What Exactly Is Infrared?


Did you know that you can improve your health by being exposed to light? Light therapy has gained a lot of attention in the last couple of years. Different types of light are used for specific conditions, with amazing results. Some of these therapies involve infrared light, which has shown great promise for many things such as weight loss, detox, sleep cycle regulation, and many chronic diseases. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about infrared, how it works and most importantly, how safe it is.

What Is Light? 

Light is a pretty abstract concept that we don't often think about. In fact, it took scientists many years to understand light and its properties. The truth is that light is electromagnetic radiation, which is a result of fluctuations in electric and magnetic fields. This can be a little hard to understand, so the best way to think about it is as a stream of particles without mass, which travels extremely fast with wavelike properties. Light has different characteristics depending on the wavelength with which it travels, and this property allows us to place all types of light in a spectrum [1].

The Electromagnetic Spectrum 

Humans have a very limited understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum. We tend to think that the only light that exists is the one that we can see. This couldn't be further from the truth. The reality is that most electromagnetic radiation is invisible to the human eye. We can only see a very limited part of the electromagnetic spectrum, with wavelengths between 390 and 750 nanometers. These wavelengths involve all types of visible light: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

However, there are other types of electromagnetic radiation. For example, some types of radiation, such as ultraviolet rays, have shorter wavelengths and just because we can't see them doesn't mean that they don't affect our bodies. After all, UV radiation is linked to skin aging and cancer. Further away in the spectrum, we can find X-rays, which have been incredibly useful in medicine for imaging purposes. On the other end of the spectrum, we find other types of radiation with longer wavelengths, such as infrared waves, microwaves and radio waves (AM & FM) [2].

Electromagnetic radiation is very heterogeneous and it's much more versatile than the light we can perceive with our eyes. But lets hone in on one specific type: infrared.

Infrared Waves (also known as Infrared Light)

Infrared waves are a type of light that is invisible to the human eye. In the last couple of years, it has received a lot of attention for its health benefits. However, infrared light is nothing new. It is everywhere. It is used in remote controls, heat lamps and is even the reason why many distant stars and planets are discovered. It may sound weird and technical, but infrared light is completely harmless and doesn't pose a threat to your health. In fact, it is even used in the medical world for things like thermometers [3].

This type of light has many properties, but one of its most important is its ability to transfer heat. Infrared light is able to transfer heat when it penetrates tissues and makes water molecules vibrate. This vibration releases energy in the form of heat [4].

Infrared has wavelengths between 760 and 100,000 nm. It has a much wider range than visible light; as a result, we can't expect all infrared waves to act the same. Scientists have classified infrared light according to their wavelength: near infrared (760-3,000 nm), mid infrared (3,000- 50,000) and far infrared. (50,000-100,000 nm) [5]. Since near infrared waves have the shortest wavelength, they only affect the outer layers of your body and don't penetrate deep into your tissues. This results in them working mostly on your skin. On the other hand, mid and far infrared penetrate deeper into your tissues and are the ones responsible for transferring heat.

Benefits Of Infrared Light 

Infrared has been used for many different things, and one of the best ways to enjoy its benefits is through infrared saunas. These use infrared waves to heat your body, so you get all the benefits of a sauna treatment and the medicinal effects of infrared. One of the most discussed benefits of infrared is how it stimulates energy production in the cells, which can have an incredible effect on your metabolism. Efficient weight loss, increase in muscle mass, reduced fatigue and muscle pain are just some of the other benefits found in patients who undergo infrared therapy, making it a great choice for athletes and just someone looking to increase their well being [6].

Infrared Saunas: Explained! -Infrared is a form of light that is invisible to the naked eye -It belongs to the electromagnetic spectrum, right next to visible light -Infrared light is nothing new; it's used in remote controls, heat lamps and is even the reason why many distant stars and planets are discovered -Infrared light is completely harmless and doesn't pose a threat to your health; in fact, it is often used throughout the medical field -Infrared waves in an infrared sauna penetrate your body, vibrating water molecules which then generate heat within


[1] Barras Colin. (2015). "What is a ray of light made of?" Bbc.com, British Broadcasting Company, 31 July 2015, http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150731-what-is-a-ray-of-light-made-of.

[2] Crockett Christopher (2019). "Word of the week: Electromagnetic spectrum." Earthsky.org, EarthSky, 7 September 2019, https://earthsky.org/space/what-is-the-electromagnetic-spectrum.

[3] "Infrared Waves" Science.nasa.gov, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2010, https://science.nasa.gov/ems/07_infraredwaves.

[4] Aboud Salam, Altermimi Ammar, Al-Hilphy Asaad, Yi-Chen Lee, Cacciola Francesco. (2019). "A Comprehensive Review on Infrared Heating Applications in Food Processing." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, November 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891297/.

[5] Dold Brian. (2016). "Infrared Radiation in Modern Technology." Researchgate.net, Research Gate, April 2016, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301553918_Infrared_Radiation_in_Modern_Technology.

[6] Vatansever Fatma, Hamblin Michael. (2012). "Far infrared radiation (FIR): its biological effects and medical applications." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 16 October 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3699878/.