Table of Contents:
- What is red light therapy?
- What does "red light therapy" mean?
- How to do a red light therapy treatment?
- How does red light therapy work?
- Where did red light therapy come from?
- Health benefits of red light therapy
- Clinical research on red light therapy
- Who uses red light therapy?
- Side effects and risks of red light therapy
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment that delivers concentrated natural light to your skin and cells.
Red light therapy is quick and easy: all you have to do is sit or stand in the light for 5 to 15 minutes, ideally every day. This gives the mitochondria in your cells the natural light they need to make the energy that powers your body.
See the details on how red light therapy works.
A high-quality home device like a Joovv uses medical-grade LEDs to shine natural red and near infrared light on your body. Just like the wavelengths of light your body needs from natural sunlight, but without the heat or UV rays that cause sun damage, and without the need for sunny weather.
Natural Health Benefits: Red light therapy has been shown to produce a wide range of natural health benefits, like inflammation and pain relief, skin rejuvenation and collagen production, muscle recovery, boosting melatonin, improving sleep disorders, and balancing circadian rhythm. This is a small sampling, so check out the health benefits section for more.
Backed by Clinical Research: Red light therapy is backed by thousands of peer-reviewed medical studies and clinical trials, which have shown overwhelmingly positive results, and an almost total lack of side effects or health risks.
Does Red Light Therapy Work? Yes, and that’s why it’s used at the highest professional levels: By elite men and women pro athletes for training and muscle recovery; by natural health leaders and cutting-edge physicians for chronic pain management and inflammation relief; by actresses and models and top estheticians for optimal skin care, collagen density, acne treatment, and breakouts.
See who uses red light therapy here.
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What Does “Red Light Therapy” Mean?
As a term, “red light therapy” refers to treatments from LEDs or cold lasers that deliver wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light.
The term does not include white light, blue light or blue LED masks, and it is not the same as full spectrum light. Some people may include infrared or far infrared wavelengths along with red light therapy, but those are typically used in dry saunas because of their ability to produce heat. Red light therapy does not rely on heat, a major difference between natural light treatments and heat-based modalities like an infrared sauna, traditional sauna, or other type of heat therapy.
You can learn more about the difference between red light therapy and saunas here.
Generally, “red light therapy” describes natural light treatments that deliver the same therapeutic red and near infrared wavelengths as natural sunlight. This differs from artificial light treatments like tanning—or bright light therapy from a light therapy lamp, light box, or happylight. If you’re interested in natural light treatments for seasonal affective disorder, check out this post.
Red light therapy may also be called by the following terms: RLT, photobiomodulation (PBM), phototherapy, LED therapy, LED light therapy, infrared therapy, low-level laser therapy or low level light therapy (LLLT).
How to Do a Red Light Therapy Treatment?
Consistency and proper use is key for effective red light therapy. Check out this how to use a Joovv post for guidelines on optimal red light therapy, including a wide range of frequently asked questions about results, pets, children, clothing, eyes, and more.
For optimal results with a high-quality, LED-based device like a Joovv, follow these basics for general wellness benefits:
- Position yourself about 6 inches from the device
- Expose your skin for best results
- Approximately 10-minute treatment times per coverage area
- Daily use is ideal
- Any time of day
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Our cells need natural light to function, just like they need water and nutrients from food. Unfortunately, most people don’t get as much natural light as they need for optimal health (the average American spends over 90% of their time indoors).  Red light therapy allows you to supplement the light you get from your environment with concentrated wavelengths of red and near infrared light at home.
Red light therapy works by enhancing your energy production at a cellular level. Healthy, natural light stimulates the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, and enhances the cellular respiration process that makes ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy. Humans make ATP every day, and it fuels everything we do. The more energy our cells can make, the better our bodies look, heal, feel, and perform.
Read the details on red light therapy and ATP here, including how red light therapy reduces oxidative stress and nitric oxide, for a more efficient cellular environment.
Red light therapy has also been found to enhance blood circulation, reduce the body’s inflammation, and encourage antioxidant production. 
Where Did Red Light Therapy Come From?
Red light therapy has become a popular natural health intervention, both in professional settings and with home devices like Joovv.
Light therapy technology has been used in medicine for decades, and NASA experimented with red light therapy use in space in the 1980s and 1990s.  In the last 10-20 years, red light therapy has become more widely used thanks to breakthroughs in LED lighting technology that have made affordable home devices possible.
Major advances in clinical light therapy research, and increased public interest in natural health technologies, have also contributed to the growing use and popularity of red light therapy.
In 2016, Joovv was the first red light therapy manufacturer to offer affordable, medical-grade devices to consumers for convenient, at-home use.
To learn more, check out this in-depth article on the history of red light therapy.
Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Thousands of clinical studies have demonstrated a wide range of natural health benefits from red light therapy use. These are some of the most well-established health benefits of red light therapy:
Red Light Therapy for Inflammation, Pain Relief, and Healing
Red light therapy has a natural anti-inflammatory effect, and Joovv is cleared by the FDA as a Class-II medical device for the treatment of pain and strain.
Learn more about red light therapy and inflammation here.
Natural light treatments increase circulation and blood flow to damaged tissues and promote cellular regeneration. This aids the healing process, for less pain and quicker recovery times. 
You can read more about red light therapy for joint pain relief and back pain here.
The anti-inflammatory and pain relief effects of red light therapy have also been demonstrated to reduce muscle fatigue and speed the muscle recovery process. Red light therapy has also shown positive results for healing bone and tissue injuries, and improves the healing of wounds and other injuries, from cuts and incisions to surgeries and sports injuries. [4,5]
Red Light Therapy for Skin
Red light therapy, or “LED light therapy” as it’s often called by estheticians and dermatologists, is a natural skin and beauty treatment with proven anti-inflammatory properties.
Learn more about the skin and beauty benefits of red light therapy here.
Red light therapy devices deliver natural light directly to skin cells. This reduces inflammation, improves circulation, increases ATP energy production, and has been shown to be safe, with few if any side effects. This is not to be confused with blue LED light treatments for skin (like blue LED masks), which use bright, artificial blue light, and pose a number of health risks if not used correctly.
These are some of the core skin benefits of red light therapy:
Red Light Therapy for Skin Rejuvenation
Red light therapy is a popular skin rejuvenation and natural beauty treatment. A controlled trial from 2017 showed that women ages 30-55 who did a course of red light therapy improved the moisture content of their skin, with diminished facial wrinkles.  Other studies have shown the reduction of fine lines and smoothing of skin roughness.  Red light skin care treatment is also used for healing acne scars and burns, and targeted beauty treatments like improving complexion, pimples, and breakouts.
Read more about red light therapy for skin rejuvenation and beauty here.
Red Light Therapy and Collagen Production
Clinical trials have shown that red light therapy can significantly increase collagen levels.  Leading estheticians and Hollywood celebrities have taken notice, using red LED light treatments to boost collagen and collagen density for anti-aging and beauty benefits.
Red Light Therapy for Hyperpigmentation
Some leading estheticians use red light therapy as a full-body skin treatment for their clients’ hyperpigmentation skin concerns.
Red Light Therapy for Sleep, Melatonin, and Circadian Rhythm
Natural light exposure is a key ingredient to a healthy circadian rhythm and restful sleep. Overexposure to bright artificial light (especially blue light from screens) can knock circadian rhythm out of whack and make it difficult to sleep at night. Red light therapy is used as a sleep aid and nighttime light source because it has a low color temperature, and has been shown in clinical studies to aid the body’s production of melatonin. 
In other trials, red light therapy has improved patients’ sleep disorders and insomnia, including better sleep for people with traumatic brain injuries. [9,10]
To read more about red light therapy and sleep optimization, check out this article.
Red Light Therapy for Hair Growth and Preventing Hair Loss
A growing base of clinical research shows red light therapy treatments can stimulate hair growth, improve hair thickness, and help prevent hair loss from male and female pattern baldness. [11,12,13]
To learn more about red light therapy for hair growth, check out this article.
Clinical Research on Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has been tested and analyzed in thousands of peer-reviewed trials and studies, with mostly positive health results, and a general consensus on safety and a lack of side effects.
In addition to the health benefits above, red light therapy research has also shown positive early results for many other clinical areas, like hormone health, mental health, cognitive function, and fat loss. However, red light therapy treatments are not approved by the FDA for the following treatments at this time.
Red Light Therapy for Hormone Health
Early clinical research has demonstrated the potential for red light therapy as a way to improve and regulate hormone health issues.
Read more about red light therapy for hormone health here.
Research on Hormone Regulation: Joovv has partnered with Bristlecone Medical to conduct clinical studies on red light therapy and hormone health. Initial results from a trial on red light therapy and the ketogenic diet have shown impressive testosterone gains for men and gains in sex hormones for women, like progesterone, estradiol and DHEA.
Thyroid Regulation: Initial research has shown that a red light therapy routine can improve thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism and thyroiditis, in some cases helping patients reduce or eliminate their need for levothyroxine. [14,15,16]
Learn more about red light therapy and thyroid health here.
Male Testosterone, Fertility, and Sex Drive: Numerous trainers and natural health experts like Ben Greenfield have reported testosterone gains and a boost in sex drive after using red light therapy. Joovv’s research with Bristlecone Medical has also shown positive early results for testosterone gains in men.
Several clinical studies have shown major improvements in male fertility, with improved sperm motility. [17,18,19,20] Red light therapy treatments have shown to be safe for male genitals and sperm, with no DNA damage. 
Red Light Therapy for Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that impacts at least 5% of Americans, especially in the winter months when natural light exposure is lowest.  SAD is also called seasonal depression, winter depression, or the winter blues.
Some people treat SAD symptoms with treatment options like bright white light therapies that mimic the light intensity of the sun at a bright time of day.
In recent years, more researchers and physicians have used natural light treatments like red light therapy to help with natural light deficiency and the winter blues, in conjunction with antidepressant medication and psychotherapy.
Read more about red light therapy and SA here.
Mental Health Research: In a major mental health study in 2018, Elated-2 Trial researchers concluded that transcranial light therapy “demonstrated antidepressant properties with a medium to large effect size in patients with major depressive disorder.” 
Read more about red light therapy and depression here.
Red Light Therapy for Brain Health and Cognitive Function
Learning and memory experts like Jim Kwik use red and near infrared light therapy to improve brain function. Research on red light therapy and brain health is showing how natural light can improve reaction time, attention, executive function, and memory. [24,25]
Learn more about the research on cognitive function and red light therapy here.
Red light therapy also shows potential for healing damaged brain tissue. In the first human trials, red light therapy has demonstrated major improvements in people with brain injuries like TBI and CTE.
Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss, Body Fat, and Cellulite
Initial studies on red light therapy and fat reduction, weight loss, and improving the appearance of cellulite have shown some encouraging results. [26,27,28,29] However, research is in its early stages, and red light therapy is not approved by the FDA for weight loss. Some leading trainers and fitness experts like Drew Manning, author of Fit2Fat2Fit and host of the hit TV show, use red light therapy for body fat and weight management.
Who Uses Red Light Therapy?
In addition to the growing number of people using red light therapy devices in their home, red light therapy systems can be found in many professional and clinical settings:
Skincare Professionals: Red light therapy is a popular skin treatment among Hollywood celebrities for anti-aging, and it’s used by leading skincare professionals like estheticians and dermatologists to treat skin conditions and promote collagen production.
Health Practitioners: Red light therapy is an emerging subspecialty of medicine in a wide range of fields. From oncologists treating cancer side effects, to dentists reducing oral inflammation, to physicians treating mental health conditions, red light therapy is becoming more widespread in clinical practice.
Natural Health Experts: Leading voices in natural health and wellness like Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Dave Asprey, and Ben Greenfield use red light therapy. So do Paleo and Keto health experts like Mark Sisson, Dr. Anthony Gustin, Luke Storey, and Robb Wolf.
Sports Medicine Pros: Joovv is a partner of the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), and red light therapy is used to heal sports injuries by sports medicine professionals across the globe. Including the top trainers and doctors on the PGA Tour, like Dr. Troy Van Biezen and Dr. Ara Suppiah.
Elite Pro Athletes: Red light therapy is a popular training tool across pro sports, from NFL stars like Patrick Peterson, to UFC champs like Anthony Pettis, to gold medal gymnast Sanne Wevers. See other elite pro athletes who use Joovv here.
Fitness & Training: World-class personal trainers like Lacey Stone and Jorge Cruise use red light therapy to both enhance performance and improve the muscle recovery process.
Supportive Cancer Care: The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) recommends red light therapy for the treatment of oral mucositis (OM), a common and debilitating symptom of cancer treatment.
Check out this post for an interview about red light therapy with a leading member of the MASCC.
Side Effects and Risks of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has been tested and analyzed in thousands of peer-reviewed trials. The consensus among medical researchers and the clinical community is that natural light treatments are safe, well-tolerated, and produce little to no side effects. Research teams have concluded this in study after study.
Dermatology researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted a review of red light therapy in 2013 and praised its “noninvasive nature and almost complete absence of side effects.” 
Mental health and brain researchers analyzed red light therapy for depression treatment in a major 2018 controlled trial. Among their findings, they noted that red light therapy was well tolerated by patients, with no serious side effects or adverse reactions. 
Red light therapy is safe for eyes, and has actually been shown to have beneficial effects for vision. You can read about red light therapy and eye health here.
Red light therapy does not use heat to induce a biological reaction like some therapies, and is not a heat risk to skin. People with specific photosensitivity concerns should check with their healthcare provider. Check out Joovv’s FAQs for optimal red light therapy use to see details about other health concerns and potential risks.
Disclaimers and Considerations: The information on this page is meant to educate readers about the science, research, and health benefits of red light therapy. Consult a trusted health professional for the diagnosis and treatment of specific medical conditions.
Joovv’s light therapy products are registered with FDA as class II medical devices for the treatment of pain, strain, and inflammation. Other health benefits mentioned in this article are for educational purposes only and not intended to support the safety or effectiveness of Joovv’s devices, and not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent a disease. The information presented is based on peer-reviewed clinical research, including information about emerging studies and scientific inquiries.
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