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Is NIR the same as red light therapy?

Red light therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years as a natural, non-invasive treatment for various health and aesthetic concerns. But with different terms like NIR being used, it can get confusing. Are NIR and red light therapy actually the same thing? While these technologies are closely related, they are not exactly identical. Gaining a nuanced understanding of the similarities and differences between NIR and red light can help you make educated decisions about which modalities may be right for your health and wellness needs. Let’s find out.

Is NIR the same as red light therapy?

Breaking Down the Light Spectrum

Now, to understand the difference between red light and NIR, we must first briefly break down the light spectrum:

  • Gamma rays – The shortest wavelength with very high frequency. Extremely damaging to the body.
  • X-rays
  • Ultraviolet (UV) – UV light has shorter wavelengths than visible light. Tanning beds emit UV. Too much exposure causes skin damage, but small amounts are beneficial for Vitamin D production.
  • Visible light spectrum – The rainbow of colors we can see with our eyes. ROYGBIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Red has the longest visible wavelengths.
  • Infrared (IR) – Lower frequency/longer wavelength than red. Divided into IRA, IRB, IRC. IRA closest to red, IRC closest to microwaves.
  • Microwaves, radio waves, etc. – Longest wavelengths with lowest frequency.

Red light therapy primarily uses light in the red spectrum (600-700 nm wavelengths) and near-infrared spectrum (700-1000 nm wavelengths). Why these colors? Their long wavelengths allow deeper tissue penetration for photobiomodulation. Shorter wavelengths like blue or UV only reach the skin’s surface.

Now let’s explore the difference between red and infrared light in greater detail.

Breaking Down the Light Spectrum

Red Light vs. Near-Infrared Light

Think of red light therapy and NIR therapy like two overlapping circles in a Venn diagram. They are distantly related technologies that stimulate the body in comparable ways, leading to many of the same benefits. But they have distinct wavelength ranges and applications. Here are some key similarities and differences between red light therapy and NIR:


  • Both are considered safe, non-invasive forms of photobiomodulation.
  • Both use light wavelengths in the “therapeutic window” from 600-1000nm.
  • Both improve cellular function and health by stimulating mitochondria.
  • Both can promote muscle recovery, skin health, brain function and more when applied correctly.


Now that we’ve covered the similarities between red light and near infrared therapy, let’s discuss how they differ:

Light wavelengths

  • Red light uses wavelengths in the 630-680 nm range.
  • Near infrared uses longer wavelengths from 760-1400 nm.

Depth of tissue penetration

  • Red light penetrates shallowly into the skin, about 8-10 mm deep.
  • Near infrared penetrates deeper, up to 40 mm, allowing it to reach joints, muscles, bones.

Mechanisms of action

  • Red light primarily stimulates mitochondria and ATP production.
  • Near infrared has effects on mitochondria but also additional cellular targets like nitric oxide.

Benefits of red light:

  • Collagen production and anti-aging
  • Wound healing
  • Skin health and rejuvenation
  • Hair regrowth and scalp issues
  • Minor joint and muscle injuries
  • Improved circulation and lymphatic drainage

Benefits of NIR:

  • Chronic pain and nerve damage
  • Nerve regeneration
  • Stem cell production
  • Brain and hormone health
  • Deeper joint/bone healing
  • Detoxification
  • Testosterone boosting
  • Weight loss

So in summary, NIR is not the exact same thing as red light therapy. Red light therapy will always include red wavelengths, while NIR devices emit longer infrared wavelengths only. But both modalities offer similar benefits through comparable mechanisms of action in cells. Using them together provides complementary benefits.

Red Light vs. Near-Infrared Light

Red Light vs. Near Infrared: Which Should You Use?

So should you choose red light or near infrared therapy? Here are some factors to consider when deciding which is best for your needs:

  • Purpose – If targeting the skin, red light is likely the better choice. For deeper joint/muscle benefits, go with near infrared.
  • Wavelengths – Red light provides all the benefits of light from 630-760 nm. Near infrared expands that range up to 1400 nm.
  • Depth – Red light reaches up to 8-10 mm, while near infrared can penetrate 40 mm for deeper tissues.
  • Cost – Red light devices tend to be more affordable and accessible to consumers. Medical-grade near infrared units cost several thousand dollars.
  • Safety – Both red and NIR are extremely safe with minimal risks. Red light has a longer track record spanning decades of study.
  • Sensitivity – Start with short exposures of red light even on sensitive skin. Near infrared at high intensities may cause discomfort in some.
  • Combo devices – Many modern units combine both red and near infrared wavelengths for enhanced effects.

For most at-home users, quality red light therapy devices offer the best value and versatility. In a clinical/medical setting, near infrared light has advantages for wound healing and pain management. RedDot LED device with both red and NIR is ideal to experience the synergistic benefits.


With continued use, high-quality RedDot LED devices allow you to experience the proven health and therapeutic benefits of red light therapy and near-infrared therapy. But realize that the benefits will accrue over time—be patient and stick with it for the long haul. I hope this article has given you the complete information you need to help you choose the perfect option for your needs and budget. If you have other questions, please visit the RedDot LED website!


Published by reddotled.com (Repost Tips)