You may have noticed an increase in red-light flooded ads in social media lately. Or you may have noticed celebrities and famous individuals promoting this trendy new light in their social media accounts. Yes, it’s the new and emerging trend in beauty treatment – red light therapy. For those of us who are not yet familiar with red light therapy, this is a good chance to get to know a bit about its history, how it works and its benefits to your body. As wise consumers and health-conscious individuals we have to get to know a certain product or treatment before using it ourselves.
Here are 15 facts that you may find useful in deciding for yourself if it’s something you’ll find useful or not.
Red light therapy was born out of this world
As far back as the early 1990s, scientists at NASA discovered the photosynthesis-boosting potential of red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for horticulture while in space. If you can recall from your biology classes, photosynthesis is the process that plants perform to transform light from the sun or an artificial light source (e.g. LED) into energy to power growth.
Red light therapy uses visible red light
Going back to your physics lessons, light is composed of a range of wavelengths that can vary in frequencies. Visible light has a wavelength of 400 nm to 700 nm. At the opposing ends of the spectrum are ultraviolet radiation at the upper band (>400 nm) and infrared radiation at the lower band (>700 nm). Within the visible wavelength range of 400-700 nm, light can be considered as “visible”. The red light used that’s therapeutically is at 630-660 nm wavelength, which makes it non-invasive compared to radiation types beyond the visible light limits.
Red light therapy is non-penetrative
Red light therapy is not using harmful radiation, and thus is not highly penetrative to the cellular level. Simply saying, you are in no danger of being exposed to harmful radiation because red light is in the visible light level. It has very minimal penetration, reaching only the upper levels of the skin to stimulate collagen production, which is important for fuller and younger looking skin.
Red light therapy is non-invasive
One thing that sets red light therapy (RLT) apart from other similar type of therapies like laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) therapies is that it is not damaging to the skin surface. The latter is invasive treatments that also involve light due to inducing cell damage to promote a healing or reparative effect.
Red light treatment has anti-inflammatory effects
This treatment is slowly finding its way to other areas outside of cosmetics. Perhaps one of the best-known beneficial effects of RLT inflammation and pain relief. Visible red light stimulates blood vessel circulation, which helps reduce pain in the inflamed areas of the body. Because of this anti-inflammatory effect, amateur and professional athletes alike find the red light treatment very helpful in improving their recovery time and boosting their performance.
Red light therapy enhances ATP production
Red light works by stimulating a biochemical effect in cells that strengthens the mitochondria – the powerhouse of a cell. Essentially, it is where the cell’s energy is created. All living things have an energy-carrying molecule in their cells, called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When ATP production is enhanced, it converts to more energy for cells to use in essential bodily functions, like rejuvenation and damage repair. When red light is applied to the skin, it will look healthier, more youthful and glowing.
RLT promotes tissue repair and wound healing
RLT is considered as a low level light therapy, and has many studies showing its efficacy in enhancing wound healing. Its mode of action is through the stimulation of keratin. This enhances the process of epithelialization or the formation of wound barrier prior to the crusting or clotting of the wound. This is an essential process in the healing and repair of the damaged tissues in the wound. People suffering from diabetes can benefit from this wound healing property as it stimulates healing of wounds that heal slowly, such as diabetic foot ulcers.
RLT promotes and improves hair growth
For people suffering from androgenic alopecia or pattern balding, RLT is the promised treatment they have been waiting for. This is a safe alternative to regularly apply shampoos, oils or sprays to your hair, and seeing varying results. The mode of action of this therapy lies in the ability of infrared or near infrared light to enhance blood flow or micro blood circulation in the scalp. This stimulates the production of new hair (called anagen) by targeting the epidermal stem cells in the hair follicle and leading the follicles into the anagen phase. Not only does improving scalp circulation, promote hair growth, it also maintains the hair health and strength of the rest of your hair on your head.
RLT improves joint health in arthritis
RLT is a significant development in the study of photobiomodulation or the use of light to promote or enhance bodily processes. It holds strong promise in the research of arthritis and joint pain. The most common feature of any kind of arthritis is the pain and inflammation of swollen and stiff joints. These can significantly limit the mobility and quality of life of people with arthritis. Again, the infrared or near infrared light from RLT plays an important role in significantly reducing pain and improving knee cartilage regeneration. It works at the tissue to cellular levels, which makes the healing, extensive and addressing the root causes. Thus, continuous treatment of RLT promotes healing that helps regain original function and mobility, which significantly improves the quality of life and mobility for arthritis sufferers.
RLT is a promising treatment for psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that is difficult to treat and manage. Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, and just like with most chronic conditions, management of symptoms is important to treatment. Creams, ointments, prescription drugs and anti-allergy medications are the most common ways people manage the symptoms of psoriasis. These have varying degrees of efficacy and the medications sometimes cause unwanted risks and side effects. The studies and research conducted regarding the use of red light treatment in treating psoriasis yielded positive results, giving high hopes for the treatment and inspiring further research. One of the favorable effects of RLT is reducing psoriasis lesions, one of the hallmark features of psoriasis. RLT also reduced skin inflammation in psoriasis patients. It also reduces redness, hardening and flaking of the skin, lowers pain and discomfort levels, and faster healing of other symptoms. Also, psoriasis patients experienced a high clearance rate, reaching 60% to 100%.
RLT can assist with the short-term treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a considerable problem for most office workers who work in prolonged conditions with repetitive hand placements and movements. One of the common complaints of those developing carpal tunnel syndrome are numbness, pain in the wrist and the loss of gripping power or clumsiness. People with carpal tunnel syndrome will notice that they have a higher tendency to drop things and could not maintain holding glasses for a long time. One of the early and common treatment methods is surgery, but since the study of using red light therapy through low-level laser therapy (LLLT), a non-invasive treatment option is now available. This treatment promotes nerve stimulation, decompressing the nerves and improves muscle, joint and tendon strength. People who underwent red light LLLT experienced improved grip strength, increased arm sensation and less pain and numbness.
RLT improves skin complexion and diminishes wrinkles
Red light therapy is seen as a safe and non-invasive way of achieving a healthy looking skin, better and fairer complexion and a younger, wrinkle-free skin. There have been many therapies that have been used for common skin conditions and problems, but most of them are either invasive or involve a degree of pain or discomfort. RLT provides safe, concentrated wavelengths of natural light to your skin cells, and does not involve chemicals. Also, its effects are different from ultraviolet rays and it doesn’t involve excess heat. Near infrared light wavelengths help stimulate the mitochondria in your skin cells like natural sunlight. The beneficial effects include reduction of oxidative stress, better blood and nutrient circulation and more energy is generated for essential cellular activities in the skin. One key benefit of RLT is the increase in collagen production. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is essential for skin health, including joint and bone health. Collagen helps hold the skin cells and tissues together, giving your skin a healthy, fuller looking and youthful appearance. Although there are many collagen supplements out in the market, there is still no substitute for your body generating more of its own essential protein. High collagen production and healthy skin cells can improve healing and rejuvenation and can counteract signs of aging, smoothen wrinkles and reduce pigmentations, which improves your skin complexion and overall appearance.
RLT reverses skin damage due to sun exposure
The unnaturally high temperature of the sun these days is a cause for concern among people who frequently venture outside and get exposed to the sun. There are many protective and therapeutic measures against sun exposure, such as sunscreen, lightening creams, and whitening soaps. Other radical therapies include Botulinum toxin type A (Botox), chemical peels, soft tissue augmentation, or dermal filler injections and dermabrasion. While they can show varying effects in reducing the effects of sun exposure on the skin, most of them are invasive and involve some level of discomfort. RLT is gaining popularity as a treatment for sun exposure damage due to its non-toxic and non-invasive way of treating numerous skin conditions, including sun damage. You may think that it’s somehow strange to use light to treat damage caused by light from the sun, but the spectrum and wavelength of light used in RLT is different from that which comes from the sun. Thus, RLT is safe to use in reversing the most common effects of sun exposure:
- Coarse and dry skin
- Skin discoloration
- Freckles and dark spots
- Leathery skin
Aside from increasing collagen production and stimulating adenosine triphosphate levels in the mitochondria, RLT stimulates blood circulation in the small blood vessels and a more efficient oxygen delivery throughout the skin. This promotes healing and cell growth, which can reverse the damage of sun exposure.
RLT prevents recurring cold sores
One of the common and frequently recurring ailments that we have to deal with are cold sores from herpes simplex virus infections. One of its most common symptoms are small, blister-like lesions that appear inside or around the mouth and nose. Aside from being highly contagious, you will contract this disease more several times because it is a viral disease. There is currently no way to prevent or cure cold sores, but there can be steps and treatments that can be taken to reduce their frequency, duration and the discomfort from the lesions. Low-frequency red light can help heal the blistering skin by stimulating immune cells and increasing blood flow to the affected area.
RLT reduces some of the side effects of cancer treatments
One of the promising areas of RLT is in reducing some cancer treatment side effects, especially oral mucositis – painful ulcers in the mouth resulting from cancer therapy. RLT works in the same way as it prevents cold sores, by stimulating immune cells, promoting wound repair and tissue regeneration. Its anti-inflammatory property also helps relieve the pain from mucositis. Because of the large array of beneficial uses of RLT, scientific research and medical studies have expanded to studying the efficacy of RLT in managing other cancer treatment side effects, such as dermatitis, lymphedema, dysphagia, dysgeusia, and trismus.
Red light therapy is one of the promising developments in Photodynamic therapy. It has proven uses and properties that are beneficial in skin health maintenance and non-invasive cosmetic enhancements. It’s body process modulation properties, especially in promoting collagen production, wound healing and inflammation management lend to its expanding use beyond skin treatments. Several fields in medicine are conducting research and studies to prove the efficacy of RLT in treating health conditions and as a non-invasive and safe alternative for treatment. Red light therapy and other forms of Photodynamic therapy or Photobiomodulation may hold the key to treating medical conditions without having to go under the knife or taking medications.