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Shedding Light on Red Light Therapy: Exploring Health Benefits and Scientific Findings

Red light therapy is growing in popularity. Let's examine red light therapy from a health perspective and see if the hype is really warranted.

Energy comes to us from a variety of natural and man made sources. The sun is, by far and away, the biggest producer of energy which impacts us daily. This energy comes to us in a “spectrum” of light energy. This spectrum encompasses the visible light spectrum, but also the near infrared, the radio, the shortwave, microwave, the cellular, and even higher frequency bands. This light energy, when it comes to us as visible and near infrared spectrums, is used by our bodies in a variety of ways. We have pigments which pull and manage this energy and we use it in many cellular processes. Many proteins are named for their abilities to absorb light at a certain spectrum. For instance we all have a protein complex called P450. This protein complex is named “p450” for its abilities to absorb light at 450 nanometers. “red light” usually refers to the higher bandwidths of the visible spectrum which are red, and also refers to wavelengths just beyond the visible called near infrared.

So with a “red light” we have the opportunity to saturate a person with a particular spectrum of light. This is useful to stimulate certain reactions inside of us. For instance it would be useful to improve mitochondria efficiencies. A healthy mitochondria means a health cell. Healthy cells mean healthy systems which means a healthy you. By stimulating mitochondria with certain wavelengths of light we can more readily tune affects and get the results we are after. Most red lights broadcast in only a spectrum of 2 wavelengths, 660nm and 810-850nm. While these bandwidths are beneficial, our lights broadcast on a much wider spectrum and are thereby able to stimulate more healing type actions from the mitochondria.

What are the reported benefits of red light therapy?

Skin: “These data suggest that red and near-infrared light promoted skin rejuvenation and did so through mechanisms akin to tissue healing following trauma, as has been observed in other wound-healing studies” (1).

  1. Acne: “Two smaller studies of 24 and 22 patients with mild to severe acne vulgaris treated with a combination of blue (415 nm) and red (633 nm) LED light also revealed improvements in lesion count from the baseline over the 8- and 12-week duration of follow-up, respectively (2,3)

  2. Hair Loss: “The reviews all reported that LLLT (led red light) was efficacious in improving mean hair density and hair thickness with minimal side effects, and the meta-analysis supported the claim of efficacy for mean hair density, with no discernible gender difference. Interestingly, subgroup meta-analysis suggested that a low frequency of treatment (<60 minutes/week) was more efficacious. (4)

  3. Wrinkles: “Clinically, this manifested as reduced wrinkles and improved skin elasticity, measured objectively by profilometric evaluation of silicon imprints and with use of a device to measure skin elasticity (Cutometer, Courage & Khazaka Electronic GmbH, Köln, Germany), respectively. These data suggest that red and near-infrared light promoted skin rejuvenation and did so through mechanisms akin to tissue healing following trauma, as has been observed in other wound-healing studies.” (5)

  4. Wound healing: “Additional reports provide evidence for the role of LLLT (led red light) in enhancing healing of burns and in the appearance of surgical scars” (6,7)

  5. Pain and pain management: “We observed that the photobiomodulation therapy (red light therapy) offers a non-invasive, safe, drug-free, and side-effect-free method for pain relief of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions as well as fibromyalgia.” (8)

Supportive Data:

Glass GE, Chan JK, Freidin A, Feldmann M, Horwood NJ, Nanchahal J. TNF-alpha promotes fracture repair by aug- menting the recruitment and differentiation of muscle-derived stromal cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(4):1585-1590.

(2) Lee SY, You CE, Park MY. Blue and red light combination LED phototherapy for acne vulgaris in patients with skin phototype IV. Lasers Surg Med. 2007;39(2):180-188.

(3) Goldberg DJ, Russell BA. Combination blue (415 nm) and red (633 nm) LED phototherapy in the treatment of mild to severe acne vulgaris. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2006;8(2):71-75.

(4) Leavitt M, Charles G, Heyman E, Michaels D. HairMax LaserComb laser phototherapy device in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled, multicentre trial. Clin Drug

Investig. 2009;29(5):283-292.

(5) Hawkins D, Abrahamse H. Biological effects of helium- neon laser irradiation on normal and wounded human skin fibroblasts. Photomed Laser Surg. 2005;23(3):251-259.

(6) Vaghardoost R, Momeni M, Kazemikhoo N, et al. Effect of low-level laser therapy on the healing process of donor site in patients with grade 3 burn ulcer after skin graft surgery (a randomized clinical trial). Lasers Med Sci. 2018;33(3):603-607.

(7) Carvalho RL, Alcântara PS, Kamamoto F, Cressoni MD, Casarotto RA. Effects of low-level laser therapy on pain and scar formation after inguinal herniation surgery: a randomized controlled single-blind study. Photomed Laser Surg. 2010;28(3):417-422.

(8) DE Oliveira MF, Johnson DS, Demchak T, Tomazoni SS, Leal-Junior EC. Low-intensity LASER and LED (photobiomodulation therapy) for pain control of the most common musculoskeletal conditions. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2022 Apr;58(2):282-289. doi: 10.23736/S1973-9087.21.07236-1. Epub 2021 Dec 16. PMID: 34913330; PMCID: PMC9980499.

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