Infrared Sauna Dangers

While you may find many sauna benefits for your health, you may be wondering if they are completely safe. Like any powerful, effective treatment, infrared saunas are not entirely risk-free- especially if you choose the wrong type. Here I’m going to talk about infrared sauna dangers.

If you are healthy and follow proper safety procedures, the benefits of a sauna far outweigh the risks. Inform yourself and be sure to use common sense to avoid infrared sauna dangers.

Infrared Sauna Dangers for Children and Pets

The rules for adults and children using an infrared sauna are different. Here we are focusing on adult use.

As for pets, they do not belong in a sauna, ever. Never bring a dog, cat or other animal in a sauna. Their bodies do not have the same sweating system to cool them and they will overheat much faster. To be clear: infrared saunas dangers are very real for animals. Keep pets away from saunas of all types!

Summary of Infrared Sauna Dangers

#1: The biggest infrared sauna danger (which also applies to all types of saunas) is overheating, AKA heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

#2: The next biggest infrared sauna danger is dehydration. Although many people do not take dehydration seriously, they should. In a sauna you can lose a great deal of water through sweat.

#3: Depletion of minerals and electrolytes. Water and toxins aren’t the only thing you lose in a sauna. Your sweat will also contain electrolytes and minerals.

#4: Drunken sauna bathing. Infrared sauna dangers are hard to avoid when you’ve been drinking.

#5: Effects from toxins being mobilized in the body. See more info below.

#6: Infrared sauna dangers for those with inflammation and swelling from a new injury. If you have a new sprain, strain, injury, etc. you should avoid the infrared sauna for 24-48 hours to give your body time to recover. You will not speed up healing processes by using infrared light therapy or infrared saunas on a new, swollen and enflamed injury. You may even make it feel worse.

paltrow infrared sauna dangers

Overheating: The Biggest of the Infrared Sauna Dangers

No matter how healthy you are, overheating in an infrared sauna can happen to you. If you overdo it, you could end up with a heat-related illness. Take time to familiarize yourself with the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Always take care to heed the warnings your body is giving you. If you suspect you are overheating in an infrared sauna, get out of the sauna. Try to cool yourself down by taking a cool shower.

There are some who need to do long infrared sauna treatments fairly often- some up to an hour every day. These programs should be medically supervised.

It’s a good idea to keep a thermometer available near your infrared sauna so you can monitor your temperature as needed.

Burns: Infrared Sauna Dangers

When using any sauna, the heating element has to be extremely hot to heat you and/or the sauna space. If you are not careful, you risk accidentally touching the furnace, rocks or in the case of a near infrared sauna, the near infrared sauna bulbs.

Near infrared sauna bulbs are quite strong and reach temperatures over 450 degrees Fahrenheit in a minute or less. It’s very important to be sure your near infrared bulbs are covered so that burns are less likely.

At least one near infrared sauna expert- Dr. Lawrence Wilson- recommends placing the near infrared bulbs to the side as opposed to above the head. As long as the bulbs are properly covered, this can help reduce the chance of accidental injury.


Dehydration is one of the most common infrared sauna dangers. Be sure to drink water or an electrolyte drink before, during and after using the sauna. Never drink alcohol or any other dehydrating beverage when using the sauna.

infrared sauna dangers dehydration

Medical Conditions Contraindicated with Infrared Sauna Use

People with the following conditions should avoid using a sauna of any type.

  • Stroke
  • Severe aortic stenosis
    • Recent heart attack
    • Unstable angina pectoris
    • Lupus erythematosus, if on steroids (this interferes with blood circulation)
    • Brain tumors
  • Untreated or unresolved dehydration
  • Multiple sclerosis

People with the conditions below should not use an infrared sauna without medical supervision.

  • Those with silicone breast implants.
  • Those with pacemakers.
  • Those with pins, rods or other implants, such as cochlear implants.
  • Diabetes

If you have any medical condition, infrared sauna dangers could be very real for you. Always talk to your doctor before using a sauna of any sort if you have a health concern.

Infrared Sauna Dangers for the Heart

Generally, infrared saunas do not pose any particular danger to the cardiovascular system for healthy individuals. However, for those with certain medical conditions, such as aortic stenosis, unstable angina or recent heart attacks, infrared saunas should be avoided unless your doctor tells you otherwise.


Infrared Sauna Dangers for Medications

Some medications can be affected by infrared saunas. For instance, some medicines are affected by the increase in circulation, body heat or even by profuse sweating. If you take a medication, you should check with a doctor or pharmacist to be sure infrared saunas will not affect your medication.

One example of a type of medication affected by sauna use are transdermal patches. If using patches, the sweating could cause the patch to fall off your skin. Also, your skin may absorb the medication faster or slower.

If you are diabetic, your insulin could be affected by your body heat. This is why diabetics should be under medical supervision when using infrared (or other) saunas.

Infrared Sauna Dangers for Residual Chemical Release

Many people do not realize that the remnants of medications or other substances used in the past can be released during infrared sauna use. Anesthetics, antidepressants, sedatives, chemo drugs and more may be released from storage in fat and be mobilized by the body in preparation for removal. These chemicals will be brought to the blood and they may be somewhat active. So, you may experience the effects of these drugs as you did when you first took them.

For those who have used psychedelic drugs, you may notice the effects of these drugs. In some cases the effects are strong and you could have a trip or a flashback. If you have used these types of drugs in the past, you should be sure someone is watching you while you are in the sauna.

More Dangers of Infrared Sauna Use

Another of the infrared sauna dangers includes depletion of minerals and electrolytes.

Especially if you are on an infrared sauna detox plan, you must be diligent about replenishing the electrolytes and minerals you will lose through infrared sauna use.

Infrared Sauna Dangers for Those with Chemical Sensitivity

For those with chemical sensitivity, infrared saunas pose a Catch-22. You may have a greater-than-average need for detoxification, but you are also more vulnerable to the effects of all the toxins and chemicals that can be released during infrared sauna treatments. If you have chemical sensitivity, infrared saunas could help you detoxify- but you should only use them under the supervision of a medical professional.

Near Infrared Sauna Dangers: The “Shatterproof” Near Infrared Sauna Bulb

Some manufacturers are selling what they call “shatterproof” near infrared bulbs for infrared light therapy and near infrared saunas. These bulbs have a chemical coating that off-gasses invisible, odorless fumes that are very dangerous. While these marketers claim that their near infrared bulbs are safer because they don’t break as easily, they are actually selling a product that is downright dangerous- especially for the chronically ill or chemical-sensitive. Click here to read more about the dangers of shatterproof infrared bulbs.

Infrared Sauna Dangers for the Eyes

Infrared saunas and infrared light therapy are strong sources of infrared light. Excessive exposure to infrared light can cause a “snow blindness” effect which is damaging to the eyes. Furthermore, repeated exposure to infrared light contributes to cataract formation. Therefore, using eye protection designed to block infrared light is very important.


Red Light Therapy for Wrinkles and Fine Lines

woman using red light therapy for skin rejuvenationRed Light Therapy for Wrinkles…Sounds Too Good to Be True

If you’ve been reading all the marketing info manufacturers put out about red light therapy, you’ve probably noticed how unrealistic some of the claims are. I mean, if all of this were true, why isn’t red light therapy for wrinkles more well-known?

I could launch into a opinionated tangent about how a mixture of intellectual property laws and FDA regulations make it unprofitable (and in some cases, impossible) for businesses to sell affordable red light therapy bulbs and devices, but I’ll contain myself. Suffice it to say that without patent protection, there is often insufficient profit incentive for businesses to shell out for the FDA’s costly application and registration fees. And red light therapy itself is not patent-able, as it was discovered by NASA and has been around for decades.

Now, what really matters when it comes to red light therapy for skin is: is there scientific evidence showing it works? The answer is yes.

A lot of the red light therapy products available make outrageous claims. They say they can erase wrinkles and fine lines, make your skin glow, bring back firmness and elasticity. But do they deliver? Indeed, if a bulb or device is properly designed, it can do all of these things and more. The key is finding a product with the right attributes. And like many things of this nature, results seem to vary from person to person. I’ve received emails from people raving about how much of a difference they could see after one use. I’ve also received messages saying it didn’t do anything for them. Fortunately, out of thousands of sales, I can still count the latter on one hand. Anyway, my point is that in general, red light therapy works for skin rejuvenation, wrinkles, fine lines, thinning skin, sagging skin, enlarged pores, and many other signs of aging.

How Red Light Therapy for Wrinkles Works

Red light therapy has more than one mechanism of action. Here are some of the effects it has, which are believed to be the reasons that red light therapy works for wrinkles and other anti-aging objectives.

#1: Red Light Therapy Increases Blood Flow

It increases circulation to the area, bringing oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the skin, which is often a last priority to the body as we age. It encourages the formation of new capillaries. In the short run, this will give you a healthful glow. In the long run, your skin can use this to rebuild and repair itself. Most of us have been told that older skin doesn’t repair…this is nonsense. It just isn’t as efficient and doesn’t have as good of blood flow to power the process. The good thing is that rarely can you go wrong by encouraging good circulation. The one exception that comes to mind is encouraging blood flow to a swollen, recently injured area. Don’t do that without a doctor’s direct supervision.

#2: Red Light Therapy Increases Lymph Drainage and Circulation

Good lymph circulation is not only good for your health. It’s good for your skin. It reduces swelling and puffiness. If you have Lyme disease/Acrodermatitis Chronica Atrophicans, this is a particularly helpful benefit.

#3: Red Light Therapy Promotes Collagen and Fibroblast Production

There it is…the holy grail of anti-aging products: collagen production. It is reduced the older we get and it can be pretty darned difficult to get it back. Collagen is the foundation of the skin, making it firm, full and elastic. Solid collagen structure is associated with having less (or no) cellulite and with having smooth skin in general. It may take some time- think about 2 to 3 months of consistent red light therapy treatments- but your collagen and fibroblasts can be revived!

#4: Red Light Therapy Causes ATP Release

Remember back in biology class when they said that ATP is the basic unit of energy for a cell? That’s the ATP we’re talking about here. And it matters because ATP is usually the rate-limiting factor in most cellular processes. Without it, skin cells cannot carry out their rebuilding and repair functions. As we age, skin cells get less and less energy.

One hugely important effect of red light therapy is that is provides this energy for the cell. Cells then utilize it to spruce things up and get rid of waste…and it shows in your skin.

Anti-Aging Benefits of Red Light Therapy

As far as anti-aging efforts go, red light therapy can accomplish quite a bit. Here are some of the effects it can have:

  • Gives the skin a healthy glow
  • Makes skin smoother
  • Reduces the number and/or severity of wrinkles and fine lines
  • Fades crow’s feet
  • Improves under-eye circles that were a result of thinning skin
  • Reduces marionette and laugh lines
  • Speeds up the healing of skin wounds, like those from acne or cystic acne
  • Improves redness, inflammation, pimples and pustules from rosacea
  • Reverses sun damage
  • Heals and improves the appearance of broken capillaries and telangiectasias
  • Improves the appearance and smoothness of scars
  • Reduces the severity of stretch marks
  • Encourages well-nourished, moisture-rich skin
  • Stimulates hair growth

Honestly, the list of potential uses is much longer. That makes sense when you think about how red light therapy works. It gives your cells free energy. Think of all the processes cells carry out. No wonder red light therapy has so many benefits and uses.

red light therapy before and after pictures

Trying Red Light Therapy for Anti-Aging

One of the ways you can test how does red light therapy work is through a professional, such as a dermatologist or aesthetician. Some places to look include doctor’s offices, med-spas, day spas and salons. Some gyms and tanning salons are also now offering red light therapy (I believe I’ve heard that Planet Fitness offers full-body red light therapy).

There are a few advantages to having a pro do your treatments:

  • It can be a relaxing, revitalizing spa experience.
  • You can choose someone knowledgeable and skilled at doing or overseeing the treatments. This is helpful if you are new to red light therapy or have a lot of questions.
  • You don’t have to commit. You can try the treatments without buying a product outright.

Yes, of course I am biased. I prefer doing my own red light therapy treatments at home. This is a good thing, since I do light therapy of one variety or another every day. I use it to regulate my circadian rhythm, for near-infrared sauna and of course, to improve how my skin looks and feels. In my opinion, these are some of the benefits of doing at-home red light therapy:

  • Your bulb or device can be yours alone. If you’re concerned about bacteria, you have direct control over how your product is cleaned and cared for, and whether you allow anyone else to use it.
  • It’s convenient. Personally, I am usually too busy and too cheap to go somewhere and pay someone to lay around for 15-30 minutes and stare at their walls. I’m far happier grabbing my bulb when it’s convenient.
  • It’s cheaper. A lot of pros will try to tell you that their devices are the only ones that work, that their devices are more powerful or that you need a professional to administer red light therapy. I don’t necessarily agree with those statements across the board. What’s more likely is the device’s marketing department has to cook up these sorts of explanations as justifications for the device’s high price tag. Don’t be fooled- look at the facts and numbers yourself to determine if their device really is better than what you could buy for at-home use.
  • Way more treatments. Unless you buy a product with limited uses, such as Illumask, you can get far more treatments if you buy your own bulb or device for at-home use.

The FDA’s Take on Red Light Therapy

Let’s skip my personal (overall negative) opinion on the FDA. For the purposes of this section, let’s pretend they are a valid, reliable guardian of public safety that makes sure the best treatments are available to US consumers.

The FDA has approved many red light therapy devices for reducing and eliminating wrinkles. It has also approved/cleared it for many other uses.

Types of Red Light Therapy Bulbs and Devices

One of the most common options are relatively small, hand-held devices. These travel well and are usually good for spot-treatment. Compared to larger machines, they can be more affordable. The downsides are that you have to hold them on your skin and you might have to move them around constantly (depending on the device). You can only treat one small area at a time and at that rate, doing your whole face can take a while. Forget about doing your neck or hands or décolleté.

A similar option- which is my own personal favorite- is the red light therapy bulb. With these, you have the benefits of hand-held devices, but you can avoid most of the downsides. For instance, they are usually pretty affordable. They travel well. You are free to choose your own lamp type, so you could avoid having to hold it on your skin with your hand. You can choose larger sizes to cover a bigger treatment area at one time. Most of them do not require constant motion.

The third most popular option are red light therapy panels. These are often meant for hands-free use and are usually big enough to do your entire face at once. The cons are that they are kind of pricey, take up a lot of space and you can’t travel with them.

What Red Light Therapy is Like

Red light therapy for collagen and wrinkles is different depending on the product (or professional treatment) you use. In general, this is what most red light therapy treatments are like:

  1. First you’ll need to wash your skin.
  2. The light will be on your skin anywhere from a minute to 20 minutes. It may touch the skin or it may be a few inches away. (In the case of near-infrared light therapy, you’ll be further away from the bulb or device.)
  3. It’s bright. You should wear eye protection to shield your eyes from the brightness.
  4. Most people report that it feels very calming and soothing.
  5. No pain is involved. At no time should you feel uncomfortable.
  6. You may be able to accelerate your results by using compatible treatments, such as microneedling or topical application of green tea extract, which has been shown to amplify results of red light therapy treatment.
  7. Basically, you just sit there and let the light do its job.


What to Expect

I’m sure you’ve been checking out before and after red light therapy photos. But results vary from person to person, so you may be wondering what you should expect from trying red light therapy.

Expect results to take time. While some people do see immediate results, most need to do red light therapy treatments for at least several weeks- if not several months.

Expect to be looking so hard you miss it. Since results are gradual and happen over time, you might not notice some of the changes in your skin. Be prepared for this and take photos before you start. If you’d like to share your before and after red light therapy photos on RedLightTherapy.US, contact me.


Photodynamic Therapy: What is It?

What is Photodynamic Therapy Used For?

You may already have heard about light therapy for skin such as: anti-aging, for acne and wrinkles.  A somewhat similar therapy is photodynamic therapy, or PDT. Photodynamic therapy and other types of light therapy, such as blue light therapy, often get mixed up. So here we are going to answer the question: what is photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy is a type of light therapy for skin treatment where a photosensitizer is first applied, making the skin much more reactive to the light that follows. This can be used for many different conditions. PDT is typically done by a physician.

So what is PDT good for? Well, one condition it is sometimes used to treat is skin cancer.

For example, in 2007 Braathen et al. described the use of photodynamic therapy as being a useful technique  to treat some of non-melanoma skin cancers . This is very interesting, as the fundamental basis is the same as it is for low level light therapy (or LLLT) cosmetic treatments. You can see the effect I am talking about in the PDT before and after photos below.

Effect of treatment described by  Braathen et al. 2007,  J Am Acad. Dermatol.  AK lesion in field cancer-ridden area before (A) and after (B) PDT treatment.

skin cancer before and after photo photodynamic therapy

If you would like to learn more about the scientific side,  click here to read the complete article.

If you want see more red light therapy before and after photos, check out this page. Different dermatologists and also people that already tried light therapy post their comments and pictures there.

What I can say is that PDT is a trusted, established medical technique. Its effects are scientifically demonstrated. Obviously, PDT should only be done by a qualified medical professional.

Often, PDT gets confused with blue light therapy, which is a treatment that does not need to be administered by a doctor. Click here to read more about blue light therapy.

Red Light Therapy for Acne and Wrinkles

acne and wrinklesWhat is LED therapy?

Light-emitting diode (LED) therapy, also known as low level light therapy (or LLLT) is becoming very popular as a cosmetic and medical treatment.  Did you know that red light therapy was developed for NASA plant growth in space? It’s true! But since then there’s been a lot of scientific advancement in red light therapy.


Anti-Aging Effects of Red Light Therapy

The aging process is accelerated by the sun! Sun and pollution can act together to destroy collagen. Collagen is the support of the skin and is the main source of elasticity and strength in our skin. Therefore, you need to protect your skin: apply sunscreen every day, even in the winter.

Even though you protect your skin, we can´t avoid aging, it is a natural process.  I am sure we all want to look young for longer time and we are aware about all fancy cosmetic treatments or alternative treatments as surgery.  However, is very difficult to find a 100% natural anti-aging treatment.  Don´t we all want to avoid chemicals on our skin?

Now, fortunately technological advances make it possible. Red light therapy for skin is becoming a very popular alternative, chemical-free treatment. It has already been scientifically demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of sun damage (Baez et al. 2007, J of Cosmetic Dermatology).

How does red light therapy work? Certain light wavelengths stimulate collagen synthesis and accelerate fibroblast–myofibroblast transformation, leading to a rejuvenation effect. Some red light therapy users report noticing a difference within days. A few say they saw a difference after only one treatment session.

It’s hard to tell which is the main advantage- getting a quick effect without any pain or getting it without chemicals.

Blue Light Therapy for Acne

Let’s consider for a moment what acne is. It is a skin infection of Propionibacterium acnes.  This bacteria is becoming very resistant to traditional acne treatments and we need alternative solutions, so blue light therapy is a very welcome advancement.

As an aside, red light therapy for acne may also be a helpful treatment. It seems that it helps skin’s oil glands to reduce cytokines, decreasing inflammation and redness.

Blue light therapy is becoming very popular and has been scientifically proven to control acne and improve the skin’s appearance (Gold et al. 2009 in Clin Aesthet Dermatol.)

acne red light therapy before and after photo

Figures 4a and b from Gold et al 2009

This female patient had her first outbreak of acne at the age of 17. Baseline (a) and after the eight-week treatment period (b). The total number of lesions had reduced by 62 percent.

How it Works: Certain wavelengths of blue light are used to develop reactive oxygen species that kill the bacteria. Depending on the strength of the light used, these treatments can result in redness and flaking for several days.

Benefits:  Blue light therapy is effective, is painless and no chemicals or antibiotics are used. You can do it on your own using an at-home blue light therapy bulb or device.

When to use: Blue light therapy works best for mild to moderate inflammatory acne. It can be used on severe acne as well.

Cons: Blue light therapy can be expensive if is done by a doctor (requires multiple sessions). Blue light therapy treatments are not always effective for cystic acne or blackheads- its effectiveness in these conditions appears to be person-specific. It’s a newer treatment, so long term effects are not as well known as, say, peroxide treatments.

Red Light Therapy for Wrinkles

Wrinkles are signs of aging and nobody wants to have a face looking like a road map. Fortunately, now we have the option of light therapy for skin.

How it Works: Mainly, using certain red light wavelengths causes new collagen to be produced. Remember that collagen is the main support of our skin. The red light helps to improve the ability of the skin to retain key elements that are used to generate new collagen.

Benefits: No pain at all. You can avoid chemicals and it is very effective not only at reducing signs of aging such as wrinkles, but also at controling acne. There are home-use red light therapy bulbs and devices available on the market. Some are quite affordable.

Cons: Some devices can be expensive. You need multiple treatment sessions (which could be very expensive if you opt for having treatments done by a medical professional). Time consuming: you need a bit of patience to see results.


Devices for At-Home Use

Before buying any red light therapy (or blue light therapy) bulb or device you should remember that there’s infrared light therapy that can cause harm. Please buy from reputable manufacturers and research safety and usage instructions before starting to use the device.

You should know that there are laws controlling the production of these type of devices. Producers have to use lower wavelength intensity than the lasers medical professionals use.

When using at-home LLLT devices:

  • Don’t overdo the treatment. More is not better.
  • Please read and follow the instructions and safety information.
  • Be patient. The effects may take a few weeks to see.
  • Use eye protection. Never stare directly into the light.
  • Remember that the FDA approves based on safety, not necessarily effectiveness. Research scientific results for safety and effectiveness.


To Keep in Mind

Finally, I need to conclude this article with some tips to keep in mind and help you to make a decision about whether red light therapy or blue light therapy (or some infrared light therapy) is right for you.

When it comes to acne, consult with a dermatologist first. Get a diagnosis- acne can come in different forms and some conditions mimic acne. Remember that treatment effectiveness depends on the type of acne you have. Traditional acne skin-care products and other medical options are the options where you should first start.

For anti-aging, red light therapy is a great complementary option. It does not mean that you don’t need an appropriate skincare routine. Together the two can give you wonderful results.

There are five pillars of a good skin care routine:

1. Cleanse with a gentle cleanser each day and night.

2. Exfoliate to remove dead skin cells.

3. Tonify.

4. Hydrate. Use a moisturizer appropriate for your skin type.

5. Protect your skin from sun damage by using sunscreen.

And if you decide to try LLLT keep in mind: be consistent and patient! If you want to invest the money in one of the at-home bulbs or devices, you need to be committed (don’t waste your money if you are not going to use it).  Not sure? Go and see your dermatologist and ask if LLLT is for you.


Blue Light Therapy: What is It?

While red light therapy is gaining wide recognition for its medical and cosmetic uses, blue light therapy remains far less well-known. Yet many have heard of its uses, especially in conditions involving pathogenic bacteria. Acne sufferers in particular may be curious and wonder: what is blue light therapy?

Blue Light Therapy Kills Bacteria

Blue light therapy is the use of light in the blue wavelength ranges to cause an effect in the body. By far its most popular use is to kill bacteria.

Even in low doses it’s a powerful tool for killing bacteria. In a 2009 study published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, blue light therapy was proven effective for killing the antibiotic-resistant staph infection, MRSA. After only 100 seconds- or a little over one and half minutes- of exposure to blue light, 30% of MRSA laboratory cultures died. After 16-17 minutes, 80% of MRSA was killed.

woman asking what is blue light therapy

Blue light therapy in conjunction with a photosensitizing agent, such as methylene blue, has proven itself even better at killing bacteria. This study showed that the combination, delivered into the root canal of a tooth with bacterial biofilm (which is notoriously difficult to eradicate) destroyed both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. It even disrupted the bacterial biofilm.

The implications of this discovery are that blue light therapy can be used to greatly reduce the number of dangerous bacteria. Especially for conditions like acne, acne rosacea and cystic acne, and for infections, it could represent a helpful adjunct treatment. Please note, we are not suggesting you forgo medical advice for any of these conditions. What we are saying is that you should speak with your doctor about using blue light therapy in addition to the standard treatments he or she recommends.

Interestingly enough, blue light has other known uses. For instance, it is believed that it is the blue portion of the light spectrum that is most active in light therapy treatments for Seasonal affective disorder. Blue light therapy (or the absence of blue light) can be used to regulate circadian rhythm. Specialized blue light can be used to speed up teeth whitening as well. Perhaps time will tell us what other uses for blue light exist.

While it hasn’t been definitively proven, there are some experts who suspect that excess blue light is not good for the eyes. To be on the safe side, be sure to wear appropriate eye protection during blue light therapy.



Dangers of Infrared Light Therapy Bulbs: Why Shatterproof isn’t Safer

dangers of infrared light therapyOne of the inconvenient things about near infrared bulbs used for near infrared light therapy is that they are made of glass. They are fragile and can break easily if dropped. While this is an annoying problem with any sort of bulb, in the case of bulbs being used in near infrared saunas or near infrared light therapy, there’s the additional risk that the bulb could shatter during use if it is exposed to moisture. One of the biggest dangers of infrared light therapy, though, lies in shatterproof bulbs.

To solve this problem, some manufacturers began using polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE, more popularly known by its brand name, Teflon, to coat the bulbs and sell them as “shatterproof”. A PTFE coating does indeed strengthen the bulb, making it resist breakage (although it is not fully break-proof). What most people do not know is that shatterproof near infrared bulbs release invisible, odorless fumes that are highly toxic.

It seems to be widely agreed that at low temperatures, PTFE is safe. However, at higher temperatures, the bonds in PTFE begin to break, allowing fluorocarbon gases to escape. At temperatures as low as 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius), PTFE coated near infrared bulbs will off-gas. Most near infrared light therapy bulbs reach temperatures of 450 degrees or more.

In some cases, exposure to PTFE gases will cause what is informally known as polymer fume fever in humans. Polymer fume fever can occur as a result of temperatures above 300 degrees, which is well below a near infrared bulb’s normal operating temperature of 450 degrees plus. Symptoms may be absent, or may include flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills and headaches, as well as chest tightness, cough, a high white blood cell count and visible changes on chest x-rays. Those affected may not link PTFE bulbs to their symptoms, as onset is four to eight hours after exposure.

At temperatures above 450 degrees, PTFE decomposition and off-gassing is high enough to cause acute lung injury in humans. According to the Environmental Working Group, the following are released from heat-induced breakdown of PTFE.

  • Tetrafluoroethylene (TFE)
  • Hexafluoropropene (HFP)
  • Octafluorocyclobutane (OFCB)
  • Perfluoroisobutane (PFIB), which is a chemical warfare agent ten times stronger than phosgene
  • Carbon tetrafluoride, or carbonyl fluoride (CF4), the fluorine analog of phosgene
  • Trifluoroacetic acid (TFA)
  • Trifluoroacetic acid fluoride
  • Perfluorobutane
  • Silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4)
  • Monofluoroacetic acid (MFA), capable of killing humans at low doses
  • Hydrofluoric acid, a corrosive gas
  • Particulate matter

In baby chicks, parrots and other birds, exposure to off-gassing PTFE bulbs results in death.

Perhaps one factor contributing to the toxicity of PTFE fumes is the use of a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) sometimes used to manufacture it. PFOA does not biodegrade and persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a known toxicant and carcinogen. Studies done due to a lawsuit against DuPont concluded that PFOA exposure is probably associated with kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Needless to say, shatterproof bulbs are not the convenient substitute for real near infrared light therapy bulbs that they first appear to be. Unsuspecting consumers are being led to purchase a product that compromises their health and safety. This in and of itself is unconscionable. But consider that many people using these bulbs are trying to recover from devastating illnesses, to improve their health or just simply to detox and the sale of shatterproof near infrared bulbs for the purpose of near infrared light therapy takes on an even more devastating implication.

What Does Red Light Therapy Do?

paltrow infrared sauna dangersLots of people have never heard of red light therapy (or any low level light therapy, or LLLT) before. A lot of us are wondering…what does red light therapy do?

Here I’m going to explain some of the effects of red light therapy.


Red Light Therapy Increases Circulation

There are multiple studies showing red light therapy increases circulation and aids in the formation of capillaries. Now, improved circulation is not just a benefit for those with poor blood circulation. Especially as we age, and in some medical conditions like Lyme disease, poor circulation contributes to the cosmetic and health problems people experience. For instance, one of the reasons skin shows signs of aging is because as we get older, blood circulation to that area is not as good. Improving blood flow to the skin helps bring cells the oxygen and nutrients they need to carry out regenerative and repair processes. Equally important, it transports waste products away from the area so they may be eliminated by the body. This makes good circulation beneficial for many purposes, from weight loss to wrinkle reduction to joint pain. Improving blood flow helps more than just the cardiovascular system.


What Red Light Therapy Does: It Increases Lymph Circulation and Drainage

Similar to having healthy blood circulation, there are many health benefits to having good lympatic circulation and drainage. There are even a few beauty benefits- improving lymph system activity with red light therapy or other forms of LLLT reduces swelling and puffiness.


Red Light Therapy Speeds Up Healing

There are many studies showing that red light therapy speeds up tissue healing.


Red Light Therapy and Some Other Forms of LLLT Stimulate Collagen and Fibroblast Production

Collagen is the protein most associated with plump, firm, young-looking skin. Over time (or sometimes, as the result of an injury), collagen weakens. Red light therapy and certain other forms of LLLT simulate the production of new collagen, which improves sagging, thin-looking skin, fine lines and deeper wrinkles. Collagen is also important in joint health.

Also important for skin rejuvenation and healing are fibroblasts. Red light therapy encourages the production of fibroblasts, which promotes healing and has great beauty benefits for the skin.


Red Light Therapy Energizes Cells

LLLT is associated with the release of ATP, a cell’s most basic unit of usable energy. Since energy is often the rate-limiting factor in cellular processes, this additional energy can immediately be put to work healing and rejuvenating. There is plenty of scientific evidence showing this effect of red light therapy.


Red Light Therapy Stimulates the Removal of Pathogens and Cellular Debris

Red light therapy increases phagocytosis, the body’s process of removing pathogenic bacteria and debris.



Red Light Therapy Benefits

red light therapy benefitsRed light therapy benefits, compared to other possible treatments, has many advantages. Below are some red light therapy benefits.

  1. Pain-free. Red light therapy causes no pain. In fact, it is known to temporarily relieve pain as well as speed up healing time (which ultimately results in less pain, depending on what the LLLT is used for).
  2. Drug and chemical free. The fact that red light therapy involves no drugs or chemicals whatsoever (with the notable exception of the use of Teflon-coated near infrared bulbs, which we do not recommend) is a huge plus. The typical risks and side effects that come with drug and chemical exposure are not an issue in red light therapy.
  3. Allows for adjunct treatment. Often, people don’t find adequate relief or results from any one particular therapy, be it medication or a procedure or a lifestyle change. One particularly helpful feature of red light therapy is that it does not conflict or interact with most other treatments. While you should always check with your doctor for guidance on how to best use red light therapy (or any LLLT), the odds are in your favor that your doctor will approve.
  4. Non-invasive. Red light therapy requires nothing invasive. The light is applied to the outside of the body. Sometimes, surgeries or other invasive procedures are unavoidable. But at least those using red light therapy or other LLLT don’t have to deal with invasive procedures to use it.
  5. Non-ablative. While some laser treatments are ablative, meaning they involve damaging tissue, red light therapy and other types of LLLT are non-ablative. This means that on average, LLLT has fewer risks and side effects. It is more gentle and safe and it requires zero downtime.
  6. It’s natural.  Red light therapy causes reactions on a cellular level that make your own body heal itself.
  7. Requires no downtime. Red light therapy treatments are painless and require no downtime. You won’t have to stay at home in bed after a treatment and honestly, the treatments will probably change almost nothing about your routine (you may need to change the time you apply certain skin care products, or if you’ve done a near-infrared light therapy/sauna treatment you’d do best to shower immediately afterward, but that’s about it).
  8. Easily accessible. Red light therapy is available in many salons and spas. Even better, there are plenty of red light therapy bulbs and devices available for at-home use. If you do your red light therapy treatments at home, you can do them at the frequency you choose and in a manner that is convenient and comfortable for you.
  9. Red light therapy is easy. Whether you do your red light therapy (or LLLT) treatments at home or in a salon or spa, one of the biggest red light therapy benefits are that they’re simple to do. You don’t have to spend a ton of time figuring out how the bulb or device works. To do a treatment with an LED red light therapy bulb or device, you just turn it on and touch it to your skin. To do treatments with a near-infrared (non-LED) bulb, you put on your eye protection and hang out a couple feet from the bulbs.
  10. FDA approved/FDA cleared. Many red light therapy and LLLT options are approved or cleared by the FDA. The FDA recognizes the benefits of red light therapy.  In their Memo to the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, the FDA states that “Exposure to red light has been scientifically shown and is understood by consumers to affect skin structure, for example by reducing wrinkles for months after treatment, which may be the result of new collagen formation or reorganization, or repair of elastin damage.”
  11. Gets results fast. Red light therapy benefits the healing of wounds, scars, surgical sites, torn ligaments, bruises, sprains, etc. With red light therapy or other type of LLLT, you can heal much faster, allowing you to get back to your normal life. Often, athletes use red light therapy to heal injuries so they can continue training. It has even been used by athletes with no pain or injury issues- they use it to make their muscles recover faster after strenuous exercise.
  12. Is relatively inexpensive. Of course it depends on which red light therapy bulb or device you choose, but overall, there are affordable LLLT options out there. When you consider that many cosmetic laser treatments are hundreds or thousands of dollars, at-home LLLT devices are a bargain. Because red light therapy is useful in so many different conditions, buying a bulb or device could turn out to be the cheapest, most effective solution you’ve ever found.
  13. Red light therapy has many possible uses. Click here to read more about what red light therapy and other types of LLLT are used for.


Red Light Therapy Before and After Photos of Cystic Acne Wound

What can 15 minutes of red light therapy do? (In this case, it was combined with a bit of blue light therapy because the bulb I used had both.) I decided to test it out and take a few pics of before and after red light therapy. I used a RubyLux High Power Red & Blue LED Bulb on a small facial wound from cystic acne. I had already gotten the acne cyst to go down by about 50 to 75% by using blue light therapy for a couple of 2-minute sessions the day before. All before pics shown here were taken immediately before the 15-minute treatment with the red and blue bulb.  Below are the resulting red light therapy before and after pics.

After one 15-minute treatment where the RubyLux bulb touched the skin, here are the before and after red light therapy photos. Note that I am a person who typically heals very slowly.

red light therapy before and after photos cystic acne wound 1


These are before and after red light therapy photos from the side. These pictures were taken about 15 minutes after the 15-minute session ended because immediately after treatment, the imprint of the bulb’s LED’s were visible on my skin (you can see how the bulb imprint looks in the picture at the bottom of this page- the imprint is normal and is no cause for concern, but it distorted the photo a little).

red light therapy before and after photos cystic acne wound 2

This is another picture taken from a side angle. Again, these before and after red light therapy photos were taken immediately before (for the before photo) the treatment and 10-15 minutes afterwards (for the after photo).

red light therapy before and after photos cystic acne wound 3


Here is a picture of the area right after the 15 minute red and blue light therapy treatment. As you can see, there are temporary dimples in my skin. These are from the bulb resting on my skin and once the bulb is removed, they quickly go away.

Red Light Therapy Before & After Photos immediately after 15 min red light therapy

For a person who would normally take a week to heal a wound like this one, these red light therapy before and after photos show a huge acceleration of healing time. As many of you with cystic acne know, the acne spots and the wounds can be quite painful, so I am super happy with these results. Hopefully these before and after red light therapy photos have given you an idea of what is red light therapy.