A Close Look at the Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is one of the fastest growing wellness trends in the US and being offered as an extra for members in large fitness franchises such as Planet Fitness. But, is red light therapy really worth it? We took a look at the red light therapy benefits based on science to help you make an informed decision for your skin and health.

Breaking Down the Benefits of Red Light Therapy

A fairly new modality to treating different skin conditions, red light therapy was first used by NASA in the 90s to help grow plants in space.

Fast forward 3 decades later, in 2022, red light therapy emerged as one of the top three wellness services, experiencing a growth rate of up to 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels. This therapy is used to treat various signs of ageing, including wrinkles, redness, acne, and scars. 

However, the question remains: is red light therapy scientifically proven, or is it just another commercialised service? While numerous clinical trials have shown promising results, it is still a relatively new approach, and further evidence-based benefits can always be explored.

red light therapy benefits

What Does Red Light Therapy Do?

Red light therapy is a type of photomedicine in which light is used to treat skin and other health issues. Think of ultraviolet UV lights used in tanning booths, or infrared light used for wound healing.

Red light therapy, in comparison, uses a lower wavelength of red light to treat most skin problems like wrinkles, burn scars, redness, acne, as well as acne scars. It has also been used to improve joint health and hair growth as well as to treat some cancer symptoms.

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, red light has wavelengths ranging from 620 to 750 nm. As such, it is visible and can penetrate the skin up to 5 mm without causing thermal damage. Other names for it include non-thermal LED light, and cold or soft laser therapy, which refers to the therapy’s non-abrasive power.

Here’s how red light therapy actually works: You’ve probably heard of mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells that serve as the foundation of our bodies. Red light waves stimulate mitochondria, promoting new cell growth and rejuvenation, particularly on the skin’s surface.

The first function of red light therapy is to increase energy within the human cell. As a result, it has been discovered to increase fibroblast production, which in turn stimulates collagen production for more elastic and strong skin. Red light therapy benefits blood circulation as well, and, to some extent, reduces inflammation.

Here are some science-based red light therapy benefits:

While small studies have shown some potential red light therapy benefits for conditions such as dementia and mental health, there is currently insufficient evidence to support its effectiveness for weight loss, cellulite removal, or physical performance. 

To ensure optimal results, it’s crucial to use specific protocols and dosages based on your health issue, which highlights the importance of consulting a specialised practitioner.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe? Side Effects & Warning Tips

Red light therapy is a safer alternative to UV or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments, with no reported side effects and no harshness or toxicity involved. It uses non-invasive low-level red light from a device, laser, or lamp that comes in contact with skin. However, overuse or improper use of red light therapy may cause skin irritation and eye injuries. 

Red light therapy is not a one-time treatment, rather it takes weeks and months to see any results. Usually, it can be applied three times a week starting from 10-30 minutes a session. In many cases, medical centres use it in combination with other light therapies. Blue and red light combination therapy, for example, has proven effective in fighting acne.

While red light therapy can be combined with other light therapies for better results, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist if you have eczema or other skin issues. Pregnant women, people with lupus, and those taking photosensitising drugs should also consult their healthcare provider before trying red light therapy.

Masks, Lasers, and Other Types Of Red Light Therapy Devices

Red light devices come in a variety of forms, including handheld devices, LED panels, and full-body beds, depending on your treatment needs. You can purchase them for personal use, or, alternatively, you can find them in medical centres or beauty salons. 

Of course, there are plenty of differences between these products. Two main ones are the intensity of the light and the intended use. The medical-grade products pack a serious punch and are used to treat an array of conditions, from wound healing to joint pain and muscle soreness. There, they are usually administered by a medical professional and may even require a prescription.

At beauty spas and salons, red light therapy devices are less powerful than medical ones and are mostly used to improve skin health and reduce signs of ageing in services such as facials or massages.

On the other hand, at-home red light therapy devices are way tamer than their medical-grade counterparts. They are perfect for personal use and come in the form of handheld devices or larger panels, designed to target specific areas of the body. 

They’re used for the same purpose, skin rejuvenation, reducing wrinkles and fine lines, overall skin health as well as relaxation. (If you’re thinking about getting one, make sure it’s TGA approved.)

benefits of red light therapy

From face masks to light panels and LED wands, red light therapy devices are designed to be placed near your skin, allowing your cells to absorb the light. While mild results take time to show, the long-term red light benefits remain inconclusive.

Essentially, this non-invasive therapy works by strengthening the mitochondria, which generate energy in the cells. Red light therapy is an emerging low-level light therapy that has a lot of promise for treating some common skin conditions. 

If you are considering red light therapy, you should first consult with your healthcare provider or dermatologist. They are better equipped to examine, diagnose and approve if it is the best treatment for your case.

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