What is Red Light Therapy? - NinjAthlete Skip to content

What is Red Light Therapy?

From promoting skin health to alleviating muscle pain, this non-invasive therapy has found its place in both clinical settings and at-home treatments.

Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Red light therapy, a form of photobiomodulation, has garnered significant attention in recent years for its potential benefits in various medical and cosmetic applications.

From promoting skin health to alleviating muscle pain, this non-invasive therapy has found its place in both clinical settings and at-home treatments.

But what exactly is red light therapy, how does it work, and what are its proven benefits? Let's delve into it.

The Science Behind Red Light Therapy

girl getting red light therapy on her face

Red light therapy uses low-level wavelengths of light to treat a multitude of skin issues, pain, and other conditions.

It's crucial to distinguish this from UV light, which can damage the skin and lead to premature aging.

Instead, red light therapy penetrates approximately 8-10 millimeters into the skin, where it has positive effects on cellular energy and multiple nervous system and metabolic processes.

Cellular Activation

At the cellular level, red light is believed to stimulate the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, to produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is essentially the energy currency of the cell. With more ATP, cells function more efficiently, rejuvenate themselves, and repair damage.

Enhanced Circulation

Red light therapy also improves circulation, leading to a better oxygen supply to the cells.

This increase in oxygen accelerates the healing processes and reduces inflammation, making it an effective tool in managing pain and injury recovery.

Proven Benefits of Red Light Therapy

red light therapy benefits

The potential applications for red light therapy are vast, but a few stand out as particularly well-researched and established.

Skin Health

Red light therapy has shown promising results in reducing the signs of aging and treating various skin conditions.

It boosts collagen production, which improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles.

It's also been used to treat acne, rosacea, and scars, leaving the skin looking rejuvenated and youthful.

Pain Management

Studies have shown that red light therapy can be an effective tool for reducing pain and inflammation.

Whether it's joint pain from arthritis, muscle strains, or chronic pain conditions, red light treatment has provided relief to many.

Wound Healing

By promoting increased circulation and cellular activity, red light therapy can accelerate the wound healing process.

It can reduce inflammation and promote the production of fibroblasts and collagen, vital components in tissue repair.

Hair Growth

Some research suggests that red light therapy can stimulate the follicles to grow hair.

While it's not a definitive cure for baldness, it can be an adjunctive treatment for those experiencing hair thinning or loss.

How is Red Light Therapy Administered?

red light therapy administered on womans face

Red light therapy can be administered in various ways, depending on the specific condition being treated and the desired intensity of the therapy.

Clinical Settings

Many dermatologists and physiotherapists offer red light therapy as part of their services.

These professionals have high-grade equipment that can deliver targeted, powerful doses of red light.

At-Home Devices

With growing interest in this therapy, many at-home devices have flooded the market.

These are less powerful than clinical devices but can still be effective for certain conditions.

Always ensure you're purchasing from a reputable manufacturer and follow the instructions closely.

Beds and Panels

Some wellness centers and spas offer red light therapy beds, which look a lot like tanning beds but emit red light instead of UV rays.

Panels are also available that emit red light, which you can stand or sit in front of for treatment.

Safety and Side Effects

Generally, red light therapy is considered safe when administered correctly. Unlike tanning beds, there's no concern about UV radiation.

However, it's essential to take precautions.

Side Effects

Some individuals may experience slight redness or rash after treatment, but this is typically temporary.

Always consult a professional if you're unsure about treatment or experience prolonged side effects.

Safety Precautions

It's essential not to overdo it. Even if it feels good and seems beneficial, there's an optimal dose for red light therapy.

Always follow guidelines and avoid looking directly into the light to protect your eyes.

how often to use red light therapy

Red light therapy, with its non-invasive nature and promising results, has established itself as a useful tool in the wellness and medical communities.

From promoting youthful skin to aiding in pain management, its array of benefits continues to expand as research progresses.

Whether you're considering trying it in a clinical setting or at home, understanding its workings and potential can guide you to make informed decisions for your health and well-being.

How Often should You use Red Light Therapy?

how often should you use red light therapy

The frequency of red light therapy (RLT) treatments depends on several factors: the specific condition you're treating, the severity of the issue, the type of device being used, and individual response to the treatment.

Here's a general guideline for some common uses:

Skin Health and Anti-Aging

For cosmetic purposes like reducing wrinkles or improving skin health, it's typically recommended to use RLT 3-5 times a week for the first 1-4 weeks.

After the initial phase, you can reduce the frequency to 2-3 times a week or even less, based on your results and desired maintenance level.

Pain and Inflammation

For conditions like arthritis or muscle pain, you might start with daily sessions for the first few weeks, reducing frequency as symptoms improve.

Once pain is managed, treatments can be reduced further, sometimes even to as-needed basis.

Wound Healing

For promoting faster wound healing, daily sessions might be recommended until the wound begins to significantly heal.

Hair Growth

For hair regrowth or treating hair loss, recommendations might start with 3-4 times a week. Depending on progress, the frequency can be adjusted.

Mood and Sleep Improvements

Some individuals use RLT to help with mood or sleep disorders. In these cases, the frequency might vary based on individual needs, but daily sessions are not uncommon.

Device Strength and Duration

The length and frequency of sessions will also depend on the device's strength.

Professional-grade machines used in clinics or spas might require shorter, less frequent sessions than at-home devices.

Body's Response

Pay attention to how your body responds. If your skin or treated area becomes red, irritated, or feels uncomfortable, you might be overdoing it. In such cases, reduce the frequency or duration of sessions.

Maintenance Phase

Once you achieve your desired results, you can enter a maintenance phase where you use the therapy less frequently.

This can range from once a week to once a month, depending on your individual needs.

In all cases, following the manufacturer's guidelines (for at-home devices) or the advice of a trained professional (for clinical treatments) is essential.

It's worth noting that consistency is crucial for red light therapy. Regular sessions, especially in the beginning, can help you achieve and maintain optimal results.

Does Red Light Therapy Tan You?

No, red light therapy (RLT) does not tan you.

RLT uses wavelengths in the red to near-infrared range, which do not induce a tanning response in the skin like UV (ultraviolet) rays do. Here's what you should know:

Different Wavelengths

Tanning beds utilize UV rays, specifically UVA and UVB, to stimulate the melanocytes in the skin to produce more melanin, leading to a tan.

Red light therapy, on the other hand, uses red or near-infrared light, which has therapeutic effects but does not affect melanin production or cause tanning.

Different Purposes

The primary purpose of red light therapy is to promote cellular function and healing, improve skin health, reduce inflammation, and address other therapeutic needs. Tanning beds, by contrast, are designed specifically to darken the skin.

Safety Concerns

Unlike UV Rays from tanning beds, which can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancers, red light therapy does not have these harmful effects.

In fact, RLT is considered safe for the skin and doesn't have the potential side effects associated with UV exposure.

Similar Equipment Appearance

It's worth noting that some red light therapy devices, particularly those in spas or wellness centers, might look similar to tanning beds. This can sometimes cause confusion.

However, their function and the type of light they emit are fundamentally different.

While red light therapy can offer various health and cosmetic benefits, tanning is not one of them.

If you're seeking a tan, it's crucial to consider the risks associated with UV exposure and explore safer alternatives like self-tanning lotions or sprays.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe During Pregnancy?

Red light therapy (RLT) is generally considered safe, and many people use it for various therapeutic and cosmetic purposes.

However, the safety of RLT during pregnancy is not as thoroughly researched. Here's what you should know:

Limited Research

As with many treatments, rigorous studies on the effects of red light therapy during pregnancy are limited, mainly due to ethical considerations involved in testing on pregnant individuals.

General Safety

Red light therapy does not use ionizing radiation, and it operates at wavelengths that are typically not harmful to tissues.

It doesn't produce heat that could harm the fetus. On the surface, RLT might seem relatively low-risk during pregnancy.

Caution Near the Abdomen

Some healthcare providers might advise pregnant women to avoid using red light therapy directly on the abdomen during pregnancy, mainly as a precautionary measure given the lack of research in this area.

Potential Benefits

Some pregnant women have reported benefits from using RLT for pregnancy-related issues like stretch marks, inflammation, or joint pain.

However, these anecdotal experiences should be considered with caution, and it's essential to consult a professional before starting any treatment.

Consultation is Key

If you are pregnant or trying to conceive and are considering red light therapy for any reason, consult with your obstetrician or another healthcare professional familiar with your medical history and pregnancy.

They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

As with any treatment or therapy during pregnancy, it's essential to proceed with caution and consult with a healthcare professional.

Does Red Light Therapy Help Cellulite?

reduce cellulite with red light therapy

Yes, red light therapy (RLT) has been investigated for its potential to improve the appearance of cellulite, and some studies suggest it might have a positive effect.

Here's what the research suggests:

Mechanism of Action

Red light therapy is believed to work by stimulating the mitochondria in cells, which can enhance cellular energy production.

For skin health, this can boost collagen synthesis, improve circulation, and stimulate the repair processes in the skin.

These actions might be beneficial in addressing some of the underlying factors that contribute to the appearance of cellulite.

Studies & Findings

Some studies have indicated that RLT, especially when combined with other treatments or modalities, can improve the appearance of cellulite:

  • A study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in 2011 found that a combination of RLT and infrared therapy, along with suctioning and massage (commonly referred to as vacuum massage or endermologie), showed improvements in cellulite appearance.
  • Another study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy in 2009 found that combining RLT with mechanical massage and ultrasound led to a reduction in thigh and buttock circumference and an improvement in the appearance of cellulite.

Not a Cure

It's essential to understand that while RLT might help improve the appearance of cellulite temporarily, it's not a permanent cure.

Cellulite is influenced by numerous factors, including genetics, hormonal imbalances, aging, and weight changes.

Thus, treatments often need to be ongoing or combined with other modalities for more pronounced or lasting effects.


RLT is generally considered safe with minimal side effects. However, always ensure that devices are FDA-approved or have been tested for safety, especially if considering at-home treatments.

Individual Results May Vary

As with any cosmetic treatment, individual responses can differ. Some people may see noticeable improvements in cellulite, while others might not.

If you're considering RLT for cellulite, it might be worth trying but temper your expectations and consider it as part of a more comprehensive approach that may include diet, exercise, and other treatments.

How Much Does Red Light Therapy Cost?

cost of red light therapy

The cost of red light therapy (RLT) can vary widely based on several factors, including the type of treatment, the device used, location, and whether it's a professional treatment or an at-home device.

Here's a general breakdown:

Professional Treatments

Clinical Settings

If you're getting RLT treatments from a dermatologist, physiotherapist, or a specialized wellness clinic, the cost can vary.

  • Single Sessions: Depending on the location and clinic, a single session can range from $50 to $200 or more.
  • Package Deals: Many clinics offer package deals where you can purchase multiple sessions at once for a reduced per-session cost. For instance, a package of ten treatments might cost $500, making it $50 per session.
  • Combination Therapies: Sometimes, RLT is combined with other treatments, such as massage or other types of light therapies. These combination treatments can cost more.

Wellness Centers and Spas

Some wellness centers or spas offer RLT as part of a broader wellness package, which can affect the cost.

At-Home Devices

With the growing interest in RLT, numerous at-home devices have come onto the market. Their prices can vary based on their size, quality, brand, and capabilities.

Handheld Devices

Smaller, handheld devices can range from $50 to $300. These are generally suitable for targeted treatments, such as facial rejuvenation or treating a specific injury.

Larger Panels or Lamps

Devices designed to treat larger body areas or even full-body units can range from $300 to $5,000 or more.

The high-end devices often resemble professional-grade units in terms of power and coverage area.

Other Costs

Don't forget to consider other costs:

  • Maintenance: Some devices might need occasional replacement bulbs or other maintenance.
  • Electricity: Especially if using larger at-home devices, consider the cost of electricity, although it's generally minimal.
  • Additional Therapies: If you're considering RLT as part of a broader treatment plan, there might be additional costs involved.


As with many services, location plays a role in cost. RLT treatments in major cities or high-end clinics might be pricier than those in smaller towns or less upscale settings.


red light therapy cost

It's essential to do your research when considering red light therapy.

If you're looking into at-home devices, read reviews, ensure the device meets safety standards, and check if it's FDA-approved or clinically tested.

For professional treatments, inquire about package deals or membership discounts that can make the sessions more affordable.

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