Are At-Home Red Light Therapy Devices Worth It?
Many red light therapy at-home devices are worth it, but not all. While the therapy is sound and worthwhile, too many copy cat manufacturers are selling questionable products. Over 9,000 studies support using red light therapy, so long as you buy a proper device with proven specifications.
This article will show you what to look for in an at-home red light therapy device, to make you a more informed consumer.
At-Home vs. Study Red Light Therapy Devices
Scientists often use lasers in red light therapy studies. We know from multiple studies that cheaper LEDs work as well as lasers, but there are key differences that will affect your purchase decision.
If a consumer-level LED red light therapy device has the same wavelengths as those used in a study, and if science promises us that LED devices are as effective at helping with pain and skin issues as lasers, then why is there a difference between study devices and at-home devices?
The devices used in studies tend to operate at the high end of the power window where results occur faster.
The devices available for at-home use tend to operate at the low end of the power window where results take longer to obtain.
On the one hand, you could get a consumer device that requires longer time per session to get dose of light. On the other hand, you can venture into the “cold laser” market where devices are more expensive but also more closely resemble the devices successfully used in scientific studies. More powerful devices get faster results.
To be clear, “cold laser” is technically the same as red light therapy and its scientific name, photobiomodulation. For the sake of this discussion, I am referring to consumer level, low-power LED devices as “red light therapy LED devices,” and high-end LEDs or lasers as “cold lasers.”
LED Red Light Therapy is as Effective as Lasers
NASA commissioned a study in the year 2000 to test whether light emitting diodes (LEDs) were as good as low-power lasers at delivering low level laser therapy (what they called red light therapy at the time).
Researchers tested LEDs on Navy SEALs who regularly acquired wounds in their daily activities.
Comparing laser to LED to speed the healing of these wounds, the LEDs did as well as the lasers on the SEALs’ wounds.
We know from subsequent studies that LEDs are a cheaper way to achieve the gains of red light therapy. They do work, but they take longer than higher-power but stepped-down lasers.
At-Home Red Light Therapy Started with LEDs
The NASA study revolutionized the concept of at-home use of red light therapy, as LEDs are much more affordable than lasers. The market exploded in recent years, with dozens of vendors coming online offering red light therapy devices.
Red light therapy is now available using at-home devices for acne, wrinkles, pain relief, and dementia symptom therapy. From which device to buy to whether certain devices are even “real,” consumers have many questions about the pros and cons of red light therapy for at-home use.
Do You Need a Red Light Therapy Device Used in a Study?
Red light therapy is scientifically proven in thousands of studies.
However, you should know this important fact about the science versus at-home use devices.
The devices used in the studies showing that red light therapy works are not the same as the devices you can buy for at-home use.
How to Emulate the Professional Devices Used in Science Studies
I think the best way to think about this in order to get the most benefit from red light therapy at home, without wasting your time testing and returning weak device, is to ask this question instead: “Is red light therapy using consumer-level at-home devices proven?”
There is much less proof using at-home red light therapy devices, and this does present a problem.
I can show you how to get effective devices that help heal acne, wrinkles, wounds, and dementia. They do exist.
You want to buy from certain vendors who hire 3rd party labs to certify their device’s specifications, and that the vendor claims require only short treatment times of 5 or 10 minutes.
If a device is certified to have certain power and wavelengths and the instructions for that device includes 10-minute treatment times, then that is a powerful low-energy device that is worth considering.
The ProNeuroLIGHT Dementia Case Study
ProNeuroLIGHT participated in a case study using their red light therapy hat and pads on a woman with dementia. Dr. Michael Hamblin, formerly a professor at Harvard University and the most prolific red light therapy researcher there is, put his name on this article, lending it a great deal of credibility.
The woman did very well with the ProNeuroLIGHT treatment, with a reduction in anger, increased comprehension and a greater ability to remain in the present.
ProNeuroLIGHT is an “at-home” red light therapy device brand that performs well in a case study signed off on by a prolific Harvard researcher.
You do not get this kind of published evidence for most of the at-home red light therapy devices you can buy.
Can Home LED Devices Match Lasers Used in Studies
The idea of buying an at-home device is that you are looking for the parameters used in the therapy studies.
Manufacturers can easily make LED red light therapy devices that output the same wavelengths as those used in the study. And we know that LED light absorbs into the mitochondria to have healing effects, just as low-energy laser light does.
Yet there are power differences between at-home and study devices. Those power differences affect what you buy.
Red Light Therapy Device’s Power Affects Time Per Treatment
There’s a window of energy that the body accepts for the specific biological reactions we want.
LEDs tend to be at the low end of that window. Stepped-down lasers tend to be at the high end.
Laser and very powerful LED treatments are fast. You spend 5-10 minutes for a session.
Normal LED treatments are 20-30 minutes. You need more time to get the photon quantity to be therapeutic.
In other words, the device’s power affects the time per session. Too little and too much power are counterproductive.
|HOW POWER AFFECTS RED LIGHT Therapy Session Time|
|TOO LITTLE||NOT THERAPEUTIC|
|LOW END||ADD TIME TO BE THERAPEUTIC|
|HIGH END||LESS TIME TO BE THERAPEUTIC|
|TOO HIGH||NOT THERAPEUTIC|
Red Light Therapy Session Time Affects Results
The longer you expose yourself to the device’s light, the more photons you absorb. If you absorb too few photons, there is no therapeutic affect. Cross that threshold, and good things start to happen. Get the maximum photons for the maximum gain. And if you get too many photons, the gains reverse.
|HOW TIME AFFECTS RED LIGHT THERAPY|
|Too Little||Not therapeutic|
|Powerful without overdosing||Maximum therapeutic|
|Too much||Not therapeutic|
Red Light Therapy’s Power Affects Price
Powerful devices require shorter session times. A device that saves you time will cost more, because it gives you more value. The most powerful device you can buy, without going over that threshold, offers the shortest treatment time.
You can get a cheaper, less powerful device, that has longer session times. Or you can get a more expensive, more powerful device, that shortens session times.
|How a Red Light Therapy Device’s Power Affects its Price|
|“High” but no proof it is higher||More expensive but a gamble|
|High with reputation or certification||More expensive and worth it|
One of the biggest problems in the red light therapy business is the overstatement of device power.
Manufacturers test their lamps using the solar meters not calibrated for LED light. The devices overstate power by, on average, 100%. So a light that outputs 50 milliwatts of power per squared cm will be advertised as outputting 100 milliwatts per sq. cm.
Then there are a few vendors who use certified values from independent laboratories.
Finally, there are vendors who have stellar clinical reputations, meaning that we know their devices work because clinicians use these devices with great success.
For you, as the consumer, this means that the stated power of a device is likely to be overstated when you don’t see certifications or reputations that give you a reason to trust the company’s claims.
|Should You Trust Red Light Therapy Sellers?|
|3rd Party Certified Device Power||Manufacturer Reputation Amongst Clinicians||Trust Earned|
How Certification and Device Power Affect Device Price
As a general rule, the more powerful the device, the more it costs.
High-end LEDs and stepped-down lasers tend to be powerful, and therefore cost more, and therefore have shorter session times.
Lower-end LEDs tend to be less powerful, and therefore might cost less, and therefore have longer session times.
Attaining 3rd party certification of the device’s specifications shows that a manufacturer is professional, serious, and is probably trustworthy. In exchange for a higher price, you get the reassurance that your chance of success is higher.
Deciding on a Red Light Therapy Budget
Red light therapy is not expensive if $100-$300 is affordable to you. For a high-end device, red light therapy is affordable if $2000-$4000 is affordable to you.
A good red light therapy device can be as little as $100, and as high as several thousand dollars. “Expensive” is either a device that it outside someone’s budget, or is too costly for the value.
The first kind of “expensive” depends on your financial situation. Some will find the $100 device expensive, but if it gets the acne clearer or the wrinkles smaller, is that worth the price?
Today I spoke with a woman who has multiple afflictions including Lyme and brain trauma. She asked which Vielight brain light to get. Some people do well with the Vielight Neuro Alpha, and some do well with the Vielight Neuro Gamma. That’s why I advise people to get the Vielight Neuro Duo, if they don’t find it too expensive, because it includes the Alpha and the Gamma in one device.
So I answered her, “I would get the Duo if that is in the budget, or the Gamma if it’s not.”
She immediately replied that the Duo was acceptable for her budget. She chose a $2300 device over an $1800 device, because the extra value was worth the money to her, and because spending 2300 did not cut into her necessities. She could afford it.
The best way to know if red light therapy is affordable or expensive is to look at the range of prices of each type of device. Look for that answer in an upcoming article.