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What is Red Light Therapy? Your Complete Guide

What is Red Light Therapy? Your Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

More people are looking for ways to regain their youthful appearance and minimize their chronic pain — and red-light therapy is one of the answers. For years, dermatologists and other physicians have been using red light therapy as a non-invasive procedure to assist cellular regeneration, providing pain relief and anti-aging benefits, such as wrinkle reduction.

Thanks to portable LED devices, it is easier than ever to use red light therapy at home. Whether you own a device already or want to investigate the technology before buying, here’s everything you need to know about red light therapy.

Table of Contents

What is LED Light Therapy?

Though LED technology dates back to the 1960s, NASA was the first to use a narrower wavelength of light for clinical applications in the 1990s.

While we all know ultraviolet (UV) rays are harmful, light-emitting diode (LED) lights produce wavelengths that are helpful to the skin. LED light therapy uses LEDs that produce non-invasive, non-UV wavelengths to promote cellular growth and provide relief for a range of conditions.

LEDs use semiconductor chips composed of diodes on a reflective surface to produce light. How the semiconductor is composed determines the wavelengths and colors of the light, such as blue, yellow, red, and infrared. Different wavelengths (colors) of light penetrate different skin depths and treat various conditions.


What is Red Light Therapy?

A form of LED light therapy, red light therapy (RLT) is a therapeutic treatment that uses red LEDs to produce low-level wavelengths that penetrate the skin in a non-invasive way. The mitochondria in the body’s skin cells absorb the red light to create energy, which experts believe helps with cellular repair and health.

Although red light therapy has a wide range of applications for both skincare and pain relief, much of the interest is in its applications for anti-aging.

Red light devices often produce visible light you can see and infrared wavelengths that are outside the visible spectrum. Today, red light therapy has a variety of clinical and consumer uses. Other names for red light therapy include:

  • Low-level laser therapy (LLLT)
  • Low-power laser therapy (LPLT)
  • Photobiomodulation (PBM)
  • Soft laser therapy
  • Cold laser therapy
  • Biostimulation
  • Photonic simulation

Most prominently, red LED devices are at-home anti-aging skincare treatments.


How Does Red Light Therapy Work and What Does it Do?

Red light therapy works by penetrating the skin and delivering light energy to the intended cells, though they don’t feel hot to the touch. This energizes the cells and encourages fast reproduction. The cells absorb the energy through the mitochondria, the part of the cell responsible for energy production, and it gives instructions to the cells to divide.

Using red light therapy enhances your skin cells’ metabolism, and encourage cell production. These new cells replace the damaged ones that contribute to the signs of aging, such as wrinkles, crow’s feet, and fine lines. The red light therapy can also reach far into the muscle, thus allowing cells in the muscle to regenerate faster, resulting in faster recovery and easing pain-related symptoms.

After the red LED light therapy treatments, the healthy skin cells and additional collagen help create a more youthful appearance. Red light therapy also assists with blood circulation, improving oxygen circulation and delivering nutrients to your skin’s surface. When your blood flow increases, your cells can regenerate faster.

Red light therapy doesn’t damage your skin tissue to encourage healthy cells to regrow in their place like laser therapy does. Instead, red light therapy is minimally invasive and simply promotes your body’s natural cellular regeneration.


How Effective is Red Light Therapy?

It’s not only customers and influencers who appreciate red light therapy. Doctors and scientists also vouch for the treatment. The following scientific research studies support the efficacy of red light therapy for clinical skin treatments.

Improved Complexion

Researchers in Germany conducted a randomized, controlled study of 136 volunteers. After 30 red LED treatment sessions of varying lengths, the subjects experienced an improved skin complexion and feeling, including less roughness and denser collagen.

Collagen is a naturally-occurring protein responsible for keeping your skin firm, elastic, and hydrated. As we get older, our bodies produce less collagen, which can cause sagging skin and wrinkles. This study shows that red light therapy can boost collagen production and improve the skin’s appearance.

Cell Regeneration

A study out of the Medical College of Wisconsin showed increases in growth of 155-171% of normal human skin cells in a lab. The same researchers reported that Navy SEALs experienced significantly faster healing of musculoskeletal training injuries using LED light therapies.

This study indicates that red light therapy can speed up wound recovery and return patients to a pre-injury state sooner than some traditional treatments. Red light therapy can also help individuals quickly recover from certain illnesses.

Muscle Pain

While many people choose to use red light therapy for the anti-aging benefits, it can also help reduce muscle pain and soreness. One study looked at how identical twins reacted to red LED light therapy, with one twin using the real thing and the other a placebo. The twin using real LED light therapy exhibited lower inflammation and muscle atrophy levels. The treatments also reduced fatigue and improved muscle strength and size.

The study results found that LED light therapy helped reduce muscle pain, damage, and atrophy. The study also noted that red LED light therapy could be used in rehabilitation and sports programs to increase muscle mass and speed recovery from injuries.

Home Devices

Professional dermatologist red light treatments can do a lot to help improve the skin’s complexion and reduce muscle pain, but LED devices you can use at home can be just as effective when used correctly.

An in-house consumer study by reVive Light Therapy® looked at how effective handheld red LED light devices reduced wrinkles. Participants used the devices for 10 weeks and reported their results at the end. A total of 97.4% of participants noted a significant improvement in their wrinkles, fine lines, and skin tone.

By the end of the study, participants reported additional improvements in:

  • Crow’s-feet
  • Brown spots
  • Wrinkles
  • Fine lines
  • Skin texture and tone

This study shows that handheld LED light devices can be just as effective as professional treatments at improving the appearance of the skin. Of course, the best evidence is your own. Many customers start with a small device and work up to larger devices as they become convinced of red light therapy’s potential for their skin.

The Bottom Line: What is Red Light Therapy Good for?

Red LED light therapy is effective at treating various skin and health conditions, including:

  • Anti-aging: Red light therapy is an anti-aging treatment that reduces wrinkles and other signs of aging.
  • Scar reduction: Red light therapy can also be used to minimize scars by reducing inflammation and supporting tissue regeneration.
  • Pain treatment: Combined red and infrared light therapy is an effective, natural form of pain relief for people suffering from nerve or muscle pain.
  • Muscle recovery: When combined with infrared light therapy, red light therapy can help athletes, weekend warriors, and everyone in between to speed muscle recovery and stimulate healing after working out.
  • Oral health: Red light therapy improves oral health by relieving pain. When paired with blue light treatment, the two can help prevent gum disease, whiten teeth, and combat oral microbes and bacteria that cause bad breath, all while reducing oral pain.

What are the Benefits of Red Light Therapy?

Many of the most popular benefits of red light therapy involve treating signs of age in the skin. Red light treatments can help reduce the appearance of:

  • Wrinkles
  • Crow’s feet
  • Dark spots

Additionally, red light therapy can be combined with blue light therapy to help with inflammation and circulation, which helps accelerate healing. Improving inflammation and circulation using both therapies can help accelerate healing related to acne and blemishes. Another popular application of red light therapy includes regenerating muscle tissue, gum tissue, and other areas of the body.

Other benefits of red light therapy include:

  • Reduces stretch marks
  • Improves skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea
  • Encourages hair growth for those with alopecia

Researchers are also looking into potential other benefits of red light therapy, including treating chemotherapy side effects, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, rheumatoid arthritis, and cold sore outbreaks caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Whether you’re working with a professional dermatologist or using an FDA-cleared home device, you can benefit from red light therapy. A home device allows you to be more flexible with your treatments since you won’t have to wait for an appointment. Using one of these devices yourself can also speed up your results, as you’ll be able to conduct treatments more often.

Red Light Therapy Pros and Cons

Before diving into red light therapy, it’s important to note the pros and cons of treatment. Weighing the pros and cons can help you determine if LED light therapy is right for you.

Pros of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy treatments have many advantages, including:

  • Health benefits: Red light therapy has been scientifically proven to help with the issues listed above — everything from anti-aging to pain relief to oral health.
  • Safety: Red light therapy is a safe, natural treatment for various pain points that otherwise require medication, co-pays, and doctor appointments.
  • Home devices: With at-home light therapy devices, red light therapy is easy and convenient, making it simple to implement in your skincare routine, workout plan, or other daily activities.
  • Non-invasive: Red light therapy is a relatively low-risk treatment with widespread health benefits and is easy to do.

Cons of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is a safe, non-invasive treatment that many people can benefit from. However, there are a few cons to consider before starting treatment:

  • Sensitivity to treatment: People sensitive to light may not be suited for light therapy. Before using your light therapy device, we recommend testing your device on a patch of your skin to identify any sensitivity before using it regularly. People taking Accutane or medications that make them more sensitive to light may not be suited for red light therapy.
  • Device quality: The quality of light therapy devices varies greatly, so it’s essential to make sure you choose a high-quality device (more on that later). Red light therapy is required to have FDA clearance in the United States. Many foreign devices marketed online do not have FDA clearance, and it is recommended to use only FDA-cleared devices to ensure safety and efficacy.

How is Red Light Therapy Different from Other Colors?

Different wavelengths of light have various effects on the cells of the body. Using different colors of light therapy can provide more substantial impacts depending on your treatment goals.

Red vs. Blue Light Therapy

While red light therapy stimulates the production of elastin and collagen, helping cells reproduce faster, blue light therapy penetrates the pores and eliminates bacteria. When combined, blue and red light therapy reduces inflammation, scarring, and other skincare issues. Combining these LED colors can speed up your recovery from acne and acne-related conditions rather than independently applying red or blue light therapy.

Red vs. Infrared Light Therapy

The key difference between red light and infrared light therapy is that red light therapy primarily works on the skin’s surface, while infrared light therapy penetrates deeper into the body. Red and infrared light therapy can be combined to provide relief from soreness at different tissue depths.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

LEDs generate less heat than standard light bulbs. Because of the lower temperature, you can use LED light therapy devices comfortably and regularly on the body. People with all skin tones can use and benefit from red light therapy.

The treatment is generally considered safe when using red light therapy in a dermatologist’s office or FDA-cleared home devices. Red and infrared LEDs produce no UV rays, so there’s no risk of skin cancer like there is from the sun.

That being said, it’s essential to protect your eyes during treatment. You should avoid looking directly into the LED light for long periods, and it’s recommended to use a pair of goggles that can block light when treating areas close to the eyes to prevent discomfort from the brightness. These goggles often come with many FDA-cleared home devices.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid overdoing light therapy. For example, we recommend a maximum of three treatments per day for most of our devices.

Side Effects of Red Light Therapy

As long as you protect your eyes and don’t have any light sensitivities, using an FDA-cleared home device poses no threat to your health.

However, there is the potential for rare side effects. If you’re using a topical photosensitizer medication, it can make you more sensitive to light. While the side effects are not common, a person can experience:

  • Redness and inflammation
  • Rashes or hives
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Peeling

Most of these side effects are mild and start to fade after a few days. The symptoms should disappear entirely within three weeks.

Using a home LED device without topical medication can prevent these side effects while still providing the same benefits. As long as you’re consistent with treatment, you’ll be able to benefit from red light therapy from the comfort of your home.

How Long Does Red Light Therapy Take to Work?

Like most skincare products, the effects of red light therapy take time. Each device has its own recommended usage time, usually from three to 10 minutes per treatment area. You can choose to use it once or up to 3x a day, or every other day, as your schedule allows – but consistency is key to seeing results.

Even so, improvement in skin tone and appearance will happen gradually. You may see minor results quickly, but you will continue to see the full effects over three to six months. With consistent daily use, you can expect to see results in 10 to 12 weeks. After that, you will want to use the device less frequently for maintenance.

It’s best to track your results with “before” and “after” photos. Once you have your new device, take pictures every day or week in the same position to best see the results over time. It’s also important to use your device correctly for the best results.

That’s what Aimee found while using her reVive Light Therapy® Essentials — Anti-Aging device — regular use leads to results. She says:

“I’m a believer! I researched a lot before using it for the first time. It’s important to understand the process — you must be consistent and vigilant, and daily treatment is required. I apply a green tea lotion before use, aloe lotion after. I did a 3-minute treatment every morning and another every night for one week. I halted all other usual routines, peels, masks, etc., to isolate the results of light therapy. OMG, I will never be without this device. The device has surpassed my expectations.”

Can You Do Red Light Therapy at Home?

While gyms, hospitals, and other facilities have red light therapy beds, they are often expensive per session and can be inconvenient. Now there are multiple at-home, portable red light therapy devices available for you to use.

Consider different light combinations if you’re looking for a red light therapy device to use at home. Depending on your treatment goals and pain points, you should search for devices that combine colors for maximum effectiveness, like a device for skin treatments with both red and blue light therapy, or a device for chronic pain with both red and infrared light therapy.

Of course, before you buy a red light therapy device to use at home, read the reviews to see if people experienced results with the product.

What Does Red Light Therapy Cost?

The cost of red light therapy will vary based on how you choose to seek treatment. If you work with a dermatologist, treatment can cost between $25-$200 per session, depending on where you go. You’d need to have multiple treatments to see any results, and a complete treatment package can cost thousands of dollars in some clinics.

Home devices are more affordable and pay for themselves after just a few treatments. The price of a home device can differ depending on the size and design of the device and the results you are looking for. FDA-cleared red light therapy devices can cost anywhere between $39 for a portable treatment device to over $400 for a more advanced model. But rest assured that your investment will pay for itself after just a couple of months of treatment, and you can continue to use them for long-lasting benefits.

The Best Red Light Therapy Devices for Skincare

Red light devices have come a long way from when NASA first used them for clinical purposes. Now anyone can buy them to perform red light treatments at home. Finding the right device depends on the device’s size and its range of applications.

Portable devices like Glō and the reVive® Essentials Compact LED Light Therapy device can be easily stored in a purse for on-the-go wrinkle treatments, while larger foldable panels like the dpl IIa can treat large areas of the face, neck, or back in single treatments.

Shop Our Red Light Therapy Devices for Anti-Aging and Muscle Relief

Red light therapy can help you find relief from bothersome skin conditions and muscle pain from the comfort of your home. At LED Technologies, Inc., we’re dedicated to providing our customers with innovative and affordable solutions to their skincare needs. All of our LED devices are FDA-cleared and proven to be effective at treating various skin conditions.

We work hard to continuously improve our products so they exceed our customers’ standards and expectations. See how red light therapy can benefit you and explore all of our reVive Light Therapy® anti-aging and dpl® pain relief and recovery devices today.

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