Does red/NIR light therapy work through clothes?

The short answer is no. But if the clothing is very thin and light can penetrate it well, then maybe to some extent. How do you know if red light can penetrate it? Simply hold the fabric up next to the light while it’s on and see how much light gets through. You can literally observe it with your naked eye.

Now, with most clothes, they will block at least 50% and more like 80%+ of the light, so if that is the case, just realize that it is massively lowering the dose of the light.

For best results, do it on bare skin.

Can I get the benefits of red/NIR light therapy by standing in the sun?

Yes and no.

First, the truth is that if you were spending hours every day outdoors with the sun on your skin (like our ancestors did), then you probably don’t need a red/NIR light device.

But since most of us do not spend hours a day with the sun on our body, we end up deficient in the nutrient of red/NIR light. So getting a red/NIR light treatment will be supplementary.

Having said that, sun has benefits that red/NIR light does not have. The sun emits UV light, which we use for several purposes, like synthesizing vitamin D. It’s also going to be better for setting circadian rhythm in the morning.

But red/NIR lights also have some advantages over the sun.

One is convenience and access. Not everyone lives in a place that is sunny all year-round. And not everyone has the ability to get outdoors in the sun every day during the time of day where it’s warm and sunny.

In addition, for very targeted treatments of specific issues, the sun is not going to give you the precision targeting of a light device that you can shine specifically on the thyroid gland or on a specific wound site with the precise light intensity and dose that will lead to the best effects.

Also, the spectrum differs in important ways that affect some goals. In particular, for skin anti-aging (on the face for example), many people would want to avoid getting lots of UV on their face from the sun (which may accelerate skin damage and skin aging), but get the benefits of red/NIR. The sun doesn’t give you the ability to do this—with the sun, you get the whole spectrum of red, near-infrared, far-infrared, blue, and UV. But with a red/NIR light, you can get the therapeutic benefits on your skin while avoiding the potentially counterproductive wavelengths entirely.

To be clear, red/NIR light devices are not a replacement for sunlight. We still need plenty of sun exposure to be healthy. But red/NIR light devices can make up for our lack of sun exposure and give us several targeted benefits in a way that we cannot get from the sun.

What is the difference between red light and infrared light therapy?

The difference between the two is that red light is clearly visible to the eye and at 660nm is absorbed externally by skin tissue, leading to increased collagen production and faster skin healing. Near infrared light is 850nm and is invisible to the human eye. It penetrates deeper into tissue, leading to increased muscle recovery, reduced joint pain and energy production.

I am confused by all these different terms like photobiomodulation (PBM) and Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). What are these and how do they differ from red/NIR light therapy?

In short, these are all basically interchangeable terms.

Historically speaking, it was thought that lasers (coherent light beams) had unique effects that were totally different from LEDs. Thus, the bulk of the research has been done with lasers and uses the term “low-level laser therapy” or LLLT for short. But now studies have shown that, in the realm of red light therapy, LEDs could reproduce similar effects to that of lasers.