Testicular Tanning: Men's Health Miracle or Scam?

Testicular Tanning: Men's Health Miracle or Scam?


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Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to medical devices.

There's been a ton of controversy recently about a term coined by celebrity and political pundit Tucker Carlson called “testicular tanning.” This refers to the use of red light therapy or sunlight on the testicles with the goal of increasing testosterone (T) levels.

But is there any research backing for testicular tanning? Does it actually improve T levels? Is it dangerous? How do real users who tried testicular tanning describe its effects? And what do doctors have to say about the practice?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze medical studies to give our take on whether testicular tanning is likely to support optimal T levels or if it's a waste of time and money.

We'll feature real user reviews, share comments on the topic from doctors and other medical professionals, and discuss why testosterone in men may be dropping worldwide.

Does Testicular Tanning Increase Testosterone?

We can't find much medical research suggesting that red light therapy applied to the testicles (or to the body generally) improves testosterone levels.

One clinical trial examined the effects of full-body red light therapy on a variety of health parameters in healthy young male athletes, including heart rate variability, cortisol levels, and testosterone. 

The researchers found that red light therapy had no effect on testosterone levels, though it should be noted that the participants were 18 year old professional athletes, which is a group likely to have optimal T levels to begin with.

An animal study found that red light therapy increased sperm damage and had no impact on testosterone levels in rams. 

As we documented in our article on the benefits of a sauna, which include potential reductions in blood pressure and pain, infrared saunas which use red lights do have some potential health benefits; we just can't find any proof this technology impacts testosterone specifically.

A board-certified dermatologist and health influencer named "Dr Dray" has a video on some of the testicular tanning research that has over 46,000 views:

Mainstream Press Gets it Wrong

We’ve been disappointed by the coverage of this topic in mainstream media. Rather than analyzing the health claim based on medical data to provide consumers with valuable information, much of the coverage has been emotionally-driven rhetoric without any medical backing.

An InsideHook article written by a man named Kirk Hook on the topic of testicular tanning states the following: “‘Red light therapy’ doesn’t appear to be a thing anyone is talking about professionally or medically, basically because the idea makes no sense.”

Kirk Hook doesn't appear to have any medical credentials and this conclusion is false and unscientific. Red light therapy (otherwise referred to as “low level light therapy”) returns 7,344 results in PubMed, a free online database of medical studies.

While red light therapy may not be effective for improving testosterone, it has promising early results for other health effects, as discussed earlier in this article. 

An article published The Guardian on testicular tanning claims that “most men have far more testosterone than they need,” without providing any proof, suggesting that the population-level decline in testosterone has no negative effects on men's health.

The author is named Sam Wolfson and he describes himself as a “freelance music writer” in his author bio. He has no apparent medical credentials and it’s concerning that a major publisher is allowing this author to give medical advice to the masses.

This commentary is uncited and demonstrably false, as optimal testosterone levels in men are associated with physical and mental wellbeing. A thorough medical review of testosterone levels and psychological health status found that men with lower testosterone (in the normal range) had higher levels of anxiety and depression than men with average to above-average testosterone.

Testosterone therapy is highly effective at treating depression in men with low testosterone, as documented in a 2019 meta-study.

We find it unfortunate that many mainstream journalists are not fulfilling their basic research obligations to help inform the public in an objective manner, and instead allow their desire to denigrate the messenger to so greatly influence their "reporting." 

Why Is Male Testosterone Dropping?

Male testosterone is dropping precipitously in industrialized societies. A medical review published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2007 analyzed testosterone levels across nearly two decades.

The researchers found that there was an “age-independent decline” in testosterone that remained even when factors known to lower testosterone like obesity were adjusted for. This suggests that there are environmental factors causing the decline.

A more recent study, published in 2021, found that adolescent and young adult men in the US experienced a statistically significant decrease in testosterone between the years 2000 and 2016.

In less than two decades, the study authors noted that the average testosterone level in the young adults tested dropped from around 600 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) to around 450 ng/dl. This is a population-level testosterone drop of around 25% in 20 years which is significant.

 But what's causing this drop?

There are many theories as to why male testosterone is declining so significantly. The answer is likely multifactorial, but one of the theories backed by scientific research is the influence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our environment.

Microplastics and plasticizing chemicals are a byproduct of industrialization, and are documented in human and animal studies to negatively affect testosterone in males.

The class of chemicals that make plastics soft, called “plasticizers,” disrupt endocrine function and appear to bio-accumulate in the tissue of mammals.

Consumers who are concerned about the potential effects of plastics on T levels may want to check out our article on the best water filters, where we discuss filtration products that have been shown in independent tests to remove plastic from tap water.

But how do real users describe their experience testicular tanning? We'll discuss in the next section.

Real Users Try Testicular Tanning

A YouTube creator named "Alexander Lasarev" has a video on health influencer Ben Greenfield trying testicular tanning for health benefits:

A TikTok creator named Christian claims to have experienced health benefits from testicular tanning:

@cvcwellness Do you sun your balls man? 🌞☄️☄️🕺 I’m a big fan of sunbathing overall, and the esoteric benefits of soaking up healing photons... bare like our ancestors. Charges up the mitochondria, vitamin d3 synthesis, melanin production, circulation, and a bonus is tan balls.🤷🏼‍♂️ Let me know in the comments your experience or thoughts👇🏼 #RewildYourLifestyle #testosterone #spermcount #menshealth #mensphysique #ancestral #ancientancestors #ancestralhealing ♬ original sound - Christian🌞Men’s Health Coach

Our Testosterone Support Picks

Bulletproof Magnesium is our top testosterone support pick, because magnesium is a mineral that is clinically shown to increase free and total testosterone in athletes and in sedentary individuals.

Bulletproof Magnesium costs under $17 at the time of updating this article.

Momentous Tongkat Ali is our top herbal testosterone support pick, and costs under $20 at the time of updating this article.

Tongkat ali's effects on testosterone were reviewed in a 2022 meta-study, and the researchers concluded that "A significant improvement in total testosterone levels after [tongkat ali] treatment was mostly reported in both healthy volunteers and hypogonadal men."

Panax ginseng extract is an herbal libido enhancer, and was shown in a medical review published in the Spermatogenesis journal to increase sex drive in men when taken daily.

Illuminate Labs sells a Panax Ginseng Extract supplement which is third-party tested, and costs only $15 on a subscription basis.

All of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider unhealthy.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We don’t recommend testicular tanning for testosterone improvement, as we can't find any legitimate medical research backing its efficacy. 

We would recommend that patients planning on purchasing a tanning device like a red light therapy device clear it with their doctor first, because the power and wavelength of light determines its relative risk.

Male testosterone levels are dropping population-wide, and the cause may be environmental pollution including microplastics, as well as the growing obesity epidemic.

Men are eager to find natural ways to improve T levels, but this doesn't appear to be a logical one to pursue.

Red light therapy does have some potential benefits for pain, inflammation, skin conditions and other health outcomes.

Most of the mainstream press coverage on this topic is atrocious and uncited. Reporters at major media companies covering this topic have, for the most part, failed their obligation to analyze the topic at hand, consult with relevant experts and provide useful facts to the public.