What is Infrared Light Therapy?

Marco Sumayao

Infrared light therapy is a medical procedure that uses light to heal targeted cells in the body. A distinct advantage that this type of therapy has over other processes is that it is completely noninvasive and relatively painless. The healing effects of infrared light last for several hours after treatment, making it a preferred procedure for many patients.

Diabetics may benefit from infrared light therapy.
Diabetics may benefit from infrared light therapy.

The process works on the principles behind photostimulation. The idea is that cells in the human body react naturally to sunlight. The heat from light can stimulate the release of nitric oxide, which helps boost blood circulation to the affected area. As a result, the area being treated with phototherapy receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs to heal with increased efficiency.

Infrared light therapy may be helpful in treating acne.
Infrared light therapy may be helpful in treating acne.

Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to sunlight also can prove dangerous. The skin might burn, and the probability of developing skin cancer increases. Infrared light therapy eliminates these risks almost completely, specifically because of the use of infrared light. Infrared light contains most of the heat needed for photostimulation and possesses a wavelength longer than visible light. By isolating infrared light, therapists can take advantage of its healing properties without exposing their patients to other harmful wavelengths.

A person in an infrared light therapy session.
A person in an infrared light therapy session.

Light therapy using infrared wavelengths is often done by wrapping problem areas in special pads and exposing them to infrared light. The light most often comes from specialized light emitting diodes (LEDs), leading some clinics to refer to infrared light therapy as LED therapy. The light then penetrates the skin for up to about 1.2 inches (3 cm), acting on cells along the way.

After the cells are activated by the infrared light, the body's natural healing process is stimulated and subsequently sped up. The body experiences an increased production of collagen and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), as well as boosted deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) synthesis. This brings about several benefits, including pain relief and tissue repair. This proves to be especially useful for diabetics, who might need light therapy for wounds as a consequence of impaired healing.

Infrared light therapy also is used to treat acne. The increased production of ATP helps eliminate any bacteria in the pores. This includes the bacteria that cause pimples. Improved collagen production also helps heal any scars that might have formed.

Not all infrared light is safe for use, however. Short-wave infrared light can bypass the body's nerve receptors, causing patients to feel nothing. For this reason, there is no way that the patient can tell if the heat is actually causing more damage than good. When considering infrared light therapy, then, it is important for one to consult both a physician and the technician first.

Infrared light therapy causes the body to experience increased production of ATP.
Infrared light therapy causes the body to experience increased production of ATP.

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Discussion Comments


I have a niece who has used infrared light therapy for her skin problems and acne breakouts, and she has been quite happy with the results. However, it is important to make sure that the doctor who administers it is certified to use infrared light therapy devices before agreeing to this type of treatment.


I was wondering if anyone has experience with infrared light therapy for reducing acne break outs. My friend's dermatologist recommended it because she has tried many other treatments with minimal positive results.

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