Red Light Therapy Wavelengths & The Conditions Treated (Backed by Science)

 
RLT Home - Red Light Therapy - Most Effective Wavelengths - redlighttherapyhome.com
 

One of the key considerations when buying a red light therapy device is the wavelength or frequency of the device and whether that wavelength provides the healing benefits you're looking for. 

Jonathan Knight from RLT Home went ahead and plotted 27 different wavelengths between 605 nanometers and 1070 nanometers against 36 known ailments treated, all backed by reliable scientific research. 

This list is expected to grow/change as more research is done and more data becomes available. Please bookmark this page if you're interested in keeping up with this information.

Red light therapy is an emerging method of treating an almost infinite array of physical and mental health conditions and concerns. Its revolutionary healing properties and health benefits are increasingly recognized as successful in a wide range of applications including:

  • skin and eye health improvement
  • pain relief
  • weight management and cellulite reduction
  • treatment of depression and anxiety
  • injury and wound healing
  • treatment of certain diseases
  • increasing cognitive function
  • physical fitness enhancement, muscle-building, and recovery after exercise
  • improving overall bodily healing ability
  • thyroid health and boosting metabolism
  • many more assorted uses

Red light therapy is 100 percent natural and FDA-approved. It contains no harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation and is safe for all ages and skin types.

Red light exists in a spectrum of wavelengths. The best wavelength to use depends upon the condition being treated and your specific objective(s). Certain wavelengths and ranges of wavelengths are known to have specialized healing abilities. Before delving into which wavelengths are most appropriate for various purposes, it is necessary to understand what red light therapy is, how it works, and what it does to your body.

Table of Contents

The Basics of Red Light Therapy

Red light wavelengths are administered to (shined upon) your skin and they penetrate to the cells below. Your mitochondria (the energy production centers or “powerhouses” of your cells) are stimulated, triggering the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an organic compound within your body that is responsible for all biochemical energy transfer. It is frequently referred to as the “molecular currency” by which cellular energy is transferred throughout your body.

ATP is delivered to all of your bodily tissues and organs, elevating the energy level within your cells. Greater energy in your cells elicits higher oxygen levels, reduces inflammation, boosts your immune system, and improves your circulation.

Increased cellular energy activates the production of fibroblasts (specific connective tissue cells that create collagen and elastin). Collagen and elastin are the proteins responsible for maintaining your skin’s elasticity and suppleness, and they are also key players in your body’s natural healing process. Enhanced collagen and elastin levels result in your body having a heightened ability to heal itself, triggered at the cellular level.

Red light therapy is growing in use by professional athletes in a wide range of sports and is increasingly being recommended by professional fitness trainers. Its performance-enhancing and healing possibilities enable at-home fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes alike to achieve their ultimate individual performance abilities.

Red light therapy is also growing in popularity with celebrities interested in staving off wrinkles and maintaining a glowing, youthful appearance. Notable big-name personalities who use red light therapy regularly for anti-aging purposes include Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Kim Kardashian, Emma Stone, Chrissy Teigen, and Katy Perry.

Red light therapy draws upon your body’s natural cellular processes to activate change and help you become your healthiest, fittest, and most radiant self.

What are the Different Lights in Red Light Therapy?

Before getting into specific red light wavelengths and what they effectively treat, it is important to understand what the basic types of red light are. Classification is based upon the location of the wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum. The red light therapy spectrum begins with red light, progresses to near-infrared (NIR) light, and advances to infrared light.

Light wavelengths are measured in nanometers (nm). One nm is equal to one-billionth of a meter.

Red Light

The shortest of all red + NIR wavelengths, red light (also known as short red light) ranges in length from approximately 600 to 700 nm.

 
 

Red light resides on the visible end of the spectrum, which means that you can see it. It is, however, on the “long end” of the whole spectrum in general. Red light waves are the longest wavelengths that are still visible to the human eye. Green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet light are all shorter in wavelength than red (midrange and lower on the spectrum) and are all visible.

The shorter the wavelength and the lower on the spectrum, the less effective light is at penetrating your body to a significant cellular level to stimulate change and healing.

Short red light penetrates your body to a depth of about eight to 10 millimeters, reaching the mitochondria of your skin cells and other cells that are located closely beneath your skin. Red light does not create heat, although you might experience a mild and pleasant warm sensation on your skin during therapy.

Red light is best suited for treating skin conditions, mild inflammation, and accelerating surface wound healing. There are no adverse side effects to short red light. It cannot burn your skin or damage any underlying body tissues.

All wavelengths of red LED light will provide benefits, but wavelengths from 630 to 680 nm demonstrate the most healing power.

Infrared Light

Infrared light is invisible to the human eye. It is the longest form of red light on the spectrum, and it feels hot on your skin (similar to or hotter than sunlight). Infrared light qualifies as light energy, but you can only feel infrared light, not see it. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as infrared heat. Infrared light is technically classified as thermal energy, meaning that it is heat-producing.

Since the light spectrum is continuous, there is no fixed metric for the exact beginning of infrared light. In general, wavelengths ranging from about 900 to 1400 nm are considered to be infrared.

Infrared light can penetrate up to 2.5 centimeters beneath your skin. This is around three times the depth to which short red light wavelengths can penetrate.

Because of its thermal properties, infrared light has the capability of burning your skin and causing eye or other bodily tissue damage (unlike red light, which is safe for eyes). For this reason, infrared light must be administered carefully and diligently. It is usually used only in more extreme circumstances, not for routine red light therapy.

Infrared light is used mainly to treat serious conditions such as traumatic brain injury, severe pain, Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and to enhance the effects of chemotherapy during cancer treatment.

Near-Infrared Light

Near-Infrared light occupies the area of the spectrum between short red and infrared light. It is somewhat of a “gray area” in the world of red light but is found to be extremely useful for therapeutic purposes.

Again, because the spectrum is continuous, there is no “magic number” marking the exact beginning or end of NIR light on the spectrum. It is generally agreed upon that NIR light ranges from about 700 to 900 nm in wavelength.

The visibility of near-infrared light varies. It borders on the high end of the red light range and the low end of the infrared light range; therefore, NIR light is visible at the bottom of its range and invisible at the top of its range. It transitions from visible to invisible somewhere near the high end of its range.

NIR light penetrates more deeply into your body than red light, but less deeply than infrared light. NIR light is safer than infrared light because although it borders on the thermal range, its potential to burn your skin or cause deep tissue damage is much lower than that of infrared.

While red light has no harmful side effects but infrared light potentially can, NIR light falls somewhere in between. As long as near-infrared light is administered safely and carefully, however, great benefits can be realized with very minimal risk of adverse side effects.

As with red light, a certain range of NIR wavelengths exhibit greater therapeutic benefits than the remainder. 800 to 880 nm NIR light demonstrates the highest healing potential within its range.

Which Specialized Wavelengths Are Best For What?

First, it is important to understand that each individual is unique, and what works for one person might not be best for another. This applies to specific wavelengths, combinations of wavelengths, and types of devices. No two people are exactly alike, and everyone reacts differently to red light therapy. Utilizing a personalized strategy is best.

An integrated approach combining red light and NIR light provides a powerful recipe for therapeutic success. The penetration of various wavelengths to multiple depths within your body allows separate and diverse issues to be treated at the same time. For example, skin conditions and deep tissue injuries or joint pain can all be treated at once.

Your personal goals and the severity of the condition(s) you wish to treat will dictate which wavelengths are best for you. For example, red light at 630 or 660 nm or a combination of red light and NIR light at 830 nm might be appropriate for someone who hopes to improve general skin health or treat mild acne. A higher-range NIR level (800 to 850 nm) might be a better option for someone treating a more serious condition or focusing on deep tissue and joint health.

That being said, specific wavelengths and combinations of wavelengths are most prevalent and widely-used for certain objectives. A combination of red and NIR light generally creates the best formula for success. Infrared light also sometimes enters the mix, but much less frequently because of its intensity (read more about the importance of beam angle in red light therapy).

Weight Loss, Fat-Burning, Cellulite Reduction, and Metabolism

  Red Light Wavelengths Near Infrared Light (NIR) Wavelengths
Condition Treated 630nm 660nm 810nm 830nm 850nm
Weight Loss
Fat Burning
Cellulite Reduction
Metabolism

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Red light therapy can stimulate your metabolism, burn fat, and reduce cellulite. It can also decrease your appetite and help you reach your peak physical fitness and performance levels. A boost to your metabolism and better exercise performance will accelerate the effects of a healthy diet and exercise program. To read more on how red light therapy works on body fat, click here.

Red light therapy also impacts your thyroid health. Your thyroid gland is responsible for regulating your metabolism. With better thyroid function, your body is restored to a better hormonal balance and you will be able to lose weight more quickly and easily.

Short red LED wavelengths will only affect fat cells that reside very closely beneath the skin. This, however, is actually where the greatest content of body fat is stored (including but not limited to cellulite), so red LED light will go a long way toward fat-burning.

630nm and 660nm are the red wavelengths that deliver optimal weight loss and fat-burning assistance. Anywhere in the 630 – 700nm range is effective, but 630 and 660 specifically are especially effective in a combined treatment plan with near-infrared light.

Near-infrared light is a powerful tool for promoting deep tissue healing and reducing inflammation. It reaches fat cells that reside deeper than the cellulite layer, thereby increasing your total fat-burn.

810, 830, and 850nm are the optimal near-infrared wavelengths to use in a broad-based therapy plan including both red and near-infrared light.

Thus, the optimal red light therapy for weight loss and fat-burning is a combination of short red light and near-infrared light, using 630, 660, 810, 830, and 850nm wavelengths in synergy. 780 nm is another wavelength that has been linked to improved thyroid function, so adding it to the mix might give your treatment an extra boost.

Each individual will have a unique ideal formula that provides the best results.

Anti-Aging and Skin Health

  Red Light Wavelengths Near Infrared Light (NIR)
Wavelengths
Condition Treated 605nm 630nm 633nm 640nm 650nm 660nm 670nm 830nm 855nm
Anti-aging
Acne
Scars
Rosacea
Sun Damage
Wrinkles & Fine Lines
Droopy or Crepey Eyelids
Under-Eye Circles & Bags
Broken Capillaries

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Red light therapy can take years off of your face and clear up skin problems. Some facial and all-over bodily skin conditions that can be treated include:

As your skin cells soak up the red light, the resulting increase in cellular energy and collagen production kills acne-causing bacteria and promotes healing. Red light reduces inflammation and improves oxygen flow to your cells, allowing them to function better. Decreased swelling and inflammation reduces the size of acne pimples, and lower bacteria levels prevent new pimples from forming.

Skin elasticity and hydration are improved, minimizing the appearance of unsightly scars. Red light therapy will help to some degree with any level of scarring.

The elevated collagen and elastin production and hydration activated by red light therapy create an increased immune response, eliminating dead skin cells and repairing damaged ones. Wrinkles are minimized to restore your skin to a firmer, smoother texture. Discolorations are reduced, giving your skin a more uniform appearance. A healthy, glowing skin tone is restored, diminishing the appearance of age spots and dark under-eye circles alike.

The best treatment for overall skin health is an integrated formula utilizing red light and NIR light conjunctively. Wavelengths associated with skin health and rejuvenation include 605, 630, 633, 640, 650, 660, 670, 830, and 855 nm. In particular, 633 nm devices are growing in popularity for facial anti-aging purposes.

Pain Management and Relief

  Red Light Wavelengths Near Infrared Light (NIR) Wavelengths Infrared Wavelengths
Condition Treated 630nm 640nm 650nm 660nm 670nm 720nm 750nm 780nm 810nm 820nm 830nm 850nm 900nm 980nm
Pain Relief            
Wound Healing          
Injury Healing          
Muscle Building          
Athletic Performance          
Post Workout Recovery          

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Red light therapy is well-known as a successful way to end chronic or temporary pain.

Inflammation is a predominant cause of pain, so red light therapy’s anti-inflammatory properties provide quick relief of any type of bodily pain. Better circulation, increased cellular oxygenation, better cellular nutrition, and improved ATP levels in your organs and tissues all result in pain relief.

Red light therapy addresses pain issues better than any drug or topical solution. Rather than temporarily dulling pain, red light therapy tackles the root cause at your body’s cellular level.

The most effective red light wavelengths for pain relief are 650, 660, 780, 810, 820, 830, 900, and 980 nm.

Wound and Injury Healing

Because red light therapy stimulates your body at its cellular level, individual cells work to boost the functioning of all of your bodily systems. The increased ATP being delivered to your tissues and organs elevates your body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Even stem cells within your bone marrow are stimulated and are deployed to the injury or wound site via red light therapy. This is significant because cells that are within close proximity to one another will communicate. Damaged cells at an injury site can potentially send harmful signals to neighboring cells, causing infection or prolonging healing time. Healthy stem cells, however, send the right message to damaged cells, signaling them to adapt to the properties of the newly arrived healthy cells.

The enhanced circulation quality stimulated by red light therapy increases the conveyance of oxygen, white blood cells, and nutrients to the wound or injury site, promoting healing even further.

Red light waves with lengths of 630, 650, 660, 670, 720, 780, 810, 830, 900, and 980 all help promote faster healing of wounds and injuries.

Athletic Performance, Muscle-Building, and Post-Workout Recovery

Increased energy at the cellular level means that your body disposes of waste more expediently and your overall bodily energy is increased. This translates to improved stamina, endurance, strength, and speed, and a rise to your peak performance level. Read more benefits here.

Better circulation creates more capillaries (tiny blood vessels) to deliver oxygen and essential nutrients to your cells. Increased oxygenation and cellular nutrition result in less muscle damage during workouts. This means that you can boost your workout level, experience less exhaustion, sustain less tissue injury, and recover more quickly after exercise.

Muscle growth is compounded through ATP production and the resulting cellular energy boost. Your body’s new ability to work out more intensely naturally invokes a higher level of muscle development, and your muscle mass increases steadily.

The wavelengths that are proven to have a profound impact on athletic performance, muscle-building, and recovery are 630, 640, 660, 670, 750, 810, 850, 900, and 980.

Red light therapy is beneficial both pre– and post-workout.

Combined red and NIR light therapy can also prevent (or accelerate the healing of) sports injuries such as:

  • cartilage tears
  • knee injuries
  • tennis elbow
  • tendonitis
  • back pain
  • muscle strains or sprains
  • rotator cuff tears
  • Achilles tendon strains or tears
  • ”shin splints” (shin pain caused by overworking shin muscles and tendons), common in runners and dancers)
  • general joint, nerve, and muscle soreness

Mental Stamina and Cognitive Performance

  Red Light Wavelengths Near Infrared Light (NIR) Wavelengths Infrared Wavelengths
Condition Treated 627nm 630nm 650nm 660nm 670nm 730nm 800nm 810nm 1070nm
Mental Stamina      
Cognitive Performance      
Depression & Anxiety            
Parkinson’s Disease            

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Red light therapy provides great support for brain health. Brain cell function is improved, thus enhancing overall brain function. Red light therapy can increase mental stamina and cognitive abilities, treat psychiatric disorders and assist with the healing of a stroke (also known as a “brain attack” during which blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off).

Cerebral blood flow is increased, inflammation is reduced, stem cell production is revitalized, and metabolic cell function is improved via red light therapy. A process called neurogenesis is also stimulated. Neurogenesis refers to the regrowth of neurons within your brain. Neurons are fundamental brain and nervous system units that are responsible for receiving sensory input and sending appropriate signals to the rest of your body. Your brain gains a greater ability to form neural connections and function at a higher capacity.

Your ability to concentrate is improved, thinking and problem-solving skills are elevated, and overall mental sharpness and acuity are raised to new levels.
Depression, anxiety, and the symptoms of other mental illnesses can be lessened. Even degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease can benefit from red light therapy.

Specific wavelengths that help with brain health and function are 627, 660, 670, 800, 810, and 1070.

Other Diseases and Conditions

  Red Light Wavelengths Near Infrared Light (NIR) Wavelengths Infrared Wavelengths
Condition Treated 630nm 650nm 655nm 660nm 670nm 690nm 780nm 785nm 810nm 830nm 860nm 904nm 910nm 980nm 1070nm
Thyroid function                            
Hair Growth                        
Asthma                          
Tinnitus                        
Arthritis                  
Multiple Sclerosis                        
Stem Cell Regeneration                        
Hypertension                          
Liver Function                        
Fertility and Sperm Motility                        
Herpes                
Cold Sores                
Genital & Other Simplexes                

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Many other mental and physical problems are also known to be relieved to some degree through the use of red light therapy. While most conditions are best treated via red LED light, NIR LED light, or a combination thereof, some more serious conditions can also be treated via the safe application of infrared light therapy.

Here is a partial list of additional conditions and diseases along with the specific wavelengths (in nm) that are effective in their treatment.

  • asthma — 660, 810
  • depression and anxiety — 630, 650, 810
  • tinnitus — 650, 810, 860
  • arthritis — 630, 660, 785, 810, 830, 910
  • multiple sclerosis — 660, 670, 904
  • stem cell regeneration — 630, 660, 810
  • Parkinson’s disease — 670, 730, 810
  • hypertension — 660, 780
  • liver function — 630, 670, 810
  • fertility and sperm motility — 630, 650, 830
  • herpes (cold Sores, genital and other simplexes) — 630, 660, 690, 780, 830, 980, 1070

Virtually any condition or disease can derive some level of benefit from red light therapy because your body’s natural healing capacity is maximized. Increased cellular energy drives your body to perform at its highest level.

Which Wavelengths Are Most Commonly Used?

The most widely-used wavelengths (either individually or in conjunction with one another) are 630, 660, 810, 830, and 850. These are the wavelengths (and combinations thereof) most readily available to purchase for at-home use.

If you plan to use red light therapy for its overall bodily benefits and most typical applications (anti-aging, skincare, muscle and joint health, pain relief, and other routine purposes), your best bet is likely to be a device that provides a combination of wavelengths between 630 to 670 nm and 800 to 850 nm. If you are targeting more specialized needs, you will benefit by looking into devices with other wavelengths.

The main functions of the most standard wavelengths are:

  • 630 nm — wrinkle reduction, general skin care, acne treatment, hair regrowth, healing of mild forms of skin cancer, and treatment of common skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis
  • 660 nm — reduced inflammation, accelerated wound and injury healing, decreased swelling and inflammation, pain relief, and reduced muscle fatigue with exercise
  • 810 nm — faster wound and injury healing, improved brain injury recovery, treatment of depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders, accelerated stroke recovery, enhanced athletic performance, and decreased recovery time after a workout
  • 830 nm — shorter healing times, reduced infection, faster bone growth and repair, and higher endorphin levels (the “feel-good” hormones produced by your nervous system)
  • 850 nm — enhanced muscle recovery, anti-aging and wrinkle preventative properties, accelerated wound and injury healing, quicker muscle recovery, and reduction of inflammation

What Kinds of Devices Are Available for At-Home Red Light Therapy?

A variety of at-home red light therapy devices are available, some offering multiple wavelength options. Some devices offer just one wavelength, some administer multiple wavelengths at once, others offer the option of administering different wavelengths at different times, and some offer a combination of functionalities. Multi-wavelength devices allow for flexibility and an individualized, customizable approach to treatment.

Depending upon your unique needs, you might only want one specific wavelength or you might feel that a combination of several will pave your best route to success. The right device for one person is not necessarily right for another.

Budget should also be a contributing factor in your decision-making process. The larger and more complex the device, the more it will usually cost.

Regardless of which wavelengths you ultimately choose for yourself, one of the best aspects of red light therapy is that it is easily administered at home. No expensive, time-consuming medical or spa appointments are required, and you need only purchase your device(s) once so there are no recurring costs.

Devices available to purchase for use in the comfort of your own home (in a variety of wavelength options) include:

  • Beds — Beds are a great option for targeting multiple problem areas or conditions at once. Beds are, however, significantly more costly than light panels and other devices.
  • Light Panels — Light panels are available in a range of sizes, including full-body panels that you stand in front of. Smaller panels are available for more targeted use. Some smaller panels are hand-held and others are designed to be placed on a table in front of you.
  • Hand-Held Devices, Wands, and Pens — Hand-held devices are most appropriate for targeting very specific bodily locations. Red light usually radiates from a circular area around five to 15 centimeters in diameter.
  • Face and Eye Masks — These devices focus primarily on anti-aging (wrinkle reduction, eye-bag reduction, sun damage correction, and skin tone improvement) and the treatment of acne, rosacea, cold sores, and other facial skin conditions.
  • Compression Wraps — Compression wraps are made to treat issues of specific body parts such as elbows, knees, ankles, overall arms, or legs.
  • Flexible Pads — Pads are supple and bendable so they contour to your body. They come in a variety of sizes and lay over a portion of your body. Flexible pads are a great form of red light therapy for your back (either for back acne, back pain relief, or any other back problems), among other things.
  • Compression Neck Pillows — Horseshoe-shaped to wrap around the back and sides of your neck (basically all the way around your neck), compression neck pillows serve to relieve neck soreness or any neck condition. They can even help with thyroid treatment since your thyroid gland is located within your neck.
  • Hand Mitts and Wrist Wraps — Good for hand and wrist pain and soreness due to injury or repetitive motions, mitts and wrist wraps can also relieve conditions like carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
  • Slippers — Slip-on red light shoe devices are useful for anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet or experiences a foot injury. Conditions like plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the ligament connecting the heel bone to the toes) are also remedied.

Which device is right for you depends upon your personal therapeutic goals.

Several Blue Light Devices Are Also On the Market. What About Blue Light Therapy?

Blue light is much lower on the spectrum of visible light than red light. Its wavelengths are only approximately 380 – 500nm.

Since the effectiveness of light therapy depends upon how deeply the wavelengths can penetrate your body, the healing capacity of blue light will be much lower than that of red. Blue light waves are only capable of penetrating to a depth of about 1 to 4 mm beneath your skin, as compared to the 8 to 10 mm achieved by even the shortest of red wavelengths.

Blue light will only reach cells very close to the skin’s surface. Because acne-causing bacteria can reside there, blue light can be helpful in clearing up acne, rosacea (a skin condition causing a patchy rash-like appearance on the face), and other minor skin problems.

Cellulite (lumpy fat deposits with a dimpled, cottage cheese appearance) also resides directly beneath your skin, so blue light might also be relatively useful in cellulite reduction.

Any results, however, will be less than those that could be accomplished with red light. Blue light is not capable of accessing your cells at a level deep enough to significantly impact deep tissue healing, pain relief, disease treatment, or anything that isn’t located just a few millimeters beneath your skin’s surface. Red light therapy, on the other hand, reaches deep into your body to jump-start its natural healing capabilities.

Science Supports the Effectiveness of Red Light Wavelengths for Specific Applications

Clinical research proves that red light therapy is useful in treating numerous conditions and diseases. There are, in fact, hundreds of studies; far too many to list in this article. Here are some good examples of research that explores and demonstrates the efficacy of red light therapy using a variety of wavelengths for a wide range of purposes.

Virtually all wavelengths of red light have specialized healing powers.

Red light therapy is a convenient at-home treatment that can be personalized to your individual needs through the use of varying wavelengths. Whether you seek to treat a disease, relieve pain, reduce wrinkles, improve athletic performance, or utilize it for one of its practically countless other uses, red light therapy is a powerful tool that will help you achieve your health and appearance goals, both specific and general.

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