February 16, 2021 Near Infrared LED Lights

What you Need to Know About Near-Infrared Light Therapy

With various devices flooding online shopping channels and late night television, it’s time to define what LED light therapy really is, specifically near infrared light therapy (NIR) and what it does to our bodies at the cellular level. 

Infrared Light Therapy Explained

One of the easiest ways to explain infrared light therapy is to think of it as photosynthesis for mammals. Just like plants, scientific research has shown that human bodies can absorb light particles called photons and transform that light energy into adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP is what powers the metabolic processes in our cells, thus improving overall cellular performance and encouraging tissue repair and fosters wound healing.

What Near-Infrared Light Therapy is not

It’s also important to understand what near infrared light therapy is not. It is not the same light used in tanning booths and it does not expose your skin to harmful UV rays.  Near-infrared light therapy is also not the same as infrared saunas. Infrared used in saunas normally utilize far infrared wavelengths which emit thermal energy and have a detoxifying effect on the body. Unlike the near infrared wavelengths used in Celluma devices, longer, far-infrared wavelengths are not absorbable by the mitochondria and are therefore not capable of increasing metabolic function in compromised cells.

Red and Near-Infrared Light Therapy

Today’s LED light therapy devices use three types of wavelengths: blue, red, and near-infrared. The blue and red LED light provides great aesthetic benefits including the treatment of acne and “maskne” and increasing collagen production to help reduce those under-eye wrinkles and laugh lines as well as enhance wound closure. Near infrared provides medical benefits that are clinically proven to penetrate deep below the surface layer of the skin to better target muscle and joint pain right where it starts. This gives people much needed pain relief from inflammation and injury.

Red and near-infrared light therapy can benefit tissue from the upper epidermal layers to deep into the dermal layer.  Near-infrared light energy has the additional benefit of reaching even deeper into the subcutaneous layer where pain issues often reside. For this reason, near infrared has become known as the “pain” wavelength.  Celluma light therapy devices are FDA-cleared to treat musculoskeletal conditions including muscle and joint pain, stiffness and spasm as well as the pain associated with arthritis.

The Mechanism of Action; How Red and Near Infrared Light Therapy Works

From the 2016 paper Infrared and Skin: Friend or Foe¹, published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, written by Daniel Barolet, François Christiaens, and Michael R Hamblin.

Although skin is naturally exposed to light more than any other organ, it still responds well to red and near-infrared radiation [29]. A better understanding of the mechanism of action will direct clinicians in their treatment approach.

The cellular and molecular mechanisms of action of PBM have become reasonably well-understood in recent years and are summarized in Figure 4.

An important finding demonstrates that the NF-kB (nuclear factor-kappa B) cell signaling pathway plays an essential role thought to be activated by mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase (COX) serving as a generator of ROS (reactive oxygen species) [40]. Changing the redox state of the mitochondrial membrane activates the formation of the transcription factor NF-kB. In the cell cytoplasm, NF-kB is inactive because it is in a complex with its specific inhibitory protein, IkB (I kappa B). ROS stimulates IkB-kinase (IkK), which triggers the phosphorylation of IkB, resulting in IkB complex decay with release of NF-kB. NF-kB is transported into the nucleus, which causes the expression of more than 150 genes many of which are involved in defense mechanisms against cell stress. The correlation between the stimulation of NF-kB and the accumulation of ROS was found in embryonic fibroblasts in vitro subsequent to their IR irradiation (810 nm). The maximal activation of NF-kB and ROS accumulation were observed at a dose of 0.3 J/cm2, while high doses caused less pronounced effects [26].

Mitochondrial ROS show a triphasic dose-response with two distinct peaks. The Janus nature of ROS is such that it may act as a beneficial signaling molecule at low concentrations and a harmful cytotoxic agent at high concentrations. This may partly explain the observed responses in vivo [26].

Near Infrared Induced Photorejuvenation

As mentioned earlier, red and near infrared have similar beneficial effects on tissue with the added benefit of near-infrared being able to reach tissue cells even deeper than red light energy.

Furthermore, in the 2016 paper “Infrared and Skin: Friend or Foe¹ by Daniel Barolet, François Christiaens and Michael Hamblin, they review the benefits of using near-infrared for skin rejuvenation. Here’s an excerpt.

Using a tissue-engineered Human Reconstructed Skin (HRS) model, it has been demonstrated that exposure to 660 nm using an irradiance of no more than 50 mW/cm2 resulted in the downregulation in MMP-1 and the upregulation of type I procollagen [18]. To correlate these results, a split-face single-blinded study was conducted which showed a significant improvement in wrinkles on 660 nm treated skin. As part of the same in vitro experiment, 805 nm (NIR) was also tested with a comparable MMP-1 decrease over 11 treatments (unpublished data) figure 3.

Lee et al. reported the effects of IR on photoaged skin [19]. Twenty patients with mild to moderate facial wrinkles received daily treatments of far infrared radiation (9-10 X 106nm ) for six months. Most patients (51-75%) reported positive improvements in skin texture and roughness. Additionally, 25-50% of patients noted fair skin tone improvement. Furthermore a prospective study showed comparable clinical results using 830 nm LEDs [20].

Histologically, a marked increase in the amount of collagen and elastic fibers in all treatment groups was observed. Ultrastructural examination demonstrated highly activated fibroblasts, surrounded by abundant elastic and collagen fibers. Immunohistochemistry showed an increase of TIMP-1 and 2. RT-PCR results showed the mRNA levels of IL-1ss, TNF-alpha, ICAM-1, and Cx43 increased after LED phototherapy whereas that of IL-6 decreased.

The Healing Power of Near Infrared

In the same paper Drs. Barolet and Hamblin go on to discuss the healing benefits of near-infrared light energy. “It has been known for almost 50 years that low energy exposure to visible and NIR wavelengths is beneficial to humans via the promotion of healing processes. This low level light therapy (so called LLLT or PBM) has been reported in thousands of peer reviewed articles since 1968 [28, 29]. Using specific low energy (non-thermal) light parameters within a window of wavelengths from visible to NIR, PBM provides an alternative therapy for patients needing faster healing of wounds and/or for anti-inflammatory purposes. It has been compared to plant photosynthesis with a known photoacceptor molecule (cytochrome c oxidase) located in the mitochondria of eucaryotic cells.

PBM parameters have been improving in the last decade so that it is now part of our therapeutic armamentarium in dermatology as a complimentary treatment modality to treat skin inflammation, promote faster wound healing after ablative procedures or even prevent sunburn [30]. It is also used as a photodynamic therapy light source to photoactivate a

Barolet et al. Page 6 J Photochem Photobiol B. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 February 01. Author Manuscript Author Manuscript Author Manuscript Author Manuscript

photosynthetizer (Protoporphyrin IX or PpIX) when treating actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma and acne [31]. Furthermore, low intensity infrared has been shown to induce beta-endorphin hypoalgesic (analgesic) effects [32].

NIR photobiomodulation of tissue pathologies is associated with increased proliferation of specific cells, gene expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines and suppression of the synthesis of pro-inflammatory mediators [33].

Choose from 14 Celluma LED Light Therapy Devices

With 14 models to choose from, Celluma uses specific wavelengths of light energy to treat a variety of conditions including blue, red and near-infrared to treat acne, wrinkles, wound healing* pain and hair loss. With professional and home LED devices, you can select the LED light therapy machine that is right for you. Unlike other LED light therapy devices, Celluma is the only shape-taking LED panel on the market. It has the ability to contour close to the surface of the skin for increased light absorption and optimal therapeutic benefits. To learn more about Celluma’s near infrared technology and pain management options, click. 

*Celluma is not FDA-cleared for wound healing


Infrared and Skin: Friend or Foe

Daniel Barolet1,2, François Christiaens3, and Michael R Hamblin4,5,6

Department of Medicine, Dermatology Division, McGill University, Montreal, Canada H3A 1A1

RoseLab Skin Optics Laboratory, Laval, Canada, H7T 0G3

Consultant, Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, France 94100

The Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114

Department of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115

Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139

Stephen Freeland