Red Light Therapy, a Proof of The Light Fantastic?

New Scientist just backed red light therapy. You should too.

4 Minute ReadFeature by Jessica Lacey


It eases muscles, builds collagen, suppresses inflammation, induces sleep and safeguards your emotional state to boot. With all the benefits of red light therapy, it’s a wonder we’re not all constantly bathing in it like newly hatched Easter chicks.

Red light therapy benefits both body and soul, and has earned residency status in spa treatments, dermatological protocols, health retreats, and even intensive sleep clinics across the globe. We simply can’t (and shouldn't), get enough of it because unlike many wellness movements, red light has hard science to back it up.

“Evidence is growing that by delivering specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared laser light to precise areas of the body, it is possible to fine tune biochemical processes such as mitochondrial function and cell signalling to aid cell rejuvenation and healing,” reports New Scientist in a recent article focused on the LYMA Laser.

What does red light therapy do for the face?

“If you want to rebuild the skin, the light has to arrive at the base layer, where regeneration takes place with sufficient power,” says Lucy Goff, founder of LYMA whose near infrared low level laser sent the entire industry into a spin upon launch. LED masks have been a strong skin trend for a few years now, but red LED light therapy is a non-coherent light source that runs off in all directions and reflects when it hits the skin. This is why the vast majority of at-home red light therapy devices only impact the very top layers of skin. “In order to achieve true skin remodelling, you have to be able to target the fibroblasts which are the battery cells in the skin that are all the way at the base level, which the LYMA Laser is able to do,” explains award-winning, board-certified dermatologist, Dr Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD. “The light from the LYMA Laser is coherent light that’s considered the gold standard of light. It doesn’t lose energy when it hits the skin, and therefore it's much more effective in skin renewal. It’s targeted, powerful and able to penetrate through all the layers of skin without losing power.”

Low-level laser therapy for turning back the clock

True coherent laser light such as the LYMA Laser has been proven to stimulate sufficient collagen production to effectively reverse sun damage, fade out fine lines and wrinkles and return lost volume to skin. But how does this kind of red light therapy work? Aesthetic surgeon Graeme Glass, explains that this is due to energy transference deep down in the skin’s base layers. “Effectively, you’re supercharging the mitochondria to make more ATP, which helps cell regeneration. As a result, genes that are responsible for senescence [cell death] and decline have been shown to be switched off, and genes involved in cell proliferation, survival, tissue repair, and regeneration are switched on,” Glass says.
LYMA red laser lady face wind

Infrared light for physical recovery

Walk into any elite fitness club either side of the Atlantic and you'll find some of the best red light therapy in infrared saunas. Remedy Place, Equinox, 180 Health and Repose all have state of the art models for improved fitness performance and muscle recovery following intensive workouts. Perfectly designed for city folk, infrared saunas are also powerful detoxifiers able to systemically pull heavy metals and environmental pollutants out of the body at the cellular level. Sweat analysis following infrared saunas show that where traditional Swedish saunas generate sweat that’s 97% water and 3% toxins, infrareds draw out 80% water and 20% toxins. This deeper reaching sweat makes the heart pump faster, which in turn lowers blood pressure and boosts circulation.

The light way to sleep

Our life coaches constantly remind us to maintain good sleep hygiene and steer clear of blue light before bed but the red zone, it seems, is where the healing happens. Studies show that red light wavelengths support the body's natural production of melatonin; our sleep hormone. On being exposed to red light, the brain signals it’s time to produce more melatonin and get ready for sleep. A group of Chinese female basketballers were treated with 30 minutes of red light before bed and the marked improvement in their sleep quality upped their overall performance.

Treating joint pain and inflammation with light

Low-level laser light or photobiomodulation is among the best treatments for chronic pain and inflammation. It triggers the formation of blood vessels and increases synthesis of collagen in fibroblasts, all of which cause inflammation to go down. New Scientist also reports that some trials have found low-level laser therapy to inhibit COX-2, an enzyme involved in inflammation and pain. Regular courses of low-level laser light can increase blood flow to damaged tissue and accelerate the healing process, hence why it’s a widely used treatment for performance injury among world class athletes.

Near infrared laser light for low mood and depression

The latest neurological studies are crediting light therapy as a viable treatment for easing low mood, anxiety and depression. When repeatedly held to the foreheads of participants, near infrared light increased feelings of clarity and positivity. Such is the powerful effect of infrared on awakening human brain cells that emerging trials now show it can also improve memory, focus and even lessen the symptoms of dementia.

Time and again, light energy has been proven to tap into our systems, flick the switches back on and fundamentally shift our biology. Be it our muscles, organs, skin or brains, we are rightfully drawn to red light as a sure-fire way to a whole-system reboot. So as the science advocates, shine on.



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