The Science Behind How LED Light Therapy Works

The Science Behind How LED Light Therapy Works

LED light therapy has become one of the more well-known and talked about ways to treat certain skin conditions and help with issues like inflammation and pain. But often, these claims may sound too good to be true. Where did this therapy come from, and are there studies to back up these benefits? 

LED light therapy has a few origins, including in the 1960s during a study with rats and red light and later in the 1990s with a NASA study. Over the past few decades, light therapy has been studied and utilized more as a treatment for many different health issues.

Various colors of light, including blue, green, and red, have proven to be highly effective in photobiomodulation (PBM) treatment. Additionally, near-infrared light, which features longer wavelengths (up to 1,200 nm), is also utilized in PBM and can be found in infrared saunas. Although this light may appear red, it is actually invisible to the human eye and functions by internally heating the body to induce physiological changes.

Of all these options, red light therapy has recently gained significant popularity and is widely recognized as one of the most accessible treatments. Its ease of access and well-known benefits have contributed to its widespread adoption.

Light Therapy Basics

LED (light-emitting diode) light therapy offers a non-invasive and effective way to rejuvenate the skin by penetrating its layers with gentle wavelengths of light. It has become more prevalent in the last few years as more studies have demonstrated the benefits for various health issues, including skin concerns, mood disorders, and pain management.

Today, the benefits of LED light therapy have made their way into the practices of dermatologists and estheticians, who use it to address a wide range of skin issues, such as fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, and more. This versatile treatment is often combined with other skincare regimens, such as creams, ointments, and facials, to enhance overall results.

The popularity of LED light therapy has extended to at home-devices so people can receive benefits in their own time. These include things like LED masks, and smaller lights made more affordable for consistent use. With LED light therapy's proven efficacy and non-invasive nature, achieving healthier, more radiant skin has never been easier.

With any new trend, especially when used for aesthetic purposes, it is wise to use caution. Understanding how a new treatment works allows you to be better informed and make the best decisions for your body. This may feel like another fad, but there are facts to back up the claims. While LED light therapy does offer a wide range of impressive benefits, there is a science behind all the bright lights.  


Laser therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, is a cutting-edge medical treatment that employs focused light to stimulate a remarkable process within our cells. This treatment includes other light therapies as well, like LED light therapy. More future studies can help illuminate the possibilities of this new therapy and further demonstrate its efficacy.

The Science

During PBM, photons of light interact with the cytochrome c complex within mitochondria, setting off a chain reaction of biological events that ultimately enhance cellular metabolism. This increase in cellular energy metabolism not only aids in reducing pain but also accelerates the body's healing process. Several factors are at play for the light to reach damaged mitochondria to initiate healing, including wavelength, power, and reducing unwanted absorption. The wavelength changes with the color of light and can change the impact of treatment. 

Photobiomodulation therapy harnesses the power of non-ionizing light sources, including lasers, LEDs, and broadband light, within the visible (400–700 nm) and near-infrared (700–1100 nm) electromagnetic spectrum. This nonthermal process influences endogenous chromophores, triggering both photophysical and photochemical events at various biological scales. The therapeutic benefits of PBM therapy are diverse, encompassing pain relief, immunomodulation, and the promotion of tissue regeneration and wound healing.

The Research

In the realm of research and practice, the term photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy has gained prominence, replacing other terms like low-level laser therapy (LLLT), cold laser, or laser therapy. The underlying principles of PBM therapy are well-established within the scientific literature, highlighting the importance of applying a therapeutic dose of light to impaired or dysfunctional tissue, leading to a cellular response mediated by mitochondrial mechanisms. This cellular response has been shown to positively impact pain, inflammation, and tissue repair, showcasing the immense potential of photobiomodulation therapy in revolutionizing modern medical treatments.

More studies are needed to fully understand the potential for light therapy, but results so far provide a promising glimpse into future possibilities. This review of photobiomodulation therapy in studies shows many positive results, including the use of LEDs to possibly help ease cancer treatment side effects. Light therapy offers a new way to treat many health concerns without involving invasive procedures. LED light therapy provides a lot of benefits to the skin and could be a useful way to treat pain and inflammation, among other issues. 

LED Light Therapy

LED light therapy is a cutting-edge treatment that utilizes LED lights to address various skincare issues, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation. The basis of this therapy lies in diodes, semiconductor devices that emit light when an electric current passes through them. LED lights consist of multiple diodes arranged so that they can produce a wide range of colors of light, each with its unique effect on the body.

The key to LED light therapy's success lies in its ability to emit specific wavelengths of light readily absorbed by cells in the body, like those mentioned above regarding photobiomodulation. Different wavelengths have distinct interactions with different cells, resulting in various beneficial effects. One of the prominent skin-loving effects of LED light therapy is its ability to enhance circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost the production of antioxidants, all of which contribute to healthier and more radiant skin.

The science behind LED light therapy is thought to involve the stimulation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, the primary energy source for cells in the body. As cells absorb light, they produce ATP, which fuels various cellular processes. For example, increased ATP production can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin in the skin, leading to improved skin texture and overall appearance.

LED light therapy is a safe and non-invasive option for treating diverse skin concerns and other health issues. Targeting specific chromophores with different LED light colors enhances the skin's health and appearance. Although more research is necessary to fully comprehend the mechanisms at play, LED light therapy has demonstrated its effectiveness in numerous settings and for a wide array of health and wellness concerns. If you seek to rejuvenate your skin, LED light therapy presents a promising option worth considering.

Blue and red light are the most common colors utilized in LED light therapy. Both of these offer unique benefits, with red light being used most frequently and offering the most research-backed results. 

Red Light Therapy

During the 1990s, scientists utilized LED technology to facilitate the growth of potatoes in space. The powerful red LEDs played a crucial role in promoting photosynthesis, contributing to the successful cultivation of these essential crops. Interestingly, it was observed that the red LED light also appeared to accelerate the healing process of wounds on the scientists' hands.

Inspired by these observations, researchers delved further into the potential medicinal applications of red light during space travel. They sought to investigate whether red light therapy could address the challenges of muscle atrophy, delayed wound healing, and reduced bone density caused by the effects of weightlessness in space. The promising results from these studies sparked interest in the therapeutic potential of red light and led to further exploration of its benefits in various medical applications.

The Science

Red light therapy involves repetitive skin exposure to low levels of red and near-infrared light for a specific duration. Operating at low wavelengths, red light does not generate heat and can penetrate the skin between 1 and 2 millimeters.

This exposure to red light prompts a positive biochemical response in your cells, particularly in the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell where energy is generated. Red light therapy is believed to enhance the transportation of electrons, oxygen consumption, and levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

By boosting mitochondrial energy, cells may become more efficient, promoting rejuvenation and repair processes. LEDs are gaining popularity over lasers as a preferred light source for red light therapy due to their nonablative and nonthermal nature. LEDs may assist in increasing blood flow, reducing inflammation, enhancing collagen levels, and promoting fibroblast production.

Science-Based Results

When looking for medical treatments, finding reputable and effective options is essential. LED light therapy is promising in treating various issues but is not a cure-all for skin concerns or chronic pain. If you have serious skin issues and want to try red light therapy or LED light therapy, speaking with a licensed dermatologist is a good first step. 

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