For more than 50 years, proponents of laser therapy have claimed it can help with skin rejuvenation. You might think laser lights are purely science fiction — but a growing amount of evidence suggests they may provide notable health benefits. Here is some information on red light therapy and what the science says it can do for your body.
What is Red Light Therapy?
In a nutshell, this process involves applying red light wavelengths to the skin. You don’t feel it because it doesn’t emit any heat — in fact, the skin absorbs red light at a depth of 8-10 millimeters.
If you haven’t heard of red light therapy, you might have heard of other terms used to describe the process — including biostimulation, low-level laser therapy, and photonic stimulation. The term “light box therapy” is also used.
Whatever you call it, studies show that this process may have healing properties. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of low-level light therapy in some situations. It’s even used to help patients suffering from problems such as slow-healing wounds and joint pain.1
But there have been many other health benefits associated with the use of red light therapy. It may help stimulate the release of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from cells to increase energy.2 ATP also plays a role in helping increase blood circulation.3 This, in turn, helps to deliver much-needed nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and cells.
Red light exposure may also help produce new collagen — the main structural protein that helps improve the appearance of skin. One of the skin rejuvenation benefits, the FDA reports, is the potential reduction of wrinkles.4
LED (light-emitting diode) red light therapy has also shown promise. It may help to reduce the signs of skin aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. In one study, subjects who underwent this type of therapy saw notable improvement in many areas, including skin texture, skin tone, complexion, and thickness. They also reported a reduction in the appearance of aging. Researchers concluded that red light therapy is a safe, effective way to address many types of skin issues.5
Another potential benefit associated with red light therapy is improving joint health. In one study, patients suffering from joint problems were given red light therapy — and the majority of patients claimed it relieved symptoms like morning stiffness and pain.6
Could light therapy also help those suffering from aging-related pain, like neck discomfort? A study showed light therapy not only reduced pain immediately, but kept it at bay for up to five months.7 In another study, patients with bone disorders showed an improved range of motion after receiving red light therapy.8
What About Blue Light Therapy?
There’s a fair chance you don’t have a lot of devices at home that emit red light. On the other hand, there are probably several devices around your home that emit blue light — such as your cell phone and your alarm clock.
But blue light also has potential medical applications — including the treatment of acne. Research shows that blue light can reach the oil glands (known as the sebaceous glands) in skin and kill compounds known as porphyrins. These compounds are a main component of the bacteria that cause acne. Red light therapy, used along with blue light therapy and antibacterial cream, may also help reduce acne.9
Considerations When Getting Red Light Therapy
There are many doctors who think that the jury is still out on light therapy. They won’t offer it until they see more research proving that it works. Likewise, many insurance companies consider it to still be in the experimental stage and won’t cover it.10 So if you want to pursue light therapy, your doctor might refer you to a dermatologist or other specialist.
Blue light and red light therapy devices are available to buy; however, these at-home devices aren’t as strong as those in doctor’s offices. You may also have longer sessions at home — up to an hour. (The sessions at the doctor’s office are often much faster.)
If you are considering red light therapy, make sure you see a qualified practitioner — he or she will know the exact “doses” of light needed to address your particular problem. Red light therapy is generally considered safe, but be sure to tell your practitioner immediately if you experience side effects.
One Last Note
Research indicates red light therapy may be effective for a variety of health issues, including acne. But before you run out and make an appointment (or buy your own device), speak to your doctor. Also, don’t expect overnight miracles — red light therapy may take time to work.
For more helpful beauty tips, keep reading:
Manuka Honey: Why You Should Be Using It On Your Skin