Have you heard of red light therapy? I’ve been hearing more and more about it lately and I was intrigued to try it myself. I’m *kind of* a sucker for trendy wellness things if you couldn’t already tell (what can I say, I’m usually willing to try anything once!). But after diving into learning more about this and using myself as a guinea pig, I cannot wait to share more about my findings with you!
This post contains affiliate links. This is for informational purposes only and not intended to be medical advice. Consult with your doctor before starting any new treatments!
This post covers:
- Red Light Therapy 101 & Proven Benefits
- How to Use Red Light Therapy at Home & FAQ
- How often should you perform red light therapy? How long?
- Is red light therapy safe? Are there risks?
- Do you have to wear goggles or eye protection while using it?
- Is red light therapy like a Vitamin D/tanning bed/sunshine lamp?
- How does it differ from blue light therapy?
- What’s the best time of day to do it?
- Does it hurt and can you feel it?
- Before & After: My Personal Red Light Therapy Results
- What’s the Best Red Light Device to Use? (& a Discount!)
Red Light Therapy 101 & Proven Benefits
First things first, what is red light therapy (RLT)? 🚨 As you might remember from science class, there is a spectrum of light and wavelengths 🌈 and each affect the body in different ways. Red light devices are made to emit low-power red wavelengths which can be absorbed into the skin as deep as 8-10 millimeters. At this depth, the light can reach all skin layers including hair follicles, nerves, and blood vessels.
Without going into too much detail, red and near-infrared (NIR) spectrums of light stimulate mitochondria in our cells. We need mitochondria because it plays a big role in making energy for each little cell and suppressing inflammation in the body!
In short, you can think of RLT as “feeding and supercharging” your cells 🧫
You might also hear it referred to as photobiomodulation (PBM), low-level light therapy (LLLT), or lightbox therapy. It’s common for red light panels to be combined with near-infrared light (NIR) which is invisible to the naked eye and can penetrate the body even deeper into the tissues beneath the skin!
RLT is a bit controversial as to whether or not it’s effective. But it has been studied and the evidence is pretty compelling to me! Interest was first sparked by NASA in 1993 when researchers used red light to foster plant growth, but incidentally discovered that small cuts and lesions on their bodies were healing rapidly!
In general, think of RLT as a broad wellness practice that can assist your body in multiple ways!
Some of the benefits include:
- Activated lymphatic system
- Better blood flow, circulation, and nitric oxide levels in tissues
- Boosted collagen production
- Chronic pain relief
- Decreased inflammation
- Enhanced thyroid function
- Faster wound healing
- Greater quality of sleep
- Improved skin conditions and lowered effects of oxidative stress: acne, scarring, rosacea, stretch marks, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis, wrinkles, eczema, sun damage! (overall, more firm and even skin tone)
- Regulated circadian rhythm
- Stimulated hair growth
How to Use Red Light Therapy at Home & FAQ
Using red light therapy is not complicated! You can use a device on different areas of your body wherever you want a more targeted treatment. If you’re using it for aesthetics such as wrinkles or rosacea, use it near your face. If you have pain, put the light near the area that hurts. Easy peasy!
There are various panel sizes available on the market; basically the larger the device, the more area you will cover during a session! It all depends on your intended usage and goals. I have a small panel and mostly use it near my face and neck.
Either way, keep the device about 6-18 inches away from your skin. Wear minimal clothing and expose as much skin as possible (this includes products that could get in the way like sunscreen, heavy skincare, or makeup!).
How often should you perform red light therapy? How long?
If it’s your first time, you’ll want to start slow! Start with 2-3 minute sessions and slowly work your way up to 10 minutes over the course of 2-3 weeks. This is so your body can acclimate! You can do RLT daily (recommended use is 4-10 times a week). If you use your device more than once a day on the same area, wait at least 6 hours in between sessions.
Avoid going more than 15 minutes in a session. With red light therapy, more is NOT always better. Lower doses have been found to be better than high doses! There is an upside-down U-shaped response curve when it comes to RLT benefits. Ultimately, using it too much can negate the positive effects and be counterproductive.
You may think that dedicating ten minutes per day is a lot! I thought so too, but it’s like a forced meditation for me every morning. Just set a timer and it’s done before you know it. We easily spend ten minutes mindlessly scrolling on our phones, so you CAN make it happen! 👊
Is red light therapy safe? Are there risks?
It is safe; red light therapy is actually an FDA-approved treatment for chronic joint pain, wound healing, hair loss, wrinkles, and acne. There are virtually no known side effects. However, as I mentioned earlier, you CAN have too much of a good thing and RLT should not be used in excess.
Some devices have lights that flicker which can be triggering if you have a history of epilepsy or seizures. The good news is that there are devices that don’t pulse or flash and just have a continuous light (look for flicker-free lights).
Additionally, further research is needed when it comes to using red light therapy on known cancer. So avoid using RLT if you have been diagnosed.
Lastly, when it comes to pregnancy, there is a lot of mixed information out there as to whether or not it’s safe. It’s still a gray area, so check with your doctor first to be sure! 🤰
Do you have to wear goggles or eye protection while using it? 🥽
While there is a growing amount of evidence suggesting that red light can be beneficial to certain eye conditions, the lights themselves can be SUPER BRIGHT, and more research is needed to be extra sure. So you definitely don’t want to have them open or stare directly into the lights. Most devices come with a pair of goggles or you can wear sunglasses with your eyes closed 👁
I personally can just keep my eyes closed and that’s enough for me. But see what you can tolerate! Note: Do not use RLT if you’ve just gotten Lasik eye surgery and are healing.
Is red light therapy like a Vitamin D/tanning bed/sunshine lamp?
This is a common misconception and people often think red light devices are like tanning beds or sunshine lamps. There is no tanning effect from a red light device and the wavelengths of light that RLT provides are NOT the same UVB wavelengths that start Vitamin D production in our bodies! 🔆
BUT! There are some other cool things that red light can help with when it comes to Vitamin D and sun exposure.
For instance, red light can prep and safeguard skin to optimize UVB light; researchers have found that red and NIR lights shield against high-energy light. One study showed a lesser sunburn when longer wavelengths of light were used on a test subject’s arm beforehand. RLT has also been shown to thicken skin which is correlated with more cells that can absorb UVB and produce Vitamin D.
What this basically means is: When our bodies are exposed to red light, they are better equipped and less susceptible to sun damage. And therefore, a chance to get more Vitamin D! You can read more about this relationship here.
How does it differ from blue light therapy?
Blue light therapy is another popular treatment. Maybe you’ve seen those LED face shields or have seen it offered during facials. They can be used together to complement each other, and there is some overlap with the benefits for skin conditions! 🌀
This is an area that can be really confusing and probably warrants a whole nother blog post, so I am not going to go into too much detail. Essentially, red and blue lights have different wavelengths on the spectrum. Blue light has a shorter wavelength but contains more energy. Blue light therapy is more frequently used for acne because it reaches the sebaceous oil glands in the skin and kills compounds inside acne bacteria. Red light therapy also helps control acne, but that’s more from a standpoint of cell rejuvenation and lowering inflammation!
Another key difference is how the lights affect us. Blue light makes us feel alert and awake and therefore can disrupt sleep (why I wear blue-blocking glasses at nighttime!). It can cause eye strain too (like, if you’ve been staring at a computer screen all day). Red light does not! Plus, RLT has more wellness perks 👍
What’s the best time of day to do it?
The short answer: anytime! I could not find any conclusive answers to this because most of the studies done around RLT do not take into account the time of day. In addition, it does not disrupt sleep, unlike blue light. RLT can also have a calming effect for some people so they prefer to do it later in the day or before bedtime. Some people swear by it for restful sleep and feeling less “blah” when they wake up!
I personally like to do RLT in the mornings and use it as a time to sit quietly and gather myself for the day. It makes me feel centered and puts me in a good headspace.
Related post: “My Intentional Morning Wellness Routine (It Might Surprise You!)”
And now for the long answer! 😄
If we think about when red light is naturally more abundant in nature, it’s during sunrise and sunset (sunlight is scattered and there is less UV/blue light). Therefore, those might be ideal times to use your device! But, now that we know what we know about red light exposure equipping our bodies to optimize UVB light…it kind of makes sense that morning is an even better time to do it if you will be getting outside during the day!
You may have also heard about the importance of getting sunlight right away in the morning! While RLT shouldn’t be used to replace your morning sunshine, it’s a simple way to get more natural light since a lot of us don’t get adequate amounts. One study showed that exposure to early daylight makes your melatonin production occur sooner, so you fall asleep more easily at night. Yay for regulated circadian rhythms!
Does it hurt and can you feel it?
No, it isn’t painful at all and you cannot feel it. It’s just light! If anything, you might be able to feel the warmth that is being emitted from the device when it’s turned on. It’s quite relaxing! 😌
Before & After: My Personal Red Light Therapy Results
Ready for some before and after photos?! I know you are! I did about 10 minutes of therapy (almost) daily for 12 weeks. I wasn’t expecting anything miraculous and was mostly interested in seeing if the redness on my face would calm down. I had some mild rosacea on my cheeks and minor pigmentation from sun damage and leftover from acne.
The photos below are in similar lighting with no makeup and no photo retouching. I did not make any major modifications to my skincare routine during this time either.
Overall, I did not notice any DRASTIC changes, but I definitely saw some SUBTLE improvements!
Mostly, a more even skin tone and less redness. The biggest change was on my cheeks! I am actually a bit shocked now that I look at the before and after photos. The discoloration and broken capillaries on my cheeks have gotten so much less intense!
I did experience fewer breakouts while doing treatment (of course, there are many things that can contribute to acne such as diet and hormones, so I can’t totally attribute it ALL to red light therapy). But if I DID get a pimple, it seemed to subside quicker than usual which is really awesome! I even feel like my skin became slightly more firm and tight.
I also had some moles removed and used RLT religiously after treatment, and wow, they healed REALLY quickly!
Just keeping it real: Some things that did not improve…
Additionally, I did NOT really observe any drastic changes with fine lines or wrinkles. I don’t really have many wrinkles to begin with, but I was looking to see if a very faint line on my forehead and crow’s feet area would fade. Those probably need more time to see noticeable outcomes.
(Note: It can take about 2-3 months of use before you start seeing results)
As far as sleep quality, it’s hard to say if mine improved or not 😴 I already sleep decently and incorporate other remedies such as magnesium and CBD oil. But this certainly didn’t hurt or make it worse. I also have not really done RLT at night, usually just the mornings!
I also don’t have pain on a daily basis, but sometimes I get headaches (who doesn’t?!). I will experiment with red light therapy next time I have a migraine or throbbing headache and see if it helps. I have heard that it does!
I think it’s important to note that RLT shouldn’t be seen as some magical cure-all treatment that gives you instant results. I view it more as a wellness tool that is an added bonus to a healthy lifestyle!
A testimonial from one of my readers:
“I’ve been using red light therapy religiously after I had my baby. I had to have a C-section and I am convinced that it helped with healing and inflammation tremendously!” –Esther @_estherpowell
(she uses the same brand and model that I do!)
What’s the Best Red Light Device to Use?
After researching multiple in-home devices and reading reviews, I decided to purchase a MitoMIN Red Light panel to try! Mito has various models and sizes that you can buy, but I mainly wanted something compact for targeted treatment on my face and wasn’t looking for a giant full-body panel. The MIN is their smallest panel (aside from their little portable ones). Overall, I am really happy with it!
(NOTE: I have the 1.0 Min version. Mito now has a 2.0 upgraded version so it may look slightly different than my photos!)
You can use the code ORGANICALLYBECCA for a 5% discount on a Mito!
The code automatically applies if you use my link.
About the MitoMin:
- Dimensions are 12″ x 9″ x 3″
- Delivers 14,503 joules in a 10-minute session (high irradiance)
- 60 flicker-free LED lights (30 Red 660nm, 30 Near Infrared 850nm)
- Comes with eye goggles and a pulley hook to hang the device on the wall
- FDA registered
- A built-in timer
- Easy to set up and the fans are quiet
- Independently third-party tested and validated
- You can switch on Near Infrared (NIR) separately
- Has an adjustable stand on the back (this is NEW with the 2.0 model!)
- Much cheaper than other devices on the market (for example, a Joovv of similar size is about $666 MORE!)
- Has a low EMF (electromagnetic field) output because it only contains the electrical components needed to power and cool the lights and no Bluetooth/Wifi. There are no detectable levels of EMF when you use it at 6+ inches away.
- 2-year warranty and a 60-day trial period to return it for a full refund if it didn’t work out for me (but thankfully it did!). A lot of companies charge a restock fee if you return, but Mito does not.
- Uses a 60 degree narrow light beam angle (as opposed to 90 degree wide beam that some manufacturers use) which essentially means the power density doesn’t drop as quickly further away from the panel
- Kind of heavy/bulky for how small it is (6 pounds)
- You can really only target one area of your body at a time with the smaller device
While it’s not perfect, you really can’t beat the value for the price and it’s suitable for my particular needs! I am so curious to see what else I notice with my skin and health after using the Mito long-term. Thumbs up from me! 👍
You can use the code ORGANICALLYBECCA for a 5% discount on a Mito!
The code automatically applies if you use my link.
Perhaps you are on the fence about red light therapy or don’t think it’s legit. But I am a fan and have been seeing results firsthand! Let me know if you have any additional questions below in the comments, or if you have your own experience that you’d like to share! I’d looooooove to hear it.
Sources & Studies Referenced:
- Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
- Cleveland Clinic: Red Light Therapy
- Green Tea And Red Light: A Powerful Duo In Skin Rejuvenation
- Infrared And Skin: Friend Or Foe
- Infrared Therapy For Chronic Low Back Pain
- LED Phototherapy For Skin Rejuvenation
- Low-Intensity Light Therapy: Exploring The Role Of Redox Mechanisms
- Low-Level Laser In The Treatment Of Patients With Hypothyroidism
- Low-Level Laser Therapy: A NASA Discovery Has Current Applications In Orthopedics
- Mechanisms And Applications Of The Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Photobiomodulation
- Red/NIR Light Stimulates Release Of An Endothelium Dependent Vasodilator And Rescues Vascular Dysfunction
- Red Light and the Sleep Quality and Endurance Performance of Chinese Female Basketball Players
- The Growth Of Human Scalp Hair Mediated By Visible Red Light Laser And LED Sources
- The Nuts And Bolts Of Low-Level Laser Therapy