The Health Benefits Of Red Light Therapy
Sleep better, look younger, burn more fat, get more energy, heal faster, reduce pain, and support your hormones… What if I told you that you can receive all these benefits by standing still in your home for 5-10 minutes per day? It sounds too good to be true, but all this is possible with red light therapy.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is also known as photobiomodulation (PBM), or low level light therapy (LLLT). This therapy uses specific wavelengths of red light that are absorbed by the skin and have many positive effects on the body.
In the early 1990s, NASA noticed that specific wavelengths of red light delivered through light emitting diodes (LEDs) were effective for plant growth in space. They started researching medical applications for people, and found many health benefits. In the 30 years since then, extensive clinical research has been conducted on red light therapy. (1)
There are thousands of peer-reviewed clinical studies available on PubMed, showing positive results for everything from anti-aging, collagen production, and muscle recovery, to improved sleep, reduced pain and inflammation, and more. And all this is accomplished simply by standing in front of one of these special light panels for 5-10 minutes. No drugs or chemicals, no damaging UV rays, and no deleterious side effects. (2)
Not just any red light works, though; you need certain wavelengths and intensity. Red light in the 630-670 nanometer range and near-infrared light in the 810-880 nanometer range have shown the most documented clinical benefits. (3)
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Just like our skin absorbs sunlight to make vitamin D, and plants convert sunlight into energy via photosynthesis, our bodies have the ability to metabolize red and near-infrared light into a form of cellular energy called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. You may remember from biology class that ATP is the energy currency of all cells. ATP essential to restoring, repairing, energizing, and maintaining our bodies. (4, 5)
Unfortunately, we no longer get enough exposure to sunlight during the right hours to get sufficient red light exposure on our skin. Compounding that, our stressful modern lives interrupt the body’s ability to make ATP. Without sufficient ATP, the body ages and deteriorates faster. It can’t make enough collagen, metabolize fat, synthesize hormones or provide us with energy. We begin to feel tired, and find that we don’t handle stress or illness as well. (6)
Six Benefits Of Red Light Therapy
- Increases Collagen Production and Skin Health
- Improve skin clarity, tone and texture (7)
- Increase collagen (which provides suppleness) and elastin (which provides elasticity) (8)
- Assist with fading of scars (including acne scars) and stretch marks (9)
- Reduces acne (10)
- Healing sun damage (11)
- Hair Growth, Thickness and Shine
While it won’t cause hair to grow in new places, several studies have shown increased hair follicle activity with red light therapy. Studies demonstrate improved hair thickness, density and shine. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)
- Supports Detoxification and Circulation
Red light therapy stimulates the lymphatic system, which aides in detoxification. (18) It also stimulates the formation of new capillaries, which increases circulation, thereby allowing more blood and oxygen to deliver nutrients throughout the body. (19)
- Optimizes Metabolism and Energy Levels
Scientists don’t fully understand the exact mechanism yet, but studies show red light therapy increases the body’s ability to metabolize fat. It may be due to red light causing adipocytes (fat storing cells) to disperse. (20)
- Benefits for the Thyroid and Hormones
Numerous studies show that it also has a beneficial impact on thyroid function, including reducing the need for thyroid replacement hormones in people with underactive thyroid. There have also been positive effects for people with Hashimoto’s. Research suggests it increases testosterone production in men. (21,22, 23)
- Supports Healing And Recovery
Studies show red light therapy is useful for:
- Reducing discomfort in the neck, back and joints (24)
- Faster wound healing (25)
- Faster muscle recovery (26)
- Enhancing athletic performance (27)
How Can You Receive The benefits Of Red Light Therapy?
There are numerous companies selling at home red light therapy devices. Most of them are not worth the money. That’s because you need certain specific wavelengths at a high enough intensity to work in a short period of time so that treatments take minutes instead of hours. You can read a discussion here, here, or here for how to choose a red light therapy device to use at home.
Have you tried red light therapy before? Are you interested to find out more? Let us know in the comments!