Benefits of Red Light Therapy

June 05, 2021 5 min read

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

The healing effects of light therapy have been used for centuries.  In the late 1800s it was used to treat skin tuberculosis (TB), and NASA used it in the 1980s to grow plants in outer space. Fast forward to the modern-day and light therapy has become increasingly popular in professional skincare treatments and at-home devices. When your cells are hit with the red light wavelengths, a host of regenerative effects occur, leading to potential benefits like younger-looking skin, enhanced muscle repair, and diminished scarring. [source]

What Is Red Light Therapy? 

Red light therapy uses a specific natural wavelength of light for therapeutic benefits, both medical and cosmetic. It is a combination of light-emitting diode (LED) that emits infrared light and heat. [source]

It is important to note that red light therapy is not the same as UV rays from the sun or what is found in tanning beds, so there is no increased risk of skin cancer or UV damage.

You may have heard of red light therapy (RLT) by its other names, which include: photobiomodulation (PBM), low level light therapy (LLLT), soft laser therapy, cold laser therapy, biostimulation, photonic stimulation, or low-power laser therapy (LPLT). [source]

Today we are going to talk specifically about the benefits of red light therapy, otherwise known as photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Red light therapy is minimally invasive, as you just hold the light over the area you are treating. It doesn’t need to destroy your skin tissue in order to rebuild it, unlike laser therapy or abrasion. 

When you expose your skin to the red LEDs, it creates friction and heat below the skin’s surface. This targets part of your cells called mitochondria, otherwise known as the ‘power generators’ of your cells and energizes the cells in this way that increases their activity, causing them to reproduce faster. 

Cells take in energy through their mitochondria, which tells them it’s time to divide. Using red light therapy is like a boost to your skin cells’ metabolism. Each time a skin cell splits from the energy of red LEDs, it creates two new copies of itself. As new cells emerge, they displace old, damaged cells that contribute to signs of aging. [source]

Experts believe this helps cells repair themselves and become healthier as this spurs healing in skin and muscle tissue.

Dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, explains that red light therapy utilizes low wavelengths of red light as a treatment because, at this specific wavelength, it is considered bio-active in human cells and can directly and specifically affect and improve cellular function. [source]

Red light can penetrate our top layer of skin and into the deep levels of skin called the dermis. This is where our collagen, elastin, and other essential proteins reside. Red light photons are absorbed by our cells and converted to energy. This energy produced can then stimulate the production of collagen, elastin, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which creates more energy for your cells to use. It increases oxygenation to your skin and improves circulation while also repairing damaged tissue; this leads to improved skin texture from increased collagen production and oxygenation. Red light also has the unique ability to decrease inflammation and bacteria, and even treat precancerous lesions, says Zubritsky. [source]

A recent study with 136 volunteers found that the treated subjects experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, decreased skin roughness, and measured collagen density. The blinded clinical evaluation of photographs confirmed significant improvement in the intervention groups compared with the control. Here are just two examples of the improvements study participants saw in their skin. [source]   

The Benefits of Red Light Therapy Beyond The Surface

Researchers have known about red light therapy for a while. There are some small studies showing the benefits; however, they don’t know if it’s better than other types of treatment used to help you heal. Red light therapy may help with:


  • Dementia: In one small study, people with dementia who got regular near-infrared light therapy on their heads and through their noses for 12 weeks had better memories, slept better, and were angry less often.
  • Sun damage: In one small study, red light therapy was seen to mend sun damage
  • Cold sores:  Red light therapy can help accelerate healing time and decrease pain associated with these lesions. Though the science is not yet fully understood, one hypothesis is that low-level light therapy “seems to enhance the natural immune response against skin infection by increasing primary cytokines that are activated promptly after bacterial or viral intrusion."
  • Sports Rehab & Recovery: Repairs ligaments, tendons, muscles, stiffness & soreness from muscle and joint fatigue.
  • Reducing Chronic Pain & Disorders: Reduces inflammation, nerve damage and pain from auto-immune conditions and other disorders.
  • Soothing Arthritis & Joint Pains: Including Rheumatoid & Osteoarthritis, disc-degeneration.
  • Wounds and Injury: Healing from sprains, strains, bone bruises and post surgical procedures.
  • Skin Conditioning & Anti-Aging:  Improves and reduces Psoriasis, Acne, Eczema, Dermatitis, scar tissue and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production.
  • Weight Loss:  Lose inches by shrinking unwanted fat cells along with a holistic nutritional plan optimized for weight-loss and preventative maintenance.
  • Hair loss: One study found that men and women with androgenetic alopecia (a genetic disorder that causes hair loss) who used an at-home RLT device for 24 weeks grew thicker hair. People in the study who used a fake RLT device didn’t get the same results.
  • Osteoarthritis: One study found red and infrared light therapy cut osteoarthritis-related pain by more than 50%.

Recommendations For Use 

Red light therapy can be performed in a professional setting as part of a dermatological procedure, as part of a facial treatment by an esthetician, or with an at-home device. Both professional and home tools come in a large variety of devices, but are most often found in a single or tri-panel handheld wand, mask, or even a full-body bed or stand-up panel. 

We also use red light therapy treatment at Evolve. The professional versions are going to be more effective, and more potent which is why we use Prism Light Pod.  It is the industry’s most-powerful, safe and non-invasive full-body red light therapy system at Evolve. Our bed has over 14,000 deep penetrating LED lights within 1-4 inches of your entire body all at once. 

Be cautious of companies using beds with essentially bulbs painted pink and claiming "Red Light Therapy". We refer to them as "pink bulbs" or basically tanning bulbs painted pink. This will not give you the benefits of Red Light Therapy. 

The jury is still out on the exact ideal frequency for red light therapy, but we recommend 3-5 times a week for maximum benefits. The treatments are painless and require no downtime. The benefits are cumulative, so it's essential to be consistent to reap all the benefits, which can often take four to six weeks to show. [source]

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