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The Difference Between Red Light Therapy And Infrared Saunas

Updated: Mar 7

Before digging into the topic of infrared saunas and red light therapy, I’ll have to explain some basics about light first. Then, once I’ve talked about the basics of light, you’ll better be able to understand the differences between infrared saunas and red light therapy.

So, first things first:

Light Spectrum Basics

Even though “light” seems very simple, from a physics perspective, it’s not only complicated but also mysterious. For centuries now, scientists have been studying light, and even though this study has led to many scientific breakthroughs, the investigations continue until today.

Even though that sounds complicated, stay with me. In the rest of the text below, I’ll try to avoid words like “wavelength”, “frequency”, and different mathematical calculations as much as possible.

I’ll only use down to earth descriptions of these three different types of light that we’re going to explore. So let’s begin:

  1. The first type of light, UV light, is what potentially gives you sunburns and can also help create vitamin D in your skin. UV light exposure also gives you a nice tan. This UV light is invisible to the human eye. I won’t be focusing on ultraviolet light in this blog post because both the infrared sauna and red light therapy don’t use any UV light.

  2. The second type of light, visible light, consists of all the colors of the rainbow. The colors include violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red, and all the intermediate colors in between. Your eyes can see these colors, which is why this part of the light spectrum is called “visible light”. What many people don’t know is that all of the different parts of the visible light spectrum also affect their health. Green light can accelerate wound healing, for instance, blue light can make you feel more awake, and yellow light can improve skin health and appearance. I’m oversimplifying a bit because the full extent of the health benefits of each of these colors is very extensive. Now, red light also falls within this visible light spectrum. Red light therapy makes use of this part of the light spectrum while infrared saunas do not. I’ll tell you more about the effects of red light in a later section.

  3. Thirdly, there’s infrared light. Infrared light can be divided into “near-infrared”, “middle-infrared”, and “far-infrared light”. And just like different colours of visible light have different health effects, the same is true for different types of infrared light. We’ll go into the health effects of these different types of infrared light later. Both red light therapy and infrared saunas use infrared light. Red light therapy only uses near-infrared. Infrared saunas use far-infrared light, and, if it’s a full-spectrum sauna, then middle and near-infrared light are also used. Most types of infrared light feel hot on your skin. From a physics perspective, heat and infrared light are actually interchangeable. Only a small part of the near-infrared light spectrum doesn’t produce any heat - all other parts of the near-infrared, middle infrared and far-infrared light spectrum do generate heat once they hit your skin. For that heat-producing effect, infrared saunas use the parts of the near-infrared spectrum that produce heat, as well as middle and far-infrared light.

Now that I’ve given you an introduction to the physics background of both red light therapy and infrared saunas, let’s explore their benefits further:

Red Light Therapy

It’s very well possible to talk about a “red light therapy revolution” nowadays. The reason for that wording is because the cost of LED light bulbs has come down dramatically in the last decades, making it possible to use many of them to create a panel that emits light.

Up until around 2010, only lasers were used for red light therapy. Lasers can be misused and are potentially dangerous, unlike LEDs, and were therefore unusable in a home setting.

Again, red light therapy uses:

  1. The red part of the visible light spectrum and;

  2. A small part of the near infrared light spectrum that is non-heating

The LEDs are used in such a way that they only emit very specific parts of the red and near infrared light spectrum that have proven benefits.

I won’t go deeper into the issue, but some wavelengths, like red light at 680 nanometers, have far fewer benefits than red light at 660 nanometers. The LED technology allows you to very specifically emit light at 660 nanometers, and almost none at 650 or 670.

And, by combining 50 or 100 or even 500 LEDs on a panel, you can thus emit lots of light that hits the human body.

Light is not merely a neutral force that illuminates the room. Instead, just like ultraviolet light affects the biology of the human body, the same is true for red light and different parts of the infrared light spectrum.

Different types of red and near infrared light can penetrate the body up to several inches, in fact. By entering the human body, that light affects many different processes.

As of today, almost 6,000 individual studies have been published on the effects of red light therapy. Here’s a shortlist of red light therapy benefits:

  • Normalizing inflammation by reducing excess inflammation

  • Enhancing sleep quality and promoting wakefulness in the morning

  • Countering pain, such as joint pain or chronic a-specific pain

  • Boosting athletic performance and speeding up recovery after a session

  • Increasing your energy levels at the cellular level

  • Supporting eye, hair, and dental health

  • Bettering your energy levels, circulation, and blood sugar management

  • Lowering the risk for several diseases, such as heart and blood vessel conditions, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune conditions like Parkinson’s.

And much more. The list of red light therapy benefits is really extensive. And now that you understand red light therapy, let’s move on to infrared saunas:

Infrared Saunas

As you know by now, infrared saunas use far infrared as their basis. And if the infrared sauna uses full-spectrum infrared, middle and near infrared light are added to the mix.

At Clearlight, we use True Wave II™ technology to achieve an extremely well-balanced combination of all three types of infrared light in our saunas. The end result is that 33% of light is emitted in the near infrared range, 33% in the middle, and 33% in the far infrared light range.

And, just like with red light therapy, these types of infrared light also enter your body, thereby having all kinds of biological effects therein. Here’s a shortened list of the extensive infrared sauna benefits:

  • Quicker athletic recovery

  • Countering chronic pain

  • Better blood circulation

  • Speeding up detoxification

  • Boosting fat loss

  • Enhanced skin health

  • Reducing stress and fatigue

  • Slowing down ageing.

If you want more information on the many infrared saunas benefits, then read my dedicated blog on the topic.

Due to the infrared light, not only is the environment in the sauna heated but your body as well. In fact, contrary to a regular sauna, infrared light heats up your body mostly from the inside out. And, as opposed to red light therapy, infrared saunas cause very heavy sweating.

That sweating allows for a strong detoxification reaction. So, now that you know a little about the basics of the infrared sauna and red light therapy, let’s compare the two in more detail:

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