What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy (also called biophotomodulation) is a type of light treatment that uses high-power LEDs to expose you to specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light. Most research shows the benefits of red and near Infrared light wavelengths in the 630nm-680nm and 800-880nm ranges.
Scientists in the early 1990’s used red light therapy (RLT) to help plants grow in space - you may recall seeing this in movies about space travel. They found that the intense light helped promote the growth and photosynthesis of plant cells and then discovered that red and near-infrared light helped limit bone and muscle loss in astronauts living for extended periods in zero gravity.
While RLT has traditionally been used in skin laser clinics, due to the positive benefits on skin conditions and aging, further research has shown to enhance cellular function and promote greater efficiency in the energy-making process within our cells. This has led to RLT being used in wider treatment settings.
Full body red light therapy units generally have both red and near-infrared light. Wavelengths of red light (630–660nm) are visible to the eye and are effective for supporting skin health and healing including anti-aging properties and hair loss.
The longer wavelengths of infrared light (810–850nm) are invisible to the eye and penetrate the tissues of the body to around 1.5 inches. This reaches cells deep in your body, including muscles, joints, and bones and impacts mitochondria health and energy production, muscle and joint pain and healing (including delayed onset muscle soreness), brain health, mood and more.
These specific wavelengths are what's considered the therapeutic window of light treatment.
The human body needs natural light to be healthy.
Sunlight is an essential nutrient and provides macronutrients that the body metabolises much like we metabolize food. In our modern-day lifestyle, we don’t get enough of the sunlight (the good wavelengths of light) that we need, and we get too much artificial light. This means our bodies lack some of the macronutrients needed to stay healthy and sunlight deficiency has been linked to numerous diseases. It's much more than just about a lack of Vitamin D that we get from sunlight.
Why is Red Light Therapy good for us?
Sunlight exposure also comes with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) A and UVB rays, which may cause other skin issues over time, however RLT exposes the skin to beneficial levels of light that are not harmful to the surface of the skin or underlying tissues.
What can I use Red Light Therapy for?
RLT can have a significant effect on inflammation in the body and hence is used for many conditions where inflammation is a root cause. Research has shown these effects can be both local (targeting a specific area) and systemic, benefiting overall body processes.
You may want to look at using RLT for:
Stimulate energy within the cells to support healing from chronic illness
Reduce inflammation and pain: increase mobility and relieve pain from Arthritis Joint Pain, Fibromyalgia, and other Musculoskeletal Disorders
Improve skin health with increased collagen production, reducing the appearance of aging
Supporting skin healing for skin conditions including scars, acne and blemishes, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea
Improve muscle recovery after workouts
Injury rehabilitation – stimulating, healing, and regenerating damaged muscle tissue
Reduce hair loss
Wound healing to minimize scarring
Supporting relaxation and boosting mood
How does Red Light Therapy work?
When red and near-infrared light hits your skin, it can penetrate several cm below the skin surface and the energy is absorbed by your cells. These specific wavelengths of light act on numerous molecular, cellular, and tissue mechanisms that then help modulate inflammation, relieve pain, support cell regeneration, and more.
There are two key mechanisms in which RLT does this:
Stimulating increased ATP (energy) production in the mitochondria. By supporting the mitochondria to produce more energy there is a flow-on effect on the rest of the body. The more efficiently we can create ATP, the better we feel and function.
Creating temporary low dose metabolic stress on the system builds up anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and cell defense mechanisms of the cells. This works in the same way exercise provides stress on the system to improve strength and fitness and is known as hormesis.
A large number of studies have been done on the skin rejuvenation effects of RLT, which is shown to work through increasing collagen production in the skin, increasing fibroblast production, and improving circulation.
Wound and injury healing can be supported by reducing inflammation in the cells, stimulating new blood vessels to form (angiogenesis), increasing collagen production, and increasing fibroblasts.
Is Red Light Therapy safe?
RLT is natural and therefore there are virtually no side effects and it is very safe. If you have a chronic condition such as ME/CFS, starting slowly is best to enable your body to cope with the changes.
If you have a disease that involves the retina of the eye, such as diabetes, are taking photosensitizing medications, have skin cancer, are undergoing chemo, have seizures, or are sensitive to light always consult your trusted medical professional before using RLT.
Red Light Therapy for your home
Red light therapy is beneficial to have in your home so that you can use it daily and there are various sizes available to suit your needs and budget. The units can hang on the back of a door, so they don't take up much space and the smaller ones are even great to travel with.
Mine is set up in my bathroom, so it's part of my morning routine after my shower. It sets me up for the day with a dose of intense natural light.
I support NZ-made and Block Blue Light are a New Zealand company that started out with blue light blocking glasses and now has a great range of red light therapy devices among other products that support natural wellbeing.
By using red light therapy regularly you can improve your sleep, heal skin injuries, reduce fine lines, fight autoimmune conditions, combat hair loss, boost mood, help, speed recovery from exercise, increase strength and endurance, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise and more.
Check out the Block Blue Light Range and get 15% off your purchase when you use the code insidematters
These ladies are exceptional in the science-based information they provide and this episode on Red Light Therapy is very informative. Listen for yourself to get the science behind RLT
This is a very comprehensive book, written in a way that is easy to understand. The content is summarised on his website The Energy Blueprint and the book is available from Amazon and the Book Depository.
This health information is provided for general information and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals before taking any actions based upon this information.
Red light therapy has extensive research on its therapeutic benefits. It should not be considered to cure or prevent disease but should be viewed as a general wellness/fitness product.