Is red light therapy good for you? Do you even know exactly what red light therapy (RLT) is and the uses for it? To answer ALL your questions we present information on red light therapy from a variety of sources below so read on!
This short article will answer those questions for you about red light therapy and show you how it may (or may not) help you be happier and healthier.
Please remember, we are just providing information and not promoting or encouraging any type of medical treatment or use of a product. Always consult your doctor before trying anything relating to your health. This article is purely informational in nature and nothing more.
Many people wonder is red light therapy safe for eyes? Click here for the quick answer.
What is All the Talk about Red Light Therapy?
In order to achieve the goal of a happy and healthy life, many people are turning to red light therapy. Red light therapy can provide a wide variety of therapeutic and cosmetic benefits for some people.
It has been steadily gaining popularity for its purported anti-aging and health benefits. In fact, red light therapy has been studied for years for its ability to energize cells in the human body.
In addition to using red light therapy for cosmetic purposes, patients and medical professionals alike are turning to red light therapy to possibly assist with reducing inflammation and improving circulation and oxygen supply to affected areas.
Red light therapy is said to also be used to stimulate collagen production in skin, and generally improve the quality and number of cells in the treated area.
This means that red light therapy could possibly help regrow hair, reduce wrinkles and age spots, improve skin texture issues like psoriasis, improve joint pain, and even assist in the healing of wounds by stimulating cells to grow and repair damage.
But some say this all seems too good to be true. The following are questions you may be asking yourself about red light therapy and if it really works.
How does Red Light Therapy work?
The light used is called “sub-infrared light.” This means that of the different types of light on the electromagnetic spectrum, the light used in red light therapy is not emitted on the same wavelength as infrared light.
This isn’t super important to know, other than to help you remember that a heat lamp (like at your local fast food restaurant) is not the same as the light used in red light therapy.
In 1993, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered that sub-infrared light stimulated growth in plants during an experiment conducted while in space.
During these experiments, astronauts also noticed that the same red light they used to stimulate plant growth, also caused small cuts on their hands to heal more quickly than without exposure to the same light.
This phenomenon became the subject of multiple scientific studies, most of which found that when applied at the appropriate intensity, red light therapy could work for some people. (Colter, 2015, 72-74)
In order to understand just how it works, you have to remember what your 7th-grade Biology teacher may have told you but you totally forgot! “Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” (Who knew that information would come in handy?!)
Photobiomodulation (PBM). PBM Therapy, also known as Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT).
“Photobiomodulation (PBM) is the term used to describe the mechanistic/scientific basis for this photonic specialty and photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) as the term for its therapeutic application. PBM devices have been cleared for marketing by FDA…”
The light used in red light therapy is said to penetrate exposed cells and displaces chemicals that otherwise prevent mitochondria from providing the cell with the energy it needs to function properly.
So what the heck does that mean to you? Well, when red light successfully pushes out the undesirable chemicals in a cell, the mitochondria in the cell is free to increase its production of something called adenosine triphosphate or ATP.
ATP is the chemical that allows your cells to convert the energy in the food you eat, into energy that the cell can use to function and to repair itself. By increasing the availability of ATP in your cells, red light therapy enables your body to function with less pain and inflammation while simultaneously improving the functioning of your cells!
Seems like a win-win right? Well….maybe. Now that you know how it works, you may be asking:
Is Red Light Therapy Safe?
The consensus answer from experts in the field seems to be generally “yes” with some conditions.
First, they say, it is important to note that the FDA has not approved red light therapy for medical applications, but it currently regulates various red light therapy devices that are available to consumers and professionals alike.
Apparently, no negative health effects have been observed in individuals that took place in a study that focused on the effectiveness of red light therapy. (Wunsch & Matuschka, 2014)
Additionally, red light therapy has been adopted as a treatment in Britain and Canada according to many journals on the subject.
However, studies show there are risks, particularly for those that choose to self-administer red light therapy rather than seeking out a medical professional (which is never recommended and for sure not by us!).
While you can receive red light therapy from medical practitioners, many people turn to salons, indoor tanning businesses, and even Amazon to obtain equipment for this treatment.
While the treatment itself is said to be safe when applied appropriately, the key is to ensure the therapy is provided in a safe and appropriate manner by someone professionally trained to administer it.
The key to the effectiveness of red light therapy is tied to the intensity at which the light is administered. In other words, if the light is too powerful, or left on too long, there is a risk of burns or skin damage.
If the red light is not powerful enough, it is probably ineffective. So always remember, the only recommended way experts say to utilize this type of therapy is to ensure the device and the individual administering the treatment are both doing so within the established guidelines for therapeutic application by a professional.
Possible Red Light Therapy Treatments:
You may wonder if there is a connection between red light therapy and cancer. What about any other health risks associated with red light therapy? For years, many studies have shown that extended exposure to UV light can cause skin damage, cancer, and damage to your eyes over time.
So wouldn’t this be dangerous too? While many reports say there is no evidence to suggest red light treatment will cause long-term harm or cellular damage if administered properly, it can damage your eyes if you look into the light.
So is red light therapy bad for your eyes? Yes, if you look right at the light and don’t protect your eyes properly.
In fact, many of the at-home products you can purchase come with red light safety goggles to ensure that you aren’t blasting too many photons (light particles) into your eyes.
Red Light Therapy Safety Rules:
Here is a quick list of red light therapy safety tips and rules we found for you while researching but this is by no means a complete list of precautions you should take. Do your own research and always consult an expert.
- Only seek treatment from reputable, knowledgeable professionals.
- If you choose to purchase an at-home device, make sure it is FDA approved.
- Follow all instructions provided and don’t deviate from the safety standards.
- Shield your eyes if you are treating an area that may allow the red light to shine into your eyes.
Some say that red light therapy is a panacea. It is important to remember, however, that treatments like these are often touted as being beneficial for a wide variety of conditions, yet not everyone experiences the same results.
As with any product or treatment you must consider, research, and evaluate before subjecting your body to a new stimulus. If your research is leading you to consider utilizing red light therapy, you may wonder about the cost.
What is the Cost of Red Light Therapy Treatment?
When it comes to the cost of red light therapy, the amount you pay will largely depend on your decision between receiving treatment at a cosmetic facility, tanning salon, or conducting your own treatment at home.
A quick web search reveals that treatment provided in a facility can range from as low as $10 per session to as much as $100 or more! But keep in mind, all treatments are not created equal.
Quality of the LEDs (light-emitting diodes) used, the device being used, and who is doing the application can make a huge difference in this being beneficial for you or not.
Red light therapy won’t work unless the red light emitted by the LED bulbs is applied at the appropriate wavelength and at the appropriate distance from your body (this is what is meant by near infra-red range).
So make sure you keep this in mind when you are deciding whether or not to select a $100+ treatment at a spa or cosmetic professional’s office, versus a $10 session at your local indoor tanning booth.
Can Red Light Therapy Be Done at Home?
There is also a wide variety of red light therapy products that can be used in the privacy of your own home. Personal use devices range in cost from as low as $25 to more than $2000 depending on the size and intended use of the device.
Red light therapy at-home devices are being sold with the promise of healing cold sores, reducing the appearance of cellulite and scars, regrowing hair, reducing pain, and improving the appearance of skin.
Some of the devices are touted as FDA approved, and come with a variety of claims as to their effectiveness and use. If you are considering investing in an at-home solution, make sure the light being emitted from the device is emitted at a proper and recommended therapeutic wavelength.
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While these costs may seem widely variable and therefore even more confusing as to what the most economic decision is, don’t forget to evaluate how long and how many red light therapy sessions you plan on undertaking.
In other words, if you are seeking treatment for an issue that can be addressed in a relatively short time frame, that may factor into your decision. You may find yourself now wondering about the timing this type of treatment may take.
How many red light therapy sessions do you need and for how long?
As you may have guessed, this varies widely based on many factors. Length and number of treatments will depend on the purpose of the treatment, the quality of the light source used, and the time you spend under the light.
Generally speaking, studies show a red light therapy session is between twenty and thirty minutes, and usually, multiple sessions are required. The time between therapy sessions is also variable depending on the treatment you are seeking and your personal results.
For instance, an article about redlight therapy sessions on Healthline.com recommends 10 sessions spread out one week apart, while other in-home products may recommend sessions as frequently as every-other-day.
Part of this is due to the difference in the quality of the red light therapy equipment being used in each scenario as well. Simply put, the intensity of the light may vary between devices so the frequency of use may increase depending on the intensity of the light being used.
So what’s the bottom line?
Is red light therapy a hoax? It is still a controversial technology although it has been around for many years. Are there red light therapy side effects? Yes, but they vary by the individual on a case by case basis.
However, red light therapy risks versus potential rewards seem to have encouraged many people to try this treatment. When applied within established guidelines, research (as well as an anecdote) indicates that red light therapy can be safe and possibly effective if done in the correct manner and with proper safeguards in place.
Red light therapy has been touted, in some cases, to be effective in treating a wide variety of issues ranging from improving the texture and appearance of skin to reducing inflammation in painful joints, helping to manage pain for cancer patients, and even decreasing the time it takes to heal cuts.
If you are looking to improve your healthy lifestyle, and are interested in a chemical-free, non-invasive treatment for reducing pain or improving your appearance, for many, red light therapy is worth looking into. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
Some gyms are even promoting red light therapy before or after workouts. Planet Fitness red light therapy treatment they call Total Body Enhancement.
While it sometimes seems extravagant to spend money to improve our appearance, the benefits to the quality of life can’t be quantified. When you look better, you feel better.
Many reports show that for those suffering from joint pain, hair loss, acne, and other medical conditions, this treatment offers the potential of improving their lives in many ways.
Is red light therapy worth it? That’s a question each of us will need to answer for ourselves. Stay safe, stay healthy, and be happy! Enjoy your day and have fun!
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Colter, H. B. (2015, January). A NASA Discovery has Current Applications in Orthopaedics, 26(1), 72-74. https://journals.lww.com/c-orthopaedicpractice/Fulltext/2015/01000/A_NASA_discovery_has_current_applications_in.15.aspx
Healthline. (2019, April 5). LED Light Therapy for Skin: What to Know. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/Wunsch, A., & Matuschka, K. (2014, February 1). A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/