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The image was taken at the coolest biohacking center in New York: HACKD fitness

Walking into the red light district can be a very uplifting experience. No, not talking about the one in Amsterdam. When Red Light Rising, a company producing red light therapy set up their exhibition stand, they sometimes playfully call the booth a ‘red-light district’ because, well, it’s an area literally filled with a red light. Red light therapy, or photobiomodulation, or low-level laser therapy (LLLT, yup, these word monsters all mean the same thing) means pointing red light on your skin. It is an easy and very effective way to enhance health in multiple ways: studies show that red and near-infrared light (600-1200 nm) can improve skin condition, increase energy levels, improve immunity, reduce muscle soreness, and even increase brain recovery after traumatic brain injury. In this post, I review six ways in which red light can improve your health and beauty.

 

Biology of the red light therapy 

Red light can penetrate through the skin and make its way all the way to the cell’s mitochondria and help cells to produce more energy (increase ATP synthesis). It can also increase transcription of a range of new gene products (a new what? – gene products means the products of gene expression such as proteins or RNA that help in many functions important for cell longevity and function). And there’s more: even if you expose only a tiny amount of skin to red light (for example, using a red spotlight), the red light can improve immunity in the whole body via blood circulation. For example, one study noticed that red light reduced inflammation systemically, even when the treatment was targeted only to the lower back.

But why would we want to improve the function of the mitochondria or ATP or gene expression? The answer may be surprising. Ladies, be ready for some serious beauty hacks…

 

Benefits of the red light

1) Red light therapy for skin benefits

Collagen is the connective tissue protein in the skin, that keeps the skin elastic and wrinkle-free. Collagen is destroyed by natural aging, exposure to the sun, toxins, and pollution. Normally skin rejuvenation (anti-aging) therapies like derma roller or face scrubs work by causing microdamage to the skin tissue so that the body would start a healing process which includes increasing collagen production. Opposite to this, light therapy does not require damage to be made to the skin. Instead, red light tunnels through the skin and increases natural collagen production in the skin tissue without causing any damage. Red light has shown to be a safe and effective option for skin damaging methods and thus patient satisfaction rates have been high.

 

2) Red light therapy for tension headaches

One study demonstrated that red light can decrease tension headache pain. Women with tension headaches received 830-nm infrared light directly to the temporal muscles for 34 sec. Their reported pain decreased by 64 % and their serotonin (the happy hormone) levels were significantly increased three days after the treatment.  The study found that the treatment regulated blood flow in the temporal artery and might also help in balancing serotonin levels in those who suffer from tension-type headaches.

 

 

3) Red light improves hair growth

Controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that when the red light is pointed to the scalp it can stimulate hair growth in both men and women. The main mechanism is most likely the stimulation of epidermal stem cells in the hair follicle bulge and shifting the follicles into the anagen phase. (R)

 

4) Red light speeds up recovery 

Red light is very beneficial for athletes. The therapy can improve Function Specific Homeostasis that is linked to NAD+ and NADH activity. This is linked to healing muscle damage, wounds, osteoarthritis, and TBI.

As red light increases the number of mitochondria in the cell and upregulates their function, it can improve the cell’s capacity to heal itself (by increasing the energy production). Many mechanisms of Red Light and Near-Infrared Light therapy have been integrated to support the prophylactic effect of Red light Treatment in athletes. (R)

 

5) Red light and weight loss

Studies show that red light therapy might help to tone the body and reduce body fat. In one study, adult men and women who did not change their diet lost on average 2.15 cm around their waist (the treated area) after 4 weeks of red light treatment. In another study, morning red and green light exposure significantly reduced the levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. Ghrelin is named the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite, food intake, and fat storage. Other studies also conclude that red light is an effective method for body contouring. I personally love the red light treatment and use it to speed up recovery from exercise, uplifting my energy levels and I guess also for body contouring (even though I don’t admit it… or did I just do it?)

6) Red light improves thyroid function

In one study, 15 participants with chronic hypothyroidism undergoing hypothyroidism treatment (LT4) received red light treatment 2 times per week. All patients’ reduced medication needs, including 7 patients who did not require any medication through the 9-month follow-up. The researchers concluded that red light can promote thyroid function. (R)

 

How to use red light?

It seems that there is an optimal amount of red light – too much red light can have negative health effects and if the red light is not used, the cells may not reach their full mitochondrial capacity. In high concentrations, Reactive Oxygen Species and Nitric Oxide, both of which red light upregulates, can cause gene-mutations or damage cells in other ways.

The recommended duration of the red light treatment is  15-30 minutes per day and depends on the

Where to buy a red light?

Check out the product recommendation page for red light products.

 

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Love & Light,