Science & Effects of Red Light Therapy

Since the beginning of the new millennium, increasing evidence shows that different wavelengths of light influence our body's biochemistry and therefore, its well-being-related functions. In particular, red (RED) and near-infrared (NIR) light is very effective. The red spectrum is visible to the eye and is absorbed mainly by the skin. Near-infrared light is not visible to the human eye. This light penetrates deeper into our body (unlike other wavelengths, which are absorbed by the skin) where it has a positive effect on our mitochondria, cells, organs and endocrine glands.

The new science of photobiomodulation has brought us several thousands of studies (including human studies) over the past two decades showing that the therapeutic use of red and near-infrared light can support our bodies on virtually every level.

We have divided the effects of RED and NIR therapy into 9 categories, which provide a basic overview below.  You may also click through to more specific information, including selected studies.

Recovery & Athletic Performance

Some of the most popular benefits of red light therapy are its use before training to improve athletic performance, or after physical activity to reduce inflammation in the body, speed up recovery, increase strength and muscle mass. Red light therapy promotes energy production in the mitochondria, collagen production, increases testosterone (if applied to you-know-where) and thus has a positive effect on the physical aspects of our body.

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Hormonal System

Near-infrared light penetrates deep into the body, and depending on which endocrine glands it hits, it subsequently strengthens them.  Studies show a strong positive effect on the thyroid gland when using the light on the neck for 10 – 15 minutes per day (especially for females).  In the same way red light therapy works in the case of crotch targeting in men (illuminating the parts where the light does not normally reach), women can also benefit from this.  As a result, both testosterone production and spermatogenesis are increased. Positive effects are seen with the use of red and also near-infrared spectrum.

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Skin, Hair & Nails

As we age, our body gradually loses its ability to synthesize new collagen, resulting in the formation of wrinkles, and diminishing quality of hair and nails. Collagen is also important for wound and scarregeneration.  While it’s beneficial to ingest specific amino acids or collagen from diet, to create maximum effect, collagen synthesis must be activated.  This is where red and near-infrared light come in. Increasing collagen production is the main reason why phototherapy has been used in beauty salons and dermatology.  You can also find various infrared lamps and emitters in those locations, but they typically do not provide the optimal spectrum in the required irradiation strength.

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Sleep & Circadian Rhythm

Our body's processes are synchronized based on a 24-hour biorhythm called the circadian rhythm. In order to synchronise your rhythm, avoid artificial blue light before going to bed (e.g. with Blue Blockers glasses), and expose yourself to intense light soon after waking up. Photobiomodulation is ideal to use in the morning after waking up, as it produces a light spectrum that mimics the sunrise at an intensity of 30,000 lux (on a cloudy day you barely have a few hundred lux at home after sunrise). This creates a morning reset to your circadian rhythm, translating into energy and performance.  Several studies have found improved sleep quality and increased melatonin levels when using red light therapy.

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Musculoskeletal System

Due to its complex mechanism of action, red and especially near-infrared light therapy are very beneficial for our musculoskeletal system. They are great for prevention, and for regeneration of joints, tendons, and even bones. This therapy can reduce inflammation while increasing collagen synthesis; two of the most important factors for a strong musculoskeletal system.

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Mental & Cognitive Function

Therapy through the red and the near-infrared spectrum has a positive effect on our brain, psyche and mood. It is very effective for both depressive episodes and seasonal depression (when we often lack intense light). However, it is beneficial for anyone wanting to increase brain function through near-infrared therapy, the synthesis of activating neurotransmitters, or to reduce the negative effects of today's hectic, modern lifestyle.

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Reduction of Inflammation

Red and near-infrared light help reduce inflammation wherever it shines at sufficient intensity. Photobiomodulation using red and near infrared light can be used to locally target swelling, inflamed nodules, strained tendons, sore teeth, injured muscles, or even chronic inflammation in joints. It also helps to reduce chronic inflammation throughout the body.

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You may often hear about the negative effects of light on our eyes, whether by sitting too close to the TV or looking directly at the sun without glasses. Even though photobiomodulation uses intense light (visually, the red component; the near-infrared is not visible to the naked eye).  This may seem counterintuitive, but these wavelengths strengthen the eyes and vision, negating the effects of looking at screens, and the negative effect of excessive blue light in general. This means that you can look into the light with your eyes closed, despite the strong intensity. This strengthens them for any other light during the day. Quite literally, you can see for yourself that photobiomodulation works.

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Longevity & Vitality

Perhaps the greatest promise of red and near-infrared light therapy lies in maintaining overall long-term vitality and longevity of our bodies. This type of light purposefully strengthens the cell's energy factories - the mitochondria - directly affecting the lifespan of a given cell, and how quickly we will age. It is the positive action on mitochondria that is a big theme of the current anti-aging movement. Photobiomodulation using RED and NIR radiation is one of the most effective ways to achieve this. While you will feel some effects right away, consistent application supports the longevity effect. When you look back over the many years of daily phototherapy application, you’ll smile at the fact you haven't aged a day.

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