The Benefits of Red Light Therapy

by | Apr 13, 2023 | Issues, Special Issue - David Nurse, Special Issue - Dr. Arthur Katona | 0 comments

Red light is precisely what it sounds like: red-colored light typically emitted by LEDs. It was first developed by scientists to help promote the growth of plants in space, then...

Red light is precisely what it sounds like: red-colored light typically emitted by LEDs. It was first developed by scientists to help promote the growth of plants in space, then later studied for its medical applications to humans. Researchers found that red light could help increase the cells’ energy to provide numerous benefits for the body’s healing process. Red light therapy comes in many forms, including red light beds in salons and more formal clinical treatment methods in medical offices. 


How Red Light Therapy Works

Red light therapy works by shining red light directly onto the skin. This light is then absorbed into the skin, where mitochondria absorb that light and turn it into energy. In particular, red light helps to stimulate your mitochondria to make more energy without exposing your skin to high degrees of heat or damaging UV rays. Some experts believe that by doing so, red light therapy can help cells repair themselves and improve healing in skin and muscle tissue. 


Is Red Light Therapy the Same As Infrared?

What about infrared light? Is it the same as red light? Not exactly. Red light is near-infrared, so it is close to infrared light but technically not identical. Infrared is a form of light that emits heat but is not visible, whereas red light also emits heat but is visible.


The Difference Between Red and Blue Light

We’ve seen a bit about red light, but let’s also look at what separates it from another form of light you may have heard of: blue light. Now, this isn’t the kind of blue light you may be worried about being emitted by your phone and computer screen; it refers to the type of light sometimes used in therapy. 

In short, the most significant difference between the two light therapy forms is simply the light’s wavelength, indicated by their color. However, the small wavelength difference can significantly impact the light’s therapeutic usage.


Does Red Light or Blue Light Have More Energy?

The primary difference between red and blue light is the respective wavelength of the light. This difference affects the energy of each type of light — blue light has shorter wavelengths than red light, which causes it to emit at a higher frequency. This higher frequency, in turn, leads to more energy.


Red Light vs. Blue Light Therapy

But how do the usages of these two lights differ for therapeutic purposes? Due to the different wavelengths or energies, each has unique therapeutic benefits. For example, red light therapy enhances your skin cells to make your skin firmer and healthier. 

Blue light, on the other hand, can penetrate your pores to help purify your skin. Unlike red light, which targets your skin at the cellular level, blue light targets and destroys the bacteria in your skin. You can equate red and blue light to fertilizers and pesticides. Red light, like fertilizer, helps your skin grow better. Blue light, like pesticides, kills the harmful agents which make your skin less healthy. 


Red Light vs. Blue Light for Eyes

Neither type of light is particularly good for your eyes. Luckily, both forms of light generally come with the same types of guidance. For blue light, for example, you should protect your eyes by wearing goggles wherever you go through treatment. The same is true for red light therapy, which may not be as dangerous as some forms of laser therapy but still requires eye protection to ensure you don’t harm yourself.


Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Since we’ve examined the mechanics of red light therapy, let’s look at its main benefits and uses. 


Red Light Therapy for Stretch Marks

One of red light therapy’s primary usages is for stretch marks. You’ll often see this at salons in the form of red light therapy beds which use red light to reduce stretch marks and wrinkles.


Red Light Therapy for Pain

Red light therapy is also able to alleviate pain. The types of pain red light therapy can help with are very diverse, such as: 

  • Dental; 
  • Osteoarthritis; 
  • Inflammation of muscle fibers (tendonitis); 
  • Back, neck and wound pain.


Red Light Therapy for Eczema, Acne and Psoriasis

Red light therapy also reduces skin conditions that inflame or irritate skin cells, such as psoriasis, eczema and acne, by stimulating the skin cells to be more energized and healthier. This, in turn, causes the skin cells to heal and grow quicker, reducing the damage caused by inflammation and irritation. 


Is Red Light or Blue Light Better for Acne?

However, while red light can help with acne, it is worth remembering that red light mainly functions to nourish cells, not to remove impurities. Instead, blue light therapy, which specializes in purifying the skin, is more commonly used to treat acne


Can Red Light Therapy Help You Lose Weight?

Unfortunately, while red light therapy has many well-documented uses and benefits, weight loss is not one of them. Red light has not yet been shown to improve weight loss. So, while it’s an excellent tool for cosmetic improvement, its application is primarily focused on the skin. 


Red Light Therapy Usage Tips

But how do people get these benefits from red light therapy, and how should I use it to maximize its effect? 

Here are some common examples of technologies that use red light therapy and some tips regarding the usage of red light therapy: 


Red Light Therapy Pod

A red light therapy pod is a large bed-like structure in which you are exposed to red light. Because the light touches every part of your body, your whole skin will benefit from the red light therapy benefits in a shorter time.  


Red Light Therapy vs. Infrared Sauna

These two pieces of technology are similar but accomplish different goals. Infrared saunas are designed to help you sweat and lose weight, while red light therapy aims to energize your skin to make it healthier. Infrared saunas also emit large amounts of heat, opposite to red light therapy, which avoids causing patients to sweat. 


How Much Red Light Therapy Is Too Much?

Red light therapy shouldn’t be something you jump into very quickly at the beginning. Instead, let your body get used to the treatment before adding it to your routine. To begin, you should aim for 3 to 5 times a week for about 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Then, as you get more used to it, you can go for closer to 20 minutes. Avoid red light therapy sessions longer than 20 minutes, as they can be dangerous for your skin


Can Red Light Therapy Hurt Your Eyes?

Red light therapy can be harmful to your eyes. If your eyes are exposed directly or too much, there is a potential for damage. Thus, it’s advisable to wear eye protection while undergoing treatment. 


Red Light Therapy While Pregnant

Red light therapy is completely safe during pregnancy. Indeed, one of the most significant benefits of red light therapy is its safety. Being pregnant does not increase the risk factor for red light therapy, nor does it affect the baby’s health. So, if you’re pregnant and interested in red light therapy, go for it! 


A Parting Reminder

Red light therapy is an excellent tool for energizing and revitalizing your skin while being very safe. Unlike other types of therapy, red light lacks damaging heat or rays, which can be counterproductive. Thus, it may be the future of skincare, both clinical and in the salon. So, the next time you find yourself trying to enhance your skin, maybe give red light therapy a try!

Luke Argue

Luke Argue

Luke Argue is a junior in the government department at Patrick Henry College. Aside from writing, Luke enjoys playing volleyball, reading about foreign affairs, and studying world cultures and religions.


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