The Ultimate Guide Through Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy is a popular skin treatment used to improve skin and general health. Learn about how it works, its benefits and downsides, and more.
Red light therapy is the most popular LED light treatment. It’s very quickly gaining recognition for some of its amazing benefits – especially when used in combination with other skin treatments.
So let’s explore what makes this procedure so great and if its popularity is really justified.
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What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy (RLT) – also known as red LED light therapy, or low-level light therapy (LLLT) – is a non-invasive skin treatment that uses red and near-infrared light to enhance the body’s natural healing process.
Initially, red LED light therapy was developed to treat wound healing, but it has been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits – including improvement of skin’s appearance.
A red light facial can help improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and give the skin a more youthful appearance.
But in addition to its cosmetic benefits, red and near infrared light therapy are also helpful in treating injuries, aiding muscle recovery, speeding up wound healing, reducing pain and even stimulating the production of endorphins (which can help improve mental health)!
Unlike many medications, which do little more than ease symptoms, red light works at the cellular level to address the root cause of the conditions being treated. This is what makes it a great long-term solution.
Image source: Instagram @michaelas_bayside_beauty
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Red and near infrared light therapy have the most scientifically validated therapeutic benefits with no known side effects.
When these specific wavelengths get absorbed into the skin cells and tissue, they trigger the production of collagen and elastin, proteins that keep the skin firm and elastic.
This way, red light therapy helps reduce the visibility of fine lines, wrinkles, scarring, and age spots.
While collagen is most commonly associated with skin, collagen proteins are also present in muscles and connective tissue, so red light is also used for healing injuries, muscles, and joints.
And on top of that, red light therapy also boosts circulation, which is an essential for healing. Increased blood flow will bring oxygen and nutrients to cells, and the increased flow of lymphatic fluid will remove waste and toxins that could cause inflammation and cell damage.
Red Light Therapy Benefits
The benefits are numerous, and they include:
- Improved skin health
- Improved skin texture and tone (the skin is brighter and more radiant)
- Reduced the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,
- Reduced age spots and hyperpigmentation
- Improved skin hydration,
- Reduced inflammation – key for treating many conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema
- Boosted collagen production
- Boosted immune system, helping prevent infections and improve the overall health
- Reduced muscle pain and stiffness, faster recovery time, and diminished chronic pain conditions, including arthritis and sports injuries
- Bonus – red light therapy also helps increase your energy levels and improve your mood!
Limitations of Red Light Therapy
Despite this treatment being universally beneficial, it does have some contraindications. You might not be a good candidate for it if you:
- Have a very dark skin tone, seeing as melanin can absorb the red light energy
- Are taking photosensitizing drugs as it can increase the risk of skin damage or other adverse reactions
- Have medical conditions like lupus, as it may negatively interact with them.
It’s always recommended to consult with an expert to find out if red LED light treatments are the right choice for you. As of now, research on the long-term effects of red LED light therapy is quite limited.
Types of Red Light Therapy
There are various red light therapy device types. The division is based on different techniques of transmitting light to the skin and tissues – some do so via lasers, while some use light-emitting diodes (LED lights).
However, the area that needs to be treated is what largely determines the type that will be used. For example, you won’t be treating smaller areas like the face, neck, or hands with strong panels used for thicker, body skin.
In regards to the size of the device, there are full-body panels and portable devices. Full-body panels are often utilized in spa or medical settings, whereas handheld devices are portable and can be used for specific body parts.
Let’s see what red light therapy for face, body, and scalp can do.
What Is Red Light Therapy Good For?
This treatment can help with a very wide range of things – from skin conditions and chronic illnesses to better mental functions. Here are some conditions red light therapy is frequently used for:
Red Light Therapy for Face
While red light therapy for face can also address issues like acne, sun damage, and eczema, it’s most commonly used for its anti-aging and revitalizing effect. Red light therapy for face can help with:
Red Light Therapy for Wrinkles
When used as a facial, red light is first and foremost used as an anti-aging treatment.
Since it boosts collagen and elastin production, which naturally decrease as we age, this treatment can help restore skin cell health and plump up the skin, filling in fine lines and wrinkles.
Image source: Instagram @aestheticianheather
Red Light Therapy for Sun Spots
Another sign of aging, age spots caused by sun damage are also something that red LED light therapy can help diminish. When used regularly, the red light facial can treat the root cause of rapid aging, which is mitochondrial dysfunction.
Red Light Therapy for Acne
Studies have shown that red light treatment can be effective in reducing the appearance of acne, as well as preventing new breakouts from forming.
By using low-level red and near-infrared light, this treatment can help reduce inflammation, kill acne-causing bacteria, and promote the production of collagen and other skin-healing compounds.
Red Light Therapy for Scars
Studies have found that red light can be successful in fading all kinds of scars 1 – including those brought on by burns, surgery, acne, and other sorts of skin damage.
But it’s especially efficient when it comes to raised scars, which can be challenging to cure with other treatments.
Red Light Therapy for Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can lead to a range of health problems – and a lot of skin concerns.
Red light therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation by increasing blood flow and oxygenation, as well as reducing oxidative stress, which can trigger inflammation.
The soothing and anti-inflammatory effects of red light are very beneficial when it comes to treating certain skin disorders.
Red Light Therapy for Chronic Skin Disorders
Psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea, and other chronic skin disorders are currently considered incurable. But their symptoms can be alleviated with the help of red light.
By helping treat chronic inflammation, red light therapy can keep these conditions in control.
Due to its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties, using red light therapy for eczema helps reduce skin irritation and soothe eczema symptoms.
Rosacea light therapy helps improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of redness and flushing, and promote a more even skin tone.
Similar to treating eczema, red light therapy for psoriasis also helps keep the symptoms at bay. It calms down the inflammation that causes patches of thick, red, scaly skin.
If you have any of these skin conditions it’s advisable you speak with a dermatologist or skin care expert to see if red light therapy is the right treatment for you.
They can also assist in developing a customized treatment plan and suggest a combination with other oral or topical therapies on top of red light treatment.
Image source: Instagram @dayglomedspa
Red Light Therapy for the Body
Next to providing the same aesthetic benefits red light therapy facials do, doing this treatment on your body can help reduce muscle pain and stiffness, speed up the recovery process (which was the original purpose of this treatment) and boost the immune system, which helps to prevent infections.
Here’s what conditions red light therapy for the body can help with:
Image source: Instagram @theaestheticlaserqueen
Red Light Therapy for Wound Healing and Scar Reduction
Red light therapy has been found particularly effective at treating wounds that won’t heal.
Fun fact – this is actually why LED therapy was developed in the first place. NASA wanted to aid in the wound healing of the astronauts.
Red light therapy can also help reduce scars – including thick, elevated keloid scars. Each session progressively lessens their appearance.
Red Light Therapy for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks can be made to look less noticeable with red light therapy, which helps boost the development of collagen and other skin-healing substances.
Additionally, red light therapy also lessens the swelling and enhances circulation, which will speed up the healing process.
While there are other treatments that help with this issue, like dry needling and microneedling, red light therapy seems to be the preferred choice seeing as it’s completely non-invasive.
Red Light Therapy for Muscle Health
The cumulative effects of increased blood flow, less inflammation, and improved cellular functioning enable the muscles to recover from injury or strenuous activity much more quickly.
So red light therapy is used by many athletes to improve their muscle health and prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness, as well as speed up any kind of healing.
Red Light Therapy for Chronic Pain
Red light therapy decreases inflammation and helps slow down (and potentially stop) joint deterioration. Additionally, it boosts collagen formation which keeps joints flexible and increases blood flow for better nutrient delivery.
Red Light Therapy for Cellulite
Since red LED light therapy helps increase the production of structural proteins (collagen and elastin), it helps make skin more elastic. When the skin is more elastic, the subcutaneous fat is more constrained and less prone to protrude from the skin.
Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss
Since red light therapy affects metabolic processes, it influences the production of ATP. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule responsible for energy transport in our bodies.
It can increase the body’s metabolic rate and by increasing the energy that goes into burning glucose, it can aid in fat loss.
Red Light Therapy for Scalp
Red light therapy for scalp can enhance the general health of the scalp, as well as help boost hair growth. Increased oxygenation and blood flow contribute to reduced inflammation and the development of healthy skin cells.
This helps decrease dandruff, irritation, and flaking, making the scalp healthier.
Red Light Therapy Hair Growth
By improving the blood flow to the scalp, red light therapy for hair loss and thinning hair can help stimulate the growth of new hair.
Although the results vary from person to person, RLT has proven helpful in increasing the production of hair-growth-promoting substances, so red light can be used as in combination with other hair loss treatments, such as medication or transplant.
Image source: Instagram @dermamina
Red Light Therapy for Nervous System and Brain Health
Red light therapy can also enhance your mental health by bettering your mood and promoting better sleep. The hypothalamus, which is the area of the brain that controls your circadian rhythm can be stimulated with it.
Also, this treatment holds great promise for use in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Combining RLT with Other Treatments
By incorporating red light therapy with some other facial treatment, you can achieve a more comprehensive skincare experience.
Other facials may include exfoliation, hydration, or the application of topical products that can help to enhance the effects of red LED light therapy. Some commonly combined treatments include microdermabrasion, microneedling, chemical peel, etc.
But red LED light therapy can be used after permanent makeup procedures as well. It helps speed up the healing process and helps reduce any redness, swelling, or discomfort. You can read more about how artists use RLT here.
Red Led Light Therapy Process – Step By Step
This procedure is rather simple. It only consists of 3 steps:
Step 1 – Preparation
The technician will remove your makeup and cleanse your skin. They can even add a mask or serum to boost the effectiveness of the treatment. But this step also depends if you’re combining this procedure with another skin treatment or doing it stand-alone.
In case you are doing a body red light skin treatment, you’ll need to remove clothing from the area you’ll be treating. This kind of treatment is usually done with either a handheld wand or huge light panels.
Regardless of if you’re doing the red light treatment for face or body, the last step of the prep is putting on protective eyewear.
Step 2 – Procedure Itself
The procedure itself takes from 10 to 30 minutes to complete.
It’s completely pain-free and many clients report it being rather relaxing. You may feel some warmth as your blood flow increases. If your skin is particularly sensitive, you can experience some temporary redness or tightness.
In case you feel like it’s too much, ask your technician to shorten the treatment. It shouldn’t be painful.
Step 3 – Finishing Up
Although they vary from person to person, most people report the results of infrared light therapy are immediate. You’ll notice your skin texture, tone, and elasticity are improved. Your skin will also feel more hydrated and plump.
Just keep in mind that these improvements will not be dramatic.
But the effectiveness varies from person to person and some individuals may not notice any results for the first couple of sessions.
@bonnie.cruz.esthetician Here I am giving my client a hydrating face mask and red LED light therapy treatment in preparation for her wedding day in a month!It’s all about anti-aging and giving her that glow 🧖🏻♀️✨ #estheticiantiktok #facialtreatment #ledlighttherapy ♬ As It Was - Harry Styles
Red Light Therapy Aftercare
After a RLT session, follow these basic aftercare steps to minimize any potential risk and ensure the best results:
- Avoid direct sun exposure for at least 24 hours after the treatment since your skin will be more sensitive to UV light
- Drink plenty of water afterward to help hydrate the skin and promote healing.
- Avoid hot showers or saunas for at least 12 hours, as heat can increase skin sensitivity and irritation
- Also, avoid strenuous exercise as increasing the blood flow to the skin will also increase its sensitivity
- Avoid using irritating products (such as exfoliating scrubs or harsh chemicals), for at least 24 hours
In case you experience any skin irritation, redness, or discomfort after the procedure, consult a doctor immediately.
RLT Risks & Side Effects
Red light therapy is generally considered to be safe for most people. Seeing as this treatment is non-invasive, side effects are minimal.
Some people experience mild redness or skin irritation, but these are usually resolved within a few hours. More serious side effects are rare, but they include:
- Increased skin sensitivity
- Heat-related risks and even burns
- Hyperpigmentation (darkened spots)
As for the risks associated with red LED light therapy, there needs to be further research to fully understand the potential long-term risks. This is a relatively new technology, so not all effects are known yet.
So far, known red light therapy risks include:
- Eye damage
- Skin ulcers
It is always best to consult a doctor or healthcare professional before starting any new treatments, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking any medications.
How Much Does RLT Cost?
The cost depends on a few factors, such as: the location and exclusivity of the salon, the area treated which determines the type of device that will be used, the duration of the session, and most importantly, whether the treatment is used as an add-on or on its own.
This means that the price range is quite wide. It can be anywhere from $20 to $250 per session. And since RLT requires multiple sessions, it can get quite expensive as ongoing treatments can add up over time.
So take into account the overall cost of infrared light therapy, before considering whether it’s the best option for your specific skin needs.
Red Light Therapy at Home
Many people prefer to do red light therapy at home, especially for their maintenance treatments. You only need to invest in the device once and use it as many times as you’d like.
There are many different options for red light therapy at home, so make sure the device of your choosing is safe and effective – and cleared by the FDA for home use.
Once you have selected the device, it is essential you follow the instructions carefully. The recommended time will depend on the device and the specific condition you want to treat, but it’s usually between 5 and 20 minutes a day.
The recommended time shouldn’t be surpassed as overusing can actually have negative effects on the skin. Also, to ensure maximum safety, test the device on a small area first, before using it all over your face or body.
Here are some of our product recommendations:
Before trying this treatment at home, it’s advised that you consult with a doctor, particularly if you have any health issues or concerns.
Red Light Therapy – Main Takeaways
RLT is a relatively safe and non-invasive form of skin treatment that has the potential to improve skin health and appearance – specifically fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, and tone.
Other than using RLT for general skin rejuvenation, it also helps heal a number of other health issues. This treatment is quickly gaining popularity as an alternative to conventional medical treatments thanks to a growing body of research that demonstrates its advantages.