Red light therapy is a type of LED light therapy that uses red LED lights in combination with near-infrared light (NIR). It has many benefits, including improved skin health, reduced inflammation, and increased circulation. Red light therapy can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including acne, wrinkles, and joint pain. It is a safe and effective treatment option for many people.
What is red light therapy?
Most people think of light as something that only allows for visibility. Sunlight, for instance, allows you to see what's going on around you and at nighttime, the absence makes your environment invisible. But that's not the only part of the story. Light is actually essential for life, and just like how plants need sunlight to survive, so do most living organisms on the planet, and we are no different.
For health benefits all over our bodies, sunlight exposure is essential because it provides vital nutrients through photosynthesis-dependent food chains. We need the ultraviolet light (UV) spectrum from sunlight to produce vitamin D, and just as important is the infrared light (IR) spectrum from sunlight for things like our circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate our sleep cycles.
Today, many people spend most of their time indoors - artificial light bulbs have become the main source of light exposure for humans, and our natural exposure to UV and IR is limited. This creates a knock-on effect on our health and provides the opportunity for disease to grow.
Red light therapy (RLT), also known as photobiomodulation, or low-level light therapy (LLLT) is a LED therapy light that utilises near-infrared light treatment in combination with red LED light, typically on the skin surface, that promotes tissue repair, hair growth, skin rejuvenation, reduction of fine lines, collagen production, hormone balance and cellular energy and repair.
This non-invasive treatment has been dubbed the 'fountain of youth' and its light therapy treatments seem to have no bounds when it comes to alleviating and supporting a range of medical conditions.
How does red light therapy work?
Light is made up of wavelengths. Infrared light, for example, bypasses the skin and warms the body from the inside. The sun's wavelengths provide you with the nutrients that your cells need to produce energy and function optimally. If you spend all your time indoors, you won't get enough sunlight exposure and won't receive these nutrients.
The sun emits a variety of wavelengths. Visible (all the colours of the rainbow), infrared (IR), and ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths. Each of these wavelengths has a different physiological and biological response in the human body.
The human body absorbs these wavelengths through photoreceptors in the skin and converts the light into energy. This process works similarly to photosynthesis, in that plants use light to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
In your cells, that process is essentially reversed. The energy-producing processes in your cells are also affected by light, and this basic process of light absorption by photoreceptors brings many fundamental health functions.
Red light therapy (RLT) works with a specific combination of red and near-infrared light that activates your cells to perform optimally. RLT works differently from an infrared sauna as provides minimal heat, even though they both may use NIR. Red light is made up of wavelengths between ~ 620 and 780 nanometers in length, while NIR wavelengths are found between 780 and 1,400 nanometers. Only together do these two wavelengths create what is known as red light therapy.
History of red light therapy
Red light therapy has been used for decades as low-power laser therapy. Low-level laser therapy almost exclusively uses light emitting diodes (LED) lights because there’s almost no risk of damaging any tissue when receiving treatments.
What's more, red light therapy has been the subject of hundreds of studies. When the recommended treatment parameters are employed in these investigations, around 85% of them resulting in patient satisfaction.
Due to these promising scientific discoveries, red light therapy has quickly become popular among athletes and Olympic participants in recent years. Natural health clinics and therapeutic institutions have also begun using this sort of treatment for faster recovery to help their large clientele.
In fact, light therapy has stormed the health sector. According to Harvard University Professor Michael Hamblin, he believes most homes will have a red light therapy device within a decade.
Benefits of red light therapy
The list of health advantages is quite long and it can be concluded that - enhanced cell health or increased cellular frequency - is a necessary condition for many bodily and mental processes to function at their best. Here is a short list of associated health benefits to RLT:
• improved collagen and elastin production
• reduce inflammation
• increase circulation
• treating a variety of skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions
• wound healing
• improve acne
• rheumatoid arthritis
• photoaging skin
• improved circadian rhythm
• pain relief
• hormone balance
• promote hair growth
Recently, a controlled trial found promising results for skin repair. The randomised controlled trials looked at the biochemical evaluations of intradermal collagen density (skin complexion) for the use of low-level laser light therapy on skin issues. The controlled trial found intradermal collagen density increase in the treatment area. This resulted in lines, wrinkles, skin roughness and skin conditions to be noticeably improved.
Let's delve into the biological effects of low-level light therapy. To activate photobiomodulation - the effects of low-level laser therapy - requires red and near-infrared wavelengths. The combination of these two parts of the light spectrum at a sufficient level is required for photobiomodulation to function. If the low-level laser light output is too little, the advantages will be decreased. Furthermore, using various infrared wavelengths and coloured lights does not result in photobiomodulation. This is why traditional red light bulbs are less beneficial than blue and infrared ones for health.
One chemical reaction from receiving treatment is the activation of biological processes in your mitochondria. Mitochondria has a variety of functions, in particular, they are responsible for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP acts as an energy store in the cells and thus, fuels the body.
Within a very short time after exposure, the mitochondria upgrade their power station function and produce more fuel as ATP. The increased ATP production, in turn, leads to more energy in the cells and subsequently the body.
How to make red light therapy work
When possible, the skin should be exposed without obstructions. You should thus avoid wearing clothing, cosmetics, and glasses. Because near-infrared light has a beneficial effect on the region surrounding the eyes, experts believe that specialised protective goggles are not required as long as you do not stare at the light emitting diode (LED) for an extended period of time.
You can be in either a sitting or standing position. The main thing to remember is to maintain a distance of approximately 15 cm for optimal impact. It is critical that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations regarding this matter. If you stand too far away from the equipment, the power density will be insufficient, resulting in subpar outcomes. Simply said, this non-thermal LED light must be close to the ski, similar to tanning booths or tanning salons.
For beginners, we recommend a gradual introduction period. Gradually increase the amount of time you use it, to 10 to 15 minutes a session. This step is especially important if you have a chronic health problem. Also, if you’ve got any problem areas on your body, such as painful joints, you might want to treat these areas individually first, before progressing to full body treatments.
Over time, building up to an average of one daily session is great. Most people use red light therapy 4-5 times a week, and experience the greatest benefit with that habit.
If you miss a day or have to do without your red light therapy due to important appointments, this is completely okay. However, you should not skip more than two or three days a week, otherwise, your results will be inconsistent or sub-par. With LED light therapy it is very similar to fitness training: you will experience the best results with consistent exposure over time.
Building up to a daily session after time is ideal. The majority of people use red light therapy 4-5 times per week, and the greatest benefit comes with that practice. LED light treatment is comparable to exercise in that you'll get the best results with consistent exposure over time.
You may use red light therapy to start the day with enthusiasm or recover immediately following a training session in the afternoon. Even at night, treatment may be beneficial and provide an alternative to bright, artificial light. Experimentation is recommended when using nighttime exposure because certain people find red light therapy too stimulating just before going to bedtime.