The Science Behind Red Light Therapy – How Does it Work?

The Science Behind Red Light Therapy – How Does it Work?

If you’ve come across red light therapy on social media or listened to your friends talk about it, you’re probably curious to learn what it’s all about—and most importantly, how it works.

What is the science behind red light therapy? Does red light therapy work?

Read on as we shed some light on the biological mechanisms and cellular processes behind the amazing health-promoting benefits of red light therapy. We’ll also share practical insights on how to integrate this therapy into your health routines.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM), involves the application of red and near-infrared light to stimulate cellular processes and promote health and wellness.

It’s easy to assume red light therapy is a new discovery based on the surge in its popularity and interest from researchers. But scientists have been exploring its health-supporting potential for decades [1].

History of Red Light Therapy

The scientific roots of red light therapy trace back to the 1960s when Hungarian physician Endre Mester stumbled upon its potential during experiments with low-level lasers on rats [2].

Mester's experiments involved shaving mice before subjecting them to surgery. Although hair growth and wound healing were not the primary focus, he observed a remarkable phenomenon.

Mice exposed to laser therapy at the surgical site exhibited enhanced hair regrowth and wound recovery compared to their untreated counterparts. This discovery laid the foundation for Mester's utilization of light therapy in the early 1970s to support healthy-looking skin in patients [3].

Interest in the benefits of red light therapy grew in the 90s when NASA began exploring the potential of light therapy for plant growth in space [4]. While tending to plant growth, NASA astronauts noticed that red light seemed to promote their wound healing. Over the years, NASA funded several research studies into the potential benefits of red light therapy for supporting collagen production and cell regeneration.

Fast forward to the present day, and institutions/organizations like Shepherd University, the North American Association for Photobiomodulation Therapy (NAALT), and the PBM Foundation have emerged to further endorse and support the integration of light therapy into mainstream healthcare practices.

Red Light Wavelength

Unlike high-intensity lasers used for surgical procedures, red light therapy operates at lower wavelengths of light that do not generate heat (typically between 600 and 750 nanometers) [5]. This makes it a safe and non-invasive approach to harnessing the power of light to promote optimal health.

At the heart of red light therapy's efficacy lies its ability to interact with cells at a molecular level. The low wavelengths of red light have unique properties, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin and interact with cellular components such as mitochondria.

When red or near-infrared light penetrates the skin and reaches our cells, it sets off a cascade of events. Photons (i.e., the elementary particles of light) are absorbed by cellular components, stimulating a series of biologically significant reactions.

Red light therapy is used to support a wide range of health objectives for optimal wellness. Some red light therapy benefits include supporting skin health, mitochondrial health, immune function, collagen production, healthy inflammatory response, cellular energy, healthy detoxification, and promoting athletic performance [6] [7] [8] [9] [10].

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How Does Red Light Therapy Work? – The Science Behind It

The nuanced interplay between light and cellular structures is pivotal in understanding why red light therapy holds such promise.

At the core of red light therapy lies the interaction between photons and cellular components. The unique wavelength of red light is a key player in its health-supporting properties.

Unlike other light wavelengths that are mostly absorbed by the skin's surface, red light wavelengths can reach deeper layers of the skin, making them more accessible to cells [11].

When red light penetrates the skin and reaches our cells, photons are absorbed by chromophores (light-sensitive molecules within the cells). This process initiates a photochemical response and sets off a chain of events, influencing cellular functions and contributing to the health-supporting benefits of red light therapy.

The effects of red light on cellular structures are multifaceted. It influences the mitochondria – i.e., the powerhouse of our cells by supporting their function and promoting energy production [12] [13].

The primary function of mitochondria is to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) through cellular respiration. Red light therapy supports this process by stimulating the activity of cytochrome c oxidase—a key enzyme in the electron transport chain.

Red light therapy promotes oxygen consumption and the transportation of electrons [14]. This heightened activity translates to healthy production of ATP, providing cells with the energy needed for optimal functioning. It's akin to a revitalizing charge that fuels cellular activities and promotes overall well-being.

Additionally, red light has been shown to stimulate various cellular processes, including the production of nitric oxide (NO)—which plays a crucial role in cellular signaling and homeostasis.

Integrating Red Light Therapy into Your Health Routine

Understanding the science behind the technology allows us to appreciate the diverse range of red light therapy benefits. By incorporating this knowledge into our health routines, we can effectively harness the power of red light wavelengths to support our ascent to optimal health.

So, how can you seamlessly integrate red light therapy into your daily routine?

As the popularity of red light therapy continues to grow, so does the availability of red light devices. From in-office red light therapy beds to at-home red light devices, there are various ways to incorporate the technology into your health routine.

If you’re looking to enjoy the benefits of red light therapy at home, the Red Light Therapy Wristband by Ascent Nutrition is one of your best options.

As the nation’s first wearable mobile red light wristband, the red light device allows you to experience the wide range of red light therapy benefits wherever and whenever. It emits the red light wavelengths of 625 nm and 660 nm, which produces a biochemical effect that supports cellular health and stimulates healthy mitochondrial function.

For a well-rounded approach to health and wellness, consider using red light therapy in conjunction with other wellness practices. Examples include maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, practicing stress management techniques, and using premium nutritional supplements.

By combining our Red Light Therapy Wristband with these complementary strategies, you can create a comprehensive wellness routine that supports your unique health needs and goals.


Why Red Light?

One of the most common questions revolves around the choice of red light for therapy.

The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses all forms of electromagnetic radiation—from radio waves to gamma rays. Within this vast range, red light falls on the lower-energy, longer-wavelength side.

The red light wavelength of 600 to 700 nanometers is specifically chosen for its ability to penetrate tissues effectively. Unlike shorter wavelengths, such as ultraviolet light, red light can delve deeper into the skin and reach target areas like mitochondria. This selective penetration is fundamental to the success of red light therapy.

Does Red Light Therapy Work?

The efficacy of red light therapy is grounded in scientific principles that highlight its potential health-supporting benefits. Numerous studies and research findings support the idea that red light therapy can indeed be effective for various health and wellness applications

Additionally, many users report positive outcomes in terms of skin texture, energy levels, and enhanced well-being. This suggests that red light therapy holds promise for those seeking non-invasive and holistic approaches to support health and wellness.

Can You Do Red Light Therapy Every Day?

The frequency of red light therapy sessions is a common question. Red light therapy can be safely used every day. It is non-invasive with little to no side effects. Daily use may enhance the cumulative effects, allowing you to experience the full spectrum of red light therapy benefits.

Any Red Light Side Effects?

Safety is paramount in any health intervention. Red light therapy, when administered within recommended parameters, is considered safe with minimal side effects. The non-invasive nature of this therapy eliminates concerns related to burns or tissue damage.

However, as with any wellness practice, paying attention to how your body responds and adjusting accordingly is essential.

How to Get Red Light Therapy

For individuals who want to experience the benefits of red light therapy at home and on the go, the Red Light Therapy Watch by Ascent Nutrition is a great fit because of how easy it is to use. It has become incredibly popular and is selling fast for us, given the well-known research and benefits of red light therapy. Get yours today before we sell out again!


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  2. Mester, E. L. G. S. M., Ludany, G., Selyei, M., Szende, B., & Total, G. J. (1968). The stimulating effect of low-power laser rays on biological systems. Medical Univ., Budapest:

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  4. NASA:

  5. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research:

  6. Avci, P., Gupta, A., Sadasivam, M., Vecchio, D., Pam, Z., Pam, N., & Hamblin, M. R. (2013, March). Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. In Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery (Vol. 32, No. 1, p. 41). NIH Public Access:

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  8. Hamblin, M. R. (2017). Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS biophysics, 4(3), 337:

  9. Bjordal, J. M., Lopes-Martins, R. A. B., & Iversen, V. V. (2006). A randomised, placebo controlled trial of low level laser therapy for activated Achilles tendinitis with microdialysis measurement of peritendinous prostaglandin E2 concentrations. British journal of sports medicine, 40(1), 76-80:

  10. Zhao, J., Tian, Y., Nie, J., Xu, J., & Liu, D. (2012). Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players. Journal of athletic training, 47(6), 673-678:

  11. de Freitas, L. F., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Proposed mechanisms of photobiomodulation or low-level light therapy. IEEE Journal of selected topics in quantum electronics, 22(3), 348-364:

  12. Begum, R., Calaza, K., Kam, J. H., Salt, T. E., Hogg, C., & Jeffery, G. (2015). Near-infrared light increases ATP, extends lifespan and improves mobility in aged Drosophila melanogaster. Biology letters, 11(3), 20150073:

  13. Tafur, J., & Mills, P. J. (2008). Low-intensity light therapy: exploring the role of redox mechanisms. Photomedicine and laser surgery, 26(4), 323-328:

  14. Heiskanen, V., & Hamblin, M. R. (2018). Photobiomodulation: lasers vs. light emitting diodes?. Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, 17(8), 1003-1017: 

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