Red Light Therapy Research: Clearing Up the Myths and Uncertainty

red light therapy research

The growing popularity of red light therapy, bolstered by anecdotal evidence, is spurring more and more people to give it a try … but how effective is it? Is red light just hype? Or is it supported by science? In this article we’ll provide an overview of clinical studies on some of the most common uses for red light therapy. Hopefully, this will end your uncertainty and provide you with the type of information you need to make an educated decision.

Why Is Red Light Therapy So Popular?

Its popularity is due to four primary factors …

Red Light Therapy Research

1. A growing interest in natural health solutions. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, TV commercials for pharmaceutical drugs spend most of their air time reciting a litany of possible side effects. It’s not surprising that a growing number of people are turning to natural, non-pharmaceutical treatments. In addition to wanting results that are painless and free from side effects, they are also interested in addressing and treating the root cause of diseases and chronic conditions, rather than just managing their symptoms with drugs. 

Red light therapy may be a viable treatment for dozens of conditions that are typically treated with heavy doses of medications. Red light takes an inside-out approach to wellness, meaning that it works at the cellular level, rather than simply providing temporary symptomatic relief.

 

Red Light Therapy Research

2. Vast improvements and cost reduction of LED technology. One of the key elements of success when using red light therapy is having the right kind of device: one powerful enough to deliver light that can penetrate deep into body tissues. Thanks to rapid advances in light-emitting diode (LED) technology, red light devices are now available with enough power to offer high levels of irradiance with therapeutic effects. These advances have also made the technology safe, as well as more affordable. Today, you can safely enjoy the benefits of exposing your body to concentrated wavelengths of therapeutic light in the comfort of your own home.

 

Red Light Therapy Research

3. Thousands of peer-reviewed studies about red light therapy show positive findings for specific ailments as well as general wellness, with little or no side effects and no downtime. The ever-increasing interest in red light therapy has prompted many healthcare professionals to adopt it as part of their treatment protocols. Although it should not be considered a cure, and is still experimental for many conditions, a growing body of evidence suggests that it may be living up to the hype—and exceeding expectations.

 

Red Light Therapy Research

4. A high rate of success in symptomatic relief and overall improvement, particularly in certain areas such as the skin, scalp, and muscles. While more studies are needed, a growing body of anecdotal evidence suggests that low-level laser light therapy can ease symptoms and promote healing of many conditions.

 

    Does Red Light Therapy Really Work?

    The red and near-infrared (NIR) light spectrum of visible light has a bioactive effect on the human body, which means our bodies respond to specific wavelengths of light with increased energy production in cells. Many researchers believe this can lead to cellular level healing of the skin, muscle, bone, and connective tissue without the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light. But does red light therapy really work?
    Over the past two decades, thousands of published studies have focused on red light therapy. Although not a cure, it is often touted as a miracle treatment for numerous health conditions—and its best-known therapeutic benefits are backed by science. 

    What Is Red Light Therapy Good For?


    Red Light Therapy Research What Red Light Therapy Is Good For
    This is by no means an exhaustive list of studies on red light therapy. It covers the most common list of ailments that can be treated with red and/or NIR light. You can also follow our blog to discover more uses for these amazing therapies.In general, red light is considered ideal for skin conditions, whereas NIR light has benefits that extend deeper into the body where it is absorbed by muscle, connective tissue, and bones. The most promising area of study is the combination of red and NIR light to deliver positive effects on the body’s metabolic processes, endocrine system, immune system, and nervous system. 

     

     

    red light therapy for skin

    Skin Health

    Improved skin health is the most well-known benefit of red light. Increasing intradermal collagen production, meaning within or between layers of skin, is vital for improving skin tone and reducing signs of aging. Red light therapy can heal sun damage and help reduce wrinkles and fine lines on the skin, as well as plump and firm sagging/papery skin. 
    Anti-aging therapies like dermabrasion and chemical peels are popular, but they are relatively harsh. They work by causing controlled damage to the outer layers of the skin in order to stimulate collagen production, tissue repair, and rejuvenation. In contrast, red light therapy causes no damage to the skin. Instead, it takes an inside-out approach by stimulating natural, healthy skin regeneration at the cellular level primarily by increasing cellular energy and collagen production.
    Here are several studies that specifically focus on red light therapy for skin-related issues:

    red light therapy for Reduced Inflammation

    Reduced Inflammation

    Reduced inflammation helps ease symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis, autoimmune diseases (including chronic skin disorders), spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and muscle soreness. 

     

     

    red light for weight loss 3
    Weight Loss


    As much effort as people put into losing weight and trying to keep it off, diet and exercise are not always effective. This can be due to factors such as chronic stress or chronic inflammation. Red light has a stimulating effect on the metabolism and may actually cause fat cells to shrink, for fast and effective fat loss, and associated weight loss.

    red light for Muscle Growth

    Muscle Growth, Performance, and Recovery

    Many elite athletes regularly use red light therapy before and after training or competition to maintain peak functioning and shorten recovery time from training. Red light stimulates the mitochondria (the muscle cells’ energy centers) to produce more energy, which leads to faster cellular regeneration and growth. And since red light also reduces inflammation, muscles recover faster from high-intensity training. 

    This process also accelerates muscle recovery from injury by reducing scar tissue in muscles known as fibrosis. Left untreated, fibrosis can cause permanent loss of function or mobility. Red light supports the formation of new, healthy muscle tissue by activating stem cells in the muscles called myosatellite cells. 
    These cells activate in response to any kind of muscle damage, including microscopic tears that occur during training, as well as more significant tears or compression caused by injury. Instead of the haphazard jumble of cells that form scars, red light-energized myosatellite cells will form healthy new muscle tissue. Both red and NIR light are beneficial for muscle repair and growth.  

    red light therapy for Pain Reduction

    Pain Reduction

    Reducing pain is a top priority for anyone dealing with injury or chronic conditions. NIR light is particularly effective at penetrating deeply into muscle and connective tissue to stimulate growth of healthy tissue (through increasing cellular energy), increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation.
     In addition, the soothing warmth of red light treatments can offer immediate feelings of wellbeing, which contributes to a decreased perception of pain. Red light may offer relief without resorting to potentially harmful anti-inflammatory medicines.


    red light for Wound Healing

    Wound Healing

    Healing wounds quickly has psychological as well as physical benefits. Red light activates stem cells and reduces inflammation to accelerate wound healing and supports the formation of collagen density and healthy tissue.  

    red light for Scar Reduction

    Scar Reduction

    Scars, especially in the facial area, can cause severe psychological distress. When scars are located at the joints, they can impair mobility and cause pain because scar tissue is not as elastic as normal skin tissue. 

    RLT is used to soften and reduce the appearance of burn scars, stretch marks, keloid scars, and hypertrophic scars, though the best way to minimize the appearance of scars is to prevent them. So while red light therapy does reduce the appearance of existing scar tissue, it also encourages cells to collect around a wound to form healthy, normal cells. So get a jump on the tissue before it forms, if at all possible. 
    red light therapy for Bone Health
    Bone Health

    NIR has the ability to penetrate bone, where it stimulates bone repair. 







    Immune System
      

    Red light therapy can enhance immune system function by reducing inflammation; supporting the thyroid, lymphatic system, and liver; and increasing cellular energy, which gives cells enough resources to successfully fight off pathogens.

    red light for hair growth

    Hair Regrowth

    Hair loss afflicts more than 35 million men and 21 million women in the United States alone. Hair restoration medications often come with serious side effects, but red and NIR light stimulates dormant hair follicles into entering the anagen (growth) phase, increases blood flow, and increases collagen production to restore normal hair growth.

     

    red light for Chronic Skin Conditions

    Chronic Skin Conditions

    Chronic skin conditions can cause severe psychological distress, as well as physical discomfort and pain. Many chronic skin conditions are considered autoimmune disorders, meaning those in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. Red light therapy may help get to the root of the disorder. It has proven to be effective at treating psoriasis (and its close cousin, eczema), rosacea, and acne by minimizing skin roughness, pain, and itching. Emerging research is also showing promise in using red light therapy to treat non-melanoma skin cancers.

    Red Spectrum Light for Better Sleep

    Sleep Disorders

    The prevalence of sleep disorders has soared in recent years due to widespread exposure to blue light emitted from electronic devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. Blue light is a natural part of visible light emitted by the sun and is energizing, which is why sunlight is beneficial during the day. At night, however, blue light interferes with the body’s circadian rhythms, meaning its natural internal processes that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Red light therapy counteracts this effect and promotes healthful sleep.


    red light therapy Hormon and Thyroid


    Hormonal Balancing and Thyroid Health

    Hormonal imbalances are at the core of many chronic disorders. Red light has shown to have therapeutic effects on the thyroid, which is instrumental in regulating the body's metabolism.

     


    red light therapy for Brain InjuryTraumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, and Brain Disorders

    One of the most exciting discoveries about NIR is that, because it can penetrate bone, including the skull, it stimulates accelerated healing of neurons (brain cells) after traumatic brain injuries. According to the first study listed below, “NIR appears to initiate a cascade of subcellular events which can yield immediate, delayed, and persistent beneficial changes in the injured neuron or other cell.”

    Stem Cell Activation by red light therapy

    Stem Cell Activation


    Stem cells are known as the body’s master cells because they have the miraculous capability to change into different types of cells as needed. They are found throughout the body in a non-active, or dormant state, ready to specialize in case of injury or other cell death. Stem cells are essential for tissue repair, wound healing, and a healthy immune system.

    This list covers the most popular uses for red light therapy. As more studies emerge, we will post the results on our blog.

    How Long Should You Use Red Light Therapy?

    Because red light therapy works at the cellular level, the best results may take several weeks or months. Skin cells, for example, renew approximately every 27 days, and not all at once. You may experience some immediate relief, but consistent use over time will give you the very best results. 
    Every individual and every condition will react differently to red light therapy. How fast you see results can depend on the severity of your condition, your age, your overall health, your immune system health, and ongoing lifestyle choices, such as whether you smoke, use drugs, or drink alcohol excessively. 
    Many studies point to satisfactory results after 8 to 12 weeks of consistent use. For many conditions, including chronic skin disorders, a maintenance program can prevent symptoms from reappearing. 
    It is recommended that you start slowly the first few sessions in order to determine sensitivity. While red light will not burn your skin like UV rays, in some individuals it causes temporary redness and tightness. If you experience this, it would be a good idea to cut back on the duration and/or move farther back from the device.
    One 20-minute session per body part, three to five times per week, is recommended for the first one to four weeks or until symptoms abate, irradiating no more than two to three body parts per day if you are using a small LED panel. 
    If necessary, you may need one to two weekly sessions as ongoing maintenance to avoid recurring symptoms of any chronic condition. 
    For peak athletic performance, you can do a red light session before and after exercise. 

    Please seek medical advice before using light therapy to treat any chronic or serious conditions.

    Which Is Best: Red Light or Near-Infrared Light?

    The answer is … it depends.

    Each wavelength has different penetration depths and therefore different benefits. We recommend using both red and NIR light for maximum effect. Using red and NIR light in combination allows you to experience the unique benefits of each wavelength. Based on clinical trials, these wavelengths have been shown to have the greatest effects.
    Learn more about the PlatinumLED BIO Series devices that allow you to choose the most beneficial wavelengths for you (red, NIR, or a combination); or the leading-edge BIOMAX Series devices that deliver the optimal wavelengths in a proprietary combination designed for maximum therapeutic effect.

    An Alternative Therapy with Great Promise 

    Research has shown significant benefits of red light as a natural, safe, and effective therapy for a variety of health conditions. Based on the research, you may find that adding a high-quality, high-output LED device to your skin care and general self-care routine can have positive and wide-reaching applications.