One great thing about light therapy is that it’s been widely studied in clinical trials around the world for decades, starting with NASA nearly 30 years ago. In trial after trial, light therapy has been found safe and effective at promoting a wide range of pretty incredible health benefits. Now let’s geek out on some of the science.
These are some of the major areas that are backed by a large body of clinical research.
Skin Health & Anti-Aging: Studies have found light therapy improves skin tone & complexion, diminishes signs of aging, speeds the healing of wounds and scars, and boosts natural collagen production. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 74% of the participants reported a visible improvement in fine lines and wrinkles. Natural red and near-infrared light has also been found in clinical trials to have a therapeutic effect on the symptoms of painful skin conditions like psoriasis, herpes, and acne.
Muscle Recovery & Physical Performance: This one is my wheelhouse and the biggest reason I swear by my daily, full-body red light therapy sessions. When you train hard and perform at a high physical level, muscle recovery is essential. Red light helps my body spring back from the pain and strain of a punishing workout faster, so I can do it all over again sooner without getting hurt. Being able to train more and stay healthy is the best natural formula for gaining a competitive advantage, regardless of what sport you play. Red light not only helps you recover, but it stimulates muscle growth too. One study—from the European Journal of Applied Physiology—compared muscle growth and strength between two groups of athletes—one using light therapy combined with exercise, the other using exercise alone. Researchers demonstrated that muscle thickness and strength were significantly improved (by over 50%!) in those who used light therapy. These results were clearly measurable using ultrasound imaging and isokinetic dynamometry.
Joint Pain & Inflammation: In 2000, a systematic review in The Journal of Rheumatology set out to see just how effective light therapy could be for arthritis. This review found significant results across thirteen randomized controlled trials. The best results were demonstrated in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, with light therapy reducing participants’ pain by 70 percent compared to the placebo.
Increased Cognitive Function: One clinical study of men and women with a history of traumatic brain injury were administered red and NIR light therapy treatment for their brains in 18 sessions over 6 weeks. The researchers noted improved sleep, better executive functions, improved social functioning, and an increased ability to perform tasks and activities. Participants also reported improvements in depression, anxiety, headaches, and overall cognition.
Healing Wounds & Burns: Red light therapy has been shown in trials to aid the healing of wounds, burns, and scars by inducing the release of cytokines and chemokines in cells. In a 2018 study of light therapy and chronic wounds in diabetes patients, researchers found that the group treated with an LED device for 8 weeks resulted in scars with a smaller mean surface area compared to the non-LED group.
Melatonin & Sleep: I’ve mentioned many times how I’ve been sleeping better since strategically incorporating light therapy into my daily routine. Artificial light can knock your circadian rhythm out of whack, but red and near-infrared light does the opposite and helps reset your internal clock. Clinical studies show light therapy also increases natural melatonin production for healthier sleep.
Red light therapy involves directing a penetrating red light upon an area of skin which needs improvement. Treatments using red light will brighten skin tone and improve texture, helping to reduce pore size. Anti-aging red light therapy increases circulation and heals the elastic fibers that help keep skin young and tight.
Red light therapy is completely safe for an average healthy individual. According to the FDA, red light used at 633 nm poses a non-significant risk and is also safe for the eyes at that level. Red light goes into the tissue at a depth of 8-10 mm, ensuring that the level of delivery is not only safe but also effective. The results are long-lasting.
The innovations of science have made a surprisingly simple technology widely available. When red light at 633nm is absorbed at a cellular level by the mitochondria a simulation of intracellular energy transfer occurs. The production of this energy means cell vitality and permeability is increased overall. Production of new collagen, and increased turnover of collagen and elastin occurs during this process, ensuring that the fibers within skin are firm. Scientific studies have also shown that cells grow 150-200% faster upon exposure to certain light wavelengths.
Although sunbathing does produce a feeling of wellbeing in an individual and is vital for the creation of Vitamin D, there is a large difference between the light coming from the sun and the light that is coming from a red light treatment. There is no risk of sunburn for an individual undergoing red light therapy, and red light machines do not contain the full spectra of the sun, which can cause damage to the skin upon prolonged or intense exposure. There are no UVA or UVB rays in red light therapy.
Red light therapy will not produce immediate changes to skin, as the treatments are done in a series to effect noticeable and long-lasting effects. This is done over a priod of a few weeks. Everyone reacts differently, as not all skin is the same.
In general, the best results will be seen in an 8 to 12 week period, or over a period of several months.
Red light is excellent for removal of bacteria that is responsible for acne and other skin conditions. This therapy treatment generally induces cellular activity that greatly reduces the appearance of aged skin. Anti-aging red light therapy is known to brighten the skin and reduce the chances of skin discoloration occuring.