Red light therapy is hugely popular for anti-aging. But could infrared light be even more effective?
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between red light therapy and infrared light therapy.
It turns out that the best results actually come from using both red and infrared light.
Read on to learn more about why!
The Impact of Red Light Therapy on Anti-Aging
Looking younger and healthier is a priority for many people.
Whether you seek treatment at a dermatologist, wellness spa, or at home, you’ll notice that most red light therapy devices have treatment options (red light, infrared light, or both). Which should you choose? Red light or infrared?
Red wavelengths are part of the visible light spectrum. The most beneficial wavelength of red light is between 610 and 660 nanometers.
Infrared light is invisible. The term infrared light therapy refers to near-infrared (NIR) light, which is usually between 810 and 850 nanometers.
Red light therapy can refer to red light, near-infrared light, or both together.
The benefits of near-infrared light are closely related to the benefits of red (visible) light. The difference is the depth of absorption into the tissues. Red light treats the layers of the skin, whereas NIR light treats the skin and subcutaneous tissue.
Read on to learn more about how red and near infrared light therapy work together.
RLT and Infrared Light Therapy: Better Together
Using red and infrared light together to treat signs of aging is the best approach.
Infrared and red light have similar benefits. They are both natural, safe, non-invasive, and free from side effects.
The only major difference between red and infrared light is the depth of penetration into the tissues.
For anti-aging, red wavelengths alone could be enough, but you will get superior results by using both red and near-infrared light together.
Any inflammation found deeper in the body could negatively affect your cells, interfere with cellular metabolism, slow collagen production, and affect blood flow. If these underlying disorders are beyond the reach of red light, you’ll need NIR light.
Using both red and NIR light will reach the source of accelerated aging, which can include poor circulation, systemic inflammation, and poor cellular performance in the major organs.
While red light is great at addressing skin surface concerns, only infrared wavelengths have the ability to absorb deeper into the body, into the organs themselves, to stimulate systemic health.
Okay… so why not just use NIR light therapy for facial rejuvenation?
When you use both shorter and longer wavelengths of light, there is a doubling up of effects in the tissues accessible by red wavelengths.
Red light absorbs into the skin tissue to up to 2 centimeters. Human facial skin ranges in thickness from ⅕ to 2 centimeters. Red light absorbs through the dermal layers for reduced oxidative stress, increased blood flow, and a boosted cellular metabolism.
NIR light absorbs beyond the surface of the skin, up to 5 centimeters into the tissues, where it reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in subcutaneous tissues beyond the reach of red light.
Within those first 2 centimeters, both infrared and red light reduce oxidative stress, stimulate mitochondrial performance in all cells, including fibroblasts that synthesize collagen and elastin. They also stimulate blood flow and lymph flow and reduce inflammation.
How Red and Near Infrared Light Treat Signs of Aging
The secret of facial rejuvenation using red light therapy lies in the cells.
How Red Light Therapy Boosts Collagen Production
Restoring collagen production is key to rejuvenating skin.
The dermal collagen matrix is the network of collagen proteins that make up 80% of the skin's structure. As collagen production slows with age, the dermal collagen matrix becomes fragmented. The fibroblasts that produce collagen need to attach to the collagen matrix to produce new collagen, but they can’t attach to a fragmented matrix. This slows collagen production, and the matrix doesn’t have a chance to rebuild. It just continues to break down.
Red light therapy stimulates production of new undamaged collagen; it also treats the underlying causes of poor collagen synthesis, allowing the matrix to rebuild.
- Red light stimulates collagen production in the skin
- NIR light addresses underlying inflammation that damages fibroblasts
Red Light Therapy Can Reverse Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Inside each cell are tiny organelles called mitochondria which are responsible for converting glucose and oxygen into cellular fuel called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
But with age come many challenges to the mitochondria. Diet, lifestyle, environmental toxins, and even psychological stress can cause the mitochondria to struggle to produce energy.
Aging occurs when many dermal cells are struggling for survival: dying faster than they should, not repairing themselves when damaged, not fighting off pathogens, and not proliferating at a healthy rate.
Reversing mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of boosting collagen synthesis. This is something red light therapy does very well.
In a way, we’re like plants. Our bodies actually convert light into energy. When red and infrared light photons interact with light-sensitive chromophores, this spurs the mitochondria into action; and in their excited state, they produce more energy. More energy leads to better performance and a positive effect on the skin.
- Red light stimulates mitochondria within the skin
- NIR light stimulates mitochondria in the skin and subcutaneous circulatory system
Red Light Therapy Treats Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. The production of free radicals is a natural and normal part of cellular metabolism but they must be balanced by antioxidants that neutralize them to prevent cell damage.
Diet, lifestyle, pollution, or other factors can result in too many free radicals, leading to oxidative stress. This leads to chronic inflammation which interferes with collagen synthesis and leads to aging and chronic skin disorders like acne, rosacea, and eczema.
Feel free to seek more info on our site about how red light therapy treats inflammation.
Both red light and infrared light effectively reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which helps restore normal mitochondrial activity and cell function.
- Red light treats inflammation in the skin
- NIR light treats inflammation deeper in the body
Red Light Therapy Boosts Circulation
The circulatory system includes the cardiovascular circulatory system and the lymphatic circulatory system.
- Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells
- Lymph removes toxins and pathogens
Poor circulation leads to:
- An excess of acne-causing bacteria
- Poor nutrient delivery to the cells, which affects mitochondrial function
- An exaggerated immune response
Red light therapy promotes circulation by stimulating the release of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator that helps capillaries deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the skin.
Red light therapy also stimulates growth of endothelial cells which make up the structure of capillaries. The body can create new capillaries that branch off from existing blood vessels to increase circulation and benefit skin health.
Red Light Therapy Boosts Elastin Production
Poor collagen synthesis is the main reason faces can look older than they should. Red light therapy boosts the production and intradermal collagen density by addressing these underlying conditions.
But let's not overlook elastin, the protein that gives skin its elasticity. Red light therapy also boosts the production of elastin. Both collagen and elastin are needed to restore the skin's youthful firmness and elasticity.
Research on Anti-Aging Red Light Therapy Treatments
Can shining light on your face really restore youthful skin? Research suggests red light therapy can be an effective treatment for signs of aging.
A landmark 2014 study found that both red and near infrared light led to significantly improved skin complexion and smoothness, and increased collagen density.
Another study found that a combination of 633 nm and 830 nm led to 52% of subjects showing a 25%-50% improvement in photoaging scores by the 12th week of use. 81% of subjects reported a significant improvement in periorbital wrinkles (crow’s feet) after the treatment.
An article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology stated that treating human dermal cells with low level red (640nm) and infrared (830nm)LED lights resulted in a significant increase in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin in as little as three days.
This is just a small sampling of the huge body of research available on red light therapy and dermatology. Many related studies such as studies on wound healing, stretch marks, chronic skin conditions, acne, and uneven pigmentation all concur. The benefits of red light therapy are real and measurable.
There appears to be little or no difference between the effects of red and NIR light on skin concerns. Both are effective.
All you need is a high quality medical grade light therapy device and a regular treatment plan to achieve results comparable to clinical trials.
Home Light Therapy Devices That Combine Red and Near Infrared Light
You have probably seen ads for masks and handheld light therapy devices for facial rejuvenation. Seldom do they have the light energy output needed to deliver enough light into the body’s tissues.
For this reason alone, you’ll want a larger light therapy device with more light output such as the BIOMAX 300 even for a relatively small area such as the face.
Many users soon find that red light therapy has dozens of other applications including pain relief. Treatment applications of red light therapy include hair restoration, weight loss, arthritis joint pain relief, wound healing, chronic skin conditions including acne and psoriasis, neuropathy pain, muscle recovery, low back pain, and even better eyesight.
None of these can be treated with face masks or tiny underpowered wands. The following light therapy devices are the best of the best, with a winning combination of light power output, the right wavelengths of light, large treatment areas, and the ability to create a modular system that links two or four panels together to achieve the ultimate whole-body treatment.
The BIOMAX 300 is perfect for facial rejuvenation, hair regrowth, targeted applications like carpal tunnel syndrome, and for travel.
The BIOMAX 450 is ideal for slightly larger applications like knee pain, low back pain, and shoulder impingement syndrome.
The BIOMAX 600 is a great choice for treating large muscle groups to enhance athletic performance and for all-over mitochondrial stimulation.
The BIOMAX 900 is a full-body panel with the versatility and power to treat your entire body, head to toe.
These are the most powerful light therapy devices in their power class, and they offer a patent-pending combination of not just two but five red and NIR wavelengths. This is a synergistic combination that treats every layer of the dermis and underlying tissue.
The powerful design of PlatinumLEDs therapy lights deliver the level of light density needed to effectively penetrate and influence structural elements of all types of tissues in the body, while promoting tissue repair and improved healing potential at the cellular level.
Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical TherapyDr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS
You could get good facial rejuvenation results just by using red light, or just by using infrared light. But the most powerful benefits will come from using both simultaneously.
Getting the Most Out of Your Red Light Therapy Device
There are three cardinal rules to getting the most out of your red light therapy device:
Short Daily Treatments
Short daily light therapy treatments are an easier commitment than long sessions. As little as three minutes a day will benefit your body. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy a stress-busting meditation at the same time. 20 minutes is the longest recommended light therapy treatment time because, after that, there are diminishing returns. Daily treatment with a light therapy device supports both existing and emerging cells.
If you can’t commit to a red light therapy session every day, aim for 3-5 light treatments a week. This approach is much more effective than longer but sporadic treatments. Again, you want to support both existing and emerging cells and continually address any underlying inflammation.
Red light therapy is all about boosting cellular health. It's much more effective than a cosmetic treatment that only addresses the symptoms but not the cause.
The human body responds exceptionally well to red light therapy, but it takes time to heal. Skin cells take about a month to completely renew, and they don’t all renew at once.
You may experience some fast results with red light therapy, but noticeable results will likely come after about 4 weeks of regular treatments. Be patient, stick with it, and you’ll be amazed at how much younger you can look in a relatively short time with regular red light therapy treatments. Users report amazing effects, and these effects are backed by science.
Red and NIR: a Winning Combination
Red light therapy is taking the world of dermatology by storm because it works at the cellular level to treat underlying conditions that contribute to rapid aging.
In this article, we discussed the benefits of infrared therapy vs. red light therapy for anti-aging. A combination of red and infrared light is the ultimate in offering your body the support it needs to “reset” its clock, reverse the signs of aging, and restore a youthful appearance.
You can discover many more of the benefits of red light therapy in the Learning Center!