Flicker – facts or misconceptions?

Flicker is any change in the brightness of electrical light. The healthy person won’t be able to see it with the bare eye or even, but long-term exposure could cause damages or cause sensitization. There seems to be the widespread misconception out there, that flickering may be harmful or also compromise the therapeutic window of red-light therapy. 1

Incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes or LEDs – all emit some amount of flicker.2 The lack of scientifically based education and open, transparent communication on the topic of flicker is what brings unnecessary fear. Depending on who you’d ask, there are numerous opinions on flicker rates of red-light therapy devices in the biohacking community. Some believe that flicker can cause stress, eye strain, and headaches, for example. Now, most of our everyday household lighting has (potentially) harmful rates of flicker. Now even though most of us do not notice the flicker of LED screens and lights on our devices or in our homes and offices, but our brains pick up on this flicker, which can potentially cause stress.

Table of Content

What causes flicker?

The power grid of an electrical device runs on “alternating current” (AC). AC typically occurs at 50 Hz or 60 Hz. Hertz is the number of cycles a current alternates per second. 60Hz means the electrical current oscillates back and forth 60 times each second. This fast voltage change gets into the light bulbs, causing the problem of flicker in all lights that we plug into the wall. Because we use LEDs in all of our devices, we will be focusing on the flicker rate from them. LED lights flicker because, with the alternating current, they are turning on and off many times per second as the current changes directions.1, 3
Flicker from a red-light panel may be a good thing.4 Generally, it’s not suitable for working or general lighting to have a flicker. Still, for short time use (as red-light therapy is) it might be worthwhile. Deeper tissue could be penetrated in less treatment time, and there could be some activation energy necessary in our cells that can only be activated through pulsing.1
It is highly unlikely that a high-quality red-light therapy device (like our Luminousred devices) can cause stress due to the flicker.

But it mainly comes down to these three factors you should keep in mind:

  • Cheap LEDs show a significantly higher flicker rate
  • Cheap LEDs have higher blue light emission, which is problematic especially after dark
  • More low-cost low-quality devices don’t (have to) undergo verified data, safety regulations, and third-party testing

To summarize, flicker is present in all AC driven lights.
On top of that, thousands, medical studies have used LED lights and haven’t found side-effects of too much flicker. If there were such effects, they would be reported, requirements or standards would be enforced, and surely the market would follow suit. Red-light therapy is also under FDA approval. Pulsing might be beneficial and even is commonly used in research designs. But pulsing is generally a different occurrence than a flicker. Red-light therapy is usually applied to the body for a short(er) period compared to other electronic devices and lights we surround ourselves with daily. We know this kind of light setting can cause neurological discomfort or health problems. It remains a highly subjective topic, as some are more sensitive to flicker exposure than others, and a lack of education and transparent communication brings up a lot of negative emotions with fear being one of them. The healthy and fully functional person might not feel flicker effects, but long-term exposure may still manifest damages or cause sensitization.

What do you get with us here at Luminousred?

A completely flicker-free device! Yes, pulsing may have positive health effects, but we believe that if you want a pulsing light device, you will get specifically one that can do so. For example, there is the Lucia light, check it out. As already mentioned, we take great pride in high-quality components, and so for devices, that’s why our LEDs are fantastic anyways. Read our article on the hearts of every Luminousred device here. We don’t know sufficiently enough about long-term effects, which is why we have built-in better drivers, which eliminate flicker. We do this for you. Because we care about you, it’s a personal preference, and just like we send safety goggles with every order (because some find red light very intense), we want you to feel comfortable overall. So, no flicker for you and have fun enjoying all the benefits associated with red light therapy.

Sources and References:

[1] IEEE Recommended Practices for Modulating Current in High-Brightness LEDs for Mitigating Health Risks to
Viewers. Mar. 2015
[3] Designing to Mitigate the Effects of Flicker in LED Lighting. Sept. 2014
[4] Flickering LED Light Treatment can Pave Way to Alzhemer Cure. Dec. 2016

This blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, illness or health issue.

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