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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Walters

Red Light Therapy

Red Light Therapy (RLT), a light therapy that began with growing potatoes and which has crossed into the realm of aesthetics and injury rehabilitation. Has anyone ever heard of this type of therapy? Those of you who have, are likely already using it for your pain or cosmetic needs as more and more practices incorporate it into their wellness approach.

What is It? What are the mechanics behind Red Light Therapy?

Red Light Therapy is a light therapy which repeatedly exposes the skin to red and near-infrared light for a short period of time to penetrate the skin, thus affecting mitochondria, increasing power in the cells (believed to be via increasing the transportation of electrons, oxygen, consumption, and levels of ATP or adenosine triphosphate) which in turn increases efficient cellular function and repair.

While is it low risk and non-invasive, the effects of this therapy method are controversial as research is still fairly new, however some spas and physical therapy locations are incorporating this method into their services. Alternative names for Red Light Therapy within scientific research include photobiomodulation, photenic stimulation, biostimulation, low level light therapy, soft laser therapy, cold laser therapy, low power laser therapy, and others.

Its Origins Lie with Potatoes

Although not quite the same scenario as with The Martian (2015) movie, NASA originally utilized this technology in 1990 to aid in potato growth and some scientists noted that wounds on their hands were aided in its healing process because of this. Thus, applications began expanding with the intention of assisting astronauts in faster wound healing, muscle atrophy, bone density, and other applications in space.

Possible Benefits of RLT

Benefits of Red Light Therapy are controversial at best since research is still relatively young and some tests do not include a controlled and/or placebo variable. Additionally, while some research suggests that it could potentially be beneficial to ease cancer symptoms or aid in the function of some cancer medicines, other research suggest that RLT could accelerate cancer.

This controversial disclaimer aside, the most reported benefits of RLT include:

  • wound healing

  • increased collagen

  • anti-aging (reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and increase elasticity)

  • healing of scar tissue

  • acne

  • decreased inflammation

  • increased circulation

  • reduced neuropathic pain

  • short term treatment of carpal tunnel

  • reduced pain


My research on this topic, reflects that possible risks are related to too much time under red light or faulty equipment. Possible mal-effects of damaged equipment or not using Red Light Therapy as directed include:

  • burns

  • blisters

  • lesions

  • skin irritation

  • injuries resulting from faulty devices or faulty wiring

In Conclusion

In conclusion, it seems that research on this method should be -and is- continuing. More trials involving a controlled and/or placebo variable are needed in order to confirm the acclaimed benefits of Red Light Therapy. This said, there are already numerous clients at other facilities who have used this method for aesthetics and body wellness such as pain management, inflammation, or in some cases neuropathy who have gained promising results. Whenever considering this therapy or others, check with your physician or dermatologist to discuss options as they should have access to recent research related to this and other methods and should be able to recommend a therapy that will most efficiently meet your focus.


Cafasso, J. (2023, July 7). Red Light Therapy: Uses, Benefits, and Risks [blog post]. Retrieved from

Cleveland Clinic (2021, December 1). Red Light Therapy [blog post]. Retrieved from

Ruscio (2022, November 25). What’s True and What’s Hype? Red Light Therapy Pros and Cons [blog post]. Retrieved from

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