Red Light Therapy


I’ve recently been subjected to people shamelessly promoting this blatant bit of pseudoscientific garbage, so I’ve decided it was time to cover it here. There doesn’t seem to be too much critique on the web yet that covers this odd treatment.

Now, the claims being made here are pretty simple. From one of the more popular sites promoting it:
One emerging type of anti-aging treatment has recently gained popularity, but has shown amazing results for years. This treatment, discovered by NASA , is called RED light therapy. RED light therapy is characterized by infrared light, which is a unique type of light that has a stronger wavelength than other types of light. This enables it to penetrate deeper into the skin and provide many therapeutic benefits including improvement in the skin’s appearance and structure as well as relief from pain. There is NO UV light associated with RED light therapy.
RED light therapy is able to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage, and skin problems including acne and Infrared light also stimulates the production of ATP, an essential energy source used in body tissues that promotes rapid healing.
Because of its amazing benefits, traditional tanning salons have begun using RED light therapy beds as a sort of “reverse tanning bed.” This type of light therapy has become a breakthrough treatment because unlike cosmetic surgery, red light therapy is non invasive, cost-effective, and risk-free alternative to improving skin’s appearance.
Similar to the Sun, infrared light provides a warming effect on the skin, but without the presence of damaging UV Rays. Recommended therapy schedules are 3-4 days per week, for 4-6 weeks. After the initial treatment schedule it is recommended to continue 1-2 days per week. With no damaging effects, only positive results, it’s no surprise that RED light therapy is a great new way to improve your appearance and health.

So, let’s take this piece by piece here.

First, let’s be clear on the “discovered by NASA” part. The use of infrared light was developed by NASA to stimulate PLANT GROWTH. It was not designed for any medical purpose. Just as when a company advertises “space age technology” as if technology from the 60s is a good thing, promoting something being designed by NASA makes it look more legit than it really is. In reality, it’s just a stretch of the truth to sell a product.

“Infrared light also stimulates the production of ATP.” ATP, or Adenosine triphosphate, is produced in the body through energy from respiration. It is created in plants through photosynthesis. So yes, infrared light can help produce ATP…but only in plants. It doesn’t have that same effect on people.

It uses a few lights, as opposed to the large amount of lights used for plants by NASA. Even if the original design had medical efficacy, the commercially promoted one would not. It’s also been known to be promoted as curing a whole slew of other illnesses, none of which are substantiated. The only remotely medical use found for infrared light is for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression. Why does this work? It works because sunlight works to combat depression. The red light therapy is like small doses of sunlight. So, if you want to help treat depression the slow way, instead of just going outside, go for it. Otherwise, red light therapy is pure and utter pseudoscientific garbage.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

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