Collagen is the most abundant protein our bodies produce, and it’s critical for bone, joint, skin, and hair health. Collagen is hard, fibrous, and extremely strong. It literally holds us together. Many people take collagen supplements or use creams to improve their skin or joint health, but there’s no substitute for your body making more of the real thing.
In numerous clinical studies, red light therapy treatments have significantly increased natural collagen levels. This article breaks down the research on natural light and collagen and explains how red light therapy treatments can improve skin, bone, and joint health.
What is Collagen? Why is it So Important for Skin, Joint, and Bone Health?
Collagen is the primary structural protein in our bodies. It’s the main ingredient in our connective tissue, consisting of tightly bound amino acids that hold our bodies together. There are over 20 different types of collagen, but 90% of it is called Type I collagen, which is made of densely packed fibers, and is a key component of human skin, tendons, bones, ligaments, and teeth. Type II collagen, made of more loosely packed fibers and found in your cartilage and eyes, is also common. 
These fibrous types of collagen consist of tropocollagen which pack together to form fibrils. If you were to look at these fibrils under a microscope you’d see a repeating pattern of bands, similar to the tightly woven lines of fabric in cotton garments. These fibrils are incredibly strong and can stretch without being broken. In tendons, for example, these fibrils connect bones to muscles and withstand incredible strain. 
As we age, our collagen production tends to decrease and become less effective. This is one major reason why people see their skin become less firm over time, and why joint function, hair growth, and dental health also decline with age. 
Bottom line: our bodies need lots of collagen to stay firm and functioning. A high natural collagen production is essential for skin, joints, bones, hair, and teeth will look and function as you get older.
How Red Light Stimulates Natural Collagen Production
Fibroblasts are cells that use amino acids to create collagen in our bodies. It’s a job that requires lots of energy, which comes from ATP production in the mitochondria of our cells. 
Red and near infrared wavelengths of natural light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells. With this boost, mitochondria are able to take light, oxygen, and nutrients from the food we eat and turn it into usable energy for our bodies through the process of cellular respiration.
So when our bodies take in the healthy natural wavelengths of red and infrared light, the mitochondria in our cells can produce energy more efficiently. That increased energy allows your fibroblast cells to create more natural collagen.
This natural boost in collagen production from wavelengths of red and near infrared light has been examined in numerous clinical trials and laboratory studies. [3,4] And the benefits of higher levels of naturally produced collagen can be seen in skin, bones, and hair.
Collagen Supplements Versus the Real Thing
Collagen supplements are big business, with the global market estimated to be worth $6 billion by 2025.  More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of collagen and trying to increase their levels. But there’s really no substitute for your body producing its own collagen.
There are some major drawbacks to collagen supplements, one of which is dependence. If you take in regular collagen from supplements, your body will gradually become less able to make its own, which can make skin and joint health issues even worse over time.
Another problem is that it’s hard to know how much collagen you’re actually getting from a supplement. Collagen supplements are, like many other supplements, not closely regulated by the F.D.A. This makes it hard for consumers to know the content and quality of what they are buying. To confuse matters, there’s no recommended amount of collagen per day, leaving consumers in the dark.
And then there’s always the chance that taking collagen orally won't even help your skin, because the collagen won’t ever make it that far. This absorption question is an issue with oral supplements, and collagen is no exception. The research into the effectiveness and bioavailability of collagen supplements is limited, and it’s possible that your stomach might digest a lot of the collagen before it is able to reach and improve your skin.
Another risk with collagen supplements is contaminants. According to Dr. Mark Moyad, author of The Supplement Handbook and director of complementary and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center, many collagen supplements come from ground-up animal parts. Dr. Moyad expresses concern with the heavy metal and the creatinine content that could end up in these supplements as a result. Copper and arsenic are just two harmful heavy metals that have turned up in meat products, and creatinine is a toxic byproduct of muscle metabolism. 
Fortunately, research is showing how people can boost their body’s natural collagen levels with red light therapy treatments. Better yet, unlike supplements, red light therapy has been found to have virtually zero risks or side effects. In study after study, researchers have measured much higher natural collagen levels in patients treated with red light. 
Now we’ll take a closer look at the natural skin, bone, joint, and muscle health benefits of red light therapy, all driven by an increase in collagen levels with natural light treatments.
Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin with Natural Collagen from Red Light Therapy
Collagen is essential to skin health and beauty. Red light therapy’s collagen-boosting effects are the foundation of its major wrinkle-fighting and anti-aging benefits. Let’s take a look at the research on red light, collagen, and skin health.
A randomized, controlled study in 2013 analyzed the effects of red light therapy on 136 people. Those who were in the red light therapy group were between 27 and 79 years old and received red light therapy twice a week for 15 weeks. Along with the initial trial results, there was also a long-term follow up which analyzed continued red light treatment. The results were very positive:
Red Light Increases Collagen Density: Volunteers who received red light therapy treatment saw significant increases in their collagen density counts compared to the control group, which saw no significant changes.
Red Light Reduces Wrinkles and Improves Complexion: Those treated with red light therapy saw significantly improved skin complexion including visible reduction in wrinkles, fine lines, and signs of aging.
Patients Report Big Skin Improvements with Red Light Therapy: After 30 treatment sessions, nearly every person in the red light therapy group reported improvements to their skin. Volunteers that continued with red light therapy for an additional 30 treatments continued to see improvements. 
Skincare Professionals Trust Red Light Therapy to Boost Collagen and Improve Skin Health
Red light therapy devices have become a go-to skin treatment for leading estheticians and dermatologists around the world. Like Shani Darden, the A-list Hollywood esthetician to stars like Jessica Alba. Shani uses Red Light for herself and her famous clients to augment collagen levels and diminish wrinkles and fine lines.
Cherie Callahan is a leading professional esthetician in Arizona, and Skin Games champion. She’s the owner of Skin Revision Technologies, and she’s seen how Red Light treatments transform her customers’ skin:
“Some beauty products are designed to just hide blemishes and aging, but my customers love RLT because it actually improves their natural skin and appearance by boosting their collagen levels and helping their skin rejuvenate from the inside out.”*
Red Light Therapy’s Collagen Benefits Improve Your Bone Health and Healing
Wavelengths of near infrared light are able to penetrate into deep tissue and bone to achieve all kinds of healing effects. Several studies have also clearly shown that models treated with natural light produce significantly more osteoblasts (bone cells) and osteocytes (advanced osteoblasts that have become embedded in their own bone matrix). Nearly all of these bone healing studies have also found that red light treatments increase natural collagen production. [8,9,10,11]
Red light therapy is also being used proactively in many clinical settings to strengthen non-injured bones and prevent future injuries from occurring. An analysis and protocol published in the Journal of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery found that bone tissue receiving near infrared light therapy treatments had “increased osteoblastic proliferation, collagen deposition, and bone neoformation” when compared to bones not treated with red light. 
Faster Muscle Recovery and Repair with Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy helps prevent muscle soreness and speeds muscle recovery. Along with reducing inflammation at the site of injuries, red light treatments help muscles produce more collagen, which is crucial for recovery and strength.
Several studies have demonstrated the muscle-collagen benefits of red light therapy. Researchers in multiple laboratory studies have demonstrated an increase in the amount of collagen fibers in muscle tissue after red light treatments. [12,13]
Red Light Therapy Reduces Joint Pain and Improves Function
Clinical research from around the world has shown that red light therapy has a significant positive effect on joint pain, inflammation, and related symptoms. Many of these trials also cite an increase in collagen as a benefit.
A 2017 study in Lasers in Medical Science assessed knee cartilage in animal studies and found red light significantly reduced pain and improved knee cartilage regeneration through “biochemical changes,” which included an increase in collagen. 
Another study from 2018 found similar results in the knees of laboratory animals treated with red light therapy. Researchers wanted to examine if red light therapy would stop the degradation of collagen in cartilage and found that the treatments actually caused an upregulation of collagen. This increase in collagen helped prevent joint degeneration. 
Conclusion: Red Light Therapy Increases Your Natural Collagen Production, for Healthier Skin, Joints, and Bones
Collagen is essential for our bodies to stay firm and functioning. There are a wide range of collagen supplements available, but it’s no substitute for your body making its own collagen, especially as you age. Across numerous clinical studies, red light therapy has shown it helps people boost their natural collagen production, without side effects. This leads to a wide range of health benefits, from younger-looking skin, to faster muscle recovery, and stronger joint and skeletal health.
Disclaimers and considerations: The information on this page is meant to educate readers about the science, research, and health benefits of red light therapy. Consult a trusted health professional for the diagnosis and treatment of specific medical conditions.
These Red/NIR light therapy products are registered with the FDA as a Class II medical devices for the treatment of pain, strain, and inflammation. Other health benefits mentioned in this article are for educational purposes only and not intended to support the safety or effectiveness of these devices, and not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent a disease.
The information presented is based on peer-reviewed clinical research, including information about emerging studies and scientific inquiries.
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