Today we will be exploring red light therapy, or RLT, a therapeutic technique that harnesses the power of low-level frequencies of red light to achieve various health goals. We will dive into what it is, how it works, the benefits, as well as my personal red light therapy review.
Although newer modalities of red light therapy are sweeping the nation, it has actually existed for quite some time under various names like low level laser therapy (LLLT), biostimulation (BIOS), low-power laser therapy (LPLT), photonic stimulation, soft laser therapy, cold laser therapy, or light box therapy.
Red light is being used therapeutically for a wide range of conditions and ailments, as well as to promote youthfulness and energy, both in clinical practices and at home. It is being used not only to heal but also enhance performance in elite athletes competing in the NBA, NFL, and Olympics. Let’s find out what all the fuss is about.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is the act of exposing the skin to low-level wavelengths of light to treat skin conditions and produce other beneficial outcomes. Light in general has a powerful impact on the body, and the effects depend on the particular spectrum of light used. The most beneficial range of wavelengths of red light are between 630-670 and 810-880nm. The wavelengths used will depend on which ailment you are trying to treat.
Unlike ultraviolet rays that can damage the skin over time, red light therapy is completely safe. Red light spectrum does not cause and DNA damage, even after long levels of exposure. You cannot tan or burn from red light; the therapeutic benefits are happening at the cellular level, deep inside the cell. Red light therapy has been approved for its therapeutic benefits by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What is Red Light Therapy Treatment?
A red light therapy treatment will vary slightly, depending on which device you are using. Red light therapy is available in various different sizes, from small handheld portable devices you can travel with, to full-body red light therapy beds. Some devices are tailored to specific parts, like for hair-growth therapy, where you would put on a headset imbedded with the LED lights.
After placing the device on the appropriate body part, the device is turned on and remains in place for at least 15 minutes. This procedure is repeated approximately 3-5 times per week, over the duration of 8-12 weeks.
Red light therapy devices do not emit much heat, although depending on the size of the device can get pleasantly warm. After a red light therapy treatment session, there is no recovery time.
The History of Red Light Therapy
Light has been used for therapeutic reasons since the ancient Egyptian era, when healing treatments included colored glass to used to filter out all other visible wavelengths of light. The Greeks and Romans started to better understand the thermal effects of light, but it was in 1903 that light therapy really took off– in the advent of Neils Ryberg Finsen’s Nobel Prize worthy discovery on how to use ultraviolet light to heal smallpox and lupus.
The multiple benefits of red light therapy were discovered accidentally in the early 1960’s, when Dr. Andre Mester was using a low-level ruby laser light to shrink a tumour in a lab mouse.
Mester not only confirmed that the red light shrank the tumour, but also that it treated ‘otherwise incurable’ ulcers, and sped up the wound healing and hair growth in the mice.
Because the mechanisms weren’t yet understood, much of the success Dr. Mester had with mice and eventually also in humans, was attributed to ‘magic’. Red light therapy has been researched extensively and used therapeutically in Russia since the 1970’s, and has been used increasingly in clinical settings across Japan, Canada, China, Vietnam, Ireland, Eastern Europe, and Latin America since the 1980’s.
Despite its international success and application, it wasn’t until the 2000’s that red light therapy research took off in the United States, and that’s when much of the English literature supporting the healing powers of read light started piling in. Modern red light therapy research includes NASA, who have been using red light devices to limit bone and muscle loss on humans in space, as well as on plants, to allow plant growth in space.
Today, high quality red light therapy treatments use medical-grade LEDs to deliver these wavelengths of natural red light to the skin. Devices can be found in various commercial establishments and portable/ at home devices are being sold as well.
How Red Light Therapy Works
The Science Behind Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy works by creating a biochemical impact of the cells of the body, triggering an increase in mitochondrial function. This stimulates ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production in the body.
ATP is essentially the cells energy source, and without it, the cells (and thus the whole body) cannot function properly.
The frequency at which red light operates are wavelengths between 630-880nm, a surface level treatment that penetrates about 8-10 millimeters below the skin. The lower end of that range seems to work best for skin conditions like acne or stretch marks, while the higher end brings you to near infrared light and works better at penetrating deeper into the skin. Used properly, red light therapy can penetrate not only the layers of the skin, but also blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic pathways, and hair follicles.
The Benefits of Red Light Therapy
The benefits of red light therapy and the healing frequencies reach far and wide. Their application is broad, and we have only explored the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the implications that this therapy might have on disease models such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune conditions.
1. Increased Energy
Red light has been shown to naturally energize the body, and correlated improvement in a wide range of positive functions including better mood, an increase in self-confidence, social awareness, passion, laughter, conversational skills, joy, and overall positivity. All the cells of your body need ATP to operate and survive, and red light wavelengths provides this natural light in abundance. Not only does it literally energize the cell in the short term, but it also heals the cells so dramatically that they also have less ‘work’ to do in the long run. As the body heals, the cells have less work and more ATP, which means much more energy for you.
2. Clearing Up Acne & Eczema
Skin issues like acne and eczema seem to respond best to low levels of red light waves, closer to the 600nm mark. This visible red spectrum light target the top layers of skin by stimulating collagen and ATP production. It has shown beneficial for a wide range of skin-related issues including acne, eczema, psoriasis, and scars.
3. Improved Circulation
By penetrating the epidermal and dermal skin layers, red light boosts circulation and helps form new capillaries. In doing so, the body can transport more oxygen and nutrients to the cells and tissues of the body, which results in faster recovery and improved health overall. More circulation also means the cells are ridding themselves of more toxic waste. The best natural detox, is well circulating blood.
Red light therapy is increasingly being used to promote youthfulness, both in appearance of skin and hair. The therapy creates boost of collagen in the skin, which results in a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. This anti-aging method is particularly powerful because unlike creams and injections, red-light therapy is non-toxic, and non-invasive. The red light penetrates the skin and activates the cell from within. Many of these short-term drug based or invasive procedures are toxic and thus harmful in the long run.
Red light therapy has also been shown to stimulate follicle growth of hair, resulting in reversed hair loss. Although hair loss reversal doesn’t happen in all cases, studies have shown success reversing it in both male and female patients. The sooner red light therapy is used, the more successful the results. Ultimately, red light therapy can help stimulate hair growth in areas where the hair follicle is present. Unlike procedures that require surgical intervention, using red light therapy for hair loss reversal has no down time or negative side effects.
5. Improved Skin Tone
By boosting the collagen density in the skin, red light therapy is also able to improve skin tone, including the texture and feeling, and roughness of the skin. Patients suffering from rosacea and other types of skin redness who have been incapable of tolerating more intense light-therapies have also found relief from the low intensity frequencies of red light therapy.
Red light therapy has also been shown to help heal discoloration due to long-term exposure and sun damage. For best results in improving skin tone, red light therapy should be used consistently for 8-12 weeks.
6. Promotes Wound Healing
Light within the spectrum of 600 to 1,300 nanometers has been shown to encourage skin, wound, and tissue healing. It does so by promoting cellular proliferation, migration, and adhesion. Red light therapy may help skin cells heal by stimulating regeneration of fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and modulation of immune cells (including mast cells, macrophages, and neutrophils), all within the tissue of the skin.
Red light therapy also brings more blood to the surface of the skin, which means more oxygen and nutrients, and faster healing. Since it does not generate heat, red light can be used on burns to accelerate healing as well.
Additional Red Therapy Benefits
The benefits of red light therapy are far reaching, and go beyond the seven points elaborated above. Additional red light therapy benefits include:
- Improved skin tone, including reduction in the appearance of cellulite, wrinkles, and stretch marks
- Stimulates testosterone production
- Improved thyroid function
- Improvement in age-related macular degeneration
- Boosting lymph movement through the body
- Reduction in loss of muscle and bone tissue
- Improved cognitive and motor function, especially in cases of neurological dysfunction or traumatic brain injury
- fights periodontitis and dental infections
- Decreasing inflammation and free radical formation within the cell
- Assisting with pain management
- May help with anxiety by having a calming effect on the body
Red Light Therapy: Dr. Pompa’s Review
I talk a lot about the dangers of blue light and the negative impact that it has on our circadian rhythms and health, and I feel strongly that in a world of harmful ‘junk’ light, red light is actually an allie that we cannot afford to live without. I’m convinced that in today’s world full of chemical toxins and electrical and light pollution, we need red light therapy to help combat these harmful exposures. Although natural healing red light that comes from the sun provide necessary part of the puzzle, red light fills in the gap to help counter all the stress inflicted on our bodies by constant exposure to office lights, lamps, and the screens of phones, computers, and televisions.
I personally am a huge fan of my Joovv red light therapy device, because it’s convenient to use from the comfort of home. Incorporating a therapy like red light into your day can become complicated if you have to go to a spa or clinic 3-5x per week. With Joovv, I just pop on the red light device while I’m doing work, like sitting at the computer. You can set it up while watching TV, reading the newspaper, or listening to a podcast. Being able to multitask makes it much more sustainable as a habit. Not only that, but sessions out of home can add up cost wise; although the Joovv requires an initial investment– you can now use it for the rest of your life!
Common Red Light Therapy Questions
How Often Should You Get Red Light Therapy?
How often you should get red light therapy depends on which ailment or condition you are trying to treat. Reaction also depends on the severity of the situation, as well as your own individual skin condition. In general, best results are achieved over an 8-12 week period, 3-5 times per week, with sessions lasting at least 15 minutes.
Benefits, however, can be experienced in a single session, particularly effects such as increased energy and mood. It is advised to continue with a red light therapy protocol for an extended period of time, even if symptoms have subsided.
Is Red Light Therapy Dangerous?
Red light therapy is currently approved by the FDA and considered completely safe.
Although the benefits of red light therapy have been demonstrated as generally safe, no one thing is good for the entire population. Since many of these devices used pulse or flash light, it could be dangerous for anyone with a history of seizures.
Although red light has been shown to be safe to use during pregnancy, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional before you start using any new therapeutic intervention while pregnant.
Can You Get a Tan From Red Light Therapy?
Since red light therapy does not contain UV light, you cannot get a tan from red light therapy alone. Some devices offer a full spectrum of light, in which case you can get a tan from these machines, but red light alone will not tan nor burn the skin.
Where Can I Get Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is becoming increasingly available across the nation in spas, tanning salons, skin clinics, doctors offices, and even biohacking labs. Since there are currently very few FDA approved uses for red light therapy, treatment may not be covered by insurance. A typical session may run anywhere from $50- $100 per session.
In the advent of all this clinical support for the benefits of red light, there are also multiple home devices on the market. It’s important to choose a device that emits the right wavelengths for the goal you are trying to achieve, and has enough power to benefit therapeutically. Having a device at home is useful to ensure you’re actually getting in your daily 15 minutes of red light.
What About Joovv Light Therapy?
The Joovv Light Therapy device is my preferred choice when it comes to home red light therapy devices. This company creates multiple different sized panels, so that you can enjoy the benefits of red light therapy from the comfort of your home. This is especially useful for those seeking daily use of a red light device.
Having a device that works depends on two key factors: wavelengths and power. Many companies out there don’t disclose the actual spectrum of light, nor the power behind those wavelengths. Joovv Light Therapy are transparent about the high quality of their machines, and provide with a powerful and broadspectrum red light.
Red Light vs. Blue Light Therapy
Light therapy is being used in various different ways in the skincare industry. While red light is known to stimulate collagen production, blue light is notorious for its ability to treat acne. Blue light therapy harnesses the light in the blue wavelength range to specifically kill the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes on the skin, which is a common culprit of breakouts.
The benefits of blue light therapy on acne have shown beneficial for those with mild to moderate acne. Although the benefits are significant for most people, they have not been shown to last long term.
Although the mechanisms are only being explored scientifically in recent years, light therapy has been used therapeutically for over 5000 years. Red light therapy works by creating a biochemical impact of the cells of the body, that stimulates ATP which is the cells energy center. These red light wavelengths have a profoundly healing impact on the body and have been used therapeutically for a wide range of reasons including to stimulate collagen production, wound healing, hair loss reversal, improving circulation, and increasing energy. Approved by the FDA, red light therapy is safe, non-invasive, and non-toxic. For best results, it is advised to use red light therapy for 15 minutes, 3-5 times per week, for 8-12 weeks.