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The science behind the growing trend of red light therapy

Posted at 2:37 PM, Dec 02, 2022

Red light therapy has been rising in popularity, but with a lot of posts about it on social media, it's hard to know if what's being promised is backed by science. Physician and board-certified anesthesiologist Dr. Azza Halim, who works at the Sanctuary Medical Center, says red light therapy isn't new.

"Because of social media, TikTok, more people are trying it, getting on that bandwagon," Dr. Halim said.

An article published on NASA explains research funded by NASA used red light therapy to grow plants in space in the mid-1990s. Pretty soon, NASA scientists working under the lights discovered that abrasions on their hands were healing faster than normal. Dr. Rich Joseph is a chief medical officer for Restore Hyper Wellness, which offers red light therapy at more than 125 locations nationwide.

"Red light, in particular, we're learning, might have more advantageous properties for healing because of its ability to penetrate the skin because of its longer wavelengths," Dr. Joseph said.

Both he and Dr. Halim say there are a few medical studies regarding red light therapy.

One study suggests an increase in collagen density. Collagen provides structure and strength to your skin, muscles, bones and connective tissues. Another study suggests there are potential psychological benefits for people facing depression and anxiety.

However, Dr. Joseph cautions someone facing mental health issues should also seek out treatment from mainstream medicine like the use of anti-depressants. Dr. Halim says red light therapy should always be considered as an addition to your wellness practice.

"It needs to be used in conjunction with other therapies because there's been controversy with people trying to upsell red light therapy," Dr. Halim said.

Dr. Joseph says more clinical trials are needed to confirm its effectiveness as a treatment. What he can confirm is that red light therapy is safe because it won't cause skin damage like UV rays from the sun. Before you decide to spend your money on this growing trend, Dr. Halim suggests you talk with your physician to see what makes the most sense for you.