You may have heard red light therapy referred to as miracle medicine, the fountain of youth, or the holy grail of health. While these statements might sound hyperbolic, there is more than a shred of truth to them. In fact, more and more people are turning to the therapeutic treatment for a host of reasons, from skin rejuvenation, to pain management, to weight loss, and many more. This, of course, means that there is an increasing number of red light therapy products on the market. Many of which don’t have what it takes to offer any therapeutic benefits.
From a Rouge customer: I bought the small unit to replace one of those Chinese bulbs. Couldn't believe how much better yours was. The intensity is great. I use it twice a day every day on my knees for 12 minutes each time. I have noticed a marked improvement in mobility. Thanks for a great Canadian product.
It may be tempting to purchase a $40 lamp just to try it out. However, we can say with certainty that you won’t see any benefits, and before long that lamp will be collecting dust in a drawer, and you’ll be telling your friends that red light therapy doesn’t work. So how do you know what works and what doesn’t? This primer on red light therapy bulbs will help shed some light on, well, light.
Incandescent, Fluorescent, Halogen, Oh My
The first step to developing a discerning eye for red light therapy devices is to understand the difference between the various types of bulbs that exist on the market.
Red light therapy works by delivering concentrated wavelengths of red and near-infrared light directly into the skin. This is something that incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen lights simply cannot do. While they may emit a certain amount of red and NIR light, they also emit all other wavelengths on the visible light spectrum. This is what gives them their white glow. Plus, these bulbs illuminate in 360 degrees (i.e. light radiates out at all angles) rather than in a concentrated beam, meaning there is not even close to enough light penetrating your skin.
They also emit low-dose UV light, and studies have found that this may cause cumulative skin damage. These bulbs are fragile and prone to breaking as well, and incandescents can burn your skin if accidentally touched.
Any red coloring you might see in incandescent, fluorescent, or halogen bulbs is not caused by red light wavelengths, but is simply due to a translucent paint or film coating the glass. And any company trying to pass off these types of bulbs as therapeutic should be reported.
LED Light Bulbs
Light-emitting diodes work by passing an electrical current through a semiconductor material (the diode). This creates electromagnetic radiation, causing the diode to emit photons, or tiny particles of light. LEDs can produce light of any color, depending on the material used to make the semiconductor and the size of the energy bands that contain the current, called bandgaps.
To produce red and infrared light, the semiconductor must be made of a crystalline solid called aluminum gallium arsenide (AlGaAs).
While LEDs have been around since the 1960s, you likely didn’t see them around much until the 2000s. They were a relatively expensive light source, and until the 1990s, not that useful in everyday life. This is because gallium nitride (GaN), the semiconductor material needed to produce the color blue, was unreliable, until scientists learned that they could “dope” it with magnesium. Thus, blue LED lights were created, making it possible to then produce white LED light (you may remember from science class that the “color” white is produced when all wavelengths of light are perceived together). This opened up LEDs to a whole new world of applications, including basic indoor lighting. Increased demand led to an eventual price drop, making single wavelength LEDs more affordable as well.
In fact, it is precisely this ability to emit light at a specific wavelength that makes LEDs so unique. Not only that, the flexibility of the semiconductor means that you can adjust the beam angle, allowing light to be directed at a small area rather than diffusing in all directions.
So does this mean any red LED lamp will do the trick? Not quite.
What Do I Need to Look For In LED Bulbs for Red Light Therapy?
If you visit Amazon or a similar online retailer, you’ll find all sorts of LED red light therapy lamps, and again, you might be tempted by the $40 devices. After all, they’re made with LED bulbs, right?
As we’ve mentioned, LEDs allow you to emit light at a specific wavelength. Red and NIR lights comprise a range of wavelengths. Wavelengths between 625 and 700 nanometers are considered red, while NIR light is found between 780 and 2,500 nanometers. Studies have shown that red light therapy is most beneficial when using red light at ~660nm and NIR light at ~850nm.
Unfortunately, many sellers will tack this information onto their product description, and unless you have dedicated equipment for measuring light, there’s no easy way of knowing if this is true or not.
Other specs that are important to the effectiveness of your device are LED strength, energy output, energy density, and beam angle. These are all things that are difficult to verify as a consumer.
Another thing you’ll want to look out for is the number of LEDs in your device. The fewer individual LEDs there are, the smaller the surface area you can treat.
As you can see, there are a number of factors at play when determining what kind of red light therapy bulbs are effective, and it’s not always easy to get real answers from manufacturers that are trying to cash in on a trend.
Truth be told, red light therapy devices are complex and expensive to manufacture, so we’re pretty confident when we say that the $40 device is perhaps not meeting all the criteria. This is why you should turn to a trusted red light therapy manufacturer to ensure you’re getting an effective therapeutic treatment and not just burning a hole in your pocket.
Rouge red light therapy devices have been tested by an independent third-party lab. We wanted to be absolutely sure that our panels offer the ideal specs to ensure you get results, and we wanted you to have access to this information as well. We’ve also compared our results to those of other leading brands, and Rouge devices, we’re proud to say, are a cut above the rest. Our panels are more powerful, have more LEDs, and offer a more concentrated irradiation. Check out this blog post for the detailed results of the test, as well as a breakdown of the various components and why they matter.
Shop Rouge’s family of red light therapy panels today, and get exactly what you’re looking for in a personal device - a high-quality, sturdy product, and light that delivers results. Now there’s an idea!