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Red Light Therapy: Effectiveness, Treatment, and Risk


RLT is a procedure of exposing the body to low-wavelength red light. This light can penetrate deep into skin and tissue and helps in the treatment of skin issues like acne, wrinkles, scars, and signs of aging.


Red Light Therapy was originally started by NASA for plant growth in space and was also used to treat wounds in astronauts. It has since then been tried for different healthcare applications. 


RLT treatment involves the use of low-power red laser light directed at the skin. This light can penetrate deep into the skin and tissues and is absorbed by the cells. 


The energy of this light is absorbed by the powerhouse of the cell i.e. mitochondria. This extra energy is used by the cells to repair, grow, rejuvenate and promote new cell growth.


How does red light therapy help for skin?


For skin,  RLT treatment can help in


  • Simulation of collagen production, which improves skin texture, strength and elasticity.
  • Increase fibroblast production which in turn produces collagen.
  • Improves blood circulation to tissues
  • Reduces inflammation in cells


Other medical conditions that RLT is  being used for

  • In reducing side effects of chemotherapy like oral mucositis.
  • In treating alopecia, increasing hair density
  • To relieve pain and inflammation in tendons, bones and muscles
  • To prevent cold sores from recurring.

Image credit: Pelijsalon


However, research is going on to study various treatments. Do it is helpful in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis? 


RLT therapy has not been proven effective for all its claimed uses but it is safe and non-invasive and is widely gaining popularity in the cosmetic industry. 


What are the other names of Red light therapy?: Where can we get RLT? 


RLT can be described in other terms like


  • Low-level laser light therapy
  • Photobiomodulation
  • Phototherapy
  • Cold laser therapy 
  • Soft laser therapy
  • Non-thermal LED light
  • Photogenic stimulation
  • Low-power laser therapy.


Where can we get Red light therapy? 


For cosmetic purposes i.e. for reducing wrinkles, improving skin quality, reducing scars,  etc., RLT services are available in local gyms, spas, and salons. 


Many FDA-approved products for cosmetic use are also available online. There is no expertise required to use these devices and are very easy to use at home. 


For more complicated requirements like chemotherapy, joint inflammation,  arthritis, etc, RLT beds are available in hospitals, and treatment for the same is given under observation. 


Prolonged use of these radiations is however harmful to both skin and eyes.  It is therefore important to stick to the time and frequency of usage as prescribed. 


In which treatment is red light therapy being used? 


RLT has been shown to be more effective when it is used along with other frequency radiations, creams, or treatments.


For instance, there are heat belts that use red light, infrared heat, and electromagnetic currents which promote healing and help with back pain, period pains, and post-workout stress. 


In addition, skin masks with both led blue and red lights are available. The wavelength of the Blue light helps in killing the acne bacteria and improves skin health. 


However, the wavelength of red light promotes blood circulation, increases metabolism, prevents aging, and boosts collagen. 


Together they not only reduce but also prevent future breakouts.


There are creams and serums which are applied on the skin for better results while using RLT.


For serious medical conditions like skin cancer, warts, psoriasis, etc, red light treatment is used to activate photosensitive drugs. 


These drugs create a chemical reaction upon interaction with red light which destroys the affected cells.


Similar treatment options


Phototherapy has been used in healthcare for a long time. For instance, newborn babies are given Phototherapy to reduce jaundice. 


Different color wavelengths and combinations of these wavelengths are also being studied in humans.  Some other light-based treatments are:


  • Laser treatments
  • Blue or green light treatments
  • Sauna light therapy
  • Natural light treatment 
  • Ultraviolet B therapy


The choice of treatment should be left to the professionals and should be guided by dermatologists or doctors. 


What are the effectiveness and risk associated with red light therapy? 


To get good results one has to undergo multiple sessions of RLT over a continuous period of time. The time period can range from 3 weeks to a few months.  


Longer periods of treatment have neither been suggested nor studied.  Strong supporters of RLT promise results of good skin and reduced acne in 30 days of treatment.


RLT is still in the growing stages and is getting a lot of popularity in the cosmetic industry. At this point in time, there is not much evidence proving its effectiveness and supporting its claims. 


So far it has shown its promised results in a small study group of people. 


Studies have not been conducted on a large scale or with placebo groups. The limited study however has shown promising results at the skin tissue level. 


So does it work the same for everyone? 


The effectiveness of treatment varies among skin types and the wavelength that is being used. For better results and understanding of the treatment, it is advised to consult your dermatologist or doctor. 


Risk factors: 


It is non-invasive, non-toxic, and not harsh in an application. So far no cases of accidents, burning, or adverse reactions have been reported. 


However, this radiation can be harmful to the eyes in continuous exposure. It is therefore advised to cover your eyes or avoid interaction of these radiations with your eyes.


As not much research has happened in this area,  it is advised to stick to the prescribed duration and frequency of light application.


Cost and Insurance coverage 


RLT machines are pretty much available in almost every gym, salon, or spa. RLT and other LED (light emitting device) masks are easily available on e-commerce sites, making them relatively cheaper than other skin care treatments.


Special beauty salons and branded masks have however increased the costs of these treatments.


So far there is no insurance coverage for this treatment as it has not been proven on a larger scale. 


Final words 


Red light therapy is a cheap, effective, and most importantly safe option for people looking to improve the basic quality of their skin. It is easily available and can be used at home too.


Over the past few years, healthcare has adopted and researched many new technological solutions which are revolutionary. 


For instance, telemedicine, medical practice management software, and patient monitoring software are advanced care facilities.  


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