What Is Red Light Therapy? What Does Red Light Therapy Do?

Red light therapy turns sick, weak, undernourished cells into supercharged cells bursting with the energy needed to heal your body.

It is a form of therapy that uses specific light wavelengths for treating the skin, bones, and virtually every cell in your body.

When the cells of your body are healthy, you are healthy – it’s as simple as that.

Red light is also incredibly effective in stimulating better nutrient circulation in the body for maximum cell performance. Which means your whole body will be operating at peak performance, aka being healthy.

It can also slow down the aging process by helping the body produce more elastin and collagen. [11]

Red light therapy is also referred to as low level light therapy (LLLT), light box therapy, biostimulation, photobiomodulation (PBM), or photonic stimulation. [11]

Studies show that the body is affected in different ways by different wavelengths.
The most effective, health giving wavelengths of red light, are in the ranges of 630 to 670nm for red light and 810 to 880nm for near-infrared light.

Does Red Light Therapy Really Work?


The simple answer is “YES”. The benefits of red light therapy are numerous. There have been over 10,000 scientific studies done that proves that red light therapy really does work.

In fact, the FDA has approved red light therapy for use after NASA did all of the research and proved that it worked. [13,14]

The Biggest Red Light Therapy Benefits Are All Due To Increased Mitochondria Energy Production

mitochondria produce ATP energy to keep cells healthy
Mitochondria produce the energy your body cells need to be healthy.

The mitochondria in each cell creates the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy the cell needs to do its job. The more energy produced, the more your cells are alive with energy. More cell energy equates to healthier cells that are operating at peak efficiency to keep every part of your body healthy.

The specific wavelengths of red light create a biochemical effect in the cells of the body, which increases mitochondrial functions. This improves the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body. [11]

ATP is the source of energy for all cells in the human body. In its absence, it would be impossible to function and without sufficient quantities of it, humans cannot function well. In other words, you’ll get sick.

Red light therapy benefits every part of your body, in a limited way, even if only a small area of your body is exposed to the light. This is because the benefits received by the cells in the blood system and lymph system, are carried by those systems to other parts of the body.

For the best overall red light therapy results, I recommend buying products that can be used on more than one part of your body.

The wavelengths range from 630nm to 880nm and are used for treating the surface of the skin, and even bones if the product you have is able to penetrate that deep.

The red light (generally) penetrates about 2 to 10 millimeters (approximately 3/8ths of an inch) into the skin. [15] Some infra-red products will penetrate up to 2 inches deep.

It can affect all layers of the skin depending on the part of the body the red light is used, reaching into hair follicles, nerves, lymph pathways, and even blood vessels.

 

History of the Use of Red Light Therapy

This form of therapy has been around for a while. Niels Ryberg Finsen won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Medicine for treating lupus and smallpox successfully using red light.

Russia uses low level laser therapy as part of their standard medical care and have been since the 1970s.

The Russians also published numerous studies over the decades on the benefits of this form of therapy. However, only a handful of such studies have been translated into English

The United States and Western Europe have largely ignored this form of therapy until recently.

However, it has been used in a clinical setting since the 1980’s in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Canada, China, and Japan.

 

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

The western world might be behind the times when it comes to this form of therapy, but there’s strong evidence to support the health benefits of red light therapy.

It is FDA-approved for treating chronic joint pain, wounds that take a long time to heal, hair loss, acne, and wrinkles.


Many other people have successfully used it for other problems, such as: better thyroid and brain functionality, improved circulation, and psoriasis.


Here are the top benefits of red light therapy:

1.  Red Light Therapy For Skin Problems

One of the great successes of this technology is the use of red light therapy for skin problems. It can help accelerate the ability of the skin to heal and can be used to address various skin related problems including:


Red Light Therapy For Acne & Acne Marks

The red light is not used for killing bacteria that cause acne, but it helps reduce inflammation caused by acne.

Blue light is actually used for killing the bacteria that cause acne.

Red light penetrates the skin at different levels and powers up the cells to repair the skin from the inside out.

It helps repair skin tissues destroyed by acne. This leads to faster healing of acne and prevents further damage of skin tissues that can lead to acne scars. [12]

 

Bruises

Bruises are caused by blood leaking into the tissues of the skin.  Either through broken capillaries or direct trauma.

The blood cannot get out of the body without any break at the skin surface, so it gives off a bluish hue often referred to as a bruise.

Red light delivers nutrient-rich blood to the area quickly, and repairs and aids in the formation of new capillaries. [16]

 

Insect And Animal Bites

Due to the ability of red light to accelerate healing, punctures or bite wounds to the skin will be healed faster due to the increased flow of blood to the area.

 

Old Age Skin Wrinkles

Wrinkles start to creep up on the face or neck due to the loss of collagen. Red light therapy helps boost the production of collagen and fibroblasts to help correct the signs of aging. [12, 15]

It works on forehead wrinkles, crow’s feet, laugh lines, and under-eye wrinkles.

 

Skin Damage Due To Sun Light Exposure

Red light is very effective when it comes to correcting sun damage. [15] The use of red light therapy for skin repair requires that the devices use UV-free LED bulbs.

This is because ultraviolet light is known to cause skin damage.

The red LED bulbs are used to deliver red light effectively and safely. The wavelength of the red light spurs healthy activity within the skin cell. Thus helping to reverse skin damage caused by the sun.

It also helps lighten age spots.

 

Red Light Therapy For Stretch Marks And Scars

Stretch marks are caused by sagging skin, either from aging or weight loss. Red light can stop the creation of stretch marks by helping your body to produce more collagen.
It also helps to lighten and diminish the appearance of scars as well as improving your overall skin tone. [15]

 

Psoriasis and Dry Skin

Red light therapy for skin conditions like psoriasis is very effective. Red light penetrates the thickened skin and powers up the cells in the skin. [12]

Due to the increased flow of blood to the skin’s surface being treated, more nutrients will be delivered to the area.

That means that it helps quench the thirst of the skin to be nourished. Blood rich in oxygen flows to the treated areas thus increasing hydration brought by a good supply of blood. 

Rosacea

Rosacea: Before and 3 months after Red Light Therapy.  One treatment per week for 9 weeks.
Photo by Glynis Ablon, MD, FAAD

Rosacea: Before and 3 months after Red Light Therapy. One treatment per week for 9 weeks.
Photo by Glynis Ablon, MD, FAAD [12]

Red light is a drug and chemical-free treatment for rosacea with no reported side effects, which makes it an excellent option for treating rosacea. [12]

It is safe for everyday use and non-invasive.

Visible red light helps boosts the ability of skin to heal itself by 200 percent.

The red light is absorbed by the skin, which powers the cells of the skin to heal itself. It helps to improve blood flow that delivers oxygen to areas in need of repair and heals the damage.

Scrapes, Scratches, and Cuts

The increased flow of blood to the affected area helps speed up the ability of the body to repair itself naturally.

Minor Skin Burns

Red light therapy for skin burns is an effective treatment. Red light from LED bulbs doesn’t produce heat, which means that it does not add to the damage caused by burns.
It subsequently increases the supply of blood to the area to help the natural defenses and repair mechanisms of the body to do their work faster.

2.  Wound Healing

Fibroblasts in the skin maintain connective tissue, synthesize collagen, and are essential for wound healing. Red light therapy helps stimulate fibroblasts to do their job and boosts blood circulation to promote faster wound repair.

People have also used this form of therapy for amputation injuries, burns, infected wounds, and skin grafts.


It has been used successfully for treating skin damage caused by cancer treatments, including those in the mucus membranes and mouth.

Researchers in a 2014 study discovered that red light therapy considerably improved colitis symptoms in mice. The therapy helped in the mucosal healing.

Red therapy lights have also been used successfully by dentists to heal abrasions and sores in the mouth’s mucus membranes. It has also been found to be effective for treating recurring cold sores along the mouth.

3.  Improved Collagen Production and Circulation

Once the red light penetrates through the skin’s dermal and epidermal layers, it boosts circulation and helps form new capillaries. It also boosts collagen and fibroblast production.

Red light therapy helps improve collagen levels by stimulating the body to produce more of its own collagen. This is a really big deal since collagen comprises about 70 percent of the protein in the skin.

Increased collagen production does not just give skin a wrinkle free glow, but its ability to promote joint health makes it a great option for people suffering from arthritis.

In one study of degenerative osteoarthritis in knees, the patients had less pain and better knee function. They self-treated for ten days on both sides of the knees twice per day for 15 minutes. [17]


It can be incredibly helpful for people suffering from various musculoskeletal issues.

The enhanced anti-inflammatory and circulation effects provided by red therapy light also help heal the body and reduce pain.

4.  Quick Recovery from Illness and Injury

Red light therapy boosts circulation and the production of ATP energy throughout the body, which can help accelerate healing in times of illness.

It also stimulates lymph system activity as well as phagocytosis, which is the process of the cells cleaning house.

Red therapy light might be used to modulate the immune system, but a 2006 study involving mice found that over treatment resulted in suppression of the immune system. What the study found was that 10 days of treatment produced positive effects, but longer periods had negative effects. [10]

It is still not clear how beneficial this form of therapy is for the immune system since not a lot of research has been done in this area.

5.  A Proven Hair Loss Remedy

When it comes to natural hair loss remedies, it seems that red light therapy takes the crown.

There were two identical studies, one for women and one for men.

The women and men had androgenetic alopecia (AGA), or what is commonly called pattern hair loss.

They were treated every other day for 25 minutes. The treatments continued for four months.

The women and the men had a significant amount of new hair growth. [8, 9]

6.  Red Light Therapy Weight Loss

It might sound impossible to lose weight by shining red lights on the fatty areas of the body. However, this is actually backed by science. [7]

Red light makes it easier for people to lose weight since it makes the fat cells dump their contents, thus making it easier for fats to be removed from the body.

If red light is used on fatty tissues, it causes those fats to break down. The fats are subsequently converted to carbon dioxide, which is excreted from the body through various processes including breathing out, defecating, and urinating.

You don’t actually need powerful lasers to get rid of the fat cells. You also don’t have to undergo liposuction or other surgical procedures to get rid of excess fat.

Even the simple LEDs can help you get rid of excess weight. To do the work, you need the correct wavelengths between 630 and 680nm.

Your red light therapy weight loss gains can be wiped out if you fail to make the lifestyle changes needed to support your weight loss.

You won’t appreciate the benefits of red light therapy if you keep bingeing on junk food and salty snacks. You need to eat better foods and exercise regularly to get the most benefits from red light therapy. [7]

7.  Reducing Depression And Anxiety

Exposure to near-infrared light is beneficial for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety.

A study of ten patients with major depression were treated with near-infrared light therapy to the forehead. Six of the ten no longer had depression, and 7 of the ten no longer had anxiety. [6]

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, can be treated by red light therapy, but is generally treated with daylight therapy. [5]

The Aura Day Light Therapy Lamp (shown in the the picture) is a good choice for treating SAD.

The newer LED Verilux HappyLight is much thinner and easy to transport.

It is believed that the correlation between red light therapy and mood enhancement is linked to the philosophies of Chinese medicine.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that energy travels throughout the body along meridian points or chakra zones.

If one of the pathways is obstructed for any reason, illness will occur.

Light is a type of energy that penetrates deep into the tissues and the treatments are believed to restore the pathways in a way similar to acupuncture.

8.  Increased Testosterone Levels And Fertility in Men

Research studies have supported the notion that exposure of the testes to 670 nm wavelength light can help increase testosterone levels. [3]

It is very important to use a device that produces the correct wavelengths without producing a lot of heat.

Testosterone is a hormone present in all humans, but it is produced in women in lesser quantities.

The production of testosterone starts to increase considerably during puberty and starts dipping after age 30 or so.
It is perfectly normal, but it can lead to reduced sexual function, an increase in fat, a decline in muscle, and reduced energy levels.

Red light therapy is a great way to boost testosterone levels in men naturally. A balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress can help too.

One study showed that male fertility could be improved with 830 nm near-infrared light therapy. [4]

9.  Improved Thyroid Function

Red light therapy has the potential for improved thyroid function and there are several compelling studies looking at this.

One 2013 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study examined the benefits of light therapy on chronic autoimmune thyroiditis. [1]

The study showed an overall improvement in thyroid health from light therapy.
Participants of the study were able to either reduce or completely stop using their thyroid medication.

In fact, about 47 percent of study participants no longer needed medication during the whole 9-month follow-up after the light therapy treatment.

It was shocking since most people had been told that they would have to use thyroid medication for the rest of their lives.

10.  Treating Restless Leg Syndrome

The only remedy for most people that suffer from restless leg syndrome is found in dopamine-based drugs.

While such drugs can be incredibly effective, using them too frequently can have disastrous results, especially psychologically.

Dopamine-based drugs are usually quite addictive and habit-forming. Users of such drugs risk becoming addicted to them, particularly if not monitored carefully by competent medical personnel.

Recent studies suggest that near-infrared light therapy can be an effective treatment for restless leg syndrome. {2}

Of the volunteers used for the study, most came out with better results than those in the control group. With the condition lessening over the week of treatment, and even after the red light therapy treatment was discontinued.

The majority of restless leg syndrome victims find red light therapy to be the most effective form of treatment.

It is highly affordable and doesn’t have an effect on the psychological condition of the user, unlike the dopamine-based medications currently used for treating the condition.

How to Use Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy has numerous benefits as clearly shown here, but you might be wondering about how to use this technology. The following is a discussion about how you should use red light therapy to enjoy the benefits it has to offer.

Going To A Medical Treatment Facility

Your healthcare provider can refer you to a trained provider of this form of therapy such as a dermatologist or rheumatologist.
It is worth noting that the therapy is not necessarily covered by your health insurance.

Using Medical Salons And Spas

You can go for red light therapy treatments at medical spas and salons for about $50 to $100 per session.

Infrared saunas differ from regular saunas because they heat the body from the inside-out.

Red light therapy and infrared saunas both enhance mitochondrial function, although in different ways.

You might have to do some experimentation to find out which one works best for you.

Using Red Light Therapy At Home

You can reap the benefits of red light therapy at home by investing in specifically designed home devices that treat specific medical problems. 

Also, you can install multi-purpose red light products around your home.

Use them early in the morning and later at night to promote collagen production and increase mitochondrial function. Hold the light over an injury for several minutes each day.

Red Light Therapy Apps

The latest addition to the world of red light therapy is getting it from your phone or computer screen. You can find a cool feature on the new Apple iOS 10 that turns your whole screen red, which Apple notes offers its own benefits.

How Should You Choose the Right Red Light Therapy Products?

Using red light therapy at home has been proven to offer the best value compared to other treatments.

If you want to choose the right device for your needs, you need to take the following factors into consideration:

Device Size Really Does Matter

Red light machines come in different shapes and sizes that directly affects their usability and price.


The smaller units can be held in one hand and directed towards the face. While such small handheld devices are quite portable, it can be advisable to avoid them anyways, particularly if you don’t have too much time.

Such small sized devices cover a very small area of skin at a time and require a bit of time to treat the entire body effectively.

Fortunately, other red light machines that fall within the medium size and large size range are available in the market.

You can even get one that’s as convenient and large as your sunbeds. Those are much faster and more comfortable if you are able to afford them.

Infrabed Infrared Light Therapy Bed by PAIN-X-2000
Infrabed Infrared Light Therapy Bed by PAIN-X-2000

Red Light Therapy Tanning Bed Conversion

In addition, you can always convert your sunbed into a red light therapy bed anytime you want, by replacing the tanning bulbs with red light therapy bulbs. 

Rejuvenessence Red Light Therapy Tanning Lamp Replacement bulbs for turning your tanning bed into a red light therapy bed.
Rejuvenessence Red Light Therapy Tanning Lamp Replacement bulbs for turning your tanning bed into a red light therapy bed.

Make Sure You And Your Device Are On The Correct Wavelength

You should consider the results from studies conducted on various wavelengths of red light and their effect on the cells.

There are 4 peaks of the red light wavelength that are much better than others when it comes to stimulating cells to produce more energy.

The “peak” wavelengths include 830-850nm, 760nm, 660-670nm, and 620nm.

If you wish to buy a red light machine for your home, it can be a good idea to find one that falls within one or all the above wavelengths since they are more efficient compared to other wavelengths.

Having said that, all of the red light wavelengths from 600-700nm and the near-infrared wavelengths from 700-850nm are effective and beneficial.

Overall, it is advisable to find a machine whose wavelength output ranges between 620nm and 850nm  

Light Intensity Is Important For Deep Healing

The light intensity is an important consideration because it determines the penetration level. According to studies, red light with intensity values that range from 20 to 200 mW/cm is the ideal range for deeper healing.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

Red light therapy sounds incredible, but you are probably wondering whether it is actually safe to use. It can offer some amazing benefits, but it does not mean that it works for everybody or every condition.

Red light therapy is quite harmless and produces great results on joint stiffness, acne, and muscle spasms – unlike a sunbed or laser therapy that often harms the skin.

It is advisable to talk to your doctor before you decide whether it is right for you.

Red light therapy should not be used by certain people such as pregnant women, people that suffer from seizures, people that previously have had a poor reaction to it, or even people that have eye or vision sensitivity.

Red Light Therapy Side Effects

There are some minor red light therapy side effects, but it is still regarded as being very safe.

The only side effects that you are likely to suffer from include mild headaches, mild eye strain, dizziness, mild nausea, and possible muscle weakness if used too frequently or too long.

Longer light waves produce more heat than shorter light waves. Therefore, men should be careful when using a near-infrared device on the testes, because heat can damage the male sperm.

Excessive use of this form of therapy can lead to mild skin burns, similar to sunburns. Always consult a medical practitioner to determine what amount and level of red light therapy is right for your condition.

Always ensure that you follow product directions if you use red light therapy at home.  
All red light therapy products should have clear guidelines for how long and how often to use the product.

Selecting red light therapy products that are appropriate for your medical needs is the best way to avoid red light therapy side effects.

Final Thoughts For Getting The Best Red Light Therapy Results

To get the best red light therapy results, use it every day for about two weeks. Then you only need to use your chosen red light therapy products (at least) once per week. That is what I would call a health maintenance dosage.

The second best red light you can get comes directly from the sun.  However, most people do not get enough natural sunlight. 

Also, sunlight has ultraviolet (UV) light that can damage your skin. So, using red light therapy is actually safer than sunlight.

Try red light therapy today and see the difference that it makes in your life!

References:

[1] Low-level laser in the treatment of patients with hypothyroidism induced by chronic autoimmune thyroiditis: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

[2] Restless legs syndrome and near-infrared light: An alternative treatment option.

[3] The effects of low level laser therapy (LLLT) on the testis in elevating serum testosterone level in rats.

[4] Effect of 830-nm diode laser irradiation on human sperm motility.

[5] Improvement in Depression Scores After 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder.

[6] Psychological benefits 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety.

[7] The potential of phototherapy to reduce body fat, insulin resistance and “metabolic inflexibility” related to obesity in women undergoing weight loss treatment.

[8] The growth of human scalp hair in females using visible red light laser and LED sources.

[9] The growth of human scalp hair mediated by visible red light laser and LED sources in males.

[10] Effects of low-power laser radiation on mice immunity.

[11] Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring.

[12] Phototherapy with Light Emitting Diodes Treating a Broad Range of Medical and Aesthetic Conditions in Dermatology.

[13] Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on wound healing.

[14] Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on molecular changes for wound healing in diabetic mice.

[15] Light-emitting Diodes. A Brief Review and Clinical Experience.

[16] The impact of wavelengths of LED light-therapy on endothelial cells.

[17] Improvement of pain and disability in elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee treated with narrow-band light therapy.

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