Top 10 Myths About Red Light Therapy

use red light therapy to relieve stress
4 Min Read

Red light therapy has been used in medicine for thousands of years, but it is just now becoming a mainstream wellness service. With the recent popularity of red light therapy, many myths have emerged. So, it’s no surprise so many of us are confused about the science behind red light therapy and which product to invest in.

Here, we dive into the top myths regarding red light therapy and the true science behind each.

Myth 1: Red light therapy is a gimmick and is not supported by science

Red light therapy is backed by over 7,000 peer-reviewed clinical studies conducted at top universities and hospitals, which you can access here. The scientific term for red light therapy in this research is “photobiomodulation” (PBM). These studies revealed numerous applications for red light therapy can in medicine for patients with diagnoses from arthritis to back pain to dementia, but also in everyday life to support daily health. To learn more about the science, visit here.

Myth 2: The more, the better

When it comes to red light therapy, more is not better; more precise is better.

This is because the benefit of red light therapy follows a ‘biphasic dose response curve’: too little or too much light is less effective than the “right” amount of light.

The right dose depends on:

  1. Energy output
  2. Distance
  3. Time

This means that too much energy output, too long of an exposure time, or too close of a distance to the light can lead to lesser results.

In fact, the science shows the correct dose is different for each part of the body (skin vs. joints vs. muscle), and require different light therapy routines. Red light products with simple on-off switches cannot change the dose of light for various areas of the body, meaning you have to spend extra money on multiple products for different health goals (skin health versus joint pain).

Myth 3: All light is equal

Based on the research so far, there are two main components of red light therapy that matter most:

  • the type, or wavelength, of light
  • the “dose” of light based on the energy output, time and distance

The wavelength of light determines if the light will activate your cells, and how deeply the activation will be (surface layer skin vs. deep tissue). The longer the wavelength, the deeper the effect. The dose of light determines the overall benefit of each type of light. The right dose of the correct wavelengths leads to the optimal benefits.

When considering what type of red light device is best for you, it’s important to 1) understand your health goals and 2) make sure the device is optimally dosed for those goals. Otherwise, you will be at risk of having a suboptimal benefit, or no benefit at all. Take a look at these routines for more information!

Myth 4: Full-body red light therapy works as well as targeted red light therapy

Targeted red light therapy is better than full-body because it can be more precisely dosed for better results. For red light therapy, the  “right” dose of light is different depending on the health goal (pain relief, acne reduction, wrinkle reduction, hair growth). Even for pain, the dose of light for knee pain is different than foot or back pain.

Using the exact same dose of light on the whole body with a panel is not as effective as optimally dosing light for specific areas of the body or health goals. Full body solutions cannot deliver optimal dosing per target area. So, full body red light therapy really does not save time, it wastes time!

Myth 5: The cost of a red light therapy device is a good way to tell how effective it is

Although it is true that inexpensive red light therapy products can be gimmicky and low quality, very expensive red light products often have low efficacy and quality. In fact, there are hundreds of gimmicky red light therapy products on the market now that cost tens of thousands of dollars, such as red light wands and full-body beds.

Myth 6: The FDA does not recognize red light therapy as effective treatment

For decades, the FDA has recognized the role of light therapy in relieving pain and inflammation. Today, the FDA has 5 product codes specifically assigned to red light devices that come to market for pain, inflammation, acne, wrinkle reduction, and hair growth.

Myth 7: Red light therapy can cause sunburn

Sunburns are a type of tissue damage that is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light. Red light therapy contains red and near-infrared wavelengths which are unable to inflict the type of cellular damage that causes sunburn. In fact, research shows that red and near-infrared light can repair UV-induced damage!

Myth 8: Red light therapy uses chemicals and drugs

Red light therapy is a chemical-free, drug-free solution to target a variety of health goals. Red light therapy takes advantage of the natural interaction between light and our cells, which evolved to use light from the Sun to make energy (just like plants).

Myth 9: When administering red light therapy, it is completely safe to stare directly into the LEDs

LED red light therapy does not typically pose significant risks to the eyes. Red light can temporarily affect color perception and vision, making things appear a little more blue or green than normal. There is even evidence that, at comfortable viewing distances from the eyes, red light therapy can support eye health and vision problems. However, it is best to avoid looking into the light source during a red light therapy session that is not specifically intended for your eyes or prescribed by a medical doctor. Close your eyes during red light therapy sessions that are meant for your skin or pain, or wear protective IPL eyewear designed to block out red and near-infrared wavelengths of light.

Myth 10: Red light therapy works through clothing

Clothing absorbs red and near-infrared light. Although a small amount of light can penetrate through clothing, we recommend that all sessions be performed on bare skin. For proper dosing, red light therapy should be directed on clean, bare skin.


Learn more about Sunflower and our optimally-dosed SmartLight Therapy™ routines!

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