In the 1990s, NASA developed technology incorporating red LEDs to stimulate growth and photosynthesis in plants for their space missions. Soon after, researchers investigated the use of red light therapy for humans, and over many years, LED light therapy treatments have moved to the mainstream. Salons today have red light therapy (RLT) beds while at-home red light therapy devices and systems are soaring in popularity.
What exactly is red light therapy?
Also known as cold laser therapy and low-level light therapy, red light therapy is a method of improving skin conditions, from wrinkles and scars to persistent wounds. It involves exposing your skin to low wavelength (660 nm - 890 nm) red LED lights.
Professional vs at-home light therapy
Red light therapy can be delivered by handheld devices, tanning beds, or stationery ‘heat lamps’ positioned to the targeted body segment. Many innovatively designed red light therapy devices have entered the market on the back of strong demand for red light therapy at home.
Although at-home devices may lack the strength of the LED used in a clinical setting, there is no difference in benefits. You may have to spend a few more minutes on red light therapy at home than during professional treatment.
Red light therapy generally uses wavelengths between 600 and 900 nm. Your body absorbs some ‘peak wavelengths’, which are the wavelengths where the spectrum reaches its highest intensity, more effectively. These peak wavelengths are 620 nm, 670 nm, 760 nm, and 830 nm. Wavelengths falling between these peak values are slightly less effective on your skin but get the job done.
When choosing an at-home red light therapy device, check if it uses wavelengths that are close in value to the peak wavelengths. About +/- 15 nm is just fine, and you will find many devices that use 630nm, 660 nm, and 850 nm. They are preferable to devices using 650 nm or 880 nm.
You could also have a look at FDA-approved at-home RLT panels that use many LEDs in different colors with different wavelengths to penetrate the skin at different levels. An example would be an RLT device that uses 660 nm (red), 630 nm (amber), 590 nm (yellow), and 880 nm (infrared).
Benefits of LED light therapy treatments
The exact science behind how red light therapy improves skin health is yet to be understood fully. It appears that the low wavelength light stimulates the skin’s mitochondria, the energy-generating ‘powerhouses’ of cells. Mitochondria are essential to processes such as wound healing, pigmentation, and hair growth. There is clinical evidence of a correlation between mitochondrial DNA damage and increased oxidative stress and aging.
Red light therapy is used to enhance or heal the skin. It can lighten acne scars and fine lines, help heal wounds caused by burns, and improve skin tone, complexion, and smoothness. The noninvasive phototherapy may also be useful in promoting hair growth in people with androgenetic alopecia.
As low wavelengths penetrate the skin more deeply than creams and serums, they could possibly be more effective in addressing skin problems and ailments.
Side-effects of red light therapy
LED light therapy treatments are generally safe for all skin types. There are no known side-effects of this technique. It could be why the FDA has approved the use of therapy for a variety of skin, hair, and medical issues.
Written by Ania for BrightAmos.