What is Red Light Therapy Good For?

woman using red light therapy for skin rejuvenationRed light therapy– the use of diffused light in the wavelength range of 620 to 750 to cause changes in a living organism’s tissue- has been researched for many different uses.  The research has steadily increased over the past few decades and now we have more information on which conditions red light therapy is good for (and which it is not).

Often, you will see the term “light therapy” referring to the light boxes made to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD lights have gained popularity in mainstream medicine because doctors and scientists agree that they are effective. They are ultra bright lights that mimic sunlight, which is another type of light known to help people suffering from SAD. This helps a person with SAD regulate his or her circadian rhythm (known to be part of what causes SAD). What’s great about SAD lights is that not only do they help people who have SAD, they expose people to the idea of light therapy.

However, there are many, many more uses for light therapy that have been researched. (Note: This does not mean light therapy was determined to be effective in all cases on this list.)  Some of these potential uses for red light therapy or other light therapy include:

What Uses of Red Light Therapy are FDA Approved?

The FDA has approved certain light therapy devices to be marketed for specific conditions. These conditions include:

  • Diabetic neuropathy (880 nm infrared light therapy)
  • Ulcers of the mouth in those taking chemotherapy (660 nm red light therapy)
  • Wrinkles (infrared light therapy)
  • Pimples/acne (infrared, blue and blue/red light therapy combinations, respectively)
  • Tendonitis
  • Joint pain
  • Fibromyalgia

How to Use a Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) Bulb for Red Light Therapy or Blue Light Therapy

low level light therapyUsing an LED light therapy/LLLT bulb is pretty easy. Simply take the bulb and screw it into a lamp or light fixture, the same way you would screw in a regular light bulb.  I recommend a gooseneck clip lamp because it can be attached to an object and then adjusted easily (leaving your hands free). The best lamps are those with a plastic shade, which can be removed.

Another solution is to use a lantern cord, which is a bulb socket on a long cord. This allows you to move the bulb around very easily, but the downside is that using it hands-free could be difficult.

Turn on the lamp or light fixture you’re using and place the bulb directly on the skin. Some people prefer to keep the bulb very close to the skin instead and seem pleased with the results they get. Personally, though, I think it is best to have the bulb as close as possible to you. Since it is painless, I see no problem with doing it this way, except that for 5 to 10 minutes after a treatment, you are going to have little dimples in your skin where the LED’s were.

To keep the bulb surface clean, you may cover it with a single layer of plastic wrap each time you use it. I think it is best to do this each time you use your bulb because cleaning the bulb is difficult.

Keep the bulb on your skin for the duration of time recommended by the manufacturer. For most LLLT bulbs and devices, this will be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes per session.

The manufacturer should say how many sessions per day you should use. Typically, up to 3 sessions per day on the same area are recommended.

Take care not to overuse your LLLT bulb. Not only will excess use produce no additional benefit, but it could even reverse the benefits you’ve gained for the day. More is NOT better when it comes to LLLT.

Cleaning and Care for an LED Red Light Therapy or Blue Light Therapy Bulb

Because it is a bulb, it cannot be immersed in water or any other liquid. You should also not spray water or any other liquid on the bulb.

Therefore, preventing dust and dirt from accumulating on the bulb is important.  For this, I recommend covering the bulb’s light emitting LED’s with a single layer of clear plastic wrap.  Do not put plastic wrap on or around the metal part of the bulb that is screwed in.  Change the plastic wrap on the bulb each time you use it, especially if you are using it for acne or wound healing.

You can use a slightly damp cloth or Clorox/Lysol cleaning wipe to gently wipe clean the bulb housing. Make sure to remove the bulb from the socket before attempting to clean it.

To keep dust off of the bulb, use a soft microfiber dusting cloth.

Safety for LLLT Bulbs

Safety first! Read the instructions that come with the LLLT bulb before using it. You can also read more general safety tips here.

While an LED light therapy/LLLT bulb may become warm during use, it should never feel hot or cause pain or discomfort of any sort.  If the bulb becomes hot or causes discomfort, discontinue using it immediately and contact the manufacturer.