What Is Red Light Therapy? (And Is It Beneficial For Us)

Light is a concept we can all relate to. We use light to illuminate things. We use light to dispel darkness so that we can see.

The concept of light has always been ingrained and deeply embedded in the human psyche. We can see traces of it possibly in every discipline there is.

In philosophy and religion, for example, we say that to be “enlightened” means to truly be able to see and understand.

In history and literature, we refer to renaissance – a time or period of “enlightenment.”

In science, engineering and medicine, we see emerging disciplines exploring the vast healing potential of light in photomedicine and photoimmunology.

The vastness of light and its potential seems without bounds.

What is Light?

Light is a type of radiant energy. It can be visible or invisible to the naked eye.

A packet of light is made up of particles called photons which are, in essence, bundles of electromagnetic energy. A photon is oftentimes called the “quantum” of electromagnetic energy.

Visible light is a small section of what is called the electromagnetic spectrum made up of seven different types of radiant energy that travel through space in a wave-like manner.

Visible light is energy, but it is perceived by the human eye as color. As the full spectrum of visible light travels through a prism, the wavelengths of energy separate into seven colors of differing wavelength.

The colors that we can perceive as visible light are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

In the visible light spectrum, the color violet has the shortest wavelength, at around 380 nanometers. On the other hand, the color red has the longest wavelength, at around 700 nanometers.

The Healing Potential of Light

Light stimulates. Light heals. Light rejuvenates.

The idea that we can use sunlight or visible light or, in other words, colors, to cure diseases has a very long history. It is something that humans have always believed in.

Historical documents mention that since the late 1800s, doctors in the continent of Europe began recommending heliotherapy or “sunlight therapy” for various illnesses, including severe illnesses like tuberculosis.

These doctors believe that light from the sun has the potential to destroy disease-causing microorganisms like fungus and bacteria.

From antiquity, we learn that Avicenna, a Persian physician who practiced ca. A.D. 1025, thought that color itself could treat various ailments. He believes that colors provide relief for certain conditions of the human body. They are a cure for various diseases.

For example, it was said that Avicenna believed and taught that the color red was effective for stimulating blood flow. Moreover, he was convinced that the color blue was effective for cooling the body and that in his opinion, the color yellow was effective for easing muscle pain.

It is funny that in historical writings, it was even said that Avicenna also believed and taught that a nose bleeding person should not look at the color red because it would make the bleeding worse.

Over the years, however, researches and studies on light therapy has greatly improved.

Documents say that the first modern study of light therapy began in the 1960s. The focus of these early studies involved the effects of light, particularly sunlight and other forms of visible light to plants.

 

The studies and researches grew to its present popular form when in the late 1980s, scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began experimenting with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs and their impact on plants.

The NASA experiments involved stimulating plant growth using various forms of light. Through these experiments, they hoped that one day in the future, astronauts would be able to grow their own food while exploring deep space.

Today we have entire disciplines called photomedicine and photoimmunology which involve using the properties of light to heal diseases and to promote a healthy immune system.

The greatest number of researches and studies on both photomedicine and photoimmunology focus on the use of red and near infrared (NIR) light in various applications like in healing skin maladies and disorders and in easing muscle ache, soreness and pain.

That is only the tip of the iceberg. Various studies also showed that red and NIR light therapy reduces inflammation, promotes hair growth, enhances sleep quality, stimulates fat loss, boosts testosterone production, eases joint pain, promotes fertility, maintains eye health and increases energy and collagen synthesis.    

What is Red and NIR Light Therapy?

Red Light Therapy refers to treatments that use wavelengths of red and near-infrared light from light emitting diodes (LEDs) for health and wellness. [1] 

RLT involves two forms of electromagnetic radiation – red light and infrared light. It is also called photobiomodulation (PMB) or low-level light therapy (LLLT).

Red light is a type of electromagnetic radiation which can be found at the lower end of the visible spectrum. Visible spectrum is one of the seven segments of the electromagnetic spectrum – the only one that the human eye can view.

Arranged according to decreasing wavelength, the visible spectrum can be seen as the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. More simply, this range of wavelengths is called visible light.

The NASA [2] website writes that typically, the human eye can detect wavelengths from 380 to 700 nanometers. Hence, red light can be perceived by the human eye.

According to the Live Science [3] website, red light has a wavelength of up to 740 nanometers but is still visible to the naked eye.

On the other hand, infrared light lies on the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwave and visible light.

According to the NASA [4] website, the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum is divided into near-, mid-, and far-infrared sections.

Though not visible to the naked eye, infrared light can be detected as heat. The Science Direct [5] website estimated the wavelength of infrared light to be about 1100–2500 nanometers.

The Science of Red and NIR Light Therapy

What is the science behind red and near infrared light therapy?

How does red and near infrared light therapy work?

Research shows that both red and infrared light help build and repair muscle tissue. They also heal and rejuvenate skin cells.

Red and NIR light therapy works by delivering low-level radiation of red and near infrared light to the chromophores in the cells using cytochrome c oxidase (Cox) as the main light-absorbing protein. [6]

Cytochrome c oxidase (Cox), or CCO, is a photosensitive enzyme found within the mitochondria of our cells. Studies show that the enzyme responds best to red and near infrared light. [7]

After absorbing red and NIR light, the Cox in the mitochondria of the cell triggers an increase in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the body’s source of energy at the cellular level. [8]

The cells of the body contains mitochondria, the so-called powerhouse of the cell. This is why they respond well to red and near-infrared light therapy.

Michael Hamblin, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, explains in the Glamour [9] website that two wavelengths of red light in particular—660 nanometers and 850 nanometers, deliver the best biological response.

The 660-nanometer wavelength of red light is more quickly absorbed by the skin which makes it good for cosmetic treatment, while the 850-nanometer wavelength penetrates deeper into the body and helps with muscle recovery, joint pain, and full body health.

Benefits of Red and NIR Light Therapy

Scientific studies on the effect of red light therapy to skin cells in recent years prove the effectivity and efficiency of red and near infrared light therapy for skin rejuvenation as well as in treatment of various skin disorders and maladies.

For instance, according to a study conducted in 2014 among 136 volunteers, [10] light in the spectral range from 600 to 1300 nanometers is useful for promoting wound healing, tissue repair, and skin rejuvenation.

A 2013 study focusing solely on the effects of LLLT in skin [11] demonstrated that red light therapy has beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and healing of burns. It further established that red light therapy is effective even for pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo as well as in inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and acne.

An earlier study in 2006 [12] on 36 subjects reported statistically significant improvement in wrinkles. The majority of the subjects reported improvements in softness, smoothness, and firmness of the skin after combined 633-nanometer and 830-nanometer light-emitting diode (LED) treatments.

Another study in 2005 [13] which involved eight patients with mild‐to‐moderate acne vulgaris on the face were treated with red light. The research concluded that red light was found to be effective in the reduction of the number of inflamed lesions in patients with mild‐to‐moderate acne vulgaris. Most importantly, red light therapy has no significant short‐term adverse effects.

In that same year, the Wiley Online Library [14] published a 1984 study involving a psoriasis patient treated with hematoporphyrin derivative (HPD) in combination with red laser light (630 nanometers) therapy. Results showed that the psoriatic zones responded vigorously to the HPD + red light treatment.

Red light therapy was not only proven to have positive effects on common ailments and disorders of the skin, research even showed that it has potential in treating various types of skin cancer.

A 2004 review study [15] reported the potential of using light‐emitting technologies and photodynamic therapy (PDT) for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and actinic keratoses (AKs).

Hence, red light therapy research has shown many significant benefits of red light. These medical and scientific studies reveal that red light therapy is a natural, safe, and effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions.

For a more detailed discussion on red light therapy and skin care, read here. [16]

Aside from its benefits in skin care, there are also overwhelming research on the effects of red and NIR light therapy to the skeletal muscle cells of the body.

A study conducted in 2014 suggests that red and NIR light therapy activates stem cells allowing increased tissue repair and healing. [17]

More recently in 2018, a study showed that exposure to low-level radiation, specifically red and near-infrared light, reduces muscle fatigue, a leading source of muscle ache, soreness or pain. [18]

In 2016, a study on the effects of RDT in human muscle tissue concluded that the treatment when applied before and after exercise both increase muscle mass and decrease inflammation caused by oxidative stress. [19]

In that same year, a study on a pair of identical twins showed that Light-emitting diode therapy, a form of red light therapy, can be useful to reduce muscle damage, pain, and atrophy, as well as to increase muscle mass, recovery, and athletic performance in rehabilitation programs and sports medicine. [20]

The positive effects of red and near-infrared light therapy were not only observed in male subjects. They were also observed significantly among women subjects.

A 2011 study on the effects of low-level laser therapy on isokinetic muscle performance of young women revealed that an endurance training program combined with LLLT leads to a greater reduction in fatigue than an endurance training program without LLLT. [21]

These and a lot more studies and researches prove the effectivity and efficiency of red and near infrared light therapy for optimal muscle tissue recovery.

For instance, results of a 2014 study suggest that a muscular pre-conditioning regimen using LEDT before intense exercises could modulate metabolic and renal function to achieve better performance. [22] The study was done with professional athletes.

Another 2014 study involving 27 soccer players [23] concludes that laser application either before or after fatigue reduced the post-fatigue concentrations of serum lactate and CK among the test subjects.

To know more about red light therapy and optimal muscle tissue recovery, read here. [24]

Various researches and studies over the years also showed benefits of red and NIR light therapy elsewhere. As mentioned earlier, red and NIR light therapy reduces inflammation, promotes hair growth, enhances sleep quality, stimulates fat loss, boosts testosterone production, eases joint pain, promotes fertility, maintains eye health and increases energy and collagen synthesis.

A 2017 study on the mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of red light therapy [25] discovered that it results to an overall reduction in inflammation for disorders of the joints, traumatic injuries, lung disorders, and in the brain. The study specifically proved reduce inflammation in the brain, abdominal fat, wounds, lungs and spinal cord.

On that same year, a study suggested that low energy red light phototherapy could provide beneficial effects on unsaturated fatty acid-induced inflammation and hyper keratinization for acne vulgaris, a chronic inflammatory disease of the pilosebaceous units (PSU) [26].

In 2019, another groundbreaking study, this time on the effects of red light therapy in inflammatory, musculoskeletal, and autoimmune disease [27], provided evidence that it is able to modulate the immune system at the skin and joint. It has been shown to be effective in humans by affecting bacterial colonization as it may pertain to chronic rhinosinusitis, an inflammatory disease.

To know more about the potential of red and NIR light therapy on the treatment of inflammatory diseases, read this blog [28].

Another breakthrough in red light therapy involved its use in promoting hair growth.

In a 2013 study on the growth of human scalp hair mediated by visible red light laser and LED sources in males [29], it was shown that LLLT of the scalp at 655 nanometers significantly improved hair counts in respondents with androgenetic alopecia.

Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition that can affect both men and women. In men, this condition is called male pattern baldness. Studies show that it can begin as early as their teen years or in their early 20s. Male pattern baldness is characterized by a receding hairline and gradual disappearance of hair from the crown and frontal scalp.

In a similar study among women one year later [30], LLLT of the scalp at 655 nanometers significantly improved hair counts in women with androgenetic alopecia at a rate similar to that observed in males using the same parameters.

For more on the effects of red and NIR light therapy in hair growth, visit here [31].

Sleep quality enhancement is another benefit of red and NIR light therapy.

In a 2012 study on red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players [32], researchers confirmed the effectiveness of body irradiation with red light in improving the quality of sleep of the test subjects. The confirmation offered a potential nonpharmacologic and noninvasive therapy to prevent sleep disorders after training.

In a 2019 study [33], 18 males and 12 females were used as test subjects in an investigation which aims to discover whether, compared to a dim light condition (control), exposure to red light delivered to closed eyelids during sleep (red light mask) and to eyes open upon waking (red light goggles) reduced sleep inertia – the feeling of grogginess or the heavy feeling that seems to weigh one down when waking from sleep. The results show that saturated red light delivered through closed eyelids at levels that do not suppress melatonin can be used to mitigate sleep inertia upon waking.

For a more detailed discussion on the effects of red and NIR light therapy on sleep quality, visit our blog here [34].

 

Still another benefit of the application of red and NIR light therapy is in the loss of excess body fat. Clinical studies over the years have shown that it can reduce excess fat, which then leads to weight loss for those who have a fairly healthy lifestyle.

In a comprehensive review on the effects of LLLT on fat reduction [35], research showed that it has a potential to be used in fat and cellulite reduction as well as in improvement of blood lipid profile without any significant side effects.

A study in 2013 on the evaluation of low-level laser therapy at 635 nanometers  for non-invasive body contouring of the waist, hips, and thighs [36] validated the clinical efficacy and safety of LLLT at 635 nanometers.

Two years prior, a study on the efficacy of low-level laser therapy for body contouring and spot fat reduction [37], reported that LLLT achieved safe and significant girth loss sustained over repeated treatments and cumulative over 4 weeks of eight treatments. Particularly, the girth loss from the waist gave clinically and statistically significant cosmetic improvement.

For a fuller treatment on the potential of red and NIR light therapy on weight loss, visit this blog [38].

There is still a goldmine of studies on the benefits of red and NIR light therapy in other areas. One such area is on fertility.

In 2012, a study showed how the application of LLLT is a potentially effective treatment for severe infertility among Japanese women [39].

The results of the study showed that the use of 830 nanometers of LLLT successfully induced pregnancy in just over 21% of severely infertile females, with a substantial number of these achieving live births. Moreover, the study showed that no adverse events were noted in any of the patients.

To view more studies on the potential of red and NIR light therapy to promote fertility, read here [40].

Red and NIR Light Therapy Devices: Are They Safe?

The various medical and scientific studies mentioned above established the overwhelming science behind the effectivity and efficiency of red and near-infrared light therapy. It is not totally surprising, therefore, to see that more and more people are now turning to red light therapy devices for health and wellness reasons.

An important question, however, needs to be asked. Yes, red and NIR light therapy devices are gaining popularity, but are these devices safe?

The Harvard Gazette [41] website reports that a study led by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggests that light therapy is safe and may even help patients with moderate brain injury.

This MGH study is said to be one of the first prospective, randomized, interventional clinical trials of near-infrared, low-level light therapy (LLLT) in patients who recently suffered a moderate brain injury.

Red and NIR light therapy uses LED devices that are approved by the FDA and other agencies like the CE and ROHS.

Red and NIR light therapy devices do not make use of harmful electromagnetic radiation like ultraviolet rays, so it is safe. It uses very low levels of radiant energy and does not hurt or burn the skin.

Moreover, Red and NIR light therapy is 100% non-invasive so there is no need for a recovery time after treatment. Once you are done with the therapy, you can continue doing your daily activities without worry.

If you want to try the amazing benefits of red and NIR light therapy, visit our online site here [42] to learn about the amazing selection of red light therapy devices that we offer. These devices are safe, 100% non-invasive and FDA approved.

Our team of experts have captured in these devices [43] both the power and the efficacy of available clinical treatments, but in a compact and affordable package that you can try in the convenience of your own home in your own free time.

With our red and NIR light therapy at-home device [44], you can commit to a consistent and life changing red light therapy regimen to achieve the best and the most amazing results for your general condition.

Red light therapy treatments are simple and are easily done.

Leredd recommends 10 minutes per treatment area, ideally every day. For the best results, follow these basics:

  1. Position yourself 6 inches to 2 feet from the device.
  2. Expose your skin for best results to approximately 10-20 minute treatment times per coverage area.
  3. Use the device daily for optimal results. You can have your therapy session at any time of the day.

Try red and NIR light therapy and experience how it can produce significant health benefits described by the many scientific and clinical studies above.  Combine your sessions with a healthy lifestyle and voila, you will be surprised by the most amazing result.

If you have questions, contact us here [45]. We are happy to assist you.

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