What Is Red Light Therapy? Is It Good For You?
Red light therapy (RLT) has become the latest trend in bio-optimization and in the beauty space. You can find RLT offered at dermatologist clinics promising to reverse the signs of aging in the skin, treat acne, and promote scar healing.
You can even find RLT, sometimes called low-level laser light therapy (LLLT), at physiotherapy clinics as a powerful, non-invasive treatment to reduce inflammation, increase the speed of injury recovery, and boost athletic performance.
So, what exactly is red light therapy? How does it work? And are at-home devices just as effective?
In this article, we're breaking down the latest studies and scientific facts relating to this popular light therapy trend so you make an informed decision for yourself.
Introduction To Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy, otherwise known as cold laser, biostimulation, LLLT, or photobiomodulation (PBM), uses a device that emits concentrated low-level red and near-infrared photons to produce therapeutic benefits.
Some of the reported benefits of red light therapy include:
- Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles
- Treating acne
- Healing scars
- Treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Increases the healing of wounds
- Reduces painful joint inflammation
- Increases the recovery time between strenuous workouts
All of this from a red light?
It seems too good to be true, but biological mechanisms at play explain how red light therapy is beneficial to our overall health.
To understand how red light therapy can produce these benefits, we must first understand how all light affects us biologically.
Our Bodies Are Hard-Wired To Respond To Light
All light has some bioactive effect on the human body. The effects of light are related to each light ray's unique wavelengths measured in nanometers (nm) and its absorption into the body .
For example, the sun produces a large spectrum of visible and invisible light. Although not visible to the human eye, UVA/UVB (100-400 nm) emits a large amount of energy that stimulates vitamin D production in the epidermis' outer layers. Even though we can't see this light, it's powerful enough to burn our skin cells and leave long-lasting damage .
Another light wave that's been extensively studied is blue light and its effects on our circadian rhythm. Blue light has been shown to suppress melatonin production, one of the primary hormones that regulate our sleep cycle .
The wavelengths of red light and near-infrared light falls between 620-800 nm, a unique therapeutic window that's able to penetrate deep into the skin to improve cell function.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
We've always known that there's a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the effects of light from the sun.
The sun is our main source for red light wavelengths. And it contributes to the mood boost we get when we spend the day outdoors.
Red light therapy devices do a lot more than emit ambient red lighting.
Remember, the wavelengths produced by the bulb are what's important to receive health benefits.
Genuine RLT devices emit a concentrated red light energy frequency often combined with near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths to improve penetration into the skin.
NIR penetrates deeper into the skin better than any other light wavelength. Thus, this can access tissues beneath the skin, delivering benefits on a metabolic level rather than one specific area.
Effects At A Cellular Level
The mitochondria in the skin cells absorb photons. And if we can remember from high-school biology, the mitochondria is the power-house of the cell. It generates energy for the cell to perform its functions.
Boosting the mitochondrial function helps to improve:
- Electron transport
- ATP or adenosine triphosphate nitric oxide release
- Blood flow
- Increase oxygen supply 
What does this all mean?
In short, it means that cells involved in tissue repair and healing get supercharged with this form of photon energy, producing a variety of the benefits we laid out earlier including, wound healing, reducing wrinkles, muscle repair, and more.
Let's dive a little deeper into each of the reported benefits of RLT and NIR therapy and see what the current science says.
Benefit 1: Red Light Therapy Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Light therapy has become an increasingly popular alternative to prescription drugs to mitigate pain and inflammation in muscles and joints.
Inflammation is the body's natural response to recovery. However, long-term inflammation can damage tissues, resulting in pain and reduced mobility.
Photobiomodulation or light therapy LLLT in the therapeutic wavelengths of 600–900 nm has been shown to reduce inflammation in the joints, traumatic injuries, and even lung disorders by reducing the presence of inflammatory markers and diminishing the effects of oxidative stress .
Benefit 2: Combat The Signs Of Aging Skin
As we age, we begin to slow collagen and elastin production, causing fine lines, wrinkles, and a duller skin complexion.
In the world of skincare, topical treatments such as retinoids and other chemical-based peels are often used to remove the top layer of skin cells to stimulate cell turnover and promote the body's natural process involved in wound healing like the production of collagen and elastin.
A red light therapy device at your dermatologist clinic and some at-home devices emit a controlled and safe concentration of red and near-infrared rays to activate these similar processes in the skin's deeper layers without destroying the top layer of skin .
Red light therapy treatments for skincare tend to have a much shorter downtime to chemical-based peels for combatting the signs of aging and other skin issues such as acne and scarring. RLT produces long-lasting results in skin care with regular treatment.
Benefit 3: Overall Mood Booster
Red light therapy is used to treat depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a psychological condition that results in depression due to the seasonal change into winter with shorter days. People who live in areas with drastic changes in the length of sunlight during the winter months are more likely to experience SAD.
The main cause for this disorder seems to be the reduced amount of sun exposure, which affects our circadian rhythm, governing our sleep cycles, hormones, and overall mood.
A study has shown that one hour of exposure to RLT had improved the SAD patient's depressive scores . Long-term exposure to light therapy helped improve the patients' sleep quality, leading to fewer symptoms of depression.
Benefit 4: Muscle Recovery & Boost Peak Performance
RLT combined with near-infrared light treatment may optimize the body's natural healing process.
When you exert yourself from a strenuous training session, your body's natural inflammatory response kicks in to start recovering damaged tissue cells.
During your workouts, you create microscopic tears in the tissue — which is perfectly healthy and normal. When your body repairs with a natural inflammatory response, it builds back the tissue to better cope with your activity levels, making you stronger.
It's why the day after your workouts, you tend to feel sore.
If you don't fully recover from your workout, you can overwork your muscles before they've had enough time to repair, causing strain and injury. The trouble is, sometimes inflammation can linger longer than it needs to, resulting in prolonged soreness and pain.
Many sports physiotherapists clinics have adopted RLT as cutting-edge technology to improve their patients' athletic performance and help speed injury rehabilitation times.
RLT and NIR therapy help reduce inflammation and increase your cell's regeneration efficiency, allowing you to recover from your injuries faster.
To boost peak performance in athletes, you need to maximize the natural healing process after strenuous workout and conditioning sessions to keep your body in the best shape possible. Rest and performance go hand in hand.
How To Use Red Light Therapy
You may already have already experienced the benefits of low-level laser therapy at your local medispa or have received laser treatments from your physiotherapist. However, you can now get ahold of powerful at-home light therapy devices.
Don't waste your time with imitation devices. Look for these two key features.
- Make sure the device isn't only emitting a red light. Remember, the wavelength is important to producing the benefits at a cellular level.
- Secondly, we recommend looking for red light devices that contain a near-infrared light spectrum. This is what will penetrate deeper into the skin and exert effects for muscle recovery and pain management.
To see the most benefits from your RLT device, you want to stick to consistent treatments. Because it targets cellular performance, it can take weeks or months of consistent use to start seeing the results.
Because every device is different, you should follow the instructions for how far away you should keep the light from your skin, and you're frequency of use.
If you're using light therapy as part of a treatment for a chronic condition, we recommend speaking with your doctor for medical advice to make sure it's appropriate for you.
KOZE At-Home Red Light Therapy Devices
At KOZE, we offer simple, non-invasive at-home RLT devices that are easy to use and effective.
Our devices emit 660–850 nm red light and near-infrared waves that are clinically proven to penetrate deep into the skin to exert effects on a cellular level.
We'll discuss the three products and their features below.
- Large panel, whole-body unit designed for home, locker rooms, or in-clinic settings.
- This is the most powerful unit on the market with the highest therapeutic irradiance
- It can be connected with additional units to create a wall panel, the type you find at your physiotherapy clinic
- Tabletop unit with a foldable stand
- Perfect for at home or in-office use
- It's ideal for those looking to combat the seasonal blues or a hands-free device to improve your skincare regimen
- This is the answer for a portable, yet powerful LED RLT system
- It's hand-held, perfect for spot treatment and facial use
- Rechargeable, allowing you to take it anywhere on the go.
The Takeaway: RLT Is Safe And Effective
Almost anyone can benefit from RLT treatments. Concentrated light photons penetrate deep into the skin to support efficient energy production at a cellular level.
Before trusting any at-home device on the market, make sure that the device emits a therapeutic wavelength of between 660–850 nm and isn't just emitting a red glow.
When you get enough exposure to healthy light, your body can recalibrate a number of internal processes that keep us performing and feeling our best.
For those looking for a non-invasive, drug-free answer to aches and pains or to improve their overall complexion, RLT may be the answer for you.