If you have been paying any attention to trends in the health and wellness industries in recent years, you have undoubtedly heard of the growing interest in red light therapy techniques and infrared light saunas. Both offer various health benefits, especially when used as a workout recovery tool. However, even with some similarities, the two have marked differences. The primary difference is what generates therapeutic benefits in our bodies: in one case, the benefits are derived from light, and in the other, they are derived from heat.
Read on to learn more about why both therapies benefit our bodies and what makes them different.
What Is Red Light Therapy, and How Does it Work?
Health and wellness practitioners recommend red light therapy as a safe, natural, and non-invasive treatment targeting specific areas of the body to deliver truly impressive results.
Red light therapy treats everything from acne and hair loss to wound healing and joint pain. When red and near-infrared light is shined on our skin, it is absorbed within our cells and essentially energizes them to repair, regenerate, and function more effectively. This incredible “boost” to our cells is a unique way to address various health issues without the risks associated with prescription medication or serious and invasive medical procedures. The time commitment is also minimal, with red light therapy sessions typically lasting no more than 20 minutes. Best of all, you can do red light therapy in the comfort and privacy of your own home without breaking the bank!
Red light therapy techniques are safe for our skin because the light emitted does not contain harmful UVA or UVB rays. Red light therapy will not tan or burn your skin. In fact, it has been shown to improve complexions when the face is targeted in treatment. Red light therapy works wonders on fine lines and wrinkles, loose or sagging skin, and acne, making it a new favorite tool in the skincare industry and a competitive alternative to pricey creams and potions that may only provide a temporary solution.
What Are Infrared Light Saunas, and How Do They Work?
Saunas have been used for their health and healing benefits for centuries around the world. Their popularity grew throughout the 20th century, with the increased use of saunas for relaxation, a post-workout recovery process, and a way to sweat out toxins.
It is thought that sauna use releases heat shock proteins in the body, which boosts our immune systems. When used after a workout, saunas increase blood flow and aid in the body’s recovery efforts. Even without a workout, a sauna increases our body temperature to mimic the positive health benefits of vigorous exercise.
While traditional saunas rely on electric heat (or even heat from a wood-burning stove), infrared light saunas derive their heat from a light source instead. Specifically, they use IR heat lamps to direct heat toward the body, increasing the body’s temperature and setting the healing and therapeutic benefits of saunas in motion.
It is important to note here the specific type of light involved with infrared saunas, which produces this heat. Far-infrared light ranges from 3,000 nm to 0.1 mm on the electromagnetic spectrum. In the simplest terms, think of distinguishing characteristics between far-infrared light and near-infrared light this way: far produces heat, and near does not.
To experience a sauna's health and wellness benefits, you need heat to raise the body’s temperature, which is why the light must be far infrared to work effectively.
What Are the Main Differences Between Red Light Therapy and Infrared Light Saunas?
Red light therapy and infrared light saunas are both popular treatments in the health and wellness industries that boost natural processes in our bodies to promote healing effects. However, they differ in significant ways, such as:
- Red light therapy produces no heat (but it may create a temporary and gentle soothing sensation or make the skin tingle briefly); a traditional or infrared light-based sauna will raise the body’s temperature and induce sweating.
- You can do red light therapy with a compact device in virtually any setting; a sauna setup is more extensive (and expensive!), making it an impractical choice for some users on a limited budget. You can purchase red light therapy devices for a few hundred dollars, whereas an infrared light sauna costs thousands.
- In addition to the initial setup costs, infrared saunas can use up to ten times the electricity consumption of red light therapy devices, making them more expensive to operate on an ongoing basis.
- Red light therapy is not shown to increase an individual’s heart rate; infrared light saunas do increase heart rate and blood flow, which is beneficial to most individuals but could be dangerous for those with certain heart conditions or other health risks.
- Red light therapy sessions generate maximum health benefits in a maximum of 20 minutes; a typical infrared light sauna session will last for around 50 minutes.
Is There a Benefit to Trying Both Red Light Therapy and Infrared Light Saunas?
You should always check with your healthcare provider before trying new therapeutic treatments, including red light therapy and infrared light saunas, especially if you have any serious underlying health conditions. However, a combination approach of red light therapy and infrared light sauna could provide tremendous benefits for most healthy adults. You can use both to target pain, inflammation, and other issues, with different approaches to therapy. For example, if you have suffered a sports-related injury, targeted red light therapy will energize your cells and help them regenerate and repair in the area of injury, whereas the infrared light sauna will help relax your muscles while increasing blood flow, which also aids in your body’s ability to heal itself.
Why Red Light Therapy Takes the Lead Over Infrared Light Saunas
Red light therapy and infrared light saunas are promising treatment options for many health issues, and both have well-documented benefits. Both are potential options for pain management without the risk of addiction associated with prescription medications.
However, red light therapy gets higher overall marks as an option thanks to many competitive advantages:
- Red light therapy is more affordable and accessible than infrared light sauna treatments.
- Red light therapy is safe for virtually everyone, with no risks associated with elevated heart rates that might make sauna treatments a no-go for some.
- Red light therapy is generally more comfortable for most people, especially those with trouble tolerating extreme temperatures.
- Red light therapy takes less time and can be done at any point in the day (whereas a sauna session means a shower and change before resuming other activities).
In the “Red Light Therapy Versus Infrared Light Saunas” battle, there are no real losers, though. These treatments have more pros than cons, and both are generally safer alternatives to many medical interventions and high-risk procedures. Both of these treatments tend to offer short- and long-term benefits when used consistently, and both can help our bodies function more effectively.
In short, red light therapy and infrared light saunas are worth exploring and may provide relief from any number of health and wellness concerns.