Table of Contents:
- What is red light therapy?
- How to do a red light therapy treatment?
- Where did red light therapy come from?
- How does red light therapy work?
- Red light therapy versus other health modalities
- Red light therapy versus blue light
- Red light therapy versus bright light treatments
- Red light therapy versus heat lamps
- Red light therapy versus saunas
- Red light therapy and cryotherapy
- Red light therapy and keto
- Red light therapy and paleo
- Health benefits of red light therapy
- Who uses red light therapy?
- Side effects and risks of red light therapy
In this post, we break down the differences between red light therapy and other treatments, like blue light, bright light, heat lamps, saunas, tanning, cryotherapy, and diets like paleo and keto.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment that delivers concentrated natural light to your skin and cells. Treatments are quick and easy: all you have to do is sit or stand in the 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.
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.
Other names for red light therapy include RLT, photobiomodulation (PBM), phototherapy, LED therapy, LED light therapy, infrared therapy, low-level laser therapy or low level light therapy (LLLT).
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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
Where Did Red Light Therapy Come From?
Red light therapy has become a popular natural health intervention 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 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.
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. 
See more details on the science behind red light therapy.
Red Light Therapy Versus Other Health Modalities
As a term, “red light therapy” refers to treatments from LEDs or cold lasers that deliver wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light. These are the same therapeutic wavelengths that come from natural sunlight, but without the UV rays or heat.
In the following sections, we compare and contrast red light therapy with other modalities like heat lamps and saunas.
What isn’t red light therapy? The term “red light therapy” does not include white light, blue light or blue LED masks, and it is not the same as full spectrum light. 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.
Red Light Therapy Versus Blue Light
Today, people are overloaded with bright, artificial blue light from our screens and overhead lighting. When we take in all that bright blue light from laptops, TVs, and phones—especially before we go to bed—our bodies get the signal that it's time to be awake, even if we're tired. That’s why excess blue light exposure can cause headaches and make it harder to get restful sleep. 
Red light therapy is natural light. It’s much less bright than blue light, with a lower color temperature than daytime sun, as the image above shows. 
Learn more about the consequences of getting too much blue light here.
Red light for sleep: 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.  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.  And red light therapy is showing great clinical results for people with insomnia and sleep disorders.
To read more about red light therapy and sleep optimization, check out this article.
Red light for skin: Red light therapy is a popular skincare technique with Hollywood celebrities and leading estheticians. This is not the same as 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.
Learn more about the skin and beauty benefits of red light therapy here.
Red Light Therapy Versus Bright Light Treatments
Bright light treatments like “SAD lamps” or “happylight” are lamps that shine bright, artificial blue light to mimic the sun. Red light therapy treatments deliver natural light, the same red and near infrared (NIR) wavelengths you get from the real sun. But without the UV rays or heat that makes too much sunlight dangerous.
In short, bright light devices are really just lamps shining artificial light. Red light therapy is a more clinical intervention that delivers healthy, natural light. And now emerging clinical research is showing major potential for red light therapy as a natural depression treatment.
How does red light therapy work for mental health? For mental health treatment, NIR wavelengths may be most effective in treating depression, because they can reach deeper into body tissues than red light.  When NIR light from a clinical light therapy device is shined on a person’s head, those wavelengths are actually able to go beyond the surface of the skin, and reach the brain and affect brain cells directly. More natural light for your brain cells has been found to improve the metabolic capacity of your neurons, increase oxygen consumption, and boost cells’ ATP energy production. 
Learn more about red light therapy and depression treatment.
Red Light Therapy Versus Heat Lamps
The big difference between red light therapy and heat lamps is right in the name: heat. Heat lamps are designed to induce heat stress on a user. By contrast, high-quality LED light therapy devices give off very little heat, and have been found safe, effective, and free of side effects in numerous clinical trials. 
Beyond the heat dangers, heat lamps simply don’t offer the clinically-proven wavelengths or medical-grade power output of a high-quality LED device. Heat lamps deliver mostly ineffective wavelengths of light that don’t have any real effect on human health. They also don’t offer medical-grade power like a high quality LED light therapy device. You can read more about measuring red light therapy power here.
When you break down the scientific research on power and wavelengths, it’s easy to see that heat lamps really don’t compare to a full-body red light therapy device. They simply can’t deliver the clinical benefits, and come with too many risks.
This post covers the differences between Joovv and Sauna Space, a type of infrared heat lamp, which is a totally different (and less clinically effective) than red light therapy.
For more details, check out this article on all the differences between red light therapy and heat lamps.
Red Light Therapy Versus Saunas
Saunas and red light therapy are two clinically-proven treatments that offer a range of natural health benefits. They work well as complementary therapies, but rely on very different biological mechanisms of action. Saunas rely on heat to produce biological effects, whereas red light therapy devices like Joovv produce almost no heat at all.
In simplest terms, a sauna makes you hot while a Joovv feeds your body energizing natural light.
You can learn more about the difference between red light therapy and saunas here.
Red Light Therapy and Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy, also known as “cryo” and cold therapy, is a treatment that relies on cold temperatures and freezing to produce a biological effect. Red light therapy devices deliver natural light to the body, rather than using heat or cold to induce a physiological reaction.
Cryo and red light therapy can be used together; the leading cryotherapy clinics are also offering red light therapy treatments.
Red Light Therapy and Keto
The human body needs food, water, and natural light to function and make energy. A red light therapy device delivers natural light, and can be used in conjunction with any type of diet. But just like some people eat diets full of processed foods that don’t give their body enough nutrients, most people get an overload of junky, artificial light and don’t get nearly enough natural light for optimal physical function.
Keto is one of the most popular approaches to health and fitness today, and it’s a powerful and complementary health intervention with daily red light therapy. Keto and red light therapy both produce positive health results by targeting and optimizing our existing biological functions, starting in the mitochondria of our cells.
Mighty mitochondria: Both keto and red light therapy have a big effect on your mitochondria, the so-called “powerhouses of the cell.” With keto, you force those powerhouses to burn fatty acids and ketones instead of glucose. Like red light therapy, this reduces the oxidative stress that slows down our energy systems.
Research on keto and 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.
Read more about the synergy between keto and red light therapy.
Red Light Therapy and Paleo
Red light therapy is a powerful complement to the Paleo diet and lifestyle too, and it’s become popular with the broader Paleo community for its proven health and fitness results. You can read Paleo-related breakdowns of Joovv and red light therapy from Paleo Magazine, and at PaleoFX.
There’s a major difference between you and your ancestors: they were outdoors most of the time, by necessity, and their bodies thrived on an abundance of natural light. Red light therapy allows you to get the same natural light, in your home, no matter the weather.
Learn more about how to optimize Paleo health goals with red light therapy.
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom) created the award-winning site The Paleo Mom and is a New York Times bestselling author of four health books. Dr. Sarah tried Joovv a few years back and says it helped her recover from her Crossfit workouts. But she says her biggest red light therapy benefit is joint pain relief.
Robb Wolf is a former research biochemist, best-selling author of The Paleo Solution and Wired to Eat, and host of the #1 Paleo Solutions Podcast. Check out that link for an episode he dedicated to Joovv red light therapy.
Mark Sisson is a leading Paleo and natural health authority as well, and the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, Primal Kitchen, and the Primal Blueprint. Mark uses Joovv to get the natural light our ancestors got, and that we need just as much.
Check out other natural health leaders who use red light therapy here.
Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has been shown to produce a wide range of natural health benefits.
Check out all the natural health benefits of red light therapy here.
Pain and Inflammation Relief: 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. 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. 
Fitness, Performance, and Muscle Recovery: Elite pro athletes are using red light therapy to train and recover. Clinical studies have consistently shown that red light therapy improves strength, endurance, speed, and muscle growth, and speeds the muscle recovery process.
Learn more about the workout, fitness, and recovery benefits of red light therapy.
Sleep and Circadian Rhythm: Natural light exposure is a key ingredient to a healthy circadian rhythm and restful sleep. 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 and improve sleep disorders like insomnia. [10,11]
See more details about sleep, circadian rhythm, and red light therapy here.
Learn more about the skin rejuvenation benefits of red light therapy here.
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 and 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. 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.
Natural Health Results with Red Light Therapy, Plus a Free Gift
Drop your email below and we'll send some tips and tricks for optimal red light therapy. As a bonus, we'll include a free promo code!
Sources and References:
 LED Lights Used in Plant Growth Experiments for Deep Space Missions. NASA.
 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.
 Hamblin M. “Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation.” AIMS Biophys. 2017.
 Sheppard A and Wolffsohn J. “Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration.” BMJ Open Ophthalmology. 2018 April.
 Color Temperature.
 Lirong Z., Phyllis Z. “Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders” Neurologic Clinics. 2012, November.
 Hennessy M, Hamblin M. Photobiomodulation and the brain: a new paradigm. Journal of Optics. 2017 Jan.
 Salehpour F, Rasta SH.The potential of transcranial photobiomodulation therapy for treatment of major depressive disorder. Reviews in the Neurosciences. 2017 May.
 Leal-Junior EC., Lopes-Martins R., et al. “Effects of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the development of exercise-induced skeletal muscle fatigue and changes in biochemical markers related to postexercise recovery”. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Aug.
 Morita T., Tokura H. “ Effects of lights of different color temperature on the nocturnal changes in core temperature and melatonin in humans” Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 1996, Sept.
 Naeser M., Zafonte R, Krengel MH, Martin PI, Frazier J, Hamblin MR, Knight JA, Meehan WP, Baker EH. “Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study” Journal of Neurotrauma. 2014, June.
 Avci P, Gupta A, et al. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2013 Mar.
 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.