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What Are The Benefits Of Red Light Therapy? [Backed By Science]

Last Updated on February 1, 2023

Red light therapy can help reduce wrinkles, relieve pain, and more. In this article, we’ll explore the top 7 benefits that are actually backed by scientific research.

Are you looking for something that’ll get rid of your sagging or scarred skin? Or maybe you’re searching for something to manage your chronic pain?

Look no further. There’s finally an answer to all your questions: red light therapy.

Red light therapy (RLT), also known as photobiomodulation (PBM), low-level laser therapy (LLLT), and low-power laser therapy (LPLT), uses specific wavelengths of light (650-850 nm) to produce long-lasting health benefits.

From anti-aging to performance-boosting to pain-relieving, RLT has a long list of benefits that are backed by thousands of scientific studies.

Here are the top 7 evidence-backed benefits of red light devices.

1. Collagen Production: Reduce Wrinkles & Scars

Red light therapy has a long list of benefits (as you’ll see!). But, when people talk about RLT, they’re generally referring to it in the context of skin care. RLT’s ability to stimulate balanced collagen production is what makes it one of your skin’s best friends.

Anti-Aging

As we age, our body stops producing collagen. This leads to all the common signs of aging: wrinkles, sagging skin, and more. High collagen levels are critical to having soft, smooth, and firm skin.

Unlike other skin treatments like intense pulsed light (IPL), RLT does not damage your skin to induce tissue repair. It skips directly to stimulating skin repair and rejuvenation [1].

RLT can help brighten and tighten your skin, making you look years younger! Other anti-aging benefits of red light therapy include reduced undereye wrinkles, forehead wrinkles, laugh lines, and crow’s feet.

In a study of 136 people, the majority of participants noticed fewer wrinkles and fine lines, smoother skin, and improved skin appearance after using RLT. Collagen ultrasonography scans (aka what scientists used to measure the collagen in your skin) taken before and after treatments revealed significantly improved collagen density [1].

Reduce Scars and Stretch Marks

Beyond facial benefits, red light therapy can also help reduce scars and stretch marks. By promoting the formation of normal, healthy skin cells, RLT can improve your overall skin complexion, leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth.

Woman shining red light on her face

While RLT is not guaranteed to completely eliminate scars and stretch marks, it has been shown to lighten them and reduce any associated redness.

RLT does, however, make a great preventative measure. Its wound-healing and collagen-producing benefits can prevent future scars and stretch marks from forming.

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder why RLT should be in everyone’s skin care routine.

2. Skin Health: Treat Acne, Psoriasis, and Rosacea

Dealing with chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, or rosacea?

Red light therapy can help. Its collagen-producing properties help promote the growth of new, healthier skin tissue. It can also help repair damage from UV rays and sun overexposure.

Stop Acne Breakouts

Red light therapy is commonly used by people to clear up their acne.

As someone with acne-prone skin, I know how much it can hurt your self-esteem. Dealing with breakouts on a consistent basis is never a fun time. It’s even worse when your skin is left red, scarred, and inflamed.

I’ve tried many of the most commonly prescribed acne medications but rarely saw any significant improvements. I was often embarrassed about showing my face in public. It got so bad that, at one point, I never left the house without first covering up all my acne with makeup.

After getting tired of dealing with the side effects, I decided to research natural, alternative acne treatments and found RLT.

RLT has immense benefits for your skin and can boost your self-confidence. Several scientific studies have shown how RLT can be used to successfully treat acne [2]. Because RLT works by reducing inflammation and sebum production, it’s a great way to not only manage your latest breakout but also prevent future breakouts.

In other words, RLT can reduce skin redness and make sure sebum isn’t clogging up your pores.

What’s even more appealing to a lot of people is that RLT is a natural remedy that has zero side effects and is well-tolerated by all skin types! No harsh chemicals required.

For even better results, combine red light with blue light. Blue light works by killing acne-causing bacteria, while red light works by reducing redness and inflammation.

Treat Psoriasis and Rosacea

While red light therapy for psoriasis is still being studied, the preliminary findings are extremely promising.

In one study, researchers used RLT on people with chronic psoriasis that had resisted conventional treatments. In just four to five weeks, most saw their conditions improve by 60-100% [3].

For rosacea, most of the studies look at red light with blue light, rather than just red light. People who were exposed to both reported significantly less redness, itching, and burning after five weeks [4].

There are, however, plenty of people who report successfully treating rosacea with red light therapy [5].

All-in-all, when it comes to improving the health of your skin cells, RLT is a promising alternative to conventional treatments. The scientific evidence seems to indicate that, while effective alone, RLT is best used together with blue light.

3. Hair Loss: Grow Healthier, Thicker Hair

Red light therapy makes for a great alternative to hair loss medications like Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia).

Especially if you experience any of the side effects.

Men and women who use Minoxidil commonly report irritation, eczema, burning, and even worsening of hair loss [6]. While men who use Finasteride commonly report erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive, and sometimes breast enlargement [7].

Isn’t that crazy?

That’s a lot of potential adverse side effects just to regrow your hair.

Fortunately, recent human studies have shown that red light therapy can improve hair growth by over 35% in both men and women with androgenetic alopecia [8,9].

And best of all?

No side effects or issues were reported.

RLT works with your body, stimulating its natural growth processes instead of forcing changes to it as many medications do.

It is important to note, however, that RLT is not a miracle hair growth device. If you’re already bald, RLT will not restore your hair. This therapeutic technique requires your hair follicles to be alive for it to work.

4. Weight Loss: Get Rid of Stubborn Fat and Cellulite

Losing weight can be tough. Results are slow, and it can often be discouraging seeing the same number on the scale week after week.

Maybe you’ve tried one of those popular “fat loss” supplements or “guaranteed” weight loss exercise programs and got disappointing results. Or maybe you saw some initial results, but the pounds quickly came back.

Whatever the case may be, red light therapy can make a great addition to your weight loss journey.

Clinical studies have shown that RLT can reduce fat and cellulite. While the “how” isn’t exactly known yet, the leading theory is that RLT produces small holes in fat cells, which causes lipids (the molecules inside your fat cells) to leak out [10].

In one particular study, participants who received RLT saw, on average, a 2.15cm (0.85in) reduction in waist size after two 30-minute sessions per week for four weeks.

These people were asked not to change their diet or exercise habits, so the results didn’t come from exercising more or eating healthier [11].

0.85in might not seem like much at first, but this was just after eight RLT sessions and probably more than most people see with diet pills. So, while the study only lasted four weeks, imagine what using it for longer could mean for you!

5. Muscle Repair: End Soreness & Improve Performance

Hate feeling sore days after your workouts?

I know I always struggle walking up my stairs days after an intense leg day workout.

Fortunately, red light therapy when used after exercise can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and speed up muscle recovery. And, when used before exercise, RLT can improve performance and endurance [12].

You’ll be able to exercise harder and longer before feeling tired. Plus, you won’t feel as sore after your workouts as before!

While RLT is currently allowed in athletic competitions, there is some talk of potentially banning (or regulating) its usage [12]. So, if you’re an athlete, be sure to check the official prohibited list in case there are any changes.

Red Light Therapy vs. Cold Water Immersion Therapy

Both red light therapy and cold water immersion therapy (CWIT) are used by athletes to speed up muscle recovery post-workout. An example of CWIT is taking a plunge in an ice water bath (which can be pretty cold and uncomfortable!). 

Fortunately, with RLT, you can skip the cold and still reap all the recovery benefits.

In a comparison between RLT and CWIT, researchers found RLT better for recovery because it was also able to decrease blood lactate levels [13]. The lactic acid buildup in your muscle tissues is what causes you to feel sore.

6. Chronic Pain: Get Long-Lasting Pain Relief

Dealing with chronic pain can be exhausting and stressful. What’s more, long-term pain is often linked to a lower quality of life.

Chronic pain sufferers commonly report having to deal with skyrocketing healthcare bills, mood/mental health issues, poorer cardiovascular health, and decreased sleep quality [14].

Taking pain medication can be an effective short-term solution, but you risk issues like addiction if you rely on them long-term. This often means you’re worse off than before, as you now need these drugs to function “normally”.

Unlike pain medications, red light therapy doesn’t actually block pain. It works by improving the health and function of our cells, leading to a pain-free body in the long-run. 

Clinical studies have shown RLT to relieve pain in people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, dental pain, oral mucositis (from chemotherapy), and back pain [15, 16, 17, 18, 19]. In particular, RLT seems most effective in reducing joint pain.

Shining a red light laser on a knee

However, it can take some time before you notice RLT working. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers recommend a minimum of four weeks of treatment to see lasting results [15].

So, while RLT may not work as fast as some pain medications, it’s a natural, safe way to return your body to its optimal state without any side effects.

7. Wound Healing: Recover From Injuries Faster

Red light therapy can speed up the healing process, especially when it comes to slow-healing wounds like burns.

RLT works by reducing inflammation, stimulating angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels), promoting collagen production, and boosting granulation tissue production [20].

Granulation tissue is a thin layer of tissue cells that your body produces to cover your wound. The faster the wound is covered, the faster your body can start repairing the damage.

While healing wounds is a less mainstream use of RLT, RLT has been used by NASA and Navy SEALs in space, during training, and under the sea [21,22]. It’s also used by athletes to quicken recovery from sports injuries.

Final Thoughts

As you can probably tell by now, red light therapy has a lot of benefits. Plus, it comes with zero side effects and is completely non-invasive. Red LED light devices work with your body to naturally produce long-lasting benefits.

After all, what other things out there can promise all these amazing benefits with just one simple product?

While I’ve only included the top seven benefits, people who use RLT also report things like improved mood, better sleep quality, and increased testosterone (in men) – although many of these anecdotal benefits are not yet backed by comprehensive scientific studies.

If you want to read more about the best red light therapy devices available, check out our in-depth guide.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439741/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756569/
  4. https://jmedicalcasereports.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13256-019-2339-6
  5. https://rosaceagroup.org/The_Rosacea_Forum/showthread.php?37419-Success-with-Red-Light-Therapy-After-Mirvaso-Disaster
  6. https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_rogaine_minoxidil_topical/drugs-condition.htm
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/finasteride-oral-tablet
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24078483/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25124964/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769994/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20393809/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5167494/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21088862/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21752179/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29071029/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10796462/
  17. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/prt/2019/8578703/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21725826/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2539004/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148276/
  21. https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/hm_3.html
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11776448/
Anne, Founder of Therapeutic Beams

Anne Linde

Since using it to clear up her acne in college, Anne has been an avid user and fan of all things light therapy. She now primarily uses red light therapy for its anti-aging benefits. Anne's mission is to make the science behind red light therapy easy to understand and accessible, so anyone can use it to take control of their health and wellbeing.

7 thoughts on “What Are The Benefits Of Red Light Therapy? [Backed By Science]”

  1. Are there any studies on RLT effects on multiple lipomas? I have tried supplements and other natural healing modems and have not seen much success. I have had some remove, which leaves scars. Does anyone know if there is any harm in using RLT for reduction in size and number of lipomas. (non cancerous fat bumps) that appear on the skin surface. Also, is RLT good for tendon health, function?

    Reply
    • Hi LMkeffer – to our knowledge, there haven’t been any direct studies on red light therapy’s effects on multiple lipomas. Generally, red light therapy might help reduce scarring when used post-surgery, as it has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response and promote wound healing. If you already have a red light therapy device, it might be worth trying and seeing if it can help reduce the size and number of lipomas. Otherwise, this might be a question to ask your physician, as they may have knowledge of up-and-coming studies involving red light therapy and lipomas. That said, there have been studies looking at laser therapy’s effects on lipomas. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but one study found using a 1064 nm laser did seem to be effective in treating lipomas with minimal scarring (see the study here).

      To answer your second question, red light therapy can be good for tendon health and function. In particular, red light therapy can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation in your tendons by increasing blood flow to the area. This can help speed up the healing process by reducing the pain-spasm cycle and creating an environment that’s beneficial for tendon repair.

      Reply
    • i had a lipoma which as soon as i discovered i used redlight. it was smallish, about 1.5cm. i looked at various things that might work. i tried what i discovered and it was gone in 3 days. however it was new and soft. i have a RLT wand 630nm. i put the wand over the lipoma twice per day for 30 minutes. i had seen turmeric therapy and looked at urine therapy. (i cant drink it). i mixed my urine with tumeric, soaked cotton wool and placed over the lipoma. i wore this 24 hours per day. i didn’t think it would work but it did. i hope this may work for you too. btw i have now ordered a RLT panel with 660nm and 850nm as this seems to be mentioned more in studies than 630.

      Reply
    • Hi Ken, red light therapy has been shown to be perfectly safe for those with surgical implants like hip replacements. In fact, one study found “[red light therapy to be] effective in decreasing pain intensity and post-surgery inflammation in patients receiving total hip arthroplasty”. That said, if this is something you’re particularly concerned about, you could consider consulting with a physician before beginning any light therapy.

      Reply
  2. Any chance red light therapy will work on neuropathy, toes, bottom of foot? I’m dealing with a upcoming sore on the ball of my foot, about an inch behind the smaller toes. It just started up recently & is very bothersome

    Reply
    • Hi Sue, while there aren’t enough studies* (yet) done on red light therapy’s effects on neuropathy, red light therapy has been anecdotally shown to help manage neuropathy symptoms. One thought here is that red light therapy can help improve blood flow and stimulate cellular repair, as more nutrients and oxygen are delivered to your cells – leading to healthier cells and a reduction in symptoms.

      *One interesting study did look at near-infrared light’s impact on nerve regeneration. Here, researchers found that red light therapy did increase antioxidation levels, which play an important part in nerve regeneration.

      Reply

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