Red light therapy is a powerful, natural therapy that’s used to boost overall health and wellness and support healing and bodily functioning during illness or injury. It is scientifically proven to serve innumerable health, fitness, and beauty-related purposes—all made possible with just one device.
But what exactly is red light therapy? How does red light therapy work? What is it about red light that makes it more effective than, say, green light? How to use red light therapy? What is red light therapy used for? And how can one kind of therapy provide so many beneficial results? These are all valid questions, so let’s explore them.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) and photobiomodulation (PBM), red light therapy stimulates the cells by exposing the body to red and near-infrared (NIR) light. People who receive red light therapy typically sit or lie down in front of panels equipped with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, either at home or at a spa or dermatology clinic.
Thousands of studies and scientific reviews have been conducted to investigate the physiological effects of red light therapy. The main areas of therapeutic benefit include collagen production, repair and recovery of muscles, and relief from symptoms of illnesses that stem from some type of inflammatory response.
To grasp the science behind red light therapy, it helps to understand light; specifically, why certain colors of light have the amazing power to heal.
How Red Light Therapy Works
The visible light spectrum 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.
When we talk about red light therapy, we’re referring to red light as well as near-infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye (except with night-vision goggles). The wavelengths of NIR are bigger than those of red light, ranging from 700 nanometers (nm) to 1100nm, compared with 630nm to 700nm for red light.
Neither red nor NIR wavelengths give off heat, and both can penetrate the skin—red light to about 10mm, and NIR to about 2 to 7 centimeters. Thus, red light is often said to be skin-deep, while NIR light can penetrate deep beneath the skin into cartilage and even bone.
Scientists have discovered that when red and NIR wavelengths penetrate the skin, they produce some interesting effects on cells—in particular on mitochondria, which are a cell’s energy producers. Red and near-infrared wavelengths stimulate mitochondria, causing them to produce more of the compound known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the source of energy that’s used and stored at the cellular level.
An early seminal study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology showed increased ATP levels in lab-grown human cells following intervals of irradiation at various wavelengths; specifically, 633nm, 650nm, and 725nm.
A growing body of evidence also suggests that cellular reactions of this kind produce physiological benefits. Consider this 2015 study with fruit flies, which are often used in medical science because their genes are remarkably similar to human genes. Researchers from the UK and Brazil gave fruit flies daily doses of 670nm of LLLT radiation. These insects showed elevated ATP levels, reduced inflammation, and an increased average lifespan.
The study demonstrates the foundational science behind the efficacy of red light therapy, and the relationship between mitochondrial stimulation and positive physiological outcomes.
Let’s take a closer look at beneficial outcomes for humans, starting with collagen production.
Red Light Therapy for Skin Rejuvenation
What does red light therapy do for your skin? One result of increased cellular activity from red light exposure is noticeable, measurable improvements in the skin’s appearance and texture. This is because photobiomodulation stimulates fibroblasts, which are skin cells that secrete collagen proteins that maintain the structural framework of skin tissue. Studies show that when fibroblasts are activated by PBM, they produce more collagen, thereby increasing the elasticity and suppleness of the skin, and reducing signs of aging.
Cosmetically speaking, this translates into a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as an improvement in skin texture. A 2009 study by researchers from Quebec, Canada, found that 94 percent of participants subjected to 660nm red light therapy experienced a reduction in the depth and severity of lines and wrinkles, as well as a decrease in surface roughness. Overall, 97 percent of participants of the study saw an improvement in the appearance of their skin following the treatments.
Other studies, like this one by researchers from Germany, yielded similar conclusions about the efficacy of red light therapy. Test group participants who underwent PBM of various wavelengths showed significant improvement in complexion and skin texture. They also showed a measurable increase in intradermal collagen density when compared with participants in the control group.
So, is red light therapy good for your skin? The simple answer is, the same process that promotes an intradermal collagen density increase is also behind wound healing—for which red light therapy has repeatedly proved effective.
One study was conducted in 2008 by researchers from Brazil, who sought to determine the efficacy of laser PBM as a treatment for wounds. The study revealed that third-degree burns in rats healed faster when subjected to PBM wavelengths of 660nm or 780nm, compared with those in a control group. The scientists also discovered that wavelengths of 660nm produced more immediate results on wounds, while wavelengths of 780nm showed more sustained progress.
Other research has demonstrated that red light and NIR light treatments address symptoms of skin conditions such as psoriasis, burns, scarring, vitiligo, and herpes virus lesions.
Red Light Therapy in Fitness
The unique mitochondrial stimulating properties of red light therapy have proven to be effective in healing muscle that’s been damaged during exercise.
Fitness-related studies show strong evidence linking red light therapy to muscle damage markers; namely, the enzymes lactic acid and creatine kinase, which are released into the bloodstream after strenuous exercise.
In 2012, renowned photobiomodulation expert Michael Hamblin conducted a meta-study in which he found that, across the board, red light therapy can help reduce muscle damage markers like lactic acid and creatine kinase. What this suggests is that LLLT has the potential to repair the body by lessening the impact of muscle damage brought on by intense training.
Red light therapy has also been shown to help athletes perform better and stave off muscle fatigue. In 2008, a team of researchers in Brazil published their findings from a controlled trial to determine the effect of red light therapy on 12 male professional volleyball players who performed bicep contractions.
On the final day of the trial, the test group received LLLT immediately after exercising, while the control group was given placebo therapy. In the last push, the test group achieved 8.5 more reps than they had on the first day of the trial, while the control group managed just 2.7 more reps. The test group also showed slightly higher levels of lactate dehydrogenase than the control group, suggesting that LLLT delays muscle fatigue and exhaustion even when there’s been an increase in lactic acid.
Other Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Beyond skincare and muscle repair, the stimulation of mitochondria yields a myriad of other positive results, including those that address pressing health issues. Some promising areas of study vis-a-vis red light therapy include:
- Fibromyalgia: This disease is among many that occur due to inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which red light therapy has been shown to treat. A major 2019 scientific review by researchers from Taiwan found that the majority of patients who received LLLT for fibromyalgia showed significant improvement in their symptoms, including pain relief.
- Dementia: Much research has been conducted on the effects of red light therapy on brain health. Among the areas researched is the potential for red light to help patients with dementia. A small number of clinical studies suggest promising results that could inform future research on red light therapy and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Neuropathy: Research has shown that LLLT can alleviate symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, in part due to the stimulating effect NIR has on nerve cells. A 2014 study showed that rats with induced neuropathic pain exhibited greater relief and recovery when treated with LLLT, compared with those that went without treatment.
- Hair Loss: Red light therapy has been shown to alleviate symptoms resulting from dysfunctional cellular processes, such as androgenetic alopecia (pattern baldness or hair loss). One 2014 study found that candidates who used an LLLT-equipped hair comb over a period of time saw a significant increase in the density of hair on their heads when compared with the control group.
How Are Platinum LED Therapy Lights Used at Home?
How to use red light therapy at home? One of the most remarkable aspects of red light therapy is its ability to address a range of health and wellness issues with just one device, in the comfort of your own home.
PlatinumLED offers several options for customizing a light panel arrangement for red light treatment, or NIR light treatment, or a combination of both.
The BIO series offers a variety of sizes in different configurations:
- Red 660nm, targeting hair regrowth and collagen production;
- NIR 850nm, a decent wavelength of red light therapy for pain relief and deep tissue repair.
- BIO Red 660nm / NIR 850nm combo, for the best of both wavelength ranges, either combined or one at a time.
The PlatinumLED BIOMAX series features devices of various sizes and wavelengths, with superior irradiance levels that provide the strongest output on the market. The BIOMAX series panels are modular and linkable in construction, which allows you to customize your array.
Once you figure out which device best suits your needs, engaging in red light therapy could not be simpler. All it takes is time, space, and a little patience. Here are some examples of how you can experience at-home red light therapy.
The method itself is straightforward, and the possibilities for greater health and improved wellbeing are endless. Consider the options offered by PlatinumLED Therapy Lights and customize your ideal at-home wellness configuration.
Then all you need to do is sit back, relax, and bathe in the warm, soothing glow of this safe and natural therapeutic technique.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can I apply makeup after a red light therapy session?
Ans: Yes, you can wear your makeup after taking a healthy session.
Q. Is there any problem if I overdo red light therapy?
Ans: Red light therapy is a safe and effective natural treatment used in overall health conditions. It does not harm the surface or any underlying tissue.