Red light therapy helps stimulate the process of tissue recovery by emitting low-light, red wavelengths through the skin. It has proven successful at this and other forms of rejuvenation by increasing collagen production, elastin production, and blood flow.
Also known as photonic stimulation, bio-stimulation (BIOS), and low-level laser therapy (LLLT) red light uses density levels which are considered low compared to other forms of laser therapies.
Over the past half-century, red light therapies have improved significantly – but do they work? Clinical studies have shown that red light has certain medical applications and healing capabilities because of the way it positively affects the body’s immune and human endocrine systems. Health Canada and the FDA has approved Red light therapy for the treatment of slow-to-heal-wounds, chronic joint pain, tissue repair, acne, anti-aging effects, and other aesthetic treatments.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy involves low-power red light wavelengths to penetrate through the skin to a depth of about eight to ten millimeters. The process is painless because it doesn’t produce heat, but it does produce positive effects on metabolic processes and cellular energy.
Red light therapy has proved effective in the treatment of:
- Tissue damage (often at the root of tears, sprains or pulls)
- Neurological damage
- Chronic muscular pain
- Skin discoloration
- Wounds or incisions
- Joint Pain
- Anti Aging
- Side effects of cancer treatments (chemotherapy and radiation)
Currently, there are no known side effects of red light therapy treatments, but rather a long list of several anti-aging and aesthetic benefits.
How red-light wavelengths work:
- Lowering effects of free radical damage (oxidative stress), which causes several aging effects
- Decreasing or stimulating inflammation – helps control body’s natural healing capabilities
- Restoring and repairing soft connective tissue
- Enhancing the production of collagen and fibroblasts
- Forming new capillaries (blood vessels)
- Increased blood flow to deliver nutrients and oxygen to tissues and cells
- Help dispose of body waste by activating lymphatic system (an important part of the immune system)
- Increases energy levels by encouraging release of ATP
Five Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Reduced Side-Effects and Increased Immunity of Cancer Treatments
A combined study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and NASA reveals red light technology can reduce symptoms experienced by cancer patients which include side-effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation. The use of red/near-infrared LED (light-emitting diode) devices shows that a release of long wavelength energy photons can stimulate cells to aid healing.
NASA tested whether these LED red light devices also known as HEALS (High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate) could treat the painful side-effect, oral mucositis, common among radiation and chemotherapy recipients. It concluded 96 percent of patients experienced improvement in pain because of these LED red light devices. Patients received the light therapy by a healthcare professional using an LED red light device, approximately the size of a human hand. The LED device was held close to the cancer patient’s neck and face for only 88 seconds daily for 14 days. NASA researchers stated that the LED red light device was comfortable to the patient with no adverse effects to stem cell and bone marrow transplant patients. The LED red light device proves to be a cost-effective therapy because the device is less expensive than one day at the hospital.
Healthcare utilizes similar LED red light technology for the treatment of serious burns, diabetic skin ulcers, slow healing wounds, and pediatric brain tumors.
Tissue Repair and Wound Healing
LED red light in the spectral range of 600 to 1,300 nanometers is found to be effective for encouraging skin rejuvenation, tissue repair, and wound healing. LED light therapy uses different processes when compared to other laser resurfacing treatments to achieve these benefits. Most laser therapies used in medical spas or dermatology offices, use intense pulsed light to help skin rejuvenation by encouraging secondary tissue repair. Simply put, they cause intentional damage to either the dermis or epidermis to generate inflammation, followed by healing.
Red light therapy avoids this initial destructive step and instead stimulates regenerative processes in the skin through improved cellular adhesion, migration, and proliferation. Red light therapy has been shown to affect skin cells through rejuvenation of fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and modulation of immune cells (including macrophages, neutrophils, and mast cells).
Anti-Aging Effects of Skin and Hair
A use of red light therapy that’s growing in popularity is reversing the signs of aging on the skin, like wrinkles, lines, and folds. Results from a 2014 clinical study demonstrated both safety and efficacy of red light therapy in promoting intradermal anti-aging skin rejuvenation and collagen increase when compared to other aesthetic treatments. Researchers concluded that red light therapy provides a safe, nonthermal and non-ablative, treatment of skin tissue with a high rate of patient satisfaction.
Patients treated with red light therapy realized enhanced texture, skin tone, skin complexion, reduced signs of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin roughness, and increased collagen density as measured through ultrasonographic tests. Patients with red complexions and rosacea including those unable to tolerate high heat laser therapies have also found relief using LED red light therapy.
Reversing hair loss is another anti-aging effect of red light therapy. It is effective in stimulating hair follicle growth, which works much like red light therapy for wound healing. Although studies have mixed results, a moderate portion of male and female patients have had positive results for hair restoration when using LED red light therapy.
Improved Muscle and Joint Health
Red light therapy has been found effective in treating arthritis symptoms thanks to its ability in rebuilding cartilage and stimulating collagen production. A 2009 study indicates red light therapy a consideration for short-term treatment of morning stiffness and rheumatoid arthritis relief. The treatment also proves to have no side effects.
Another study in 2009 indicates that red light therapy immediately reduces chronic neck pain caused by aging up to 22 weeks. Other studies have shown even when there is no pain relief for patients; there is an improvement in mobility and functional outcomes, like the range of motion.
Increased blood flow and cellular rejuvenation are two crucial red light therapy features of improving tissue and joint health. Modulating inflammation and decreasing oxidative damage, which degenerates joints, are other ways that red light can benefit soft tissue.
Reduced Fatigue and Depression
Eastern medicine is another avenue which reveals the benefits of red light therapy. Compared to the mechanisms of acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine explains how red light therapy helps improve recovery, immunity, and health.
- Light is energy, and our bodies are energy systems. Light has the power to stimulate specific meridian points in the human body.
- Red is considered to stimulate these meridian points because it relates strongly with our survival instinct.
- While acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate certain points in the body’s energy system so it can achieve harmony in our body, light therapy uses visible, focused, red wavelengths in a similar way.
LED red light therapy has been shown to be a natural correlation with improved moods by increasing:
- Sensory stimulation
- Conversation skills
- Social awareness
While results vary with each patient, there’s reason to believe that LED red light therapy has emotional and mental perks along with physical benefits.
Where to Go for Red Light Therapy
Several traditional doctors still consider red light therapy to be an alternative treatment with more research necessary to prove efficacy and successful . However, dermatologist, plastic surgeons, medical aestheticians, neurologist, orthopedists, rheumatologist, and an oncologist can offer red light therapy treatment options and consultation. Your chiropractor or primary care physician may also give you a referral.
Red Light Therapy FAQs
Are Red Light treatments safe?
Yes – Red Light penetrates deep tissue delivering light energy to stimulate a natural healing response from the body.
How does Red Light Therapy differ from laser treatments?
Red light therapy does not use heat like most laser treatments. It does not burn or vaporize tissue causing no inflammation. Red light therapy is one of the few non-invasive tools which can reverse the appearance of mottled skin tone, wrinkles, and fine lines, and aging skin.
Does Red Light treat stretch marks or cellulite?
Although no studies indicate cellulite is a treatable condition with red light therapy, many patients have found stretch marks improve with red light treatment.
Does Red Light Therapy work equally well on all skin types?
Yes, red light is effective on all skin types as long as the skin is clean before treatment.
How long do the red light therapy results last?
Original condition and length of treatment will determine the duration of results. It is suggested that after optimal results are realized, maintenance treatments continue although not nearly as frequent. Failure to continue treatments will result in the gradual return of skin condition.