Red Light Therapy VS Infrared Explained

Red Light Therapy VS Infrared Explained

As living beings we harness energy from the sun and the world around us. Most of us know about the harmful effects of sunlight, in the form of cancer causing UV rays but we’re in the dark about some of the incredibly positive sides of sunlight! UV light has some positive effects too. :) 

In actual fact, we’ve been harnessing the healing powers of light for thousands of years. It was only during the last century that we finally put a name to it and began to understand the different spectrums, wavelengths and their impacts on the human body, as well as all living organisms on earth! 


What is red light therapy and how does it work?

Red light therapy (RLT) uses the wavelengths from red light and near infrared light to stimulate and energise the mitochondria of our cells.

The mitochondria produce an energy rich molecule known as ATP which helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body. Experts believe that our cells use this extra energy to repair themselves, reduce inflammation and regain health.

RLT was actually first discovered by scientists growing plants in space! They found that the red light helped promote photosynthesis and subsequently the growth of their plants.


When it comes to red light wavelength matters 

It’s important to note that the spectrum of red light ranges from 620nm to 750nm, it can be seen but does not produce heat. Near infrared light, also used in red light therapy, is invisible but unlike red light it produces a very small amount of heat. 


Differences in visibility and heat production 

Near infrared light can have wavelengths between 780 to 3000 nm. The range of light used in red light and near infrared light therapies is typically between 600-900nm. Some red light devices may appear to only have half of the lights working but that’s because those lights are in the near infrared spectrum and hence invisible to the human eye!

There are many types of red light therapy, and its use can have varying effects and results depending on the specific wavelength, as well as the type of device used for treatment. Not just any wavelength will suffice, if you’re looking to purchase a device to help you tap into the benefits of red light, you need to carefully consider your options. The quality of your equipment is also important to ensure safety and results, many devices on the market are FDA approved with research to back up their claims. 


What is infrared therapy and how does it work?

Infrared is one of the newer non-invasive heat-emitting therapies to treat all kinds of pain and inflammation in the human body. Animals also benefit from such a treatment. As mentioned earlier, whilst we cannot see the infrared light used we can feel its heat, but the waves aren’t as strong as ultraviolet light so they can’t damage our skin. 

Infrared therapy comes in several forms ranging from 780 nm (nano-metres) to one million nm, such as near-infrared (NIR) at 780 nm to 3,000 nm of the light spectrum, mid-infrared (MIR) 3,000 nm to 50,000 nm, and far-infrared (FIR) 50,000 nm to one million nm, light, or heat. 


Infrared waves penetrate deeper layers of skin compared to red light therapy alone. 

The infrared waves have the capability of penetrating into the deeper layers of our skin, therefore affecting our cells. NIR operates within the skin, MIR reaches further into our soft tissue where it increases circulation and with that helps to reduce inflammation, and FIR the furthest nearly 4 cm below the skin, able to influence molecular bonds, and with that cellular changes. 

The therapy increases nitric oxide from the haemoglobin in our blood, thus dilating our blood vessels, which reduces swelling and improves blood circulation. Research has shown it to be helpful in reducing the occurrence of blood clots, reducing blood pressure, meaning a healthier heart. Improved circulation also means more oxygen reaches damaged tissue, reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and speeding up the repair of injuries.  

Is red light or infrared light therapy for you? 

Red light is the most popular form of light therapy used in wellness circles. Red light use is best for treating issues close to the surface of the skin. The red light beds and lamps you find in salons and health spas are effective at treating issues closer to the surface of the skin such as wrinkles and stretch marks. In comparison red light lasers are typically used for their deep tissue healing effects, different wavelengths and protocols can be used to safely reach various tissue depths.

If you want to treat deeper issues within your body infrared light would be a more suitable treatment to look into with your medical team. Infrared has been shown to reach the muscles, nerves and bones with positive effects on health. The therapy can stimulate repair and regeneration thus decreasing inflammation and pain in patients. 

Here’s what some of the research says: 

Wound healing - view research 
Sports injuries - view research 
Inflammation - view research 
Chronic pain - view research 
Skin damage and signs of aging - view research 
Dementia - view research


The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, always seek the advice of your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article or linked materials