way to familiarize yourself with the process. The majority of users that begin with home treatments claim to be satisfied with the results and continue on-going therapy.
The majority of people do red light treatments at home to improve skin texture and muscle tone. Red light units for home use come in a wide price range, anywhere from less than $50 to over $5,000! You don’t really have to spend an outrageous amount of money to get a high-quality red light unit that will give you the results you are looking to achieve.
To get tangible results, plan on using your red light unit at least 3 to 5 days a week for about 10 to 15 minutes, but ideally daily. Some people who use red light therapy for multiple sessions a day may see accelerated results. It does take several weeks before you will begin to notice or feel a change in the way you look and feel. The key to success with all light treatments is repetition and patience.
Keep your red light unit in a convenient location where it is easy to access so that you will use it often. Some people have a dedicated space or room in their home for relaxation, meditation, and exercise. This is a great place to set up your red light unit.
Here is an excellent video from Katie Type A that talks about the benefits of red light treatment and a review of some available devices for home use.
If you want a great home red light therapy unit that is versatile, easy to use, and competitively priced, then my number one recommendation is the TrueLight Energy Square. This lightbox uses LEDs to emit red light for general rejuvenation, near-infrared light for deeper penetration, and yellow light to enhance the red light wavelengths’ performance at the skin surface. It has continuous and pulsating light emission to make it more versatile and a remote control for convenience.
Phototherapy is a great way to rejuvenate your skin and underlying tissues. Red light therapy benefits skin in a number of ways. It has been successfully implemented in a wide range of cosmetic, medical, and athletic environments. Treatments need to be individualized and performed regularly to achieve the best results. See 5 Hot Tips On Aging Gracefully – Look 5 Years Younger Today!
There is not an abundance of published research on the cosmetic benefits of red light therapy, but there is a high consensus among frequent users that it produces effective results, especially when performed by a professional beautician.
Red light therapy is becoming increasingly popular for home use because it is quick and easy to implement on a routine schedule. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to make your body feel and perform better. Red light therapy generally has minimal side effects and adverse reactions, which typically resolve quickly upon discontinuation of the treatments. Always check with your health care provider before beginning red light therapy.
Tell Us What You Think
Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comment section, or if I can help you with anything.
- Do you have any additional tips or suggestions for using red light therapy?
- Are you currently using red light therapy?
- How has red light therapy been most helpful to you?