Red light therapy, PBM or Photobiomodulation is all the rage in wellness. It’s a safe form of low level laser therapy that uses specific wavelengths of red and infrared light to heal the body. From targeting wrinkles to aiding recovery and boosting happy hormone serotonin, PBM could be a panacea for modern times. A staple of most biohacking labs and longevity clinics such as The Body Lab London, designed to help us live healthier for longer. But what form of red light therapy to choose from?
How did red light therapy become such a big deal in welless?
NASA found that PBM helped with plant growth and healed wounds of astronauts in space. There’s lots of science behind it too. So lying on a red light bed or standing in a room covered with red light panels isn’t such a crazy thing to do after all. It’s a medically accepted therapy used to treat some skin conditions, including skin cancer. Red light therapy has also shown promising results for treating hair growth, hormone balance (such as boosting testosterone and libido), sun damage, pain, and inflammation, to name a few.
Which form of red light therapy to choose from?
The experts at Platinum Therapy Lights suggest starting with the specific objective you want to achieve. Do you require facial rejuvenation or do you want to alleviate arthritis-related knee pain? Treat a skin condition or improve athletic performance? Or do you simply just want a mood lift? It boils down to surface area and irradiance. Most companies advise being 4 to 6 inches away from the red light therapy panel to reap the therapeutic benefits.
Irradiance is the amount of energy a specific part of your body receives over a set period while using the device. The higher irradiance can result in better results for less time.
Do I lie on a red light therapy bed or try the panels?
At Repose in Kensington, clients can lie on a PBM bed. A photobiomodulation (PBM) session typically lasts around 20 minutes and is recommended to be repeated weekly depending on individual goals. At Repose, Red Light Therapy treatments are marketed as “stimulating the immune system and boosting cognitive development”. According to their website, PBM eliminates inflammation in the body which increases bio-availability of oxygen by modulating cellular activity. In turn, this increases ATP production, suppressing the formation and longevity of free radicals.
Over at The Body Lab in Kensington, guests pedal on an exercise bike during a “warm up” before their workout whilst taking in the benefits of red light. Red Light specialist training within the gym, offers a natural, non-invasive therapy that delivers beneficial wavelengths of red light to skin and cells, explains The Body Lab. The purposely built red light training room allows for enhanced cellular energy, increased recovery, improved cognition, promotes better sleep and beyond. Unlike a tanning booth style light therapy bed, a red light training room provides the same therapeutic effects but serves a multi-functional purpose.
PBM for athletic performance
Low-level light therapy (LLLT), is popular among professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts as a way to achieve peak performance by building muscle, explain the experts at Platinum Therapy Lights. When used as part of a maintenance program of pre- and post-exercise red light therapy may promote optimal physical performance and help prevent injury. Before exercise (preconditioning and injury prevention): three to five minutes per day at a distance of 6” to 18”. After exercise (accelerated recovery): 10 to 20 minutes per day at 6” to 18”.
Red and NIR light therapy has even been shown to minimize DOMS, such as in this 2006 study of 27 subjects. The study lasted five consecutive days, after which the NIR treatment group experienced a significant decrease in DOMS pain over the same treatment and control groups.
Red light for aesthetic results benefits
If targeting a specific beauty concern or anti-ageing, there are a range of masks on the market for professional and home use such as Dermalux. “Rejuvenating Red light accelerates cell renewal and repair, boosting collagen and elastin synthesis for smoother, firmer skin” explains Dermalux’s representative.
“Exposure to Red light at 633nm is clinically proven to increase the body’s natural form of cellular energy (ATP) which in turn ‘kick starts’ cells to regenerate faster. Red light is potently absorbed by fibroblasts increasing collagen and elastin synthesis and boosting natural hydration levels”. They explain that it can also improve blood flow for increased tissue oxygenation and the lymphatic systems to eliminate toxins. Red light offers immediate visible results; skin feels hydrated and plump and radiance is restored.
Red light beauty benefits include:
Boosts collagen and elastin production
Improves complexion, texture and tone
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Increases skin hydration
Evens skin tone and texture
Shrinks enlarged pores
Revitalises and restores radiance
Is red light safe?
Red light therapy exposes the skin to levels of light that are not harmful, say experts, unlike UV light coming from the sun. Because of this, there is virtually no risk of side effects from undergoing the therapy. However, a practitioner with little experience or someone who exposes themselves to too much of the treatment may cause tissue and cell damage.
Left images – Mitogen Bed used at Repose Kensington, DermaLux Flex | Right – Red Light Panel fitness room at The Body Lab London
Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.