The Top 8 Myths, Scams and Lies about Light Therapy
Lately, I’ve been noticing certain myths circulating about low level light therapy (LLLT). Many of these are claims made by unscrupulous companies who will tell you anything to sell you their $200-$1,000 device. Some are just the media’s sensationalized take on a topic. Here I am going to expose the top 8 myths, scams and lies about LLLT.
FALSE: Red Light Therapy Increases Testosterone
When I first heard of this claim, I was naturally interested to learn more. Could photobiomodulation (PBM), AKA light therapy, be beneficial for increasing testosterone production? Could it help men with fertility?
I was a bit concerned about what I saw in the course of my research. I noticed many competitors claiming PBM was good for fertility and for testosterone production. Myself, I take such claims seriously, especially where the conception of a child is involved.
A child is not a science project. There is literally no research done on humans that would give us an indication of whether any sort of light therapy/PBM could help with male fertility. Even if it could, that would mean using LLLT on the testicles when the effects on any child born as a result of any increased fertility could have unknown side effects. It’s just not worth the risk. Not to mention that as far as science is concerned, there may well be no reward at all for the effort.
Now what about testosterone production? Although I wish I could tell men that PBM on the testicles is the best thing since sliced bread for testosterone production, I cannot say that because there’s no evidence suggesting that. I do not use that phrase lightly. I literally mean "there is no evidence".
One bit of good news is that there is evidence that LLLT might improve testosterone production indirectly when it is used on the thyroid. This seems to mostly apply to those with sub-optimal thyroid function. So perhaps there’s a grain of truth to the marketing claims the competition is throwing around- you might improve your testosterone production by using PBM on your thyroid.
SCAM: Link Citation Switch-a-Roo
I’ve noticed that certain companies have a habit of publishing claims with sources that don’t match their claims. The worst offender does this by notating his sources with a number at the end of the sentence and then listing the sources by number at the end of his articles.
The sources listed have barely enough identifying information to track the studies down. He (perhaps purposely?) does not link to the studies, so you need to go search for them yourself. When you finally do find them, you’ll discover the following:
- The study has nothing to do with the topic referenced.
- The study does not have the conclusion the article claimed it had.
- The study is about lasers, not diffuse light such as the light used in the red light therapy products the company is selling and discussing in their article.
Just because there’s a citation doesn’t mean it’s true, unfortunately.
MYTH: The Blue Light Boogeyman
Blue light is the new UV. A bunch of articles have come out talking about how bad it is for you, how you should avoid it at all costs. Sound familiar? To me it sounds an awful lot like the anti-UV light talk we’ve been listening to for the past few decades. (See where that landed us? An epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.)
Here is the plain truth about blue light:
- Too much blue light is bad for you.
- An excess of blue light at the wrong times of day is bad for you.
- Intense blue light (like intense light of any color) is not good for your eyes and could damage them.
- If you are of African, Asian or Latino descent, there is a very small chance your skin could darken when exposed to intense blue light. Always do a patch test before using any light therapy/PBM on your face and/or in large amounts.
Does that mean blue light is bad altogether? No. Blue light is extremely useful for many purposes, especially killing bacteria, regulating circadian rhythm, improving Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms and improving memory. In short, blue light is powerful and you must take reasonable safety precautions when using it.
FALSE: Intense Light Should Be Used on Your Eyes
This is one of the most irresponsible claims I have seen other PBM device companies promote. They claim that intense LED light is actually GOOD for your eyes. So they suggest you use their LED products on them. What they neglect to tell you is that their products are way more intense than the weak light used in the studies that have shown a benefit to the eyes from light exposure.
Intense light isn’t good for your eyes. Your body tells you that as soon as you look at a bright light. Listen to your body and always use eye protection during your LLLT treatments.
LIE: Incandescent Near Infrared Bulbs Don’t Work
This is a claim you'll see browsing the sites of our competitors who sell only LED devices. They claim all kinds of things about incandescent near infrared bulbs and try to tell people that they don't work.
Thousands of RubyLux customers beg to differ. The NIR-A Near Infrared Bulb is our best-selling bulb. Although we accept returns for any reason here at RubyLux, we almost never get a return of this bulb for reasons other than defects.
I can’t speak for other types or brands of infrared bulbs. Many of them are poor quality, hazardous or just plain ineffective. What I can say is that due to having the right wavelengths, non-toxic certifications, a high power (over 1400 mW/cm2) and therapeutic heat, RubyLux near infrared bulbs most definitely work. I’m sure our competitors wish they did not!
SCAM: Affiliate Marketers Posing as Experts
First, let me say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is where a blogger, YouTuber, or other internet celebrity gets paid for referring sales to a company. Usually this is done by recommending the company’s products. If the affiliate truly believes in the product, I see nothing wrong with their receiving some payment for their endorsement.
Here’s the catch, though. Affiliate marketers need to be honest about their affiliate relationships. And we all know by now that lots of sites and YouTube channels seem to be pushing whatever product they can- regardless of whether it sucks or not.
Most recently, I read a new book about red light therapy by an author whose previous work I respected. I’m sad to say that it appears he’s gone the route of undisclosed affiliate marketing for one or two extremely overpriced PBM devices. How do I know? Because I know many of the claims in his new book are false; I know in his previous work his research was impeccable (so I doubt there was some mistake on his part when writing this new book), and his claims amount to recommending 1-2 companies’ devices exclusively. I know these products are inferior and they are overpriced by a factor of 10.
These days, commercials have seeped into even the shows we watch and the books we read. Buyer beware.
LIES: Light Therapy is Risk-Free, Has No Side Effects and Is Good for Everyone
Some companies claim their red light therapy/PBM/LLLT devices are good for everyone. They’re good for every problem. They turn water into wine! They make you popular and can fix any health or beauty woe!
Get real. LLLT is amazing enough- but it isn’t good for everyone or for every problem. I talk more about this here. Some of the reasons PBM might not be for you include:
- You take a medication that makes you photosensitive (sensitive to light).
- You discover you are sensitive to light when doing a patch test.
- You have a darker skin tone and although the likelihood of it happening is very small, you’d rather not risk a blue LED leaving a discoloration on your skin.
- You have migraines or seizures triggered by bright light.
- You have bipolar disorder, which is known to be influenced by light exposure in some cases.
- You are pregnant.
LLLT has some fantastic benefits and effects, but it isn’t good for everyone all the time. As with any powerful treatment, proper care should be taken to make sure it’s the right choice for you.
SCAM: Red Light Therapy Lotion
There is not currently a lotion on the market that will amplify or improve your red light therapy or other PBM treatments. It is usually not advisable to apply any products to the skin right before doing LLLT treatments.
So-called “red light therapy lotion” products are simply $50 bottles of lotion. Any benefit they may have has nothing to do with light.
As you can see, there are many myths and half-truths being perpetuated about LLLT. This list is not exhaustive- I am sad to say there are plenty more. What I have focused on here are the most recent issues I have noticed. When shopping for PBM devices, be on the lookout for unusual or outrageous claims to make sure you get a good quality product at a reasonable price.
So, What Should You Do Next?