Learn About Light Therapy

The Healing Power of Light

The sun does far more than just provide light for us to see by. The wavelengths of light are like ‘superfood' for our bodies. The myriad healing properties of light is absorbed through skin and eyes, and becomes life giving energy. With sufficient exposure we’re able to absorb critical nutrients and maintain healthy immune functions. Without enough light, we experience fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, and numerous other ailments as a consequence. 

Within North America, NASA spearheaded some of its more well-known and in-depth research during the 1980’s and 90’s. With over 4000 scientific studies across 40 years, (ref: pubmed.gov), the efficacy of Light Therapy is well validated. The full spectrum of light encompasses multiple colors, is able to penetrate the body at different depths, and moves on the continuum from visible (LED and Near Infrared) to the invisible rays of Far Infrared Therapy. 

Unpacking the science of Light Therapy can feel a bit overwhelming, and may be overkill. For the curious and the information seekers, we provide everything you would want and need to know!

What is Light Therapy?

Light Therapy is a non-invasive treatment that delivers concentrated energy from light to your cells. 

How Does Light Therapy Work?

Light Therapy works at the cellular level, but does so with none of the harmful UV rays from sunlight. During Light Therapy, the (visible and invisible) energy is delivered and absorbed within the mitochondria. The absorption of light photons causes a biochemical reaction to stimulate the production of ATP. The increased ATP energy results in greater cellular functioning and puts into play a positive ripple, and systemic impact on neighboring cells. 

The full spectrum of light: across the continuum 

The full spectrum of light includes visible and invisible wavelengths, delivered at distinct frequencies. Visible colors have a shorter wavelength and remain closer to the surface of the skin, Near Infrared and Far Infrared rays have a longer wavelength, are invisible to the human eye, and can penetrate further beneath the skin.  

LED, Red Light

The red, visible light colors, and near infrared light have been studied for more than 40 years. Efficacy has been proven for pain reduction, inflammation, to promote healing, prevent tissue damage, and much more. 

Red light therapy is also known as: RLT, photo-biomodulation (PBM), phototherapy, LED therapy, LED light therapy, low-level laser therapy, and low-level light therapy (LLLT).

A 2017 study found that visible red wavelengths in the range of 630-660 nm was of the highest benefit and absorption, up to 4 and 5 mm into the skin. Red wavelengths penetrate the skin and sebaceous glands to rejuvenate the skin’s tone and texture. 

Following are just a few examples of powerful Red Light benefits:

  • Reduced fine lines and wrinkles: with findings supported by numerous clinical trials, such as a 2014 study by researchers from Germany. 
  • Improvement in chronic skin disorders like psoriasis. One study showed that the use of the red light wavelength in conjunction with hematoporphyrin derivative (HPD) helped to eliminate the symptoms associated with psoriasis within 17 days.
  • Hair Regrowth: a 2013 study, showed red light therapy to be a safe and effective method of stimulating hair growth in both men and women.
  • Treatment of acne: A 2017 review published in Dermatology Times states that red light therapy could be a viable treatment for acne. Many popular LED light treatments for acne combine blue and red light.
  • Reduced training fatigue: Athletes take note! A 2011 study revealed that red light combined with NIR light can delay the development of fatigue in the muscles, and enhance skeletal muscle performance. This is one of many studies that suggest using more than one wavelength together could have profound benefits.
  • Reduced inflammation: In a study investigating the effects of red light therapy on pleurisy in rats, the wavelength was found to induce an anti-inflammatory effect
  • Improved bone healing: A 2015 study found that red light was even more effective than the NIR wavelength in increasing ATP production in vitro and an initial acceleration of callus formation in the bone fracture healing process.
  • Reduced neuropathic pain: A 2014 study investigating sciatic nerve pain in rats found that the red wavelength significantly helped to reduce pain.
  • Accelerated wound healing: In 2013, researchers conducting this study to find that the red wavelength increased the formation of new blood vessels and enhanced collagen deposition to help in the healing of wounds.

Near Infrared Light is a slightly longer wavelength and still partially visible on the light spectrum. The wavelength typically considered “best” is 850 nm, and with greater range, it can absorb into tissue at a depth (compared to red light) of up to 5 mm. This extends to the bone, muscle, blood vessels, organs, abdominal fat, lymph nodes, other tissue and fluids, well beneath the skin.

Enhanced brain health and the use of NIR for brain disorders is another exciting discovery, and although fairly recent, there is a belief among progressive scientists that NIR could become a mainstream treatment for neurological disorders. 

Following are just a few examples of Near Infrared Light Therapy benefits:

  • Improved recovery from stroke: One study conducted with stroke patients showed that NIR light wavelengths provided neuroprotective benefits and improved recovery among sufferers of moderate to severe strokes. Five days after the stroke, there was significant improvement among those who had been treated with 810 nm light therapy, compared to those who hadn’t. Ninety days post-stroke, 70 percent of the treated patients had a successful outcome, compared with only 51 percent of the control group.
  • Improved recovery from traumatic brain injury: As confirmed by this pilot study in 2007, where NIR light therapy was effective in promoting recovery from traumatic brain injuries and reducing long-term neurological damage.
  • Improvement in psychiatric disorders going back to this 2009 pilot study co-authored by world-renowned red light therapy expert Michael Hamblin, showing that NIR light applied to the forehead was effective for patients suffering from major depression and anxiety, with no adverse side effects.
  • Improved muscular healing and recovery: A 2017 study of soccer players showed that the NIR applied before activity enhanced muscular performance and post-exercise recovery.
  • Accelerated wound healing: This 2014 study found that NIR wavelengths helped expedite wound healing, which enabled the tissue to granulate more rapidly. Another  study from 2013 suggests that the NIR wavelength accelerates healing in wounds and helps to ward off infection. 
  • Improved outcomes following plastic surgery: with NIR wavelengths were used to speed recovery after aesthetic procedures.  2015 study
  • Improved bone repair and growth: A 2008 study by researchers from Brazil demonstrated that NIR light therapy improved bone repair by stimulating new bone growth. 
  • Faster return-to-play after injury: This 2016 study confirmed that NIR light therapy significantly and safely reduced the wait time before injured athletes could return to play. 
    Enhanced muscle recovery after a hard workout: A 2016 study co-authored by Hamblin observed the use of NIR wavelengths on athletes and found that the therapy increased muscle mass after training and decreased inflammation and oxidative stress in muscle biopsies.
  • Orthodontics and tooth alignment: A clinical trial published in 2016 confirmed that NIR wavelengths supported faster realignment of teeth for patients undergoing orthodontics.

Far Infrared Light

Aside from what we can see (visible light), a large portion of the sun’s energy is in the invisible, infrared part of the spectrum. The invisible, far infrared light has also been well studied and documented for more than 30 years. With a longer wavelength and the ability to penetrate further below the surface of skin, efficacy has been validated for enhancing blood circulation, reducing pain, strengthening the cardiovascular system, easing joint stiffness and inflammation, and revitalizing skin cells. 

Just like visible light, far infrared energy works at the cellular level to promote healing. The difference is that unlike LED and even NIR, the far infrared energy is experienced through heat. The gentle and soothing far infrared heat is deeply penetrating and able to reach into joints and surrounding tissue, 

Alleviates muscle and joint pain: the most common use of far infrared therapy is to relieve muscle and joint pain - particularly beneficial for people that suffer from Arthritis, stiff joints, back and neck pain. Consider far more effective for pain relief than traditional heating pads because their rays penetrate 4-6 inches below the surface of skin.

Radiant heat expands peripheral blood vessels, brings relief to muscles and soft tissue injuries, and can help relieve nerve pain.  In addition, increased blood circulation delivers oxygen-rich blood to injured muscles which helps to speed up the body's natural recovery process. 

Detoxification: trapped toxins lead to blocked blood circulation, impaired cellular energy, and a range of illnesses. Exposure to far infrared rays cause accumulated toxins to break apart naturally, and be safely expelled through the lymphatic system. 

Research and Scholarly Publications

Optimize Health, Therapeutic application of light and electromagnetic fields to reduce hyper-inflammation triggered by COVID-19. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19420889.2021.1911413?scroll=top&needAccess=true&role=tab.

The beneficial effects of red and infrared light in the treatment of inflammation have been well known since the time of Niels Finsen, who received the Nobel Prize in 1903 for his demonstration that a human autoimmune disease, lupus vulgaris, could be successfully treated and cured by application of visible light [2]. In subsequent years, illumination of patients with red or infrared light, known as Photobiomodulation therapy (PBM), was proven clinically effective against a variety of human diseases including Achilles tendinopathy [3], Alopecia Areata [4–6], psoriasis [7–9], thyroiditis [10, 41], and arthritis [11–13]. 

Using Light (Sunlight, Blue Light & Red Light) to Optimize Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #68. From the Huberman Lab, and the amazing Andrew Huberman who describes the mechanisms by which different wavelengths of light impact the cells, tissues and organs of the human body, and how specifically timed light exposure of specific wavelengths can be used to improve sleep, enhance alertness, modulate hormone levels, and improve mood. He also explains the use of ultraviolet and infrared phototherapies to relieve pain, increase testosterone and estrogen levels; improve skin health, appearance and wound healing; and how red light can be used to offset age-related vision loss and provide neuroprotection. 

Artificial Light and Cancer - Mal Illumination, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454613/

Artificial Light and Obesity, https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/180/3/245/2739112

Light at night clock and metabolism, https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/35/4/648/2354673

History, Mechanism, Dose, Mitochondrial, Anti Inflammatory. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28232927 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF0nqolsNZc&t=938s i






Skin Problems and Anti-Aging

Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy (LLLT) in Skin: Stimulating, Healing, Restoring


March 2013, Asheesh Gupta, PhD | Daniela Vecchio, PhD | Magesh Sadasivam, MTech | Michael R Hamblin, PhD | Nadav Pam, MD | Pinar Avci, MD | Zeev Pam, MD

Abstract: low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) is a fast-growing technology used to treat a multitude of conditions that require stimulation of healing, relief of pain and inflammation, and restoration of function. Although skin is naturally exposed to light more than any other organ, it still responds well to red and near-infrared wavelengths. The photons are absorbed by mitochondrial chromophores in skin cells. Consequently, electron transport, adenosine triphosphate nitric oxide release, blood flow, reactive oxygen species increase, and diverse signaling pathways are activated. Stem cells can be activated, allowing increased tissue repair and healing. In dermatology, LLLT has beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and healing of burns. LLLT can reduce UV damage both as a treatment and as a prophylactic measure. In pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo, LLLT can increase pigmentation by stimulating melanocyte proliferation and reduce depigmentation by inhibiting autoimmunity. Inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and acne can also be managed. The noninvasive nature and almost complete absence of side effects encourage further testing in dermatology.

Light-emitting diodes in dermatology: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Jared Jagdeo MD, MS, Evan Austin BS, Andrew Mamalis MD, MS, Christopher Wong BS, Derek Ho MD, Daniel M. Siegel MD, https://www.scmsjournal.com/article/abstract/low-level-laser-light-therapy-lllt-in-skin-stimulating-healing-restoring/

Lee SY, Park KH, Choi JW, et al. A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, and split-face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation. J Photchem Photobiol B 2007;88:51-67.

Varani J, Dame MK, Rittie L, Fligiel SEG, Kang S, Fisher GJ, et al. Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin. The American Journal of Pathology [Internet]. 2006;168:1861–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/ 

History, Mechanism, Dose, Mitochondrial, Anti-inflammatory, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5215870/

History, Mechanism, Dose, Mitochondrial, Anti Inflammatory, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5215870/ 

Comparison of Red and Infrared Low-level Laser Therapy in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22615511

Mental and Emotional Benefits

Recent studies show the use of LED Red Light has significant benefits for mental and emotional wellness, however the majority of research with Light Therapy for mental health has been conducted with Bright Light Therapy. During Bright Light Therapy, one would sit or stand by a light therapy box, which can range in size and emits a specific wavelength similar to natural sunlight. Using the right frequencies and exposures has been shown to significantly increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels, the chemicals in your brain that play a role in mood regulation.

Light Therapy is used to:

Light Therapy can be used to treat:

Sunlight Incidence, Vitamin D Deficiency, and Alzheimer's Disease., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454613/ 

Sunlight Incidence, Vitamin D Deficiency, and Alzheimer's Disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454613/

Depression Long term study, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556873/

Study on psychological benefits with documented results 2 and 4 weeks post treatment with near infrared light to the forehead, 10 patients with major depression and anxiety, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19995444