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Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy and How to Get It

Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBM) or light box therapy, has been around for 40 years – since the invention of lasers. What is it, specifically? Red light therapy uses certain wavelengths of light to restore, repair, and protect tissue that is either injured, degenerating, or at risk of dying. While varying wavelengths affect the body differently, as far as healing with red light is concerned, the most effective wavelengths range from 630-670 and 810-880.

How does red light therapy work?

Red light wavelengths affect bodily cells on a biochemical level by increasing mitochondrial function – the ability to produce cellular energy. The more cellular energy production, the better the body functions as a whole. When red light wavelengths are used on the skin’s surface, they penetrate 8-10 millimeters into the skin. So depending upon where the red light is deployed (head or knee, for instance), all of the surrounding skin layers, blood vessels, lymph pathways, nerves, and even hair follicles are affected.

What are the benefits of red light therapy?

Red light therapy works from the inside-out to enhance mitochondrial function in cells. This, in turn, leads to several skin benefits. Red light decreases skin inflammation, smooths skin tone, repairs sun damage, fades scars and stretch marks, and even builds collagen in the skin, which reduces wrinkles. It also heals wounds and can prevent recurring cold sores or herpes simplex. Red light works on the lymphatic system to improve your body’s detoxification abilities by increasing blood flow. It may even stimulate hair growth in your hair follicles.

Studies reveal that red light heals age-related macular degeneration of the eyes. It’s also used to treat knee osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, cognitive dysfunction following brain injury, and fibromyalgia.

In an episode of Bulletproof Radio (iTunes), Scott Nelson, founder of Joov shared the results of a study involving Joov devices, showing the wide spectrum of hormone benefits.

“With the use of daily, full-body red and near-infrared light therapy with our devices, not only did see really healthy progesterone increases, but they also saw balanced progesterone to estrogen ratios, which is really important, because estrogen dominance is really common as females age,” says Nelson.

Check out the rest of the podcast episode to find out how Joov lights increased testosterone, too.

What are the best sources of red light therapy?

  • You can undergo red light therapy with a qualified professional like a trained rheumatologist or dermatologist. Ask your doctor for a referral.
  • Some medical spas offer red light therapy for about $50-100 per session. Infrared saunas are unique from regular saunas in that they heat the body from the inside-out. Both red light therapy and infrared saunas enhance mitochondrial function, though in different ways. Unlike red light therapy, infrared sauna light is visible – though it penetrates much deeper into the body. You’ll have to experiment to see which works best for you. Learn more about the benefits of infrared sauna use here.

  • Reap the benefits of red light at home with a light therapy device like Joovv. Or, install red lights around your home – there are red lights on Amazon that sell for as little as $6. Use them in the early morning and later at night, as well as therapeutically to increase mitochondrial function and collagen production. Hold the light over an injury for a few minutes a day. You can also find LED colored lights with a brightness and color remote controller. (This lets you switch from blue to red, depending on what time of day it is.)
  • The newest addition to the red light family is actually getting it from your computer or phone screen. Color Tint is a new feature on the Apple iOS 10 that turns your entire screen red, which Apple notes has its own benefits. While they are not necessarily all health-related like a red light therapy box, it is possible that you’ll squint less looking at your screen in the middle of the night due to the red light.

Related: Light Hacking for Better Energy, Mood, and Performance

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Here’s How Red Light Therapy Works—Plus Why You Should Try It

Photo: Roderick Angle / Joanna Vargas Salon

Don’t freak out: That is NOT a tanning bed pictured above. Rather, it’s a red light therapy bed from New York City–based aesthetician Joanna Vargas. But while tanning beds are a never-ever, red light therapy-in bed form or just an at-home facial gadget-is proven to have a slew of health benefits for your skin and well-being.

“It really can do a host of things,” says Vargas. “Red light therapy speeds the healing of the body, reduces inflammation, and helps hydration levels in the skin.” Sounds like a lot, right? Let’s break it down.

What is red light therapy and what can it treat?

Red light therapy is a therapeutic technique that uses red, low-level wavelengths of light. When exposed to red light therapy, the body produces a biochemical effect that boosts the amount of energy stored in cells, explains Z. Paul Lorenc, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon. This helps cells to function more efficiently and repair damage, which is why it’s been used to treat scars and wounds. But red light therapy really took off in popularity for its efficacy in combating wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, discoloration, and other signs of less-than-stellar skin health.

“Your complexion will be more lifted, toned, and improved-resulting in younger-looking, smoother skin by increasing healthy cellular activity,” says Vargas. In addition to helping to hydrate and heal the skin, it’s also great for anti-aging because it protects existing collagen and elastin, while also stimulating new collagen production, she says. (Related: Are Collagen Supplements Worth It?)

Dr. Lorenc backs up its anti-aging powers: “I’ve worked extensively with red light therapy and the skin and find it to be effective at both boosting collagen production and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” he says.

And since the wavelengths penetrate deeply, they’re more efficacious than say, a wrinkle-reducing serum. Use the two in tandem, though, and you’ll see results that are (unscientifically speaking) twice as nice.

Can red light help with recovery?

Red light therapy can also treat inflammation and pain-one study found it to aid in healing Achilles tendinitis, a common foot injury; another cited positive results when used on patients with osteoarthritis.

Dr. Lorenc also says red light therapy promotes quicker healing time for wounds and helps reduce post-workout inflammation. More on that here: The Benefits of Red, Green, and Blue Light Therapy

Are there any side effects of red light therapy?

“It’s completely noninvasive and safe for everyone,” says Vargas. Unlike many other lasers used on the skin (such as an IPL, or intense pulse light) that cause damage to induce tissue repair, red light therapy causes zero damage to the skin. “People often mistake light for laser, or think that red light therapy will cause sensitivity, but it does not.”

What’s more, Vargas sees red light therapy as an important form of therapy, not merely a beauty treatment. In 2014, the journal Photomedicine and Laser Surgery looked at both collagen production and subjective patient satisfaction. Despite a small sample size (approximately 200 subjects), most subjects experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, along with an increase in ultrasonographically measured collagen density. Not only was facial skin looked at, but the entire body, with similarly improved skin complexion results.

Where can you try red light therapy?

If you’re willing to shell out serious dollars, you can purchase a full-body red light therapy bed for your home-to the tune of about $3,000. You can also visit a spa. For example, Vargas’ namesake spa offers, LED light therapy treatments for face and body starting at $150 for 30 minutes.

However, you can also safely try red light therapy without heading to your derm’s office with cool facial gadgets and tools, the best of which come with an FDA stamp of approval. Dr. Lorenc actually helped develop the beloved Neutrogena Acne Light Mask, which uses both blue light therapy to kill bacteria and red light therapy to reduce inflammation-all from the comfort of your own home. “Not only has the mask proved to be very effective in the treatment of inflamed acne, but it’s also gentle enough on skin to be used on a daily basis,” he adds. (Related: Can At-Home Blue Light Devices Really Clear Acne?)

A few others worth looking into: The Amazon top-rated Pulsaderm Red ($75; amazon.com) is an excellent value, and the Dr. Dennis Gross SpectraLite Faceware Pro ($435; sephora.com) is a futuristic, Instagrammable splurge that busts acne while also stimulating collagen production and minimizing fine lines.

  • By Rachel Jacoby Zoldan @rjacoby13

The year 2010 marked the 50th anniversary for medical laser treatments like red light therapy, providing a host of evidence regarding their benefits.

Through emitting red, low-light wavelengths through the skin, red light therapy may naturally jump-start the process of tissue recovery and other forms of rejuvenation. It’s believed to work in such ways as increasing blood flow and stimulating collagen production.

Red light therapies have come a long way, but do they really work? Clinical studies show that, yes, red lightbox therapies have certain healing capabilities and medical applications, thanks to the way they positively affect the human endocrine and immune systems.

This treatment is now FDA-cleared for conditions like chronic joint pain and slow-to-heal wounds, and in the near future, we can expect to see more approvals as research continues to unfold.

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy involves having low-power red light wavelengths emitted directly through the skin, although this process cannot be felt and isn’t painful because it doesn’t produce any heat.

Red light can be absorbed into the skin to a depth of about eight to 10 millimeters, at which point it has positive effects on cellular energy and multiple nervous system and metabolic processes. This type of light is considered “low level” because it works at an energy density that’s low compared to other forms of laser therapies.

If you’ve never heard of red light therapy before, you might already be familiar with other terms that are used to describe this treatment, such as photobiomodulation (PBM), Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) biostimulation (BIOS), photonic stimulation or simply light box therapy.

Although there is still controversy over this treatment and more research is needed, according to some reports, there are virtually no known adverse side effects of red light therapy treatments, rather a growing list of many anti-aging benefits.

How does it work? A 2012 report published in Annals in Biomedical Engineering stated that red light is used in three primary ways: “to reduce inflammation, edema, and chronic joint disorders; to promote healing of wounds, deeper tissues, and nerves; and to treat neurological disorders and pain.” It’s been found to help promote stronger immunity and longevity by increasing cell proliferation and migration, as well as modulating levels of cytokines, growth factors and inflammatory mediators.

Leanne Venier — an engineer, scientist and an expert in light frequencies and the healing effects of color therapy — explains that red light is naturally attention-getting, energizing, stimulating and “representative of survival, joy and passion” in humans because of how it affects of our central nervous system.

According to her work, along with extensive research done by trustworthy organizations including NASA, red light can trigger the sympathetic nervous system and, therefore, activate the “fight or flight response.”

Being in fight-or-flight mode causes reactions like improved blood circulation, rapid heartbeats, increased sweating, high concentration and so on. Normally we think of activating our stress response as a bad thing, but this can also be healing because it carries nutrients to our cells and controls inflammatory responses.

Benefits

What is red light therapy used for? Studies have found that some of the ways red light wavelengths work to improve overall health include:

  • Increasing energy levels by promoting release of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from cells’ mitochondria
  • Stimulating DNA/RNA synthesis
  • Activating the lymphatic system, an important part of our immune system that helps carry waste out of the body
  • Increasing blood flow/circulation, thereby helping bring more oxygen and nutrients to our cells and tissues
  • Forming new capillaries (small blood vessels)
  • Improving natural production of collagen and fibroblasts, important for skin care and joint and digestive health
  • Repairing and restoring damaged soft connective tissue
  • Stimulating or decreasing inflammation, which helps control our natural healing capabilities
  • Lowering effects of oxidative stress/free radical damage, which is associated with many effects of aging

Here’s more about the major red light therapy benefits backed up by scientific studies:

1. Increased Immunity and Reduced Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

Research done by NASA has shown that red light technology can successfully reduce symptoms experienced by cancer patients, including painful side effects caused from radiation or chemotherapy.

Using far red/near-infrared light-emitting diode devices (called HEALS in some studies) has been shown to release long wavelength energy in the form of photons that stimulate cells to aid in healing.

NASA tested whether this treatment could benefit patients with oral mucositis, a very common and painful side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. They concluded that 96 percent of patients experienced improvement in pain as a result of the HEALS treatment.

Researchers stated, “The HEALS device was well tolerated with no adverse affects to bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients….The HEALS device can provide a cost-effective therapy since the device itself is less expensive than one day at the hospital.”

Similar HEALS technology is also now being utilized for the treatment of pediatric brain tumors, slow-healing wounds or infections, diabetic skin ulcers, and serious burns.

2. Wound Healing and Tissue Repair

Light in the spectral range of 600 to 1,300 nanometers has been found to be useful for promoting wound healing, tissue repair and skin rejuvenation, although it does this through a different mechanism of action compared to many other laser resurfacing treatments.

Most laser therapies used in dermatology offices use intense pulsed light to promote skin rejuvenation by inducing secondary tissue repair. In other words, they cause intentional damage to either the epidermis or the dermis of the skin in order to trigger inflammation, followed by healing.

RLT actually bypasses this initial destructive step and instead directly stimulates regenerative processes in the skin through increased cellular proliferation, migration and adhesion.

It may also help treat skin conditions through regeneration of fibroblasts, keratinocytes and modulation of immune cells (including mast cells, neutrophils and macrophages) all found within skin tissue.

3. Anti-Aging Effects for Skin and Hair Loss

One use of red light laser therapy that’s growing in popularity is treating skin conditions and reversing signs of aging on the skin (i.e, wrinkles and fine lines).

Results from a 2014 study published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery demonstrated both efficacy and safety for red light therapy in promoting anti-aging skin rejuvenation and intradermal collagen increase when compared against controls. Researchers concluded that red infrared therapy “provides a safe, non-ablative, non-thermal, atraumatic photobiomodulation treatment of skin tissue with high patient satisfaction rates.”

Subjects treated with RLT experienced significantly improved skin complexion, improved skin tone, improved texture/feeling, reduced skin roughness, reduced signs of wrinkles and fine lines, and increased collagen density as measured through ultrasonographic tests. Patients with rosacea and redness have also found relief using PBM for skin care, even those who are unable to tolerate higher-heat laser therapies.

Yet another anti-aging effect of red light therapy is reversing hair loss and stimulating follicle hair growth, which works in many of the same ways as red light therapy for wound healing. Results regarding hair growth have been mixed according to studies, but at least a moderate portion of both male and female patients have had positive results for reversing baldness/hair loss when using PBM.

4. Improved Joint and Musculoskeletal Health

RLT is now being used to treat arthritis symptoms thanks to its capability of stimulating collagen production and rebuilding cartilage.

A 2009 Cochrane review of red light therapy for rheumatoid arthritis concluded that “LLLT could be considered for short-term treatment for relief of pain and morning stiffness for RA patients, particularly since it has few side-effects.”

Even in those who don’t suffer from arthritis but have other signs of tissue damage or degeneration due to aging, LLLT can still be beneficial. A 2009 study published in The Lancet showed, “LLLT reduces pain immediately after treatment in acute neck pain and up to 22 weeks after completion of treatment in patients with chronic neck pain.”

Other studies have found that even when patients with musculoskeletal disorders don’t experience less pain from red light therapy treatments, they have a high chance of experiencing “significantly improved functional outcomes,” such as better range of motion.

Cellular rejuvenation and increased blood flow due to red light therapy are two key aspects of improving joint and tissue health. Decreasing oxidative damage, which degenerates joints, and modulating inflammation are other ways that LLLT benefits soft/connective tissue.

5. Improvement in Sleep Quality

The human body requires exposure to natural light that is only found outdoors in order to regulate various biological systems. When we spend all day indoors and hardly “see the light of day,” our cellular energy systems and circadian rhythms suffer, leading to issues like poor sleep, fatigue, mood-related issues and weight gain.

If you can’t get outside more, RLT is a simple way to expose your body to more natural light. This can help reset your “circadian clock” and aid in the release of melatonin needed for healthy sleep.

6. Reduced Depression and Fatigue

Another way to explain the benefits of red light is through the lens of Eastern medicine. Ask a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner how light helps improve health, immunity and recovery, and he or she will likely compare it to acupuncture’s mechanism of action:

  • Light is a form of energy, and our bodies are just big energy systems.
  • Light has the power to stimulate specific meridian points and chakra zones in the human body.
  • Red is said to stimulate the first chakra because it correlates most strongly with our survival instinct (hence why it gives us energy and makes us act quickly, in order to motivate us to pursue things like money, food, sex, power, etc.).
  • Red light therapy research suggests that this type of light can naturally be energizing and correlated with improved moods by increasing self-confidence, positivity, passion, joyfulness, laughter, social awareness, conversation skills and sensory stimulation.

Unproven Claims

Although studies suggest that RLT can provide the benefits described above, there still isn’t sufficient evidence available to determine whether it can help treat other conditions, such as cancer, clinical depression and severely compromised immune function.

It’s also not the only type of wavelength that offers benefits. As explained more below, you may have better results with blue wavelengths, and even saunas, if you’re dealing with skin or muscular conditions.

Similar Treatments

Red Light Therapy vs. Blue Light Therapy

  • Blue and red light therapies, two forms of phototherapy, have some similar benefits and uses, although they work in different ways.
  • The mechanism of action of both is still not entirely well-understood, but it’s believed that PBM devices produce light with wavelengths similar to those of blue light lasers only with broader output peaks (they’re less monochromatic and don’t produce heat or friction).
  • Blue light is more commonly used at home from light-emitting devices, especially for the treatment of acne. It’s been found that blue light reaches the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin and can help kill porphyrins, which are compounds inside acne bacteria.
  • Red light is believed to penetrate the skin deeper and may also help acne and other skin disorders by reducing inflammation and improving healing.
  • Blue light and red light can be emitted from tabletop light therapy devices (which are used at home and usually weaker, requiring about a total of 30 minutes to one hour of treatment time twice per day) or from stronger devices used in doctors’ offices that work quicker (sometimes within just several minutes or less).
  • The Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital explains that there’s still widespread uncertainty and confusion surrounding the mechanisms of action of these light therapies, especially LLLT, at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels. There are also a large number of parameters for doctors to consider before treating individual patients (wavelength, fluence, irradiance, treatment timing and repetition, pulsing, and polarization) that can add to the confusion and patient variability in terms of results.

PBM (Photobiomodulation) vs. Infrared Sauna Treatment

  • Saunas use heat to produce biological effects, while red light therapy devices do not achieve results by heat alone.
  • Infrared saunas work by heating objects inside the sauna room, as opposed to heating the air itself like traditional saunas. They do this using charcoal, carbon fiber or other types of emitting surfaces to deliver infrared heat.
  • Heat is a form of stress that can have certain health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health, detoxification and physical performance. However, the purpose of PBM is to emit light right into your skin to positively affect cells, rather than using heat. These two therapeutic approaches can be combined since they each have unique effects, so don’t be afraid to try both.

Products

It’s now possible to take advantage of red light therapy at home using cutting-edge devices.

One example is a light bed called TheraLight 360 HD. TheraLight is considered the most powerful commercial option for both consumers and practitioners because it can be used by anyone and does not require a healthcare license to operate.

This light bed (also called a pod or capsule) offers brief but powerful 10–15 minute sessions and has a unique 360° light exposure design. It provides four deep penetrating wavelengths (1 red & 3 near-infrared) with adjustable frequencies and power output, all controlled with a wireless tablet.

According to the makers of TheraLight360, the bed can be caused for both general wellness and as a medical device, for purposes including:

  • Relief to joint pain and stiffness
  • Temporary pain relief to minor arthritis pain or muscle spasm
  • Increase in blood circulation
  • Faster rate of recovery after injury

Another more affordable option for consumers is made by the company Joovv.

Joovv light panels may be a good option if you’re dealing with symptoms tied to a lack of exposure to natural light, such as poor sleep. If you can’t get outside more to soak in light that is needed to regulate your circadian rhythm, consider utilizing natural light therapy in your home or office for about 10–20 minutes daily.

Will insurance cover PBM?

Many conventional doctors consider red light therapies to still be alternative treatments, considering more research is needed overall to prove their efficacy and results can sometimes vary.

Currently most medical insurance companies state that low-level laser light therapy is an “experimental treatment” so many won’t provide insurance coverage.

Depending on what condition you’re treating, you can speak with your dermatologist, oncologist, orthopedic, rheumatologist or neurologist about treatment options. Your primary care doctor, or a chiropractor, may be able to give you a referral.

How often should you do red light therapy?

Each individual will react to RLT somewhat differently. A general recommendation is to try this form of therapy consistently for about 8–12 weeks. You can begin with shorter sessions and consider increasing your time once you monitor your reaction. For best results, aim to complete 3–5 sessions per week for the first 1–4 weeks.

Risks and Side Effects

Is red light therapy dangerous? Although low-level laser light therapy seems to be very well-tolerated and unlikely to cause side effects, it still remains controversial whether it can help all patients. One difficulty that researchers have had gathering results from studies on red light therapy is pinpointing which light ranges are optimal for treating different health conditions and different patients.

Certain published study results have found that RLT can cause negative reactions when an inappropriate choice of light source or an inappropriate dosage is used. There is an optimal dose of light for any particular application, and in the case of red light therapy, often lower doses are found to be more effective than higher doses.

What are the side effects of red light therapy? These can possibly include burning, swelling, dizziness, muscle weakness or nausea.

Keep in mind that seeing results from red light treatments might take patience and that responsiveness is expected to vary. Be sure to work with a qualified PBM practitioner whenever receiving treatments and report any side effects.

Final Thoughts

  • What is red light therapy (sometimes called near-infrared light, PBM or photobiomodulation, LLLT or low level laser therapy)? It involves emitting red and near-infrared wavelengths through the skin.
  • How does red light therapy work? It can help to stimulate cellular rejuvenation, increase blood flow, stimulate collagen, fight free radical damage and more.
  • Health benefits of PBM include assisting with healing conditions such as cancer treatment side effects, skin conditions like rosacea and wounds, wrinkles or fine lines, hair loss, arthritis symptoms, musculoskeletal disorders, and neurological damage.
  • Red light therapy side effects are rare, as it’s well-tolerated by most, but results can vary.
  • Well documents research: 4,000 laboratory tests, 550 RCTs (randomized controlled trials), 167 systematic reviews and 30 new research papers monthly.

Light can be a powerful tool in skin care, whether it’s an LED facial or a laser treatment for acne.

Light therapy can also seem a little mysterious if you’ve never done it before, because light doesn’t interact with the skin in the same obvious way as, say, a serum or moisturizer.

Here, we’re breaking down the basics of LED and laser skin treatments, explaining what they are, how they work, and experts’ advice for adding them to your skin care routine.

What LED light treatments can do to help your skin

June 4, 201904:23

What is LED light therapy?

An LED, or light-emitting diode, is basically a special light bulb that only gives off light at a certain wavelength, or color.

These light waves can penetrate deep into the skin and cause reactions within the skin. Different wavelengths produce different results, but the three most popular ones used in skin care are blue, red and near-infrared.

Other colors including green and yellow are sometimes used, but the above three are the most common.

What are the possible red light therapy benefits?

Red light therapy can have numerous benefits, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, said.

“Red light is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help stimulate collagen,” Zeichner told TODAY Style in an email. “For this reason, red light may also be used in treating acne, and … it’s commonly used for its anti-aging skin benefits.”

Red light therapy can reduce inflammation and heal damaged skin.

Red and near-infrared light therapy can also help heal damaged or irritated skin. Joanna Vargas, a celebrity esthetician whose clients include Julianne Moore, Constance Wu and Rachel Brosnahan, said she often uses red light therapy to soothe the skin after other treatments.

“I can do a really intense peel on somebody that would normally leave somebody really red for several hours, but after the peel, I can do red and infrared light and you walk out looking like a glowing angel,” she told TODAY Style.

Red light therapy is also sometimes used in sports medicine to reduce inflammation and speed up the healing of injuries.

What are the possible blue light therapy benefits?

While red light therapy can reduce inflammation, blue light therapy kills bacteria under the skin. This makes it an excellent tool for treating acne, which can be caused by bacteria in the pores.

“NASA paid grants to physicians to study the effects of light on the human body in the late ’80s and ’90s and what was shown was that when you use blue light, for example, on acne, it’s going to kill bacteria even underneath the skin whether you extract it or not,” Vargas said.

“It’s an incredible tool for an esthetician because if I’m doing a lot of extractions on somebody, for example, and then we do a mask … I can then put the person under blue light and it will assure me that all the bacteria is gone and that the sites of pimples can heal freely without worrying about getting infections again,” she added.

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Get a daily roundup of items that will make your life easier, healthier and more stylish. Blue light therapy is commonly used as an acne treatment.

Vargas noted that with both blue and red light therapy, it can take a few sessions before you start seeing results.

“I usually tell people that LED light is one of those technologies that you’re going to have to trust me for the first three to four sessions,” she said. “And then after the third or fourth one, you’re just going to be out living your life, and you’ll just start getting compliments on your skin. … I’ve never had anybody not see a difference.”

Are there any risks involved with LED light therapy?

LED light therapy is a noninvasive treatment that “can be used across ethnicities and skin types,” Zeichner told TODAY. “I do recommend light therapy as a safe and effective treatment for both acne and aging skin.”

That said, there are certain precautions to keep in mind, said Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD and the PFRANKMD skin salon in New York.

“It’s important to always wear eye shields and not look directly at the lights,” Frank told TODAY Style in an email. “Thirty minutes maximum is recommended for treatment and no more than two times per week.”

Vargas also cautioned that you can’t do LED light treatments while pregnant, if you have a pacemaker or if you’re on certain medications.

Bottom line: always check with your dermatologist before beginning light therapy treatments.

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Can you do LED light therapy at home?

A number of at-home LED light therapy tools have come on the market in recent years, including masks, panels and handheld devices. Are these as safe and effective as treatments from a dermatologist or esthetician?

It depends, Vargas said.

“I think not all things are created equal,” she told TODAY Style. “I feel more comfortable when clients purchase at-home devices where the company has shared the amount of LED lights in the device, what’s the exact penetration and saturation level of the skin. When companies don’t make that as clear, it’s a little harder to tell if something’s going to work or not work.”

Besides possibly not working as well, some at-home devices could actually damage the skin, Vargas said.

“I have had clients purchase at-home devices that created melasma (a pigmentation disorder) because they weren’t quite as good as they thought they were,” she said. “So you just have to be sort of mindful of what brand you’re buying and make sure that it’s something that is actually effective.”

What are the possible benefits of laser treatments?

Like LED therapy, laser treatments involve light interacting with the skin. However, lasers use a much higher-energy, targeted beam of light.

“Lasers are like fancy knives,” Frank told TODAY Style. “They use a source of light, of various wavelengths, to target certain areas, while not harming other areas.”

Laser treatments are often used to treat acne and rosacea. Lasers can reduce redness associated with both conditions, and for people with rosacea, lasers can reduce the appearance of tiny blood vessels on the face.

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Other common uses for lasers include removing the appearance of sun damage, hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries and acne scars.

Certain types of lasers are also great for skin tightening or resurfacing.

“Resurfacing lasers target water in the skin,” Zeichner said. “They work by creating microscopic damage to the skin and allowing it to heal itself up in a more cosmetically appealing manner.”

Are there any risks involved with laser treatments?

People with a history of eczema, psoriasis or any type of skin disease should check with a dermatologist before using lasers, Frank said.

Lasers should also not be used on people who have recently been exposed to ultraviolet radiation without protection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. So, if you’re planning on getting a laser treatment, always wear sunscreen and avoid tanning beds (which is good skin care advice in general).

Also, because laser treatments are more intense on the skin than LED therapy, there’s the risk of developing dark or light spots, or even scars, if you’re not working with an experienced practitioner.

“Make sure that you are being treated by an appropriately trained medical professional, like a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in use of lasers,” Zeichner recommended.

Frank agreed that lasers can be “risky” if used incorrectly, and he recommended that people only do laser treatments with qualified experts.

When used correctly, lasers are a powerful skin care treatment, Frank said.

“No one above the age of 25 can’t benefit from some degree of a laser. It is safe, versatile and, when used in experienced hands, extremely effective,” he told TODAY Style. “It removes sun damage, builds and remodels collagen and decreases the risk of common skin cancer — and it makes you look great. It is the most valuable tool in my practice.”

Infrared Therapy vs Red Light Therapy – What Treatment is Right for You?

Light therapy has been used for treating a variety of different ailments for hundreds of years. In fact, people who suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder say that their symptoms improve during the spring and summer months when sunlight is most prevalent.

Today, light therapy is used to improve mood and regulate sleep as well as hormones. But both red light therapy and infrared light therapy are used to treat very different problems. So how do you know which one is right for you?

Red Light Therapy

Red LED light therapy is part of the visible spectrum, specifically the 630 to the 700-nanometer range. It is generally used to treat conditions like acne or skin ulcers, but it can also be used to promote wound healing, treat skin infections and relieve pain.

Because of the wavelength of red light on the electromagnetic scale, it is best at penetrating skin cells. It stimulates the production of collagen, which rejuvenates the skin and improves the look of wrinkles and fine lines like crow’s feet around the eyes.

But this stimulation of collagen production may also be able to help those who suffer from arthritis. Red light can also help in repairing the damage done to the skin by the sun. Some experts suggest it can also help alleviate the darkness of scars on the skin as well as stretch marks. to find out more about our red light LED anti-aging photofacial, plus get a special offer for a limited time.

Infrared Light Therapy

Unlike red light, infrared light is invisible and has a wavelength of 700 to 1200 nanometers on the electromagnetic scale. Instead of seeing infrared light, we feel it as heat, and the human body naturally gives off infrared energy, making it a safe treatment that is also effective.

Because of its long wavelength, infrared light can penetrate through the skin to the deeper tissues of the body, giving it the potential to help patients who suffer from ailments caused by inflammation such as chronic pain and those with poor circulation.

Because infrared light is felt as heat, it makes the body sweat. This makes infrared light helpful for those who want to release impurities. This heat can also stimulate the metabolism and help those trying to lose weight. to learn more about our infrared sauna and our special trial offer.

Interested in red light therapy? Seattle Sun Tan offers an anti-aging photofacial therapy at all of our locations in Washington.

Want to try infrared light therapy? We offer infrared light therapy via our infrared wellness pod or dry sauna. We also have a variety of skincare products that will help you moisturize your skin and get that healthy glow. Contact us today for more information on our various services.

Curious about Joovv? Get the lowdown on red-light therapy first

Joovv’s cheapest red-light therapy device costs $300. The setup shown here? At least $10K.

Joovv

Late last year, I found myself with way too much money left in my flexible spending account (FSA) and went on a bit of a shopping spree. I treated myself to a few pairs of new glasses and then stocked up on basics like pricey over-the-counter meds, sunscreen and a first-aid kit. With nearly $200 dollars left to spend, I started scrolling through FSA-approved products online and landed on a pair of FDA-cleared red-light therapy slippers. Happy to have found something that would use up the rest of my money, I added them to my cart thinking my mother, who has terribly arthritic feet, might like them. It wasn’t until they showed up at my door that my health-editor instincts kicked in and I wondered, do these things actually work?

A treat for arthritic feet or a waste of FSA dollars?

dpl

From slippers and infrared saunas to face masks and 6-foot-tall LED panels like those sold by Joovv, red-light therapy seems to be having a moment and it’s easy to see why.

Many of these products and experiences are relatively cheap, easy to use and, according to manufacturers, able to ease joint pain, increase testosterone, spur weight loss, speed muscle recovery and so much more.

But when I started digging into the data, I quickly realized that the answer to my original question, “Does red-light therapy actually work?” was a bit more complicated.

What is red-light therapy?

Red-light therapy has been around for more than 50 years. It’s said to have been discovered in 1967 by a researcher named Endre Mester at Semmelweis Medical University in Hungary. While attempting to replicate an experiment that used a ruby laser to cure tumors in rats, he discovered that his lower-powered laser didn’t eradicate any tumors but did inspire faster hair growth and better wound healing in rats.

Since that time, red-light therapy has gone by more than 75 aliases, including low-level light/laser therapy, cold laser therapy, monochromatic infrared light energy therapy and photostimulation.

Now playing: Watch this: VR is helping to reduce pain, anxiety in patients 1:23

However, in more recent years, researchers have encouraged the use of the term photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, which they feel is more representative of the practice. For this article, the terms red-light therapy and PBM are used interchangeably.

The North American Association for Photobiomodulation Therapy defines PBM as a form of nonthermal light therapy that utilizes nonionizing forms of light sources, including lasers, LEDs, and broad-band light, in the visible and infrared spectrum.

PBM, therefore, is different from other forms of light therapy, like infrared saunas — which uses far-infrared radiation to heat the body — and intense pulsed light, which uses high-intensity light sources to target the surface of the skin.

How does red-light therapy work?

Athletes eager to get an edge have been early adopters of red-light therapy because of claims that it can help improve performance and speed recovery.

Joovv

PBM involves exposing an area of the body to visible and infrared light, much in the same way that daylight therapy is used to fight seasonal affective disorder. But what happens after that is still being disputed.

According to the prevailing theory, these wavelengths of light penetrate the skin where they are absorbed by cells and give the mitochondria — the powerhouse of the cell — a little boost. The mitochondria then produce more energy-revving adenosine triphosphate (ATP). And more ATP means higher functioning cells that can get to work doing all the great things cells do, like repairing and rejuvenating tissue.

What is red-light therapy used to treat?

PBM is widely used for pain reduction, wound healing, and inflammatory-related conditions like arthritis. But in recent years it’s also been sold as a treatment for a wide variety of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Cellulite
  • Depression
  • Low testosterone
  • Migraines
  • Poor sleep
  • Scarring
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Weight gain

Is red-light therapy safe?

PBM is by and large considered safe, but burns have been reported by consumers using Anodyne Therapy devices, which sit directly on the skin. And Neutrogena recently recalled its light therapy mask over concerns of eye injury.

After receiving reports of visual effects from customers, Neutrogena pulled its Red & Blue Light Therapy Acne Mask off shelves.

Neutrogena

Is red-light therapy effective?

When PBM manufacturers such as Joovv claim their products are backed up by thousands of studies, they’re not lying. But what they’re failing to tell you is that the majority of those studies are still preliminary.

Meta-analyses examining the available research almost always conclude that the evidence is insufficient, the mechanism of action is unclear, and treatment and dosage guidelines aren’t well established (though the World Association for Photobiomodulation Therapy is working to change that).

Red LED light therapy to stimulate collagen production is uses during a demonstration of the Ultimate Total Body Hydra-Dermbrasion Resurfacing treatment at the Ole Henriksen spa in Los Angeles, California.

Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images

Health insurance companies, like Aetna, agree. Even the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has refused coverage, stating “the use of infrared devices is not reasonable and necessary for treatment of Medicare beneficiaries for diabetic and nondiabetic peripheral sensory neuropathy, wounds and ulcers, and similar related conditions, including symptoms such as pain arising from these conditions.”

That said, a 2018 review focused on the efficacy of home-use PBM devices for nonaesthetic purposes found that these products have “good potential for effective and safe treatments in a variety of medical conditions requiring frequent sessions” but that higher-quality research is needed.

It should be noted, though, that the researchers were only able to identify 11 relevant studies, and that the largest study of the bunch, which still only included 60 patients, was the one study that failed to show favorable results.

PBM appears the most promising when applied to inflammatory-related conditions, like arthritis, and wound healing. A 2005 Cochrane review found that PBM can decrease pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis but the effects are modest and quickly dissipate. (The results were more mixed for osteoarthritis.)

And two individual studies looking at wound healing — one focused on using PBM to treat cold sores on the lips caused by Herpes labialis and the other focused on diabetic foot ulcers — both found that PBM significantly reduced the time it took wounds to heal.

The bottom line

PBM is still considered experimental but it is likely safe. If you’re curious, talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you or if there are other cheaper and more effective strategies you could try first.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

Red Light Therapy Only Has This One Use According to Research

Many of the big commercial fads today are related to the skin care industry.

In an aging world, or in a world where actual consumers are proportionately older, nothing is commercially hotter than anti aging. If you start to worry about your wrinkles, or your collagen levels, or your eye skin, neck skin, or mouth skin, there’s an army of hip-looking websites and blogs waiting to console you.

An inconspicuous device that was used mostly for minor joint injuries a couple of decades ago made it there: the red light. We had one of them at home: my mother left me for a couple of minutes under it when I was sore after a fight. I was a competitive fencer and always managed to get hurt.

If you google “red light therapy” today, though, you will get around 8.5 million results. Although pain is still an application, up there on the first page you will see “rejuvenation”, “healing”, “skin care” and “energy”. Red “light+anti-aging” alone renders around 4.6 million results on google.

As with most things that grow too fast into fads, the red light became a panacea: claimed benefits include tissue repair, immune boosting, collagen production, treatment for hair loss, depression, skin disorders, arthritis, and even cancer. A noninvasive, relatively cheap and easy to use treatment for some of the conditions that cause the greatest suffering modern humans face. As Hahm and collaborators (22) suggest, it was the non-invasiveness and patient acceptance of red light treatment that keeps it in use, in spite of not being FDA approved or covered by insurance companies. What could be more tempting to try?

That’s where we come in. Massive marketing and insufficient scientific evidence are a bad combination.

Let us examine what current research actually says about the effectiveness of red light therapy .

The preferred technical term for red light therapy is Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), but other terms like low-power laser therapy (LPLT), soft laser therapy, low-intensity laser therapy, low-energy laser therapy, cold laser therapy, bio-stimulation laser therapy, photobiomodulation, photo-biotherapy, therapeutic laser, and monochromatic infrared light energy (MIRE) therapy are used interchangeably (14, 22).

The procedure consists of exposing an area of the skin to low levels of red and near-infrared light. The term “low” specifies that the light densities are low compared to medical laser applications such as surgical cutting or thermal coagulation.

Those who claim red light is responsible for a wide range of beneficial clinical responses believe that its effect goes beyond local heat application.

I examined a few user forums and, apart from joint pains, musculoskeletal issues and arthritis, there is not much consensus about treatment benefits (Energeticforum and Realself). The amount of confusion concerning the subject, now, is alarming.

There are people reporting ultra-violet light applications in the red light forums, when violet and ultra-violet light are on the opposite side of the visible light spectrum and have very different interactions with biomolecules.

There are several devices available in the market, from cheap to expensive. Most can be used at home, but there are a few sophisticated systems that are used in specialized alternative medicine clinics.

At the scientific level, there is not much we can positively say. As I will elaborate on in the following sections, most research measures a phenomenon, or uses by-proxy methods to address possible causes, just to conclude that “the mechanism is unknown”.

Red light application seems to be beneficial to certain injuries and pathological conditions but the panacea claims currently made are not yet backed by research.

How much research is there on Red Light Therapy?

The short answer is that for the past 5 years there have averaged more than 200 published articles a year on red light therapy

If we look at the publication trends on red light therapy, there is a steep rise in publication around the year 2000 and soon after that (figs 1-3).

Fig 2: Number of published articles per year retrieved from a Pubmed search with the search terms “red+light+therapy” (2017).

Examining the peer-reviewed original research publications and reviews on red light therapy, raised the following red flags:

  1. The frequent use of (discreetly placed) disclaimers, such as “the exact mechanism is unknown”, “remains controversial” or “the precise manner is not yet known”, after a paragraph of enthusiastic description of a phenomenon (in all reviews and in primary sources, such as 24).
  2. Miscitations or misquotations

Example: the citation of Dolmans et al (16) work for the claim that red light has anti-cancer effects. The cited paper refers to photodynamic therapy, which is a treatment that employs a photosensitizing agent (a drug) and a specific source of light. The light serves as an activating agent to promote active oxygen species production.

  1. Unnecessary, off context or exaggerated descriptions of related fields

Example: long descriptions about the quantum physics aspects of light, “Eastern medicine” concepts of meridians (41) or chakras (31).

Most research is concerned with documenting claims as to the effectiveness of red light for the more controversial conditions, such as cancer treatment, wound healing and immune system boosting. I examined two of the recent scientific reviews on the subject that were relatively well published: Chung and collaborators’ article on Annals of biomedical engineering (14), and Hahm and collaborators’ article on Photonics & Lasers in Medicine (22).

The first, which had abundant citations, had too many cases of misquotations and out of context content. The second review “focuses on the ability of red light to modulate the peripheral – local and regional – mediators of pain inciting agents” (22). Again, about 30% of the text is a description of the physiology of pain and inflammation. The rest offers putative mechanisms for the observed in vitro and in vivo results. In the end, all we know is that there are positive results of red light application on inflammatory conditions.

Official health care government acceptance or, worse, insurance company acceptance of some treatment’s scientific basis is not exactly the best criterion for scientific soundness. However, the fact that none of them found sufficient basis to approve this treatment (2, 3, 1) and that even the Cochrane foundation meta-analysis (43) found inconclusive data to support its claims is something to consider.

What has the research concluded?

The objective of medical research about a given treatment that has empirically or even anecdotally shown benefit is to understand how and why it produces the observed results. Of all the research I examined, the studies that offer less controversial results are based on observations made on humans.

Those refer to red light effects on joint pain, such as tendinopathy (38), osteoarthritis (8), carpal tunnel syndrome (10), and musculoskeletal disorders (15). Even in these cases, results show it is a treatment with potential modest beneficial effects. By modest I mean that the meta-analysis on red light’s effect on osteoarthritis showed it may be helpful for short term relief of joint pain and morning stiffness, not more (8).

It has also shown some promising adjuvant treatment efficacy for maxillofacial post-surgical recovery (13, 17).

The authors stress that although the mechanisms are unknown, all results are probably related to the anti-inflammatory effect, possibly to local heat application. The effect is frequently considered “modest”.

Does red light therapy increase metabolism?

That’s a basic claim, presented everywhere from peer-reviewed studies, through popularization articles and even advertisement pieces: red light therapy boosts metabolism (with the inference that it should then be helpful for weight loss). That claim is based on a study about the effect of red light over isolated mitochondria (20) and one (equally in vitro) study indicating that “the relevant chromophore” for the absorption of red light photons is cytochrome c oxidase (26). A chromophore is the part of a molecule that causes a conformational change in its structure when hit by light.

The first study, published by Greco and collaborators (20), described the increase in RNA and protein synthesis in mitochondria isolated according to the standard method introduced by Klingenbert and Slencza in 1959. The second one is so obscure that I couldn’t find the original paper to examine.

Mitochondria are the cellular organelles where a process called oxidative phosphorylation takes place. That is the metabolic pathway where the highest number of ATP molecules is produced. Cytochrome c oxidase is the last enzyme in the oxidative phosphorylation chain. Higher mitochondrial activity in vivo is a by-proxy indication of increased energy metabolism.

However, whatever happens in the isolated organelle cannot be automatically generalized to intact tissues or to living organisms. But that is just one of the problems with this argument. There is no direct evidence that Cytochrome c oxidase is the “relevant chromophore” for anything related to red light therapy.

Is red light therapy effective at increasing metabolism? We can’t say it is not. Hot packs over a body part increase blood flow and we could say it increases metabolism in general (including possibly increasing inflammation and infection). But to claim that red light therapy increases metabolism because of in vitro experiments on isolated mitochondria and cells (and even bacteria, as suggested by Karu 1987) is a bit of a stretch.

Does red light therapy help heal wounds or damaged tissue?

Now that collagen is such a hot topic, we get to see two fads combining forces.

The answer to whether red light therapy has wound healing properties is again, maybe: all studies indicating a healing effect were performed in animal models or in vitro cell studies (32, 6, 37).

The healing of damaged tissue basically involves the migration of fibroblasts, which are the cells responsible for “patching up” broken tissue. They are versatile cells that can migrate to damaged areas, reproducing and synthesizing extracellular matrix and collagen (the “glue” that binds cells together).

What research into red light therapy and wound healing has shown, is that it can influence fibroblast migration and collagen synthesis in vitro and in animal models. Therefore, we still don’t know what the mechanism of action is. Note, however, this is different from “collagen production” which many websites claim red light therapy can induce.

Should you use it? If it is a cheap device you will be using at home, why not? After all, research shows “it may help”. But if you are going to pay for a non-FDA approved treatment at a clinic that your insurance will not cover, you might consider the traditional treatment options that are proven to be effective first.

Does red light therapy help immune function?

Direct evidence for an immune-stimulating effect of red light therapy was obtained in animal models and the focus of research has been an acute inflammatory response rather than actual immune function changes (23). Until there is evidence for its effect on humans, you’d better not consider this option.

Does red light therapy reduce the side effects of cancer treatments?

Red light therapy is a moderately beneficial adjuvant therapy for cancer treatment side effects because it is relatively useful in wound healing. This is because some of the painful side effects of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, are epithelial wounds, which is where red light therapy shows some promising applications (45, 25 and 35).

If you are undergoing chemotherapy and external wound healing is an issue, you may try to use red light therapy if you have a cheap device that can be used at home and your doctor is fine with this. Remember: it is not an FDA approved treatment and research is still controversial.

Does red light therapy reduce signs of skin aging?

And here we land at the application of red light that is probably responsible for the fad that grew around it in recent years. So: is it or is it not a skin rejuvenating agent?

Yes, it seems to have a beneficial effect. But then, lots of things seem to be effective: the first study I examined compared infrared light therapy with two different light frequencies and spectra, concluding both worked (42).

The second study compared radiofrequency (RF), electroacupuncture (EA), and low-level laser therapy (LLLT), concluding all of them were beneficial (28). If anything works, why would you choose the least consensual of the treatment options?

The least we can say here is that more research is needed until we can say anything about the benefits of infrared light for skin rejuvenation.

Is red light therapy helpful for hair loss?

The most recent meta-analysis of studies concerning LLLT for hair loss states that data is inconclusive “because there was a lack of visual evidence, sample sizes were low, and there were large variations in study duration and efficacy measurements” (21). Another recent review (44) found methodological problems as well but concluded it is a safe method and effective in some cases.

Hair loss treatment is always long term, frequently frustrating. Maybe you are better off with the approved treatment options that are still much cheaper than LLLT applied at a specialized clinic. The research compares LLLT treatment with minoxidil, for example, which is an over-the-counter topical medication with a proved beneficial effect for hair loss.

Does red light therapy help arthritis?

That is the one case in which research provides a clear cut answer: yes, it does. It helps patients with rheumatoid arthritis with short-term treatment for relief of pain and morning stiffness, and that’s it (8).

I’d say go for it. Arthritis is painful and long-term. Anything that provides you with a little relief for the constant pain this condition causes is worth using, even if it’s only effective in the short term and the effects are modest. You can find red light lamps and devices for that purpose for less than $100.00. Mine lasted for 20 years.

Does red light therapy help depression?

The relationship between light and depression was evidenced when a condition called “seasonal affective disorder” was identified in 1984 (36). A percentage of the human population displays a seasonal pattern of depression or anxiety which, it is believed, is related to daylight variations. From start, light therapy was considered a route to be pursued.

Research shows that exposure to morning light produces benefits to patients and that “light therapy” is effective (39). Another study showed that bright light therapy may be beneficial to depression in general, regardless of whether it is seasonal or not (33).

Since in the 1980s it was believed that it was the blue component in daylight that was effective in the treatment of seasonal affective disorders, this hypothesis was tested and rejected: apparently, any light is beneficial (5).

So, is red light therapy effective for depression? Maybe (Cassano et al 2016). But so is any light, as more solid research shows.

My advice: don’t self-medicate, especially with unproven methods. Talk to a licensed psychiatrist. If you and they decide light is interesting, a morning walk outdoors may be more beneficial.

Does red light increase testosterone?

This seems to be a very exciting non-result for red light: 2.2 million entries from a google search and not a single published scientific article.

All this hype comes from a paper presented at a European Neuropsychology congress (30). The study was performed with 38 males suffering from decreased libido, who were subject to “bright light therapy” (not red light therapy).

An increase in testosterone from around 2.1 ng/ml to 3.6 ng/ml was observed in two weeks. Another study conducted on rams was inconclusive (4).

If you are suffering from a lack of sexual desire and you are hesitant concerning hormone replacement, science suggests, again, that maybe a daily walk in the park might be helpful.

Are there side effects to red light therapy?

One thing that can be said about red light therapy or LLLT is that it is safe. It may not help with your condition, but it won’t make it worse. There is no indication that you may suffer any side effects from it.

Conclusion

Red light therapy has been used for decades, and for decades it has been proved useful. The question is what it is useful for. It seems the claims that it has mysterious molecular properties and that its panaceaic effects are a result of those are unfounded. The panaceaic effects, themselves, seem to be overstated.

Red light therapy is helpful with pain and inflammation, as it has been used from the beginning. More than that, there is not only no consistent evidence, but no real mechanism to support the claims.

Does that mean we shouldn’t use it? No: it means it is an interesting device for pain, joint, and musculoskeletal inflammation and a few other inflammatory conditions. It is safe, cheap and devoid of side effects, as compared to other therapeutic strategies.

Use it wisely.

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An LED red light therapy bed may look like a tanning bed and glow like a tanning bed, but this light-up piece of machinery is definitely NOT a tanning bed. In fact, unlike tanning beds (which have been shown to cause cancer and premature aging), LED light therapy beds may be able to lower your blood pressure, make your hair shinier, and ward off acne and fine lines. All very good things, in our book. And aesthetician Mzia Shiman is one of the only people in New York City to have one. “I wanted something that feeds the entire soul. That literally heals my clients from the inside out,” she says, which is why I didn’t hesitate to book an appointment to test it out when I discovered she had ordered one for her spa.

The LightStim LED bed is the first FDA-cleared, red-light LED bed. It’s designed by an entrepreneurial husband-and-wife duo who discovered that LED red light treatment healed their 21-year-old son’s high blood pressure after two months of laying on the bed three-to-five times a week. Turns out, studies have shown that red light helps the body release nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that helps our cells manage blood pressure levels.

According to additional research, LED red light therapy has even more health benefits than potentially lowering blood pressure. It’s been shown to treat acne, reduce certain scarring, heal burns, delay the signs of aging, decrease exercise-induced muscle fatigue, and even prevent against cardiovascular disease, such as heart attacks and strokes. The science behind this full-body treatment states that just like plants, our skin and other body tissues have the ability to absorb light and turn it into energy, stimulating our body’s natural process to building new proteins and regenerating cells.

When I returned from my tropical vacation to a very dreary New York City, I went to visit Shiman’s spa to try the LED bed. She recommended this was a good time to try it as the red light can also help soothe the skin after sun exposure. When I arrived, I was shocked to see the bed itself looked like a piece of art. “When they delivered the bed to the office, the owners came to make sure it was installed properly, and that it was ready to go for my clients, making it extra special,” said Shiman.

I laid down on the bed on my back with just a towel over me. Within the first five minutes, I instantly felt relaxed by the red light enveloping my entire body. After 20 minutes, the bed turned off and I had 20 seconds to turn around onto my stomach. As I laid my face onto the outrageously comfortable head rest, I felt pleasantly warm and just the slightest bit sweaty. For the remaining 20 minutes, the treatment relaxed me as if I was transported back to the beach in Mexico. When it was over, I felt warmed to my core, rejuvenated, and refreshed. The muscle tension in my feet from several nights dancing salsa in heels seemed to instantly melt away. By the end of my session, I was more than impressed.

While instructions will vary depending on the device you choose, LED treatments are usually light on labour. “The good thing about LED masks is they are pretty simple to use and generally only need around 10 minutes of dedicated time,” explains Thomas. While a mask offers more ‘slip on and relax’ appeal, “wand devices are designed to be held over your skin for 20-30 mins, so it’s normally a toss-up between an aching arm or boredom that leads a dedicated skin warrior to fall out of love with their new skin gadget.”

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MZ Skin’s LED face mask emits all five colours of light, so you can use it to treat everything from acne to wrinkles and even hyperpigmentation. (The infra-red setting is an especially impressive addition.)

Dr. Zamani recommends using it 2-3 times a week, starting with 10 minutes and building up to 30.

What colour LED do I need?

Red: The majority of at-home LED masks offer a red light setting. At the lighter end of the spectrum, red light works to soothe inflammation and redness, while deeper shades penetrate the skin further to prompt cellular repair and circulation, resulting in a plumper, more vibrant complexion.

Blue: This antibacterial light is used to kill the bacteria that leads to breakouts, making it ideal for treating acne-prone skin. Blue light also helps purify the skin and regulate oil glands.

Amber: Less common in at-home devices, this shade works to revitalise the skin, reducing any swelling and increasing radiance.

Infrared: Invisible to the naked eye, this light penetrates deeper than any other colour in the spectrum. It combats the signs of ageing by replenishing dermal and epidermal cells, stimulates the natural production of collagen and elastin, and speeds up the recovery process.

Are LED face masks safe?

Like many beauty innovations, at-home LED masks have been subject to controversy, sparked by concerns over their potential impact on eye health. While most experts agree that, when used correctly, LED masks are a safe and efficacious tool, it’s vital to invest in one that has been FDA-approved.

“At-home LED devices are a fraction of the strength of devices that are used in professional settings,” says Dr. Gross. “The testing for at-home devices is actually more rigorous than professional ones because the device is being cleared to use without the presence of a professional – there’s a higher-level burden of proof to show efficacy and safety because a consumer is in charge of their treatment. For this reason, we focus on specifics like safe optical output and recommended treatment times.” The best at-home LED masks will also be developed with in-build safety mechanisms: look for auto shut-offs, heat regulators and timers.

According to Thomas, the most important consideration to make is that, when wearing a mask that covers your entire face, your eyes should be kept closed – so no slumping in-front of the TV. “The lights are not strictly dangerous, but as they can be very bright you could get irritation. I would say using them for a few minutes daily would be fine as long as you do not have a pre-existing medical condition that sensitises you to light.”

Indeed, Dr. Zamani recommends avoiding light therapy if you suffer from seizures or epilepsy. She also does not recommend LED for anyone with migraines, eye conditions, or taking certain types of antibiotics. Of course, a professional should be your first port of call if you are at all unsure.

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Related Story

Do anti-aging lights really work?

Let’s face facts — no one wants to get old. No one wants wrinkles crisscrossing their face like a gas station road map. No one wants gray hair, crow’s feet and liver spots. Even the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon didn’t want to get long in the tooth. That’s why he set out looking for the Fountain of Youth.

De Leon failed, but that hasn’t stopped our search for that legendary fountain. Instead of a rushing spring of mineral water, our Fountain of Youth comes in the form of pills, lotions, creams and dozens of other anti-aging products. Our desire to stay young forever is big business. Sales of anti-aging lotions, supplements and other products are expected to top $291 billion by 2015 .

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Topping the list of I-don’t-want-to-get-old remedies is light therapy. Light therapy is a medical treatment in which beams of light supposedly melt the years away. How does light therapy work? Our body’s own aging process, coupled with exposure to the sun and pollution, destroys collagen, the connective tissue in our bodies that keeps skin healthy and wrinkle free . Light therapy uses highly concentrated beams of light energy to tunnel though the skin and jump start the body’s natural collagen production.

Anti-aging light therapy comes in two main forms. The first is photo-dynamic therapy, which is light therapy administered by a doctor. The second are hand-held anti-aging lights that consumers can buy. But the biggest question is do either of these light therapies really work, or are they simply methods hawked by the modern-day snake oil salesman? Go on to the next page to find out.

Red Light Therapy Treatment for Collagen, Wrinkles & Anti-Aging

The Truth: Red Light Therapy, Does It Help You Look Younger?

There are many medical applications for red light therapy but it is best known for its anti-aging effects. It is quite astonishing to claim that a certain wavelength of light can reverse the hands of time and help you look younger than your biological age. But, can science back this claim?

How can a simple few minutes of treatment, a few times per week if not daily, erase fine lines and wrinkles? It sounds impossible that’s why you can’t blame a lot of people for being skeptical on this matter. We, at Trophy Skin, would like to take this chance to educate and inform people on how this simple red light therapy can combat wrinkles.

But first, it is important to understand how these fine lines and wrinkles develop in the first place.

Origin and Factors that Affect It

As we age, we lose our skin’s elasticity because we produce less collagen. Because of that, our skin loses its capability to bounce back in place. Several intrinsic and extrinsic factors contribute to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Intrinsic factors are those that you have no control about such as your genes and your biological age. We will all grow old eventually and we cannot prevent time from aging us but we can grow old gracefully and concentrate on other factors that we can do something about.

External factors are those that our environment can influence such as cigarette smoking, drying effects of the weather, poor lifestyle and diet, exposure to harsh sun or too much UV-exposure, or by using harsh skin care products.

So how can Red Light Therapy help in reversing fine lines and wrinkles?

Red light therapy powers up the cells to release Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP to increase the metabolism, cell regeneration, and cellular processes. The release of cellular energy makes the most of the nutrients, oxygen, detoxification, growth, and repair that is already started by exposure to red light treatment.

Red light therapy stimulates blood circulation and the development of new capillaries. Because of this, more nutrients and oxygen is delivered to the skin that results in a healthier radiance. This light stimulus gives you that instant glow that people associate with healthy and young skin.

Red light therapy also increases lymphatic system activity to reduce puffiness and swelling. Because of the increased blood circulation, the lymphatic system does a better job of removing excess fluids and wastes from the skin tissues. The results are instantaneous and can be noticed after the first and succeeding treatment.

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Red light therapy also boosts the production of collagen and fibroblasts. These two superheroes are what makes you achieve the youthful appearance over time. Collagen (together with elastin) gives your skin the elasticity, firmness, and fullness that somehow disappears when people age. The increased collagen and fibroblasts help reduce pore size, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, and help improve and smooth out the texture of the skin.

Red Light Therapy and its Anti-Aging Results

Red light therapy boosts blood circulation, collagen and fibroblasts production, and development of new capillaries. Because of these, red light has the power to smooth overall skin tone; reduce fine lines and wrinkles; repair sun-damaged skin; lighten and fade stretch marks and scars; hasten the skin’s capacity to heal blemishes; and diminish flushing, redness and broken capillaries.

How to Get Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is available at your local dermatologist’s clinic, medical spas or beauty salons. Many spas also offer full body red light therapy beds and are sometimes called “Red Light Tanning.” This is offered to do a full-body treatment with the hopes of vanishing stretch marks and aging skin for the entire body. It is time-saving since professional devices can cover the entire face or body in a single treatment. However, this has to be done in a series of sessions since you cannot magically make the signs of aging disappear in one single treatment. Consecutive treatments are recommended to maintain and achieve the anti-aging results and could end up too costly to maintain.

Red light therapy can also be used at home. Thanks to the research of NASA, it is FDA-cleared and is proven to be safe and effective to be used at home. Numerous devices are available in the market that promises to deliver the same results as professional red light therapy devices.

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Hand-held red light therapy devices are available from different brands and are quite popular today. Trophy Skin’s very own red light therapy treatment is also available for those who do not want to hold the device for a certain timeframe. It is capable to do a full facial treatment in one sitting and comparably more comfortable to use than hand-held versions. In just five minutes, you can reverse aging and look younger each day.

What a Red Light Therapy Treatment Feels Like

Depending on what product you choose, red light therapy treatment has many things in common with traditional skin care solutions.

What is Red Light Therapy Exactly?

Although we recommend that you follow what the manufacturer recommends you to do, these things are standard practice:

  1. Wash your face to remove any product, grime, dirt and oil from your face. You do not want any extra layers to inhibit the light that is supposed to penetrate your skin to activate cellular changes.
  2. Depending on the product you choose, there is a certain timeframe that you need to follow to achieve the results you desire. It can range from a few seconds to 30 minutes, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Depending on the manufacturer, you may opt to use the product once or twice a day, until you achieve the results you desire. You can then reduce the treatment time to twice or three times a week to continue getting results.
  4. Different people will react differently to the light therapy. Some report feeling a pulsating effect, some feel nothing at all. There is really no right or wrong sensation when it comes to light therapy. Although one thing is for sure, this treatment is painless and should not cause any discomfort while in use.
  5. There is no downtime in light therapy. You can apply your serums and moisturizers after the treatment. You can immediately apply make-up after each use.
  6. Remember that red light therapy improves blood circulation and nutrition to your skin. Applying a good quality serum or antioxidant maximizes the benefit you get in light therapy.

What to Expect

To document your journey to Red Light Therapy and see your results, it is helpful to get “before and after” pictures. This is an effective way to gauge how red light therapy works for you.

Red light therapy gives you the instant glow in your face however, it does not correct the fine lines and wrinkles overnight. Collagen production will take time and although red light boosts its creation, it will still take weeks, even months to see visible results.

The results you will get will be gradual as repair of skin tissue is a gradual process. There is no instant, magical, or overnight result you will get with red light therapy. It may not be instant but after each day, you and other people will notice the difference in your skin. In clinical studies, it takes at least 8 weeks to see visible results. Be patient. Your body is doing its work to reverse the hands of time.

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What Does It Treat?

Researchers have known about red light therapy for a while. But there aren’t a lot of studies on it, and they don’t know if it’s better than other types of treatment used to help you heal. Red light therapy may help with:

  • Dementia. In one small study, people with dementia who got regular near-infrared light therapy on their heads and through their noses for 12 weeks had better memories, slept better, and were angry less often.
  • Dental pain. In another small study, people with temporomandibular dysfunction syndrome (TMD) had less pain, clicking, and jaw tenderness after red light therapy.
  • Hair loss. One study found that men and women with androgenetic alopecia (a genetic disorder that causes hair loss) who used an at-home RLT device for 24 weeks grew thicker hair. People in the study who used a fake RLT device didn’t get the same results.
  • Osteoarthritis. One study found red and infrared light therapy cut osteoarthritis-related pain by more than 50%.
  • Tendinitis. A very small study of 7 people suggests RLT lessens inflammation and pain in people with Achilles tendinitis.
  • Wrinkles and other signs of skin aging and skin damage. Research shows RLT may smooth your skin and help with wrinkles. RLT also helps with acne scars, burns, and signs of UV sun damage.

Red Light Therapy for Healing Injuries, Wounds, Scars, and Burns

Red light therapy is a safe, natural way to speed up the healing process for burns, wounds, surgery incisions, and scars, as shown in numerous peer-reviewed clinical studies. Patients recovering from injuries and medical procedures have experienced much less pain and inflammation, with faster healing results, when using red light treatments.
Light therapy has become a popular natural healing solution and pain reliever for everyone from pro athletes to senior citizens with arthritis. And all without the side effects and major health risks you get with prescription pain meds and invasive procedures.

This educational article breaks down the research on the healing properties of red light therapy, especially for treating burns, healing wounds & scars, recovering from injury & surgery, and managing pain & inflammation.

You can read more about how red light improves skin health and aging here. And about the science of red light therapy and natural joint pain and inflammation relief here.

How Red Light Heals Skin Wounds and Diminishes Scars

If you’re not familiar with red light therapy, this article gives a good overview of what it is and how it works. The short version is this: red light therapy is natural, non-invasive, and drug-free. A device like a Joovv delivers safe, concentrated wavelengths of therapeutic natural light to your skin and cells, where it reduces oxidative stress and stimulates cellular energy production (adenosine triphosphate, or ATP). That helps your body power itself, regenerate & heal faster, and reduce pain & inflammation.

The inflammation reduction is central to red light’s therapeutic healing effects. After injuries and operations, inflammation and swelling is common, and creates pain, reduces activity, and slows the healing process. Red light therapy has been shown in numerous trials to reduce acute and chronic inflammation. You can read more about red light and inflammation here.

Studies on red light therapy and wound healing have also shown how cells exposed to natural light produce new blood vessels, new fibroblasts (which create collagen and connective fibers to heal wounds) and new tissue formation—all leading to faster, stronger healing outcomes, with less patient pain.

You can read more about red light therapy increasing natural collagen here.

Healing Wounds, Cuts, and Incisions with Red Light

Red light therapy has a strong clinical record on healing wounds, cuts, and incisions, and for helping patients recover from surgery faster, with less pain and inflammation.

A 2018 review examined numerous controlled trials on red light and wound healing. Researchers determined that, across trials and studies, red light therapy significantly increased tensile strength and wound contraction, for faster, more effective healing results across the body.

Faster, Less Painful Recovery from Surgery with Red Light Therapy

The review cited above also concluded that red light therapy is an effective healing aid for both open incisions and sutured incisions from surgeries and operations. These results are very promising for patients and physicians hoping to improve the surgical recovery process and limit pain & inflammation with safe, natural treatments.

In study after study, patients and mammals recovering from surgery and wounds have experienced less pain and faster healing with the help of natural red light treatments.

Red Light Therapy for Healing Post-Surgery Incisions

Recovering from invasive surgeries, especially in places like your sternum and chest, is a major source of pain and debilitation for millions of people each year. Prescription pain and NSAID inflammation medications have a mixed record at best, with lots of risks and side effects.

Fortunately, clinical results show how red light therapy is a safe and effective natural pain and strain reliever, especially in a post-surgery recovery environment, when faster healing means less additional health risk and loss of activity.

A randomized double-blind study followed 90 patients after sternum surgery to analyze their individual recoveries and pain levels with and without red light therapy. Researchers determined the following from the post-sternum surgery patients:

  • Reduced pain experienced in significant numbers among red light therapy patients versus those who did not use red light therapy.
  • Very little coughing pain after one month of red light treatments for almost every patient.
  • Less incision bleeding among red light therapy patients.
  • Fewer ruptures of wounds when treated with red light.
  • Less excess blood and complications with the red light therapy group.

The early and very encouraging human clinical results in these types of studies builds on many years of successful laboratory work with other mammals and testing models. For example, a study with rodents demonstrated how red light therapy significantly reduced inflammation in the vital early stages of healing, and that wound closure was far stronger with red light.

Recovering from Plastic Surgery with Red Light

Red light therapy is an effective natural pain and inflammation reliever in all kinds of post-op environments, including plastic surgery. Many of these procedures create a great deal of inflammation that makes recovery longer and more painful.

Researchers in 2015 performed a systematic review of 40 studies (28 animal and 12 human trials) on healing from plastic surgery, finding that red light treatments helped heal acute wounds and improved burn scars.

Red Light Therapy Improves the Appearance of Scars

With many skin injuries—whether burns or cuts or surgical scars—there is a lasting (and usually unwelcome) blemish. Scientists have conducted studies looking at the effects of red light on reducing the appearance of scars.

Healing Raised Scars with Red Light

One peer-reviewed study looked at hypertrophic (raised) scars on 15 children. Researchers treated one half of children’s scars for 3 months and compared the difference to the untreated area. They determined scars treated with red light therapy showed significantly reduced scarification and appearance, and concluded that red light treatments are safe and effective for raised scars.

Less Visible Scarring with Red Light

A 2004 study of burn scars found that patients treated with red light, on average, showed twice the decrease in visible scarring as those who didn’t use red light therapy. No patients reported a negative effect from the treatments, which is the norm for red light therapy trials.

Natural Health & Skincare Professionals Use Joovv for Healing Skin

Joovv’s red light therapy devices are used by leading estheticians and skincare professionals.
Natural health leaders are also using Joovv for its healing skin properties. Katie of Wellness Mama tried red light therapy after her husband had hernia surgery:
“My husband used it twice a day and healed faster than expected, so I decided to try it too. The biggest thing I noticed was that my c-section scar and stretch marks from having kids started to fade. What mom wouldn’t love that?”*
You can see more natural health leaders who use Joovv here.

Red Light Therapy Improves the Healing of Burns

In numerous studies and trials, red light therapy treatments have proven to be a natural boost to the burn healing and recovery process. Taken as a whole, the results show much faster healing, with less pain, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Plus better cosmetic recovery results, and all without drugs or chemicals, or noted side effects.

Red light therapy for burn healing has been repeatedly tested in laboratory settings on rodents and mammals, with encouraging results:

Red Light Therapy Speeds the Burn Healing Process

Red light therapy treatments help people and mammals heal from burn wounds faster, and in a natural way with few risks or side effects. Peer-reviewed studies in 2016 found that red light accelerated the repair of burn wounds by reducing inflammation and increasing tissue formation.

A 2018 study also showed red light aided the development of new blood vessels, and stimulated the increase of fibroblasts (cells that aid in tissue repair).

A recent systematic review evaluated 22 separate studies conducted over the last 17 years, with researchers concluding that red light is “effective in accelerating the healing process.” These are two examples of the results for second-degree and third-degree burns:

  • Second-Degree Burns: The quicker a burn wound can be treated, the better. Scientists in one trial examined rodents with second-degree burns and found that introducing red light during the proliferative phase, or the healing phase when the body begins to rebuild, was crucial to the final tissue repair outcome.
  • Third-Degree Burns: Over four years, a Brazilian team of researchers examined red light’s effects on mammals with third-degree burns. They found red light not only reduced inflammation, but also upped natural collagen production, which led to a quicker healing process for serious third-degree burns.

Red Light Therapy Decreases Inflammation from Burns

Almost every lab study on red light therapy and burn healing has noted a significant decrease in inflammation levels versus placebo and control groups. Less inflammation means less pain and discomfort during the burn recovery process. This aligns with the positive human results on red light and inflammation reduction (Joovv is registered with the FDA for treating pain and strain.)
For more on how red light therapy decreases acute and chronic inflammation, check this out.

Groundbreaking Human Trial on Red Light Therapy and Third-Degree Diabetic Burns

In 2016, researchers conducted the first human trial to combine red light therapy and split-thickness skin grafting (the gold standard for third-degree burn treatment). The trial was conducted with patients who also have diabetes, which makes burn recovery slower and more challenging, due to problems with blood flow. For patients with third-degree burns and diabetes, skin grafting has a lower success rate, and amputations are more likely.

Fortunately, red light treatments had a major positive effect for people with diabetes and third-degree burns, with complete healing in all patients, with no amputations. The doctors used red and near infrared light treatments before and after skin grafts, concluding: “The results of this study showed complete healing in the last 8 weeks for all patients who were candidates for amputation.”

Conclusion: Red Light Speeds Wound & Scar Healing and Decreases Pain & Inflammation

In study after study, red light therapy has proven to be a safe, natural way to speed up the healing process for burns, wounds, surgery incisions, and scars. Patients recovering from injuries and surgeries have also experienced much less pain and inflammation, and without the common risks and side effects of prescription drugs and invasive procedures.
Ready to try red light? Check out Joovv’s red light therapy devices.

You can read more about how red light improves skin health and aging here. And about the science of red light therapy and natural joint pain and inflammation relief here.

Scientific Sources and Medical References:

da Silva Melo, Alves LP, et al. LED phototherapy in full-thickness burns induced by CO2 laser in rats skin. Lasers in Medical Science. 2018 Sep.

Gál P, Stausholm MB, et al. Should open excisions and sutured incisions be treated differently? A review and meta-analysis of animal wound models following low-level laser therapy. Lasers in Medical Science. 2018 Aug.

de Oliveira RA, Fernandes GA, et al. The effects of LED emissions on sternotomy incision repair after myocardial revascularization: a randomized double-blind study with follow-up. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May.

Güngörmüş M, Akyol U. The effect of gallium-aluminum-arsenide 808-nm low-level laser therapy on healing of skin incisions made using a diode laser. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2009 Dec.

Hersant B, SidAhmed-Mezi M, et al. Current indications of low-level laser therapy in plastic surgery: a review. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2015 May.

Alsharnoubi J, Shoukry K, et al. Evaluation of scars in children after treatment with low-level laser. Lasers in Medical Science.

Gaida K, Koller R, et al. Low Level Laser Therapy–a conservative approach to the burn scar? Burns : journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries. 2004 June.

Brassolatti P, de Andrade ALM, et al. Evaluation of the low-level laser therapy application parameters for skin burn treatment in experimental model: a systematic review. Lasers in Medical Science. 2018 July.

Trajano ET, da Trajano LA, et al. Low-level red laser improves healing of second-degree burn when applied during proliferative phase. Lasers in Medical Science. 2015 May.

Fiório FB, Albertini R, et al. Effect of low-level laser therapy on types I and III collagen and inflammatory cells in rats with induced third-degree burns. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 Jan.

Fiório FB, Silveira L Jr. Effect of incoherent LED radiation on third-degree burning wounds in rats. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2011 Dec.

Rezaei Kanavi M, Tabeie F, et al. Short-term effects of extremely low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic field and pulsed low-level laser therapy on rabbit model of corneal alkali burn. Experimental Eye Research. 2016 Apr.

Dahmardehei M, Kazemikhoo N, et al. Effects of low level laser therapy on the prognosis of split-thickness skin graft in type 3 burn of diabetic patients: a case series. Lasers in Medical Science. 2016 Apr.

Red light therapy uses certain wavelengths of light through the skin, with the goal of improving skin quality, inflammation, and even mental health with very few side effects. Does it work? Read on to learn more.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy shines red light wavelengths (620-750 nm) through human skin to elicit certain effects in the underlying tissue. It usually uses a whole panel of red light or an LED panel.

Treatment sessions tend to be short, lasting only seconds to minutes in duration, and are usually conducted every other day for weeks to months.

Surprisingly, unlike many other treatments used to address similar conditions, there are virtually no reported side effects.

Mechanisms

Most of red light’s effects are through the cells’ mitochondria absorbing light. In cell studies, the cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria absorbs red light, which causes it to release nitric oxide, increase ATP, and decrease oxidative stress .

According to some researchers, this can then cause a chain reaction in the cells and affect responses such as cell formation, movement, death, and inflammation. However, its effects depend on the type of cell and its status .

This increased ATP (energy) production is a possible cause of light therapy’s positive effects on muscle recovery and physical performance .

Potential Health Benefits

While there are FDA-approved red light devices, these are broadly classified as class 2 devices; that is, while there is evidence to support their use in some health conditions (which we’ll discuss in this section), they are currently not sufficiently regulated to guarantee the effectiveness or safety of any particular device.

If you are interested in using red light therapy, we recommend talking to your doctor to choose the right device and determine whether this strategy is right for you.

Likely Effective For

1) Skin Quality

In a study of 31 subjects, a combination of red and infrared LED light therapy helped improve skin conditions. They had less sun-induced aging and wrinkles .

In a DB-RCT of 52 female patients, 12 weeks of daily treatment with red light therapy significantly improved eye wrinkles .

A similar study showed that LED therapy is effective against sunspots in middle-aged participants .

In a single-blinded RCT, red light was superior to infrared light in treating acne .

The addition of red light to blue light also improved acne symptoms significantly compared to blue light alone and benzoyl peroxide in an RCT of 107 acne patients .

Red light therapy also significantly improved skin complexion, roughness, and collagen density in an RCT of 136 participants .

However, in human cells, several characteristics associated with skin scarring increased with red light like reactive oxygen species and collagen formation inhibition .

Possibly Effective For

2) Oral Mucositis

A common side effect of chemotherapy is oral mucositis, which is when inflammation breaks down the lining of the mouth. In a systematic review of 11 RCTs, both red and infrared light therapy significantly reduced the incidence and severity of oral mucositis .

3) Bipolar Disorder

A review of multiple types of light therapy found red light therapy improved depressive symptoms and prevented relapse after sleep deprivation in patients with bipolar disorder .

4) Physical Performance

In a study of 39 heart disease patients, red light therapy improved performance and decreased chest pain during exercise tests .

In a DB-RCT, 40 healthy untrained men underwent an intensive exercise session. The participants that underwent red light therapy had significantly improved performance, decreased soreness, and reduced indicators of muscle damage compared to ones that did not have light therapy .

In female athletes, 2 weeks of red light therapy improved sleep quality and endurance .

Red light therapy also significantly improved recovery after high-intensity exercise in a DB-RCT of 40 volunteers .

Interestingly, these results have caused researchers to question whether it should be permitted in athletic competitions due to its effectiveness in enhancing athletic performance and improving recovery .

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of red light therapy for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before using red light therapy, and it should never be used to replace something your doctor has recommended or prescribed.

5) Wound Healing

In a triple-blind RCT of 12 dental patients, red light therapy improved the healing rate after oral surgery. However, it did not reduce pain .

In an RCT of 16 diabetic patients, red light therapy significantly decreased diabetic foot ulcer size and reduced pain .

Another RCT of 30 diabetic patients showed similar results; red light therapy combined with conventional therapy reduced ulcer size more than conventional therapy alone .

In diabetic rat models of skin wound and burn injury, red light significantly improved healing and was superior to infrared therapy for burn wounds .

Red light also enhanced the healing rate of incision wounds in diabetic rats and reduced the risk of infection .

In rabbits with skin wounds, red light therapy decreased healing time significantly more than blue light or no light treatment. It promoted tissue and cell growth .

6) Inflammation

One of the main uses of red light therapy is to treat inflammation .

Red light therapy limits the inflammatory response and reduces oxidative damage by reducing inflammatory cytokines (TNF-a, IL-1A, and IL-6) .

A review on muscle repair (in animal models) concluded that red light therapy has the capacity to reduce inflammation, positively impact growth factors, and increase blood vessel formation .

7) Pain

In a study (DB-RCT) of 80 chemotherapy patients, red light significantly reduced self-reported pain .

Red light therapy might treat tennis elbow for a short period of time, but these findings were only shown by one study (RCT) .

With regard to chronic low back pain, findings are mixed .

In mice, red LED therapy reduced pain and improved motion after spinal cord injury .

8) Cognitive Function

Red light therapy has been studied in a wide variety of conditions including stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, depression, and cognitive enhancement in healthy subjects .

In a DB-RCT of 11 dementia patients, red and near-infrared light therapy improved memory, attention, and executive function .

In one case study, red light therapy also decreased depression, anxiety, headache, and insomnia. Meanwhile, their cognitive function and quality of life improved .

Red light therapy may also improve brain function after a traumatic brain injury. In two case studies, red light therapy improved memory, attention, and even reduced PTSD in one patient .

In rats, red light treatment balanced inflammatory marker levels (IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-6) and prevented cell death. This helped improve brain function for 4 weeks after a head injury .

9) Antimicrobial Activity

In HPV patients, 3 months of red light treatment also helped eradicate the human papillomavirus from their body. However, it is possible to be re-infected after light treatment is finished .

In dental patients, red light therapy can help reduce infections and inflammation during oral surgery .

Red light killed bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes, Actinomyces odontolyticus, and Porphyromonas gingivalis) in plaque samples from dental patients .

10) Hair Growth

In a DB-RCT, red light therapy every other day for 17 weeks induced hair regrowth in women with androgenic alopecia (balding due to hormonal imbalance) .

In a DB-RCT of 41 men, red light treatment every other day for 16 weeks significantly increased hair follicles relative to placebo .

Reviews on alopecia and hair loss concluded red light therapy was safe and effective for both men and women .

Side Effects, Caveats, Gene Interactions

There are almost no reported side effects of red light therapy. The most common complaint is tiredness and redness of the skin .

Nevertheless, we recommend talking to your doctor before attempting to use red light therapy for any medical purpose, and never use it in place of something your doctor has recommended or prescribed.

Caveats

Although the effects of red light therapy have been consistent across a wide range of wound types and animal models, large clinical trials in humans are lacking in this area.

Additionally, most of the studies available are using laser therapy, not led panels. Even though both use red light wavelengths, the effects of lasers and panels may be different.

Gene Interactions

Red light treatment can increase and decrease the expression (production) of many genes. In human cells, by increasing certain gene activity, red light helps increase cell formation, antioxidant activity, and energy production .

User Experiences

Users report experiencing a wide range of things, including improved cognitive function, attention, working memory, mood, motivation, wakefulness, and physical performance.

Some users of red light therapy have reported hair regrowth, reduced skin wrinkles, and pain relief. One user reported being able to work for incredibly long periods of time without feeling tired.

The most common responses seem to be claims of pain reduction, enhanced cognitive function, and skin improvement.

Although some people have reported improvements in tinnitus symptoms from red light therapy, no human trials have been performed. There are some studies using red light lasers, but not red light led panels .

Red light therapy lights

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