Red light therapy has become an increasingly popular wellness trend over the past decade. This cutting-edge healing modality uses red and near-infrared light to stimulate beneficial biological effects in the body. But with various device options on the market, each with different light wavelengths, it can be confusing to know which wavelength is best for reaping the full benefits of red light therapy.
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In this article, we’ll break down the science behind red light therapy, compare the pros and cons of different wavelengths, and provide actionable recommendations on selecting the optimal wavelength for your needs. Whether you’re looking to reduce inflammation, ease joint pain, improve skin health, or boost energy levels, read on to uncover the power of red.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a treatment that uses red and near-infrared light to stimulate, heal, and regenerate cells within the body. Red light therapy involves exposing the body to certain wavelengths of red and near-infrared light.
These wavelengths penetrate deep into the skin and cells where they trigger biological reactions that enhance overall health and vitality. But not all wavelengths are created equal. The body responds optimally to very specific nano-meters for red light therapy.
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What wavelength is best for red light therapy?
Light wavelengths are measured in nanometers (nm) and determine the color we perceive. The visible color spectrum ranges from violet/blue light at 400-495 nm to red light at 620-750 nm. Near-infrared light, which is invisible to our eyes, spans 750-1200 nm.
For red light therapy purposes, wavelengths in the red to near-infrared range (600-1200nm) have been found to provide therapeutic benefits. But research indicates that specific wavelengths work better for certain applications. Here’s a quick overview of the red to near-infrared spectrum and how it relates to red light therapy:
600-660 nm – Primarily visible red light. Penetrates skin surface. May improve skin appearance.
660-780 nm – Visible red to invisible near-infrared light. Optimized therapeutic window. Balances skin and deeper tissue benefits. Most researched for anti-inflammatory effects.
780-940 nm – Near-infrared light. Deeper tissue penetration. Improves joint and muscle healing.
940-1060 nm – Far near-infrared light. Poor skin absorption. Limited research on benefits.
Now let’s take a closer look at the mechanisms and ideal uses for different wavelength ranges.
Visible Red Light (600-660 nm)
Visible red light with wavelengths from 600-660 nm only penetrates a few millimeters into the skin. Given its shallow penetration depth, red light from 600-660 nm is best suited for treating superficial skin conditions. Studies show it can:
– Increase collagen production – Collagen provides structure and elasticity to skin. Red light helps stimulate fibroblast cells to produce more collagen. This can reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and scar tissue.
– Improve skin texture – By increasing collagen levels, red light can smooth out wrinkles and skin imperfections for a more youthful complexion. It also helps regulate oil production.
– Reduce inflammation and abrasions – Red light curbs inflammation pathways involved in acne, rosacea, and abrasions. It also accelerates healing after laser procedures and dermabrasion.
– Fight bacteria – Blue light is typically considered the most effective for destroying acne bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes. However, low-dose red light also exhibits antibacterial properties to help clear skin.
So if your main target is surface-level skin rejuvenation, visible red wavelengths from 600-660 nm produce optimal results. Red light therapy devices designed for facial and dermatological treatments often use 630-660 nm wavelengths.
Therapeutic Near-Infrared Light (660-940 nm)
Starting at around 660 nm, red light wavelengths begin to penetrate deeper into tissues. Near-infrared light from 660-940 nm provides an ideal therapeutic window that balances transmission across the skin surface with depth of penetration into subcutaneous tissues.
Within this range, wavelengths from 660-780 nm have been the most extensively researched. They deliver powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects by interacting with cytochrome c oxidase in cell mitochondria. This helps increase ATP energy production, modulate oxidative stress, accelerate healing, and reduce discomfort signals to the brain.
Here are some of the top benefits of near-infrared light from 660-780 nm:
– Reduce chronic joint pain – By lowering inflammation, red light relieves arthritis pain and discomfort. It also blocks pain signals to the brain. Evidence supports red light therapy for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and postoperative pain.
– Heal wounds and injuries faster – Red light and near-infrared light increase blood flow, modulate inflammation, and stimulate tissue regeneration to accelerate healing after burns, wounds, and other trauma.
– Revive muscle soreness – Near-infrared exposure reduces oxidative damage and inflammation from strenuous exercise while improving mitochondrial function. This provides effective relief for overused, sore muscles.
– Renew tight, injured joints – Red light targets joint capsules, ligaments, and tendons to ease stiffness, swelling, and pain in joints after injuries or overuse.
– Improve hair growth – By stimulating follicle stem cells and shifting them into an active growth phase, near-infrared light has been shown to reverse balding and hair loss when applied to the scalp.
– Energize your body – Increased ATP production and blood flow from red light therapy provides a natural energy boost. Near-infrared light also promotes cell regeneration and enhances vitality.
For these rejuvenating full-body benefits, near-infrared wavelengths of 660-780 nm produce the strongest therapeutic effects with the least risk of overheating.
Deep Tissue Penetration Near-Infrared (780-940 nm)
At the far end of the near-infrared spectrum, wavelengths from 780-940 nm penetrate deepest into bodily tissues. While penetration depth increases beyond940 nm, water absorption also rises which can heat and damage tissue at higher exposure doses.
Near-infrared light from 780-940 nm has minimal heating effects at appropriate therapeutic doses. It penetrates up to 2-4 inches into soft tissues.
This makes near-infrared light from 780-940 nm optimal for targeting:
– Chronic back, hip, and knee pain 
– Sprains and strains of large joint muscles 
– Repetitive motion injuries like tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome 
– General muscle and nerve pain relief 
The greater tissue penetration allows near-infrared light from 780-940 nm to effectively treat pain and injuries affecting thicker, denser musculoskeletal tissues. Think of it like using a more powerful laser light to reach deeper-seated problems.
Based on the above benefits, the “best” wavelength comes down to your specific therapy goals and needs. But wavelength isn’t the only factor that determines results. The power (irradiance) of the light, size of treatment area covered, contact vs non-contact delivery, and total dose or energy density all play important roles as well.
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How to Choose the Right Red Light Therapy Device?
Now that you understand the therapeutic effects of different wavelengths, but with so many devices to choose from, how do you know which is best? RedDot LED Light Therapy devices are the top picks. Here’s a look at the key benefits of RedDot LED:
1. Wavelength Options – RedDot LED devices are available in a variety of wavelengths or light sources, allowing you to customize your treatment.
2. Power – The powerful light source of the RedDot LED can provide the higher intensity and energy dose needed for NIR penetration.
3. Dose Control – RedDot LEDs provide the means to precisely control timing and dosage parameters for safety and optimal results. Preset and manual modes allow dosing flexibility.
4. Eye Protection – Near-infrared light is especially damaging to the eyes. RedDot LED devices are equipped with safety glasses.
5. FDA Approved – RedDot LED products have undergone rigorous safety and performance testing to meet the standards of a medical device. This ensures the effectiveness and quality of production.
6. Manufacturer Reputation – With over 10 years of manufacturing experience, RedDot LED has an excellent reputation with extensive in-house R&D and scientific expertise behind product development. Don’t just buy the cheapest LED gadgets.
7. Warranty – A solid 3-year warranty gives you peace of mind and shows that RedDot LED is confident in its durability.
RedDot LED is designed to make professional grade light therapy practical and easy to use in your own home. Experience rejuvenating benefits with your very own RedDot LED device!
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Ratchathorn Panchaprateep, Trairak Pisitkun and Nuttiya Kalpongnukul. Quantitative proteomic analysis of dermal papilla from male androgenetic alopecia comparing before and after treatment with low-level laser therapy. Lasers Surg Med. 2019 Sep;51(7):600-608.
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