In the wellness space, it seems like there is always a new trend. In recent years, red light therapy (RLT) has become popular. Celebrities like Leann Rimes and whole athletic teams like the 49ers have expressed their love of the technology and helped the sales of personal infrared saunas gain some traction.
But I couldn’t help noticing manufacturers of both personal and professional red light therapy devices have made some incredible claims that seem all too good to be true.
When my clients began asking me about the benefits and risks, my curiosity was piqued. I don’t recommend any treatment lightly. So I wanted to be sure.
Ever the scientific critic that I am, I decided it was time to investigate for myself and what I found was some pretty compelling evidence that any health-conscience and wellness-focused woman will definitely want to know.
What is red light therapy?
Red light therapy (aka photobiomodulation) is an FDA-approved treatment that uses low wavelength red light and near infrared (NIR) wavelengths to aid your body’s recovery with a variety of medical conditions.
Manufacturers suggest that this technology has a wide range of benefits that include improving the appearance of skin issues from:
- Stretch marks
- We like the sound of that!
Other benefits are still being clinically studied, but may include:
- Optimized sleep
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
- Mental acuity
- Weight loss
- Improved circulation
- Wound recovery
- Pain management
- General well-being
With a list that is so comprehensive, you can understand my suspicion and also my curiosity. If proven effective, these benefits may greatly improve the lives of my clients with arthritis, cancer, imbalanced hormones, and more.
Here’s how red light therapy works.
The red lights emit low level and near infrared wavelengths that are directed at your body for a controlled period of time. Those wavelengths penetrate the deep layers of your skin and strengthen the production of energy at a cellular level by increasing oxygen production and speeding up cell regeneration.
Your body then takes this energy and puts it to work creating an increase in collagen and leaving you with healthier, smoother, more radiant looking skin.
Why is this important?
You might ask yourself, “Can’t my skin care routine do all that? Why expose myself to more artificial light?”
Light therapy to treat skin conditions may seem counterintuitive. We know that overexposure to the harmful UV rays in sunlight has earned itself a reputation for causing skin damage and cancer. Additionally the blue lights emitted from your electronics may be especially harmful.
But not all light is bad. Twenty minutes of sunlight a day is actually recommended for adequate Vitamin D production. This affects your mood, your sleep, and your general well-being. Your body needs healthy light in order to function effectively and sunlight is just one example of this.
The average American spends an overwhelming majority of their time indoors or in front of a screen. Most people are completely missing out on all the important benefits that healthy light offers.
Additionally, consistent time indoors without exposure to sunshine messes with your circadian rhythm, leaving you feeling restless at bedtime.
This is where red light therapy comes in.
With a variety of RLT personal devices and infrared saunas to choose from, you can now receive the full spectrum of benefits from the comfort of your home in just 10 minutes a day, a few times a week.Simply put, red light therapy is a safe and convenient way to add healthy light into your daily life.
Fact or Fiction: Addressing the myths about red light therapy
While I’m impressed with the high reviews red light therapy is getting, I’m also seeing some outrageous claims that are just simply untrue. So let’s clear a few things up about what red light therapy can and cannot do for you.
Myth #1: “RLT is a good alternative to sunlight.”
There is no alternative for natural light and all the positive effects it has on your body. For example, red light therapy does not stimulate your body to produce Vitamin D. But when paired with a healthy dose of Vitamin D from sunshine, red light therapy can optimize your exposure to healthy lights and have a deeper impact on your sleep cycle.
Red light therapy is yet another option for healthy light with its own unique set of benefits, but you should aim to balance this treatment with some time outdoors whenever possible.
RLT should be considered a supplementation of sunshine, not a substitution for sunshine.
Myth #2: “RLT can cause cancer.”
When red light therapy devices are used as recommended, there are undeniable benefits for cancer patients including healing and pain management. While using the recommended guidelines included with your device, the treatment is safe and effective.
Myth #3: “Red light therapy burns the skin.”
This rumor is false. The RLT devices are designed to reduce heat and contain it within the device itself. While you will experience some mild warmth from the flow of electricity in the device, the lights used are non-thermal, creating wavelengths that do not burn the skin.
Now, if you use an infrared sauna beyond the recommended time or at a higher frequency, there may be some risk of burn, but the risk from LED light therapy is minimal compared to other anti-aging treatments such as chemical peels, dermabrasion, and laser therapy.
Myth #4: “Red Light therapy is harmful to your eyes.”
This one is true, but there is a caveat. Depending on the RLT device you have and the frequency setting of the lights, you may be able to simply close your eyes. This is especially true of newer models.
All intense lights can be damaging to your eyes. This is why your body instinctively tells you to look away when you see a bright light. If you are experiencing any eye sensitivity during use, you may feel more comfortable wearing protective eyewear.
Any company that claims these lights are good for your eyes in a blanket statement is being irresponsible. Instead, look for a reputable distributor that warns you to wear eye protection during use when appropriate. I love to see brands like Joovv (https://lddy.no/1gqmy) who are upfront about the benefits and the risks. Notable that they also include protective eyewear with their devices.
What you need to know
It’s not for everybody. There are a few catches that you should be aware of when weighing whether red light therapy is a good fit for your wellness routine.
- You are currently taking medication that makes you sensitive to light,
- You have a history of seizures and migraines triggered by bright lights,
- Or you are pregnant or bipolar,
Then red light therapy might not be right for you.
Otherwise, the risks are relatively low and well worth the benefits to sufferers battling skin conditions, chronic pain, and poor quality sleep.
How do you decide?
There are a variety of devices that you can use in your own home. I personally have a Joovv Mini and I absolutely love it! Two thumbs up for sure.
Here are a few other models with some superior features:
This handheld device is small, but mighty. The Go is perfect for on-the-go users. It includes an alarm clock feature, a 9V adaptor, and a handheld case, so you can conveniently toss it in your purse or gym bag and use it anywhere.
What’s great about this model is that it’s so customizable and expandable. You can choose from the wall, door, or floor mounting systems in the Solo option to get you started. Then add on to build one of the larger systems in the future.
This system is large and in charge, but my favorite feature is the mobile stand. It’s so easy to simply roll it into a closet when you want to tuck it away and roll it back out again without losing the benefits of a full coverage device.
Additionally, many clinics, salons, and medical spas offer red light therapy in their facility. A quick search should provide RLT providers near you.
Takeaway for my clients
The vast benefits of red light therapy seem promising, but the final verdict is still out. I can wholeheartedly recommend this treatment to clients with skin conditions and sleep disorders. While the treatments of other medical issues look hopeful, there is still more testing and research needed.
As for my overall thoughts?
You are worthy of feeling good in your own skin.
What do you think? Would you give an infrared sauna a try? Let me know in the comments.