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One of the key actives in my beloved E’shee Clinical Esthetic Elixir of Life KI Therapy Serum ($189 in the shop) is Far Infrared Ceramic Powder. It is also known as cFIR and in Asia it has been accorded such miraculous powers that any sensible person’s skept-ometer would go into the red zone. On the other hand, E’shee KI is a great serum and there are some plausible anti-aging claims made about far infrared (FIR). And there could be more to learn, such as whether it could help hair growth, and/or be incorporated into a device. I set off to find the truth about far infrared.
What is far infrared?
Far infrared energy is all around us. You and I emit infrared wavelengths. Apparently, our bodies radiate far infrared (FIR) energy through the skin at around 9.4 microns. Our palms emit slightly more, between 8 and 14 microns. In Asia, some believe that “palm” or Reiki healing is due to this infrared energy. Could this energy be behind “healing hands”? All very intriguing.
FIR is in the spectrum of invisible light, with a wavelength of 15 micrometers (or thereabouts). It is further along the spectrum from near infrared. Visible light (think blue and red LED lights are in the range of 400-700 nm.
Apparently all ceramics emit FIR (source). So does the mineral tourmaline, if ground to a fine powder. Nanoparticles of FIR-emitting ceramics can be sewn into clothes or – more rarely - included in a serum such as E’shee’s.
The more outlandish claims
In Asia, especially in Japan, FIR ceramic particles are woven into fabric (bedding, underwear, shoe insoles, my personal favorite is the leg wrap for horses – you name it) in the belief that it can slim you down, defy toxins and cell phone radiation, help you sleep and that’s just for starters. FIR “saunas” are credited with curing cancer, rheumatism and lowering blood pressure.
Substantiated claims and anti-aging
Despite all that silliness, there is plenty of tangible evidence that FIR is beneficial. I came across a study claiming that ceramic powder (cFIR) delayed the onset of muscle fatigue and other researchers have found that infrared rays emitted from ceramic powder could be used for increasing the period of storage and freshness of crops, fruits, and vegetables.
Far infrared waves are the longest rays in the light spectrum and easily absorbed by the body to a depth of up to three inches. There they can do useful things. Wound healing being one of them. A Japanese study found that wound healing “was significantly more rapid with than without FIR.”
The study also revealed “greater collagen regeneration and infiltration of fibroblasts that expressed transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1).”
But how does it actually work?
The mechanisms by which FIR works remain unclear. Speculation that it has something to do with boosting blood flow in the skin was scotched by a study on rats (source). However, the aforementioned Japanese study suggests that it might have to do with encouraging the TGF-β1 growth factor or the activation of fibroblasts.
A plausible explanation that I came across made it sound a little like ultrasound or LED in that the wavelengths vibrate on water molecules and resonate with cellular frequencies (source).
Skin temperature increases when submitted to FIR and this could be responsible for the therapeutic effects of saunas and lamps. Although I also read that “levels of FIR that do not produce any detectable skin heating can also have biological effects.” Ceramic will remain cool to the touch but still seems to have therapeutic effects. The problem is that no one really understands how. As Michael Hamblin at Harvard Medical School’s Dept. of Dermatology says, if non-heating FIR could be proved to have real and significant effects, then future applications could include FIR emitting bandages and dressings.
FIR in skincare
FIR ceramic powder is in E’shee KI, as mentioned above, and in the brand’s recently introduced Clinical Esthetic Alpha and Omega Gene Therapy Eye Cream ($284 in the shop).