RLT works its magic by delivering safe, concentrated wavelengths of natural light into your skin (around five millimeters, to be exact), where it’s absorbed by your cells. This “stimulates the production of collagen, elastin, and fibroblasts,” says Rhonda Klein, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. That, in turn, enhances a little something known as ATP, the source of energy for every cell in the body (read: natural energy sans a 3 p.m. caffeine crash). “RLT also boosts circulation, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your cells and tissues,” Klein says.
Translation? When your cells are hit with the red light wavelengths, a host of regenerative effects occur, leading to potential benefits like younger-looking skin, enhanced muscle repair and diminished scarring.
Red Light Therapy (RLT) for Mental Health, Stress, and Sleep
A growing body of research is showing that RLT can specifically affect the brain, and in doing so, significantly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. These days, we could probably all use a little boost for our mental health.
How does RLT work?
Exposure to certain wavelengths in the red and near-infrared spectrum launches photochemical reactions within our cells. When chromophores inside our mitochondria absorb photons from the red and infrared light spectrum, their electrons get excited and leap into a higher-energy orbit. The result is newly available energy that our bodies can use for a variety of cellular tasks, including turning on beneficial genes and synthesising important proteins—among much more!
There’s no shortage of research to confirm it really does help you heal faster. A 2014 study found red light therapy promoted “increased tissue repair and healing … [plus] beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and healing of burns.”
Muscle Repair and Recovery
When it comes to muscle repair and recovery, evidence suggests RLT has benefits when used both pre and post workout. A 2014 study found that the therapeutic technique led to reduced muscle strength loss, less muscle soreness and fewer range-of-motion impairments for up to four days after exercise. A more recent 2018 study also proved that RLT both before and after exercise reduces knee muscle fatigue.
At the core of many of these benefits is RLT’s potential to reduce inflammation and pain. Researchers have found that RLT exposure can help reduce pain for osteoarthritis knee pain, meniscus tears, general knee pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and back pain. The data on red light therapy for pain relief is so convincing, the FDA has approved it as a therapy for treating minor pains and arthritis.
One of the most popular uses of RLT is to clear up skin issues like acne. “I wouldn’t traditionally recommend red light therapy for severe acne, but it’s a wonderful additive therapy that’s safe and well-tolerated by all skin types and tones,” says Angela Lamb, M.D., Associate Professor of the Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The skin-clearing secret lies in RLT’s anti-inflammatory effects, says Klein. It also helps naturally decrease oil production and bacterial levels in your skin—no drying effects or harsh chemicals required.
There are plenty of studies to support RLT’s anti aging prowess, such as a 2014 study that determined that users of RLT experienced significantly improved skin complexion and an increase in collagen. “Science shows that red light therapy protects existing collagen and boosts new production,” says Lamb. “Plus, it helps with texture, tone, pore size and wrinkles.”
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