088: Can Red Light Therapy Help Skin Rash Conditions? w/ Ari Whitten

Modern human beings spend the overwhelming majority of our time indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend around 90% of our lives inside. That, combined with our fear of spending too much time in the sun, has led many of us to be deficient in wavelengths of light that are actually incredibly beneficial to our health.  

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Ari Whitten is a best-selling author, a nutrition and lifestyle expert, and the founder of The Energy Blueprint.

He has been studying and teaching health science for over 20 years. Ari has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, and recently completed the coursework for his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

For the last five years, he’s teamed up with world-renowned scientists and physicians to develop The Energy Blueprint system, which is a powerful, evidence-based system for overcoming fatigue and increasing energy levels.

Join us as we discuss red light therapy and its possible benefits for your skin and overall health.

Has red light therapy improved your skin health? Let me know in the comments!

In this episode:

  • What is red light and why is it good for cellular health?
  • Is there a skin cancer risk when using red light therapy?
  • Do you REALLY need sun exposure?
  • Where to start using Red Light Therapy for your skin


“It turns out that light and specific spectrums or wavelengths of light are profoundly bioactive in humans. They influence the way ourselves and our body function.” [3:38]

“We should be getting lots of red and near-infrared light naturally through sun exposure. Since we're deficient, using some of these red and near-infrared light therapy devices helps correct that deficiency and give us this nutrient that our bodies need to function optimally.” [10:40]

The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Image source: PennState College of Earth and Mineral Sciences


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Healthy Skin Show episode 046: How Light Therapy Can Be Useful To Stop Skin Rashes w/ Dr. Jared Jagdeo

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088: Can Red Light Therapy Help Skin Rash Conditions? w/ Ari Whitten (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Jennifer: Hi everyone and welcome back. Today I've got a guest with me who can talk to you guys about red light therapy. You heard me talk to Dr. Jagdeo before about the use of light therapy in skin conditions and many of you were really happy to hear that mentioned on the Healthy Skin Show because your doctor or dermatologist may have suggested it to you but you don't know a whole lot about it and it makes you nervous. But here's the thing, there are ways to integrate light therapy into your everyday life. And I wanted to find someone who really understood this and after digging and asking a lot of questions of friends who are in the know, they connected me with Ari, I've been actually on Ari's podcast, so I'm going to make sure to link to that episode in the show notes. But if you don't know Ari he is a bestselling author, a nutrition and lifestyle expert and the founder of The Energy Blueprint Ari Whitten has been studying and teaching health science for over 20 years.

He has a bachelor's of science in kinesiology and recently completed the coursework for his Ph.D. in clinical psychology for the last five years. He's teamed up with the world-renowned scientists and physicians to help develop The Energy Blueprint system, which is a powerful evidence-based system for overcoming fatigue and increasing energy levels. And by the way, guys, I've actually checked out some of the research and information that Ari has shared on that and I've found a lot of it be really helpful. Learn more about his work over HERE. Ari, thanks so much for joining us.

Ari: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Jennifer: So let's talk about what the heck, red light, so there's red light therapy, but before that, what is red light?

Ari: Yeah, so good question. Well, in a way the answer is quite obvious, right? So let's, let's just start there. Have you ever seen a light that appears red? Okay, that's red light. So now a lot of people have a sort of mental block with the idea that light is something that is influencing their cellular function now. Yeah. At the same time, you know, we also kind of know, we know about vitamin D, we get vitamin D from the sun and we know that vitamin D is really important to our health. The way that vitamin D works is of course we get UV light, specifically a part of the, the ultraviolet B part of the spectrum from sunlight that interacts with our skin in such a way that stimulates the synthesis of a vitamin D. And this vitamin D then plays a role in all kinds of different things in our body.

For example, regulating calcium absorption and immune health and the expression of over 2000 different genes in our body. Okay. So a lot of people already know about that, but still at the same time, most people think of light as, you know, the opposite of darkness. I turned on a light switch and that me to see things and you know, that's, that's most people's conception of light. Well, it turns out that light and specific spectrums or wavelengths of light are profoundly bioactive in humans. They influence the way ourselves and our body function. Now, vitamin D from ultraviolet light is one aspect of that. There's also the UVA part of the spectrum has various effects. We also know that of course blue light and green wavelengths of light to some extent also feed into what's called the circadian rhythm, which is this part of our brain that is like our 24-hour biological clock.

And it regulates all kinds of different neurotransmitters and hormones and all kinds of different biochemical processes that affect almost everything in our body. So our sleep-wake cycle or energy levels or appetite or mood on and on and on. That's just to name a few things, but there are thousands of studies just on that topic alone. So that's blue and green light. We also know that far-infrared red light can heat us up. So if we go into an infrared sauna, we're getting this far infrared energy that acts like a heat source and it heats up our body from the inside and it has effects on blood circulation, has, can cause sweating and therefore detoxification through that skin detox pathway. And heat us up and cause something called heat hormesis, which also we derive a lot of benefits from by being in a sauna and just being in this little hot chamber and getting our body really hot.

There are all sorts of metabolic effects from that that are ultimately very beneficial. Which we could talk about. But I know this podcast is short, so I'm going to leave out a lot of the details here. And then one of the other parts of the spectrum is the red part of the visible light spectrum and the near-infrared part of the spectrum. So red and near-infrared are two parts of the light spectrum. They're right next to each other on the electromagnetic spectrum and they have very unique biological effects. Now let me, I just mentioned this electromagnetic spectrum. I would encourage everybody who's listening to this, if you have your phone or your computer in front of you to just do a Google image search for electromagnetic spectrum. So you can see this a little bit more clearly. So on one end of the spectrum, the shortest wavelengths of things on this electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic frequencies.

You have things like x-rays, you know, like when you go to the doctor and get x-rays, that's those x-rays are part of this electromagnetic spectrum. There's also something called the gamma rays. And then you get into ultraviolet light and then you get into the visible light spectrum. So this is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans have been wired to be able to see our eyes, that our biology is kind of wired to see this stuff. And our brain can visualize it and process it. And this starts down in the ultraviolet range and then gets into blue and green light and yellow and orange light. And then red light. And then we get out of the visible light spectrum, the part that humans can see with our naked eye. And we get into near-infrared light and then far-infrared light. And then you get things like radar waves and radio waves and that sort of thing.

So that's the electromagnetic spectrum. Now we're just talking about a tiny piece of it here that's specifically the visible spectrum and the red and near-infrared light part in particular. So that kind of gives you an overview of what this is. Now, when you were in, in grade school, we all learned the colors of the rainbow, right? ROYGBIV and backward. That is violet, Indigo and then blue, green, yellow, orange, red. And though that's the colors of the visible spectrum. So again, we're talking about literally visible red light and this other part invisible to the human eye, near-infrared light. And these have really uniquely really unique and amazing and powerful effects on human cell function and a lot of benefits that we can talk about. So I'll let you decide where we go from here as mechanisms are, what the benefits are and that sort of thing.

Jennifer: Why don't you talk a little bit about why specifically red light is good for cellular health because our cells, you know, rebuilding healthy skin starts from the inside out. And you know, fortunately, we've had an episode already talking about how it's used in dermatology offices. So why exactly would red light be helpful for cells?

Ari: There's a deep answer to that, like a deep evolutionary answer to that. And there's also a very surface superficial level answer to that in the sense that it's beneficial because we know it does this, this and this, and we can talk about those mechanisms or it's, you know, as far as why on a deep level, why would this kind of light be beneficial to us? Well, it is part of the wavelengths, part of the spectrum emitted by sunlight. Humans have evolved for millions of years, mostly living outdoor lives up until the last century or so with lots and lots of sun exposure. So, and we know, for example, that, you know, most people are aware, as I said before, that we get this important nutrient called the vitamin D hormone actually from sunlight. Well, that story of how sunlight benefits human health doesn't just stop at vitamin D.

There are many, many, many different compounds or parts of this spectrum that we get from the sun that have profound benefits. And I mentioned some of those before. As far as these five different bioactive types of light (UV light, blue light, far infrared light, red light, near-infrared light). Okay. So we know it affects vitamin D, we know it affects circadian rhythm, we know it affects blood circulation and blood vessel dilation, but there's a lot more to that story so we can get deeper into things like how does it affect hormones? How does it affect neurotransmitters in the brain? How does it affect inflammation and immune function? And appetite regulation and metabolism regulation via something called the melanocortin system. And so there's, there are all kinds of different ways that sunlight is bioactive. Now, red and near-infrared light are part of that story.

They're part of one of the many layers of why humans are so dependent on sunlight to be healthy. Now in the modern context because we've gotten so disconnected from living an outdoor lifestyle in nature, sometimes it's useful to replace some of the deficiencies in nutrients, in light nutrients that we would otherwise be getting from the sun if we were living the kinds of lifestyles that we have been designed for by evolution, mostly in outdoor lifestyle with lots of sun exposure. So that's really where red and near-infrared light come into the picture. And well there's one more nuance to it. So one, I would say the biggest aspect is correcting the deficiency of red and near-infrared light that most modern humans have. We should be getting lots of red and near-infrared light naturally through sun exposure. Since we're deficient, using some of these red and near-infrared light therapy devices helps correct that deficiency and give us this nutrient that our bodies need to function optimally. Now the other nuance to it is that for certain specific context, medical contexts symptoms, diseases, things like that there's also an application there that isn't necessarily just correcting a deficiency in otherwise helpful, helpful healthy people. But is specifically treating through various mechanisms that particular condition.

Jennifer: So what's interesting that you're saying is that we have this deficiency of red light and it's because we don't go out in the sun, but so many people are told not to go out in the sun because it could develop skin cancer. So if you were to use it just from your own research, are there any concerns in using any of these like, like the at-home devices that exist with red light therapy? Like is there a cancer risk with those, skin cancer?

Ari: So the short answer is no, absolutely not. There is a risk of melanoma from using UV light, which is a totally different thing from red and near-infrared light devices. Ultraviolet light in isolated form, especially like UVA light in isolation or mostly UVA, like, which is what tanning beds are, does have some dangers. Now I will also say that the avoidance of sunlight as though sunlight is something bad for human health is one of the absolute worst possible pieces of advice that someone could possibly get and tried to follow in order to be healthy. There's a really nice book called embrace the sun. It's a recent book by an MD and another guy with a PhD. And they go through systematically, and this is extremely heavily referenced. And they go through systematically all the different medical conditions that are associated with either excessive sun exposure, like all the known conditions and deaths that are known to be associated with conditions that result from excessive sun exposure. And then they go through all the data on all of the conditions and all the deaths associated with conditions that result from deficient sun exposure. And I wish I had these statistics in front of me, but it's something like…

Yeah, I really wish I had the statistics cause it's, it's just so impressive to see the actual numbers. But it's something like 5,000 people die every year from conditions associated with excessive sun exposure and like 400,000 die every year from conditions associated with deficient light exposure and sunlight exposure. So, in other words, there are specific things that you could cherry-pick and say, Hey, too much sunlight could potentially cause this, this and this. Okay, well there's also this massive landscape of dozens of types of cancer diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, on and on and on that are associated with deficient sunlight exposure. So the overall picture, once you look at this in a, in a big-picture context, it becomes very, very clear that avoidance of sun exposure is one of the absolute most misguided things that you could possibly do if you're trying to be healthy.

Jennifer: And I will tell you, I absolutely love being able to get up in the morning and outside and be in the sun. And I noticed such a huge difference in my energy levels in how clear and focused my mind is. It really does help wake you up as opposed to like rushing from the inside of your dark house to say an office building with just fluorescent lights beating down on you all day and then you leave and you barely see any sun at all.

Ari: Yup. Absolutely. And you know, there's also research that followed about 30,000 women in Sweden over the course of like 20 years or so. And they looked at sun exposure habits in relationship to cardiovascular disease, mortality and all-cause mortality. And this is really all-cause mortality is the risk of dying for from any cause. So that's really the, ultimately the most important, most relevant thing is what is the relationship of this activity? Let's say it's eating a certain food or exercising a certain way or getting sun exposure or not getting sun exposure with your actual lifespan and risk of dying from anything. That's the most meaningful question you could ask. And what they found is that avoidance of sun exposure, the people who had the lowest sun exposure on a regular basis, that was as big of a risk factor for dying from any cause as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Jennifer: Wow. Holy moly. Yeah. Well, all right, so first of all, you've got a great book where people can dive into more of this research and I'm sure we could go on and on about this all day. So you have a book. Tell everybody what your book's name is.

Ari: It's called the Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy.

Jennifer: Cool. So we'll put links to that in the show notes, but like why don't we dive into the practical side of things. So that way for somebody who's like, wait, I could buy one of these devices. And by the way, if you go online, you're gonna find a lot of them and it's knowing what's the right one. And you know, you just have done so much research here. That's why I thought too, you could give some practical advice about what we should look for. And where to get started if you wanted to give this a shot for your, you know, as part of your protocol to help with your skin.

Ari: Yeah. So I would say, first of all, just be aware that there's a huge amount of devices on the market. As you said, these devices vary massively in terms of the power output of the device, which is the most critical aspect of the, of getting the dose, right. And this is the way you should think of it. So just like if you take a pill, whether it's a drug or a supplement, the dose is critical to getting the effect. So just as there are supplements with, I don't know, vitamin C or resveratrol or something like on the market and there's lots of different brands that make it and some have 500 milligrams and some have three milligrams. Well, that's it. There's a big difference between those two doses. Yes, they might be the same substance, but there's a huge difference in terms of the actual dose and therefore the effect.

So you do need a device that is of a certain power. Now at the same time and, and I'll, and we can talk specifically, I don't want to get too detailed here as far as what the numbers are and which could probably confuse people. But if somebody is looking at things from a perspective of how much light something's putting out per square centimeter of the coverage of area of that light generally you want to be close to the neighborhood of a hundred milliwatts per square centimeter. So if somebody wants to jot down some, some actual numbers to look for when they're looking at different devices, you want to see an output of power density of about a hundred milliwatts per square centimeter, either directly in contact with the device or from about six inches or 12 inches away. Now, something's not giving you any of those numbers. That's a good reason to be skeptical and be aware that there are lots and lots of devices all over the internet and on Amazon, let's say red light therapy device, and they might have 10 milliwatts per square centimeter.

So you know, they're going to be mostly a waste of time and a waste of money. So that's one aspect of things. Another aspect is what's the size of the device? So there's everything from tiny little devices that cover three square inches to full body panels that can irradiate everything on your body at once from head to toe, you know, and so you can get a full body treatment in five to 10 minutes or you can get these tiny little devices that are oftentimes very under-powered that might take you, if you wanted to do a full-body treatment with them, they would take you, you know, two hours or three hours to hold it over every area of your body. And it still probably would be not as effective. And it would, nobody is actually going to do that. So that's another thing to consider.

I would say, Hey, the best selling lights are the ones, the ones that are the most popular, that people find the best, that have the best mix of, you know, they can treat most things on your body. They can't necessarily treat you head to toe at once, but they can treat like your entire torso at once, your entire front from your belly button to your head at once or your entire back or your entire legs at once. And these devices will generally run around 400 to $500 or about 600 to 700 on the high end depending on which company you go for. The three companies that I generally recommend people to are Red Therapy Co, which sells the red rush 36, which is a device about the size that I just mentioned. It's about two feet tall or 20 inches tall and they sell red rush seven 20, which is basically two of those stacked together at 720 Watts.

And it's like a three and a half feet tall and very, very powerful device and an incredibly good bang for the buck. There is also another company called Platinum Therapy Lights that makes good quality lights at a good price. And then there's Joovv which is probably the most well-established company and they also make good quality lights that they just tend to be a little bit less powerful and a little bit more expensive than the two other companies I mentioned. But they also have the added benefits of they make a real small light. So if you want something that's portable or just to do targeted treatments on a small area of your body, they have that option. And they also have the really, really big panels. If you want to go all out and buy a $3,000 set up, they can have, you know, head to toe setups that, that that'll cover, you know, everything at once. And you can do a full body treatment on the entire front or entire back of your body in five minutes.

Jennifer: Can I ask you a question about that? If someone wants to do a treatment, we'll put that in quotes. Is that something where I assume the area can't be closed, or can it be?

Ari: Sometimes you see people using laser devices and this is where this technology actually started. We didn't get in much into the history of it, but these are what's called cold laser or low-level laser therapy has been around for actually decades. This technology is not new. It's been around for maybe 30 years or a little longer and in use by various doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists because it has profound wound and injury healing properties as well. That's one of the many benefits of this technology. And we can talk more about the different kinds of benefits as well, but these lasers have been around and sometimes you see people using lasers through clothing, but it's mostly nonsense in my opinion and less the clothing is just really, really thin translucent fabric. You know, that, that, that lets a lot of light through because you know, to some extent, the answer to this is it is a common-sense answer. So if you put the light up next to a piece of clothing and that clothing is blocking 90% of the light that from going through it, well that's your answer. If it's blocking light, then you cannot do it through clothing.

Jennifer: Okay. And all right. You know, as I'm thinking about this too, you know, obviously there is an investment involved for anybody that's interested in having some at-home devices. But what happens if a year from now I get these, my skin really clears up, I'm feeling a lot better. And then what? They're just sitting in the corner. Is there still a use for them out? Like if you have, let's just pretend you're healthy, we'll put that in air quotes. Would you still, do people still use these?

Ari: I do. And most people who use them are healthy already. So here's what they can do for you. Let, let's just go through a quick list of some of the benefits. There's research showing they fight skin, aging, wrinkles and cellulite. There's research showing that it can help stimulate fat loss and, and amplifies the benefits of exercise. In terms of fat loss it decreases inflammation in your body. It decreases oxidative stress at the cellular level. It can be paired with exercise and, and weight loss, weight lifting or resistance exercise in a way that increases strength. And endurance if you pair it with an endurance exercise or cardio and muscle mass as well. So it amplifies the benefits of whatever kind of exercise you're doing. It can decrease pain, it can combat arthritis, it can combat hair loss. It can help build resilience to stress at the cellular level and increase mitochondrial health and energy levels. It can speed up wound and injury healing. It can combat autoimmunity. It can optimize your brain function and mood. So combat, depression and anxiety and even neurological diseases. So I would bet going through that list, I would bet a large sum of money that everybody listening to this would like to have at least one or two of those things, if not five or 10 of those things.

Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's important. It's an important point because while it feels like an investment in the moment, it's actually something that regardless of where you are six months, a year or two years from now, you can still derive benefits from it no matter where you are on your journey. And I just, I want to highlight that so that you know, for somebody who's going, Oh, that's, this is something I'm interested. I want you to know that this is more than just about skin. Even then there were focusing primarily on skin right now, there are so many other things about this that can have tremendous benefits.

Ari: I was going to say one thing now, even in the context, of just health which is just as you know, just looking at that, which is the focus of this podcast and the work that you do. You know, yes, there's research talking about how we combat things like acne or keloids or vitiligo or psoriasis or eczema or skin wounds or you know, various things like that.

But outside any particular symptom or medical condition. There's also research showing that it enhances collagen, and elastin production and collagen density in the tissues. And that there's research showing that it can increase collagen production by about 31% and reduce DNA damage and aging and reduce wrinkles and cellulite. So this is something to be used even just in the context of skin health. Even if you've completely resolved, let's say your psoriasis or, or you know, other skin condition, even once that's resolved, this is something you can use for your skin health on an ongoing basis. This to support optimal collagen and elastin levels and combat aging and wrinkles.

Jennifer: Yeah. And I think that that is one of the key critical points here cause that's, that's, you know, I understand where everybody's coming from and I, you know, things cost money but you want to invest your money wisely and what ultimately is going to have resounding effects, not just for now but also down the road. So that's why I thought you were the right person. Cause you're also coming at this from a very practical perspective, you know, and that's what's most important to me. So I feel like, yeah, I feel like at this point I think we should let people marinate in what we've shared. And then I would love to have you come back and share some more about some of the other benefits as well and talking about a lot of the other, cause there's so much to this and it's something that is only being talked about in terms of going to a dermatologist's office and you know, it's very controlled and people have fears of being burned and all sorts of things, whereas this is something that there's a lot of safety. I feel like they've done a lot of research and people are using these things, these devices and finding a lot of improvements overall. And so I think on many levels, people in my audience can really benefit from this. So would you be open to coming back and diving deeper?

Ari: Yeah. Yeah. Most definitely. I do want to say just one thing on the note of people being hesitant to spend money and, and kind of needing to know that they're spending it on the right thing. Well, I just want to provide a bit of context to understand that. So there are now several decades worth of research on this technology it's not a new thing. It's not an untested thing. There are literally over 5,000 studies on this topic now and and we know that it has all these different amazing benefits as far as fighting skin aging helping you to lose fat, helping to amplify the benefits of exercise, decreased pain, improved joint health, improve hormonal health, immune health, brain health energy levels and mitochondrial health. All of these different benefits with almost no side effects whatsoever.

Now, if you were to massively overdose it, you know, if you just did an all day long, yes, you'd get some side effects, but the risk of side effects is almost nil using this technology in any reasonable or sane way. And if there were just too, like for reference for comparison, if there was a drug that was developed by a pharmaceutical company that had 5,000 studies showing it had all of these different benefits and almost no risk of side effects, just understand that that drug would be hailed as an absolute miracle drug. It would be considered like the most amazing anti-aging drug ever developed in the history of the pharmacy to industry. And it would be pushed on every person in the world basically as this most amazing miracle drug. And your doctor would look at you like you are absolutely out of your mind if you refuse to go on it. So this drug exists. It's just not in the form of a pill from a pharmaceutical company. It's in the form of light therapy.

Jennifer: Yeah. And it's just different. It's different than what we're used to seeing it packaged as. But I love that there's so much research on this and that's why I feel like for those who are really new to this that you know, this is a really great opportunity for them to now go and check out all the information that you have. You've got your awesome book, which I'm sure they're going to learn the history and all sorts of things and then perhaps we can have you come back and talk more about this. So keep diving in and on top of it everybody is, I said are you got this really great four-part masterclass series as well that I found very helpful. I'm all about enhancing your energy. You kind of blew my mind is I was watching the video cause I was like, “Oh he is a really good point”.

I never thought about it like that. So you know, I know that fatigue is an issue and I think on many levels what we're talking about, fatigue, skin issues, all sorts of things, they're all tied together. And so I really believe that if people haven't gotten to know you, they should because you have an amazing podcast. And you do a lot of really hard work that is backed by research and is also I think very ethical and I have a great amount of respect for the work that you do. So I would love for people to go check out not just your book but also your masterclass series that I'll put links to in the show notes so that people can go and check them out. And where can they find you?

Ari: I don't have a huge social media presence. I don't spend much time on social media. But the best place to follow my work is by signing up for my email list, which you can do at theenergyblueprint.com. I also want to mention in addition to the book, which people can get on Amazon, the ultimate guide to red light therapy, if you Google that or if you Google energy blueprint and red light therapy, you'll see that I have a like basically a shortened version of the book. It's like a quick summary version of the book as an online article and it's gotten most of the need to know information in there so far. Anyone, you know, with the spirit of kind of being wise with how you spend your money, Hey, if you don't want to spend 10 bucks on my book and get the comprehensive guide, you can get like a quick summary guide for free on my website.

Jennifer: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. I look forward to our next conversation.

Ari: Yeah, likewise, Jen, thanks so much for having me.

“It turns out that light and specific spectrums or wavelengths of light are profoundly bioactive in humans. They influence the way ourselves and our body function.”

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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