Red Light Therapy: A Breakthrough Method to Boost Full-Body Vitality
Red light therapy is a popular and effective treatment for treating specific conditions, such as acne or psoriasis, but its benefits extend beyond spot treatments and single-area issues. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful practices you can add to your day to improve full-body wellness and vitality. In this article we’ll explore full-body red light therapy and the many ways it helps you feel better, look younger, and regain your natural vitality.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Light has been used for millennia as a treatment for skin conditions and psychological disorders. Scientists have learned through research that the human body is biologically reactive to light, and that specific wavelengths have unique effects on the body.
Red light specifically has been found to have the widest range of therapeutic applications. Also called low-level laser therapy or photobiomodulation, red light therapy uses light-emitting diode (LED) devices to expose the body to low levels of red or near-infrared (NIR) light. These wavelengths are part of the natural spectrum of light found in sunlight, but red light provides the benefits without the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) rays.
When red light photons are absorbed into the skin, they stimulate activity in the mitochondria, which are the energy centers inside cells. Then, much like the behavior of plants during photosynthesis, mitochondria soak up the light and begin producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary fuel of all cells in the human body. This leads to a chain reaction of positive effects in the parts of the body exposed to red light.
FAQs About Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has an incredible array of therapeutic benefits. But before we dive into specifics, we’ll address some of the most common questions about this safe and natural treatment method.
Does Red Light Therapy Actually Work?
According to hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and personal testimonials, the answer to that question is a resounding YES. Although red light therapy should not be considered a cure for any condition, research has consistently shown that red light has significant benefits for most every part of the body.
How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy?
There is no one-size-fits-all guideline for using red light therapy because the recommended time depends on the application. Generally, a 10- to 20-minute session three to five times per week is a good starting point for most applications.
Use red light therapy for 20 minutes 3 to 5 times per week for best full body results.
Since red light works on the cellular level, it may take a few months to see the desired results; and in some cases, ongoing therapy sessions may be recommended. Be sure to follow the instructions on your device for best results, and if you're treating a medical condition, always consult with your doctor.
What Are the Side Effects of Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy has no side effects when used as directed. During the treatment and shortly afterward, you’ll probably feel a gentle warmth in the area where the light is concentrated. Individuals with very sensitive skin may experience temporary tightness or redness. You can start slowly by shortening your therapy session and/or moving a little farther away from the device.
Can You Get Too Much Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is a safe and natural treatment method that poses no harm to any part of the body. It is important to remember, however, that more isn’t necessarily better. The focus should be on consistency, because red light works at the cellular level and cells need time to heal and regenerate. Skin cells, for example, regenerate roughly once a month. So even though newborn cells that receive red light exposure can immediately “spring into action,” skin cells don’t all regenerate at once. Thus, you can expect peak results to take one to four months.
How Can Red Light Improve Your Health?
Red light therapy can improve your health and wellbeing in numerous ways, from boosting mental functioning to treating skin disorders to helping repair muscle tissue.
Neurodegenerative Disorders, TBI, and Stroke
Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress contribute to nearly all types of neurodegenerative brain disorders, and interfere with healing from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke. Treatment for brain injuries, strokes, and brain disorders should always be administered by a physician, but red light therapy can be self-administered to improve mental functioning and moods.
Red light is a powerful neuroprotector, meaning it helps protect neurons (brain cells) from damage or degeneration. Red light therapy benefits neurons by:
- Improving cellular metabolic functioning
- Stimulating cerebral blood flow to increase brain oxygenation and remove waste products
- Reducing oxidative stress (linked to major depressive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease)
- Reducing inflammation (linked to neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders)
- Stimulating neurogenesis (growth of neurons)
- Stimulating production of stem cells in response to injury or other causes of cell death or dysfunction.
NIR light therapy improves subnormal cellular activity in injured brain tissue following traumatic brain injury or stroke. Patients in clinical trials experienced improvements in cognitive functioning, sleep, and depression, and reported fewer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
Mitochondrial function decreases as brains age, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In clinical trials Alzheimer’s patients showed improvements in cognitive scores, as well as less anxiety, better sleep, improved emotional self-regulation, and less wandering.
Often Psychiatric Disorders
Red light therapy has proved to be an effective treatment for the seasonal depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Other types of nonseasonal depression as well as anxiety disorders have been successfully treated with NIR light therapy.
Red light therapy enhances mental sharpness, memory, innovative thinking, and learning. NIR light therapy has been shown to increase alpha, theta, and delta brainwave activity, and to decrease beta brainwave activity. This is an effect similar to deep meditation, in which creative thinking ability isn’t hindered or constrained by conditioned thinking and logic.
Another benefit of red light therapy is its ability to regulate neuronal function and stimulate activity in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that’s responsible for executive functions like goal setting, focused attention, coordinating sequences of actions, impulse control, and emotional self-regulation.
Face, Complexion, and Anti-Aging
To turn back the clock and enjoy a youthful appearance, red light therapy has outperformed expensive (and controversial) Botox, anti-wrinkle creams, chemical peels, and even cosmetic surgery by improving skin tone, healing sun damage, and minimizing signs of aging. Its benefits include significantly increasing collagen and elastin production to fill in fine lines and elastin production to fill in fine lines and wrinkles, and restoring the firmness and elasticity of youthful skin.
Red light therapy is a great method for improving complexion and maintaining a youthful appearance.
Red light therapy is effective at protecting vision and slowing or even reversing age-related eye disorders and treating eye injuries—and it is safe to use on the eyes. Unlike sunlight or other forms of ultraviolet light, red light devices will not burn your eyes or damage them in any way. The wavelengths of red light safely absorb into the retina where they stimulate cellular metabolism, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a root cause of eye disorders; since red light boosts ATP levels, it may be an ideal treatment for several eye conditions, including:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Corneal injuries
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Retinitis pigmentosa (a degenerative genetic disorder)
- Optic nerve injury
In 2018 researchers studied red light therapy’s long-term effects on patients with AMD and found dramatic improvements in patients’ ability to read distant text, fewer broken blood vessels, and less distorted vision—with no side effects.
Hair loss affects both men and women, and red light therapy may be the answer for naturally and safely regrowing hair. Wavelengths between 620nm to 660nm are especially effective at treating hair loss by increasing blood flow to the scalp, increasing collagen production and stimulating activity in dormant hair follicles, which naturally stimulates new hair growth.
A combination of red and NIR light can also treat some underlying causes of hair loss including low thyroid function.
Meta-analyses from 2017 and 2018 included dozens of studies that showed red light therapy improving hair count, strength, and density (thickness). If you wish to learn more about red light therapy for hair restoration, here’s an article about it on our blog.
Sleep disorders are closely linked to stress and depression--as well as nighttime use of electronic devices that emit blue light. We are hardwired to wake up to blue light, no matter what time of day it is. If you have trouble sleeping, turning off your electronic gadgets in the evening is a good step toward fixing that.
But if there are other causes for your sleeplessness, red light therapy at bedtime could help you. Red light stimulates melatonin production, which improves sleep and moods, and can help ease discomfort from physical causes of insomnia.
Chronic skin disorders respond extremely well to red light therapy thanks to its anti-inflammatory, circulation-boosting, and collagen-stimulating benefits. Used consistently, red light therapy minimizes symptoms and can treat underlying conditions (such as chronic inflammation) that contribute to and aggravate skin disorders. These include:
Red light therapy supports normal cell activity, increases collagen production, and reduces inflammation. As cells regenerate, inflamed cells are replaced with normal, healthy cells.
Great health comes from the inside-out, which is why it’s vital to address factors like poor cellular performance and inflammation before seeking relief from symptoms only. Red light therapy has been successfully used to treat thyroid disorders and hormonal imbalances, which can often jump-start spontaneous healing.
Hormones and Sexual Health
Hormonal imbalances in both men and women can manifest as low libido, sexual dysfunction, infertility, fatigue, weight gain, mental fog, weakness, depression, and insomnia, among other conditions. Although research on the effects of right light on hormones has been limited to animal studies, red light is emerging as a potential treatment for achieving hormonal balance. Some research findings include:
- Red light stimulates energy production in Leydig cells, which are the cells responsible for producing testosterone
- Red light improves thyroid health
- In men, red light therapy increases sperm motility (swimming speed and strength), and does not cause any damage to DNA, sperm, or the testes.
The powerful biostimulation effects of red light therapy manifest as increased cellular vitality and resilience against pathogens. Red light has been shown to:
- Stimulate production of stem cells, which can take on any needed cellular function
- Reduce inflammation, which is a leading cause of autoimmune diseases.
- Increase production of melatonin to promote sleep, giving the parasympathetic nervous system time to perform its restorative functions.
- Boost moods (stress is associated with low immunity).
Whether you’re an elite athlete or weekend warrior, you want to spend more time enjoying your chosen activity and less time recovering from hard workouts or injuries.
Improve overall physical performance, and shorten recovery times with a short red light therapy session after each workout.
A 2013 meta-analysis of several studies concluded that red light therapy has beneficial effects including significant improvement in performance, accelerated recovery after workouts, and faster return-to-play. Red light is known to:
- Reduce oxidative stress in the muscles, resulting in less exercise-induced damage
- Increase muscle growth faster than exercise alone
- Lessen muscle fatigue, increase muscle mass, and improve ability to adapt to increased training loads
- Minimize delayed onset muscle soreness, which is the pain and stiffness you feel 24 to 72 hours after a workout
- Increase blood flow throughout the body
- Have a positive effect on muscle recovery
- Delay the onset of muscle fatigue, including delaying perceived fatigue
- Speed healing from injuries, through increased blood flow and collagen production
- Reduce pain from overexertion and injury
- Reduce inflammation and stimulate cellular repair and regeneration
- Help heal deep muscle bruising
- Treat tendonitis (a persistent problem among runners, cyclists, and many other athletes)
- NIR light can penetrate bones, where it can accelerate bone repair by stimulating new bone growth
- NIR light therapy can also help athletes return to activity faster after injury.
Losing weight safely and effectively is a goal for many people, and red light therapy can help in a number of ways, such as:
- Increasing muscle growth, which leads to more fat-burning muscle mass
- Reducing autoimmune activity in the thyroid gland, helping to restore its normal metabolism-regulating functions
- Reducing insulin resistance and fat tissue
- Causing fat cells to “leak” and release their contents
- Inducing appetite-suppressant effects
- Treating anxiety and depression that may lead to emotional eating
- Reducing the appearance of cellulit
Often Pain Management: Arthritis, Knees, and Back
Several studies have shown that red light therapy successfully treats arthritis pain, knee pain, and low back pain. This is largely due to red light’s ability to reduce inflammation, stimulate growth of new capillaries, boost collagen production (to help treat connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons), and accelerate healing. Using red light to manage pain results in increased range of motion, decreased perception of pain, and even the postponement of joint replacement surgery. The combination of red/NIR light is the optimal choice for treating acute and chronic low back pain, knee pain, and arthritis pain.
Scars are part of the healing process. Under ideal conditions, a beautiful latticework of collagen helps to close a wound with little evidence of the work done. However, when a wound is large and the body springs into triage mode, it’s more important to close the wound and rejoin separated tissue no matter what it looks like afterward--which can result in severe scarring.
Red light devices successfully treat fine-line scars, keloid (raised) scars, hypertrophic (thick, wide, and raised) scars, pitted scars, and contracture scars, in which the skin is tightened (such as from burns), making it difficult to move.
Red light therapy’s main scar-minimizing effects are in normalizing cell growth and supporting normal organization of collagen. Red light also activates stem cells: in skin wounds, stem cells become normal, healthy skin cells rather than scar tissue. So, treatment with red light immediately after an injury can help prevent the formation of scars.
Should You Use Red Light or NIR Light?
Now that you know about the amazing benefits of red and NIR light, which should you use? In general, red light is better for skin and surface-level conditions, while NIR is best for penetrating deeper into the body.
For example, red light is the star when it comes to benefits for the skin, hair, and anti-aging. NIR on the other hand, is preferable for deeper conditions such as joint pain, or neuropathy. However, the best choice is usually both. When you combine the benefits of each wavelength you boost wellness throughout your entire body.
If you’re looking for a device that provides both wavelengths, your best bet is something like our PlatinumLED’s BIOMAX series of lights. They provide both red light and NIR light with wavelengths within the “therapeutic window,” which ranges from 630nm to 850nm.
Enjoy Head-to-Toe Wellness with Red Light Therapy!
From your forehead to your feet, red light therapy offers extraordinary benefits, whether you want to treat a chronic condition, relieve pain, heal faster, boost your brain power, or just look and feel younger. Get more details in the PlatinumLED blog.