You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “LED,” which is an acronym for “light-emitting diode” and typically refers to light bulbs. But LEDs can do a lot more than brighten up a room. They’re also used in light therapy, a popular, non-invasive treatment for a wide range of health issues affecting skin, muscles, tissue, and bone.
Below we’ll review what LED light therapy is, how it works, and everything else you need to know to take advantage of this groundbreaking therapy.
How Does Light Therapy Work?
Consider the visible light spectrum, which comprises all the colors that exist. On one side of the spectrum is red light, which has the longest wavelengths and lowest frequency; on the other is violet light, which has the shortest wavelengths and highest frequency. Collectively, the colors of the visible light spectrum create white light, which is what our eye perceives when we see sunlight.
LED light therapy uses different wavelengths of light that have been shown to effectively treat various health concerns. Some treatments use blue light, or green, or amber. Red light wavelengths are also effective, sometimes called low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photo biomodulation.
All LED light treatments operate with the same basic principle, which is that certain wavelengths of light trigger biological processes that are beneficial for the body.
Years of research have shown that, when certain wavelengths of light penetrate the body, they stimulate mitochondria, which are tiny, energy-producing organelles found inside cells. Once energized, these mitochondria produce more of the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is an energy source that’s used and stored at the cellular level.
This surge in ATP leads to a number of physiological effects. It’s thought to increase the production of collagen, the most abundant protein in our bodies. And it is known to reduce inflammation, which is beneficial for muscle recovery, chronic inflammatory diseases, and general aches and pains. In this article, you can read more about the science behind the process.
What Are the Different Colors of Light Therapy?
The colors of light – red, amber, blue, and green – have different effects on the body.
Blue light therapy emits wavelengths between 380 nanometers (nm) and 500nm, which are short and high-energy. This makes it popular for treating surface skin conditions. Green light falls around 532nm and has shown some positive effects for treating migraines. Then there’s amber light, which ranges from 570nm to 630nm and may help reduce skin redness.
Red light therapy consists of both red and near-infrared (NIR) light, which are the largest and longest wavelengths and penetrate deeper than others. Red light ranges from 630nm to 700nm and penetrates to a depth of 10 millimeters. NIR light ranges from 700nm to 1100nm and penetrates to a depth of 2 to 7 centimeters.
Within the red and NIR light ranges are specific wavelengths that have proved to be ideal for certain treatments. You can read more about those wavelengths in this article.
What Are the Benefits of LED Light Therapy Treatments?
The benefits of LED light therapy fall into a few main areas of health and wellness.
Cosmetic and Dermatology
The effect that light has on cells promotes an impressive array of cosmetic and dermatological benefits. For example, blue light has been shown to have an antimicrobial effect on the skin, which helps it kill acne-causing bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes). Some devices use red and blue light for optimal results.
Red and NIR light act a bit differently; their longer wavelengths stimulate collagen and elastin production, which leads to more supple, taut skin. This is why red light therapy is ideal for combatting signs of aging; used consistently over a period of time, it will stimulate skin cells and generate visible changes in the tone and texture of the skin, while also noticeably diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
LED light therapy, most often red and NIR light therapy, is also used as a medical treatment, and for good reason. Numerous studies have shown its efficacy in reducing inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to injury – but when inflammation becomes chronic, it is often the root cause of sickness.
One example is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes an inflammatory response in the body and leads to joint pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Studies have shown that red light therapy sessions successfully reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms by as much as 70 percent when compared with placebo groups. You can read more about the effects of red light therapy on rheumatoid and other types of arthritis in this article.
Of the different kinds of LED light therapies, the one most often used for fitness purposes is red light therapy. This is because of red light’s ability to reduce inflammation. When the body is sore after working out, it’s usually due to damaged and overly inflamed muscle tissue. Not only is this painful; it can also inhibit proper muscle repair (which is the process that builds muscles) and force you to take time off from your workout routine.
By zoning in on inflammation, red light therapy promotes faster muscle recovery, mitigates pain, and reduces the amount of downtime between bouts of exercise. This is why red light therapy is often used as a recovery tool for weight-lifting, running, biking, and other intense forms of exercise. You can read this article to find out more about the studies of red light therapy as a fitness tool.
How Do You Use LED Light Therapy?
LED light therapy is a passive treatment, which makes it easy to practice with an in-home device. Here are some ways to apply it.
Active recovery is the practice of engaging in light exercise between more intense bouts of exercise, either on different days or between sets. This helps your body stave off tissue inflammation and increase blood flow, which, in turn, helps push toxins such as lactic acid (a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism) out of the body.
Active recovery can take many forms – light jogging, stretching, yoga – and these activities can benefit from the addition of LED light therapy. Red light therapy is the best to use in this instance because of its penetrating abilities. Read here for more tips on how to integrate red light therapy into your active recovery routine.
There are several ways to use LED light therapy as a cosmetic tool; it all depends on what your goal is.
If it’s to treat acne, then you’ll want blue light therapy, which often comes in the form of a mask, wand, or small panel. If it’s to combat fine lines and wrinkles, tighten loose skin, or reduce hyperpigmentation, then red light therapy is your best bet. A combination of the two would also work well. You can read more about the various cosmetic uses of red light therapy in this article.
For more information about doses, frequency, and other considerations when using red light therapy devices, see this article.
What Does LED Light Therapy Cost?
The costs of LED light therapy depend on where the treatment is being done, and what kind of LED devices are used.
Looking at red light therapy, for instance, sessions at a clinic can cost anywhere from $25 to $100 for a single 10- to 15-minute red light treatment. And keep in mind that to see any benefits, you’ll need multiple sessions over several weeks or months, and maintaining those results requires follow-up sessions later on.
If you pay for red light therapy sessions at a clinic or spa, it can get expensive. A better investment is a device to use in your home. Such devices range in price from a few hundred dollars for a small LED panel up to several thousand dollars for an elaborate array of panels. Over time, you’ll not only recoup your initial investment; you’ll also gain the ability to maintain results on your schedule.
A few factors influence the price of home devices; namely, size, irradiance, and wavelengths.
Size: The bigger the panel, the greater the coverage area and variety of uses. That said, smaller panels are good if you’re looking for something portable or only for treating small areas.
Irradiance: This describes the power that a device emits, and it influences how long you’ll need to sit (or stand, or stretch, etc.) in front of your device to reap the full benefits. The lower the irradiance, the longer your sessions will be, so purchasing a device with higher irradiance is wise.
Wavelength: Certain wavelengths produce different results, so make sure your device offers the wavelengths that best suit your needs. Bear in mind that PlatinumLED Therapy Lights is the only manufacturer to offer all five beneficial red and NIR wavelengths.
For more details on pricing devices, check out this guide from PlatinumLED.
What Kinds of LED Devices Are on the Market?
There’s a wide range of devices available that offer LED light therapy, and some are better suited for specific goals than others. Here’s a look at the general categories of LED light therapy devices.
Full-body panels measure about 3 feet tall and up to 1 foot wide. They usually have a higher irradiance and offer the maximum amount of coverage for your body. Most full-body panels feature red and NIR light, as these are the wavelengths that address the widest range of ailments – everything from wrinkles to rosacea to stiff muscles to osteoarthritis.
PlatinumLED Therapy Lights offers a few different full-body panels. The BIOMAX 600 and 900 feature the manufacturer’s exclusive red and near-infrared light spectral configuration – five different wavelengths of red and NIR light: 630nm, 660nm, 810nm, 830nm, and 850nm. Collectively, these deliver more therapeutic value than any other device on the market.
There are also full-body panels within the BIO series – the 600 and 900 – which offer two therapeutic wavelengths: the 660nm and the 850nm. BIO series panels allow you to choose between one or the other wavelength, or a combination of the two if you want to widen the range of therapeutic uses. Panels in both the BIO and BIOMAX series are modular, meaning you can build your own array of different-sized panels to suit your needs.
Smaller Handheld Devices
Once you get into smaller, handheld devices, you start to see a greater variety of wavelengths. These devices are great for targeting more specific areas of the body, such as wrinkles on the face and neck, or sore joints in the hands, feet, and knees. They tend to be more portable as well, which makes them a great option if you’re traveling or hoping to get in some LED light therapy sessions at the office.
There is a downside to smaller devices, however: the other desirable qualities of LED light therapy devices, such as irradiance and wavelength, tend to diminish as devices get smaller.
Fortunately, this is not the case with PlatinumLED Therapy Lights. The BIO 300 and the BIOMAX 300, which each measure 19 inches X 9 inches X 3 inches, are both powerful and portable devices that offer the best value for your money. You can read more about handheld devices here.
Should I Use an LED Therapy Mask?
Many of the devices that use blue, green, and amber wavelengths come in the form of an LED face mask. These are exactly what they sound like: masks worn over the face that emit light close to the skin. They are typically made of a hard plastic material in which small LED lights are embedded, and they tend to run on batteries.
The problem with an LED face mask is that, due to design constraints, it doesn’t feature high-power components. In order to fit snugly and comfortably on your face, these masks must be incredibly light, which means they literally can’t fit the technology needed to produce the high-quality irradiance that delivers optimal effects.
That’s not to say masks are all bad; if you appreciate their convenience, then of course use them. But bear in mind that you’ll have to engage in more and longer sessions in order to see results.
LED Light Therapy: The New Way to Heal
Thanks to innovative new technologies, LED light therapy is fast becoming a popular way to heal and stay healthy. As the market expands, it’s important to consider the applications, features, and qualities of devices before choosing one for at-home use.
When it comes to red and NIR light therapy, PlatinumLED Therapy Lights stands by its reputation as one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of high-quality light therapy devices today. Check out its expansive range of products as you explore the world of LED light therapy.