Red Light Therapy: What Is It and Does It Work?
Red light therapy is an emerging trend in medicine that has the potential ability to treat a myriad of skin conditions. While doctors and scientists haven't established the specifics of what it can successfully treat, it has a wealth of possibilities. Find out if red light therapy is something that you should consider in the future.
What is Red Light Therapy?
You may have heard red light therapy called many names, such as low-power laser therapy, non-thermal LED light, cold laser therapy, and phototherapy, among many others. It involves using red or near-infrared light of a low wavelength to treat various disorders of the skin. While both red and infrared light produces heat, only red light is visible to the naked eye. The red light itself can come from a lamp, laser, or other light emitting device. The heat created by these devices and lights isn't hot enough to burn the skin, nor does it produce any harmful UV rays.
How Does Red Light Therapy Reportedly Work?
Red light therapy reportedly works by using a red light emitting device on your skin for a specific amount of time. When the light hits your skin, a specific part of your cells called the mitochondria absorbs it. The mitochondria are responsible for generating the power the cell needs to perform its functions. When they absorb this red light, they are able to increase the amount of energy they produce. The theory is that this extra energy allows the cells to perform their functions at a higher level, letting them repair any damage to the skin or muscle tissue.
Where Did Red Light Therapy Originate?
Some of the first experiments with red light therapy date back to 1993, when NASA scientists used a red LED developed by Quantum Devices. They used this red LED to see how well plants grew while it was shining on them. It turns out that the plants that had this light on them grew faster compared to their counterparts. The scientists who were working around this light coincidentally noticed that any skin lesions they had healed faster after exposure to it.
Going forward, NASA primarily tested red light therapy, or RLT, to find out if it can benefit astronauts who are in space. Astronauts suffer from increased bone and muscle tissue loss due to low gravity, so NASA hoped this could be a helpful solution for long-term missions in space.
What Skin Conditions May Red Light Therapy Treat?
There are many skin conditions that red light therapy may or may not actually benefit from, but these are potential ones:
- Help wounds heal faster.
- Reduce the appearance of age spots, scars, stretch marks, and wrinkles.
- Improve the condition of acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
- Treat skin with sun damage.
- Increase the growth of hair for those with androgenic alopecia.
Outside of skin conditions, RLT may also help treat:
- Dental pain
Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Currently, red light therapy is showing promising results in treating some different skin conditions like scars and wrinkles. The downside is that the effectiveness of these treatments has not been fully confirmed by researchers. More research needs to be done through clinical trials that are randomized and placebo-controlled. These trials would compare people who get the real red light treatment with people who get a placebo, or fake, treatment without knowing which is which. These trials would definitely help confirm the effectiveness of RLT for specific conditions.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe?
If you get red light therapy, you don't have to worry about it being unsafe as long as you use it as directed. Unlike lights found in tanning beds or even the sun, red lights do not produce any harmful UV rays. It is currently unknown, but there is a chance you could damage your skin if you use it for too long or if you shine it in your eyes without any eye protection. You should always consult a dermatologist or physician before starting any red light therapy to find out exactly what you should do.
Can You Perform Red Light Therapy at Home?
You can perform red light therapy at home using a red light emitting device. The first thing you should check for when looking for a device is to make sure it is FDA approved. This will at least give you the peace of mind that you are using a device deemed medically safe. Always wear eye protection when using a red light device as well. You don't want to inadvertently damage your eyes in the process of treating your skin. Be sure to follow the exact instructions it came with too.
The only potential downside of using an at-home red light therapy machine is that it may use a lower frequency red light compared to a machine in a doctor's office. This means that it may not have enough power to correctly treat the condition you are trying to use it on.
Where Can You Get Red Light Therapy?
The most common place to get RLT is at your doctor's office. Some other places that offer it include dentist's offices, spas, salons, tanning salons, and gyms. If you are going to a place that isn't a doctor's office, be sure to thoroughly research the location first, so you don't end up somewhere where they don't know how to properly administer RLT.
Can RLT Help You?
You may be wondering if you should try out red light therapy or not. At the moment, the FDA has not approved all red light emitting devices, and although RLT can treat some conditions, the jury is still out on exactly which ones it does. If you do want to use RLT, try to stick with approved devices or doctors for conditions it's proven to work for. If you need to alleviate any other issues with nutritional supplements or exercises, TigerFitness.com can help. Check out our store for all of your health and workout-related needs.