Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

What is Red Light Therapy?

does light therapy work

Red light therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment that delivers concentrated natural light to your skin and cells. Treatments are quick and simple: you just sit or stand in natural light for 5 to 15 minutes, ideally every day. 

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.

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.

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How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

How Does Red Light Therapy Work

Red light therapy treatments supercharge your cells with the natural light they need to make more energy. Our cells need natural light to function, just like they need water and nutrients from food. Red light therapy allows you to supplement the light you get from your environment with concentrated wavelengths of red and near infrared light. 

Red light therapy works by boosting 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.

Red light therapy has also been found to enhance blood circulation, reduce the body’s inflammation, and encourage antioxidant production. [1]

Check out the most important treatment variables in this red light therapy device guide.

Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy has been studied and tested in thousands of peer-reviewed clinical studies around the world, with extremely positive results for pain and inflammation relief, muscle health, skin health, sleep, and other natural health benefits. 

Emerging research is also showing potential for red light therapy and hormone regulation, brain health, mental health, supportive cancer care, and other exciting clinical frontiers. 

Safe and well-tolerated: Across studies and trials, researchers note that red light therapy treatments are safe and well-tolerated, with few if any risks or side effects. 

Who uses red light therapy? On top of the clinical evidence, red light therapy is used and trusted by countless professional athletes in every sport, world class trainers and fitness professionals, and many of the top natural health experts.

Red Light Therapy for Inflammation and Pain Relief

Red Light Therapy for Inflammation and Pain Relief

Red light therapy is a proven, natural pain reliever that reduces inflammation. Joovv’s light therapy products are registered with FDA as class II medical devices for the treatment of pain, strain, and inflammation.

Dr. Michael Hamblin of Harvard Medical School is a member of Joovv’s Scientific Advisory Board and has studied red light therapy at length. He believes one of its most reproducible effects is “an overall reduction in inflammation, which is particularly important for disorders of joints, traumatic injuries, lung disorders and in the brain.” [1]

Less muscle pain and exercise soreness with red light therapy: Many studies have shown light therapy’s natural ability to ease muscle soreness and exercise-related inflammation. People who do a red light therapy treatment before a strenuous exercise record less pain and inflammation after workouts. [2]  Red light therapy also helps prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). [3] 

Natural pain relief with red light therapy: Red light therapy is a proven natural pain relief treatment, and Joovv is registered with the FDA for pain management. Studies have shown that red light therapy treatments can ease chronic pain like back pain, muscle pain, and knee and joint pain, and improve healing outcomes after injuries and surgeries, without pain medication or other OTC remedies. 

Arthritis relief with red light therapy: Red light therapy has shown positive results for types of arthritis and joint pain. Studies have found red light therapy can reduce pain, swelling, and morning stiffness while increasing hand flexibility. [4] Learn more at this post on red light therapy and joint pain relief

Natural healing benefits of red light therapy: Red light therapy has shown positive results for healing bone and tissue injuries. Studies have also shown improved wound and burn healing results with red light therapy. The same goes for rehabbing common healing common sports injuries like tears and strains.

Fitness, Performance, and Muscle Recovery Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Fitness, Performance, and Muscle Recovery Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is a popular training tool in pro sports, especially with athletes in the NFL, NHL, PGA, UFC, soccer, and medal sports. They use red light therapy and Joovv at the highest levels because it’s a safe, effective way to enhance performance. Clinical studies have consistently shown that red light therapy improves strength, endurance, speed, and muscle growth. 

Increasing strength training with red light therapy: Research has shown major strength gains for people training with red light therapy. Men doing strength training with red light increase max torque in their legs, and improve overall muscle performance, according to several peer-reviewed studies. [5,6] People also improve their grip and hand strength after short red light therapy sessions. [7,8] Read more about the strength training and athletic performance benefits of red light therapy

Women of all ages improve strength, speed, and performance with red light therapy: Numerous trials on women’s athletic performance and exercise have shown major gains for women of all ages who train with red light therapy.

Improved exercise & muscle recovery for postmenopausal women: A meta-analysis in 2013 found red light therapy treatments speed up muscle recovery for postmenopausal women, and improve maximal performance. [9]

Women in their fifties gain strength with red light therapy: A 2014 study evaluated women in their 50s and found “significantly higher values of (quadricep) power and total work for the LED group.” Fatigue was also significantly lower for women using red light therapy. [10]

Natural muscle recovery benefits of red light therapy: The biggest reason so many pro athletes use Joovv red light therapy is the natural muscle recovery advantage. Clinical trials also show that red light therapy speeds up the muscle recovery process.

A 2015 systematic review of placebo-controlled fitness trials concluded that red light therapy  significantly improves muscular performance and accelerates recovery. [11]

Faster muscle recovery for women with red light therapy: Middle-aged and older women who use red light therapy have shown a major muscle recovery advantage over peers who don’t use red light therapy, per results in recent trials. [9]

Red light therapy beats cryotherapy for muscle recovery: A 2016 study evaluated both cryotherapy and red light therapy for muscle recovery. Researchers found that light therapy alone was “optimal for post-exercise recovery.” [12]

Check out this post for the full story on red light therapy as a training and recovery tool.

Red Light Therapy for Sleep, Melatonin, and Circadian Rhythm

Red Light Therapy for Sleep, Melatonin, and Circadian Rhythm

Clinical research is showing that red light therapy can improve sleep quality and duration, and help people produce more of their own melatonin. [13]
Light plays a major role in your sleep cycle. The body’s circadian clock interprets light as a sign of when to sleep and when to be awake. [14] Artificial blue light from phones, computers, and other screens is extremely bright and can knock your circadian rhythm out of whack. Red light has the opposite effect: it’s ideal for evenings because it has a low color temperature—far lower than blue light and much closer to the natural sunset. [14]

Research has shown that red light doesn’t upset your sleep cycle like bright blue light. [15] And red light therapy is showing great clinical results for people with insomnia and sleep disorders. 

Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and the “godfather of biohacking,” uses daily Joovv red light therapy treatments to help him get optimal sleep. He wrote about his Joovv use in his bestselling sleep book, Game Changers.

Find everything you need to know about red light therapy and sleep.

Skin Health and Rejuvenation Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Skin rejuvenation

Red light therapy, or “LED therapy” is a popular skincare and anti-aging technique used by some of the best estheticians and dermatologists in the world. Red light therapy is also a go-to beauty treatment for some of Hollywood’s biggest names

A primary mechanism of action for the skin and complexion benefits of red light therapy is its anti-inflammatory effect. Red light therapy reduces inflammation by increasing blood flow and circulation to damaged tissues. [1]

Find everything you need to know about red light therapy and skin rejuvenation.

Red light therapy rejuvenates skin: Researchers have demonstrated that wavelengths of red light are effective for healing and skin regeneration, and reducing inflammation. [1]

Red light therapy for counteracting signs of aging: The same analysis cited numerous studies showing how light therapy counteracts signs of aging like fine lines, and enhances skin tone, for an overall younger look. [16] A 2017 trial assessed 30 women ages 30-55 who tried red light therapy. The researchers concluded that red light therapy “had positive effects on wrinkle and moisture content of adult women's faces.” [17]

Huda Beauty wrote a piece on how red light therapy can help reduce cleavage lines, and other signs of aging. Other studies have shown the reduction of fine lines and smoothing of skin roughness. [16] Red light skin care treatment is also used for healing acne scars and burns, and targeted beauty treatments like improving skin conditions, pimples, and breakouts. 

Clinical studies demonstrate collagen increase with red light therapy: Researchers are measuring much higher natural collagen levels in the models and patients treated with red light therapy, especially with near infrared light. [16,18] Several human trials and laboratory studies on red light therapy have identified a big boost in natural collagen stimulation, with clearer skin and faster healing results. [19,20] This article goes into detail on collagen research and red light therapy.

Wound healing benefits of red light therapy: Red light therapy has shown promise for improving the healing process of skin injuries, wounds, and burns, in large part due to its anti-inflammatory effects and potential collagen-promoting properties. Read more about red light therapy for skin healing, wounds, burns, and scars here.

Red light therapy for hyperpigmentation: Some leading estheticians use red light therapy as a full-body skin treatment for their clients’ hyperpigmentation and other skin tone concerns. Check out this post by esthetician Cherie Callahan about hyperpigmentation solutions for different skin types

Red light therapy for psoriasis and eczema: A recent study on red light therapy found “no adverse side effects and a resolution of psoriasis” for patients who weren’t helped by traditional skin treatments. [21] Check out this post for more details on red light therapy as a potential solution for psoriasis and eczema.

Emerging Clinical Fields for Red Light Therapy

The future of red light therapy is bright. Professionals and doctors in a wide range of clinical fields are discovering new therapeutic uses for natural light.

In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, red light therapy research has also shown positive early results for things like hormone health and thyroid regulation, mental health and depression, and cognitive function. Keep in mind that these fields are just emerging, and red light therapy treatments are not approved by the FDA for these areas.

Red Light Therapy for Hormone Health

red light therapy and hormone health

Emerging research on red light therapy is showing positive results for hormone balance, like improving thyroid health, testosterone production, and overall sex hormone levels. Additional clinical studies are in progress, but keep in mind, Joovv’s devices are not currently approved by the FDA for hormone treatments.

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. [22,23,24] 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.

Check out this post for all the details on red light therapy and hormone health.

Brain and Cognitive Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

red light therapy help with brain health

When a light therapy device is shined on a person’s head, wavelengths of near infrared (NIR) light can penetrate deep into the body and be absorbed by the brain. [25] The brain benefits from increased cerebral blood flow, more oxygen availability & consumption, and a boost of ATP energy production through enhanced mitochondrial activity. 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. [26,27] 

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.

 Check out this post for more information about the cognitive function and brain health benefits of red light therapy.

Emerging Research on Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Red Light Therapy

Two of the first trials on dementia/AD and red light therapy came out in 2017, with extremely positive findings. Across trials, the data showed significant improvements in executive function, recall, memory, visual attention, and task switching. Patients also experienced better sleep and mental health when receiving red light therapy treatments. Researchers documented significantly fewer angry outbursts, and less anxiety. [28,29]

Crucially, these studies also noted that red light therapy was safe for patients with dementia/AD, with “no negative side effects.” [29] One research team concluded that red light therapy “shows potential for home treatment of patients with dementia and AD.” [29]

Red Light Therapy for Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and Depression

red light therapy help with seasonal depression

Light therapy is showing potential for improving depression, SAD, and mental health treatments.

Season depression affects millions of Americans, as high as 5% of the population. [30] Not getting enough natural light every day is a major factor, and the average American actually spends over 90% of their time indoors. [31] Red light therapy lets you get more natural light every day, in the comfort of your home. Now, emerging clinical research into red light therapy and mental health is showing improvements for people with depression.

In 2018, leading mental health researchers conducted the Elated-2 Pilot Trial to test transcranial near infrared light therapy for people with major depression symptoms. This groundbreaking study’s positive findings have encouraged optimism about wider use of natural light treatments for people with depression. [32]

Read more about red light therapy and depression here.

Other Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy treatments are also showing positive results for weight loss, hair growth, eye health, and more.

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. [33,34,35,36] 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

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. [37,38,39]

Red light therapy has a major stimulating effect on the dermal papilla cells, which play a big role in the regulation of hair cycling and growth. [40]

When comparing red light therapy to other common alopecia treatments such as hormone-regulating drugs like Finasteride and Dutasteride, researchers concluded that red light therapy was the superior treatment. And because there were no negative side effects, patient satisfaction was very high. [38]

To learn more about red light therapy for hair growth, check out this article.

Red light therapy is safe for eyes: Not only is red light therapy safe for eyes, it’s been shown to help prevent vision loss and improve glaucoma outcomes.

Check out this post to learn more about natural light treatments and eye health

Side Effects and Risks of Red Light Therapy Treatments

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. 

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.” [18]

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 and research behind the positive pain relief and anti-inflammation benefits of red light therapy. Consult a trusted health care 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.

Natural Health Results with Red Light Therapy

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Medical Sources and Scientific References:

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[17] Kim HK, Choi JH. Effects of radiofrequency, electroacupuncture, and low-level laser therapy on the wrinkles and moisture content of the forehead, eyes, and cheek. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2017 February.

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[19] Fiório FB, Albertini R, et al. Effect of low-level laser therapy on types I and III collagen and inflammatory cells in rats with induced third-degree burns. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 Jan.

[20] Barolet D, Roberge CJ, et al. Regulation of skin collagen metabolism in vitro using a pulsed 660 nm LED light source: clinical correlation with a single-blinded study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2009 December.

[21] Ablon G. Combination 830-nm and 633-nm light-emitting diode phototherapy shows promise in the treatment of recalcitrant psoriasis: preliminary findings. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2010 Feb.

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[23]  Hofling DB, Chavantes MC, et al. Assessment of the effects of low-level laser therapy on the thyroid vascularization of patients with autoimmune hypothyroidism by color Doppler ultrasound. ISRN Endocrinology. 2012.

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[29] Saltmarche AE, et al. Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation: Case Series Report. Photomed Laser Surg. 2017 Aug.

[30] American Psychiatric Association

[31] Klepeis NE, Nelson WC, Ott WR, et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology. 2001 May.

[32] Cassano P, Petrie SR, et al. Transcranial Photobiomodulation for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. The ELATED-2 Pilot Trial. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2018 October.

[33] Paolillo FR, Borghi-Silva A, et al. New treatment of cellulite with infrared-LED illumination applied during high-intensity treadmill training. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2011 Aug;13(4):166-71.

[34] Caruso-Davis MK, Guillot TS, Podichetty VK, Mashtalir N, Dhurandhar NV, Dubuisson O, Yu Y. Efficacy of low-level laser therapy for body contouring and spot fat reduction. Obes Surg. 2011. Jun;21(6):722-9.

[35] Jackson RF, Dedo DD, Roche GC, et al. Low-level laser therapy as a non-invasive approach for body contouring: a randomized, controlled study. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Dec 2009;41(10):99-809.

[36] McRae E and Boris J. Independent evaluation of low-level laser therapy at 635 nm for non-invasive body contouring of the waist, hips, and thighs. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Jan 2013

[37] Liu KH, Liu D, et al. “Comparative effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for adult androgenic alopecia: a system review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Lasers in Medical Science. 2019 Aug.

[38] Gupta AK, Mays RR, et al. “Efficacy of non-surgical treatments for androgenetic alopecia: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.” JEADV. 2018 Dec.

[39] Afifi L, Maranda EL, et al. “Low-level laser therapy as a treatment for androgenetic alopecia.” Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2017 Jan.

[40] Joo HJ, Jeong KH, et al. Various Wavelengths of Light-Emitting Diode Light Regulate the Proliferation of Human Dermal Papilla Cells and Hair Follicles via Wnt/β-Catenin and the Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase Pathways. Annals of Dermatology. 2017 Dec.