When I first encountered red light therapy, I was amazed… and a bit skeptical.
A device that seems to have a never-ending list of benefits from anti-aging to hair growth? And it’s something you can use in the comfort of your own home? Plus, no side effects or harsh chemicals?
Yes. Yup. Yep.
You almost have to wonder: Is this one of those too-good-to-be-true miracle cures we see on the internet?
According to the thousands of research studies on red light therapy (RLT), there’s a lot to be excited about. But, there are also some things to be wary of. The science surrounding RLT, while extremely promising, is still in its preliminary phases.
So, while there are documented health benefits like wrinkle reduction, there’s still not much evidence to support some of the claims a few RLT companies are making.
Here’s what the science says about red light therapy, so you know what’s legit and what’s not. I’ve also included a list of some of the highest-rated red light therapy devices.
While I’ll go into detail about the features of each, here’s a TL;DR table for those in a hurry to get started.
- Device Type: Panel
- Best For: Half-Body or Full-Body Treatment
- Popular Use Cases: General Health, Pain Relief, Sports Performance
- Discount: Enter the code LIGHT5 at checkout for 5% off
- Device Type: Wearable
- Best For: Targeted Treatment
- Popular Use Cases: Pain Relief, Muscle Recovery, Athletic Performance
- Discount: Enter the code BEAMS at checkout for $70 off
- Device Type: Handheld
- Best For: Targeted Treatment
- Popular Use Cases: Anti-Aging, Acne, Skincare
- Discount: Enter the code SW10 at checkout for 10% off
- Device Type: Face Mask
- Best For: Targeted Treatment
- Popular Use Cases: Anti-Aging, Acne, Skincare
- Discount: Enter the code BEAMSCB at checkout for 10% off
- Device Type: Cap
- Best For: Targeted Treatment
- Popular Use Cases: Hair Growth, Scalp Irritation, Scalp Itching
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is a treatment that involves shining low-levels of red and near-infrared light on your skin to improve your cells’ health. This can lead to numerous health benefits like anti-aging, hair growth, pain relief, and more!
Unfortunately, the “red light” in RLT doesn’t mean you can just sit under a red light bulb and reap the benefits. While wavelengths of light between 620-750 nanometers (nm) are considered red, the optimal wavelengths are between 610-625 nm (red) and 660-690 nm (deep red). This combo, when used with near-infrared light (750-1000 nm), can penetrate not only your surface-level skin cells but also your skin tissue.
If you haven’t heard of RLT before, you might know it by one of its other names:
- Photobiomodulation (PBM)
- Low-level laser therapy (LLLT)
- Cold laser therapy
- Low-power laser therapy (LPLT)
- Light-emitting diode therapy (LEDT)
While shooting laser beams at yourself might sound painful, RLT is entirely painless. Since the treatment only uses low-powered light that doesn’t generate any heat, you don’t feel a thing while the light works its magic. Unlike the high-powered lasers used by doctors to kill cancer cells – those are quite painful!
First developed in 1967, RLT has since undergone intense scientific scrutiny. There are now over 4,000 peer-reviewed studies on the topic (from organizations such as NASA and the US Military).
While there is still some controversy around the practice, the growing list of research studies has yet to find any adverse side effects of RLT. In fact, these scientific studies increasingly prove the vast potential of RLT application in areas such as anti-aging, healing, and immunity .
In the past, if you wanted to experience the benefits of RLT, you had to go to specialized salons, clinics, and spas. Now, you can get started with red light therapy in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the cost.
Which At-Home Red Light Therapy Device Is Best?
I will answer that question with a very helpful, “it depends.” Because different people have different needs, red light devices are not a one-size-fits-all solution.
An important factor to take into account is the desired use. Some red light therapy products are better designed for targeted pain relief or anti-aging, while others are better designed for hair growth or general wellness.
In this article, we’ll take a brief look at six types of red light devices: handhelds, wearables, panels, beds, face masks, and caps. I’ll share with you the best one in each category.
Best Red Light Therapy Devices
After extensive testing, the following devices came out as the top six best at-home red LED light devices for 2023.
SolaWave Wand: The Best Handheld Device For Targeted Facial Treatment
Handheld devices are an excellent choice for people who are on a budget and looking for targeted treatment. While LED light therapy wands tend to have the lowest energy output among red light devices, their small size makes them great for travel and on-the-go treatments. Based on our research, Solawave is at the top of the list. Combining four powerful (and proven) dermatology functions, the Solawave Wand is the ultimate handheld skincare tool. It uses:
- Microcurrents to tone, tighten, and lift your skin
- Red light therapy to rejuvenate your skin, with acne-preventing and anti-aging benefits
- Soothing warmth to improve blood flow and circulation
- Comforting vibrations to give you plumper skin and a rosy glow
Clicking the button below will get you to the official supplier who has the best price available on the Solawave Wand as of November 2023. Plus, for the month of November, use code SW10 for 10% off your entire order!
Read our Solawave Wand Review
FlexBeam: The Best Wearable Red Light Therapy Device For Targeted Treatment
Not a fan of handheld devices?
No worries, the FlexBeam offers users a great balance between ease of use and targeted treatment. While bulkier than a handheld device, it more than makes up for it with its increased power output and multiple treatment options.
The FlexBeam uses a total of six infrared LED lights (at wavelengths between 810-850 nm and an irradiance of 100 mW/cm2) and three red LED lights (at wavelengths between 625-635 nm and an irradiance of 60 mW/cm2).
As a result, the FlexBeam is best for those looking for pain relief, muscle recovery, and athletic performance benefits.
Clicking the button below will get you to the official supplier who has the best price available on the FlexBeam as of November 2023. Plus, for the month of November, use code BEAMS for $70 off the FlexBeam!
Read our FlexBeam Review
CurrentBody LED Face Mask: The Best Red Light Therapy Face Mask For Anti-Aging & Skin Rejuvenation
When it comes to using red light therapy for its anti-aging and skin rejuvenation benefits, LED face masks are one of the more convenient and easy-to-use options. These face masks tend to be hands-free, so you can move around freely while receiving your treatment.
Another benefit of LED masks is that they’re generally a more affordable option compared to other red light therapy devices. For instance, a high-quality LED mask might cost you $300-$500, while a red light therapy panel might run you upwards of $1,000+.
After testing a couple red light therapy face masks on the market, from those “combination” light therapy masks to more budget options to more premium options, I found the CurrentBody LED Face Mask to be one of my favorites among the best LED light therapy masks.
This LED mask uses a combination of red light (633 nm) and near infrared light (830 nm) to penetrate deep into the skin, stimulating collagen and elastin production, which can help improve skin elasticity, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and promote overall skin health.
What’s more, the two wavelengths used in this LED face mask are backed by several clinical studies.
In one study, researchers found that using 633 nm and 830 nm wavelengths resulted in a significant increase in collagen and elastin production in patients. These patients also saw up to a 36% reduction in wrinkles and up to a 19% increase in skin elasticity .
One of the standout features of the CurrentBody LED mask, in my opinion, is its design.
Unlike some other LED masks that I’ve tried that were uncomfortable or difficult to wear, this mask is made with patented flexible silicone that conforms to the shape of your face, ensuring maximum comfort and light coverage.
This was a huge plus for me, as you can tell it was designed with the user in mind vs. other LED masks that were clearly only designed for those with “standard” head sizes.
When it comes to evaluating LED masks, one of my criteria is looking at how many LEDs are in the mask. In general, the more LEDs, the better.
The CurrentBody LED mask has 98 LEDs in total: 49 red light LEDs and 49 near infrared light LEDs. This is more than enough for effective treatment, so CurrentBody passes that assessment.
A cool feature worth mentioning is the additional LEDs on the nose flap. This was a welcome surprise, as not many masks have them.
Another one of my criteria is looking at whether the LED mask is FDA Cleared. After all, while red light therapy is backed by an ever-growing number of studies, not all masks are created (or work) the same. I want to make sure that whatever device I’m using is safe, so I’m happy to report that the CurrentBody mask is FDA Cleared and CE Certified.
Plus, with its rechargeable battery, short treatment time (just 10 minutes), and attachable head strap, I found the CurrentBody face mask extremely easy-to-use as I went about my day. I didn’t have to reorganize my evening routine to specifically make time for a red light therapy session.
A potential downside of CurrentBody’s LED mask is that it only emits red light and near infrared light. For those who are primarily looking to treat acne, you might be better off looking for a LED mask that incorporates red, near infrared, and blue light.
Overall, the CurrentBody LED Face Mask is a fantastic option for those looking for a skin rejuvenating, wrinkle-fighting treatment in the comfort of their own home. Its convenience, versatility, and use of clinically-proven wavelengths make it a great choice for both beginners and experienced users alike.
Clicking the button below will get you to the official supplier who has the best price available on the CurrentBody LED Face Mask as of November 2023. Plus, for the month of November, use code BEAMSCB for 10% off your entire order!
Read our CurrentBody LED Mask Review
Red Light Therapy Panels & Beds: The Best Devices For Full-Body Treatments
For those looking for a hands-off approach to RLT, getting a panel or bed may be your best bet. Because these half-body and full-body devices have more LED lights, they emit more light energy, are more potent, and can target more extensive areas. Unfortunately, this also means they’re pricer than handheld devices.
MitoPRO Series: The Best Red Light Therapy Panels
After reviewing some of the industry’s most popular red light therapy panels, Mito Red Light’s MitoPRO Series came out on top.
The MitoPRO Series is one of the industry’s most potent devices and uses the most bio-active, effective wavelengths of 630nm/660nm (red) and 830nm/850nm (near-infrared). Their multi-wavelength design is currently patent-pending.
What does this all mean?
The light energy from the MitoPRO Series is more easily absorbed by your body’s cells, meaning faster and stronger results. And, because MitoPRO Series includes both red and near-infrared LED lights (with the option to use them alone or together), there’s no need to get any additional infrared devices.
Plus, with its 60-degree lens beam angle, the light’s potency is maintained over a greater distance, meaning a high irradiance six inches away.
When choosing a panel, you want to look at irradiance (i.e., energy output) since this will tell you how potent a device is. Using a panel with a higher irradiance will often mean faster results. However, some companies may mislead you by telling you the irradiance at zero inches. This is a useless metric because no one stands skin-to-panel.
While Mito Red Light may not advertise as heavily as other competitors, I believe the MitoPRO Series is a hidden gem. In fact, for the quality level it provides, we feel that these red light therapy panels are the best bang for your buck.
That said, if you’re looking for the best-of-the-best and are willing to invest, Mito Red Light’s newest lineup of red light therapy devices might be worth a look. The MitoADAPT Series offers ELEVEN different treatment modes, with its patent-pending dual chip, multi-wavelength design! However, it does carry a higher price point, so it’s definitely not for everyone.
Clicking the button below will get you to the official supplier who has the best price available on the MitoPro Series as of November 2023. Plus, for the month of November, use code LIGHT5 for 5% off your entire order!
Read our MitoPRO Series Review
NovoTHOR: The Best Red Light Therapy Bed
For those of you with the budget to spend, a red light therapy bed might be an investment worth making (often upwards of $100,000+).
If you want to test these out before purchasing or can’t justify spending that much, you’re in luck. Wellness centers, specialized clinics, and high-end sports clubs may provide access to these RLT beds for a fraction of the cost.
Built to medical specifications, NovoTHOR is one of the leading providers of red light therapy beds. It’s also the option used most frequently by professional sports teams.
That said, Mito Red Light does offer a more affordable option for those who aren’t ready to spend six figures just yet. Their red light therapy bed boasts over 41K LEDs, split evenly between four wavelengths of red and near-infrared light. Plus, at 65 decibels (dB), the inside of the bed is pretty quiet. The bed’s dimensions are 87″ L x 46″ W x 43″ H, so anyone under 6′ 9″ can fit comfortably.
HairMax PowerFlex Laser Cap: The Best Red Light Therapy Cap For Hair Loss
If you’re only looking to use red light therapy for hair growth, getting a cap will be your best choice. Unlike panels or handheld devices, caps cover your entire scalp, leaving no hair follicle ignored.
However, this treatment isn’t meant for already bald people – the hair follicles need to be alive and undamaged.
(With that important disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump to the exciting part!)
While it was initially designed to treat androgenic alopecia (aka male-pattern baldness), the PowerFlex Laser Cap has helped thousands of men and women grow healthier and thicker hair, with most seeing results within 3-6 months.
What stood out most about the PowerFlex Laser Cap is its generous money-back guarantee. Unlike other companies who only offer you a couple months to try their products, you get to use your PowerFlex Laser Cap for SIX MONTHs before deciding if you want to keep it.
Because red light therapy takes time to work, you want as much time as possible to test the device and see if it works for you.
Additionally, this device is completely hands-free. It comes with a rechargeable battery included – a feature that many other companies will charge you extra for.
However, the one downside of the product is its long charging time. It takes four to six hours to charge fully.
Clicking the button below will get you to the official supplier who has the best price available on the HairMax PowerFlex Laser Cap as of November 2023.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
While the exact mechanisms aren’t yet well-established, scientists have observed RLT to have a wide range of effects at every level. Red light penetrates the skin surface and treats conditions like cystic acne and sun spots. Because near-infrared light penetrates much deeper into tissue and bone, it can lead to improved bone repair, increased healing post-surgery, faster recovery from stroke, and more.
The prevailing theory is that the red light wavelength produces a biochemical reaction in mitochondria (i.e., your cells’ energy factories), improving their performance. This increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that carries energy to the cells in your body, production. With more energy available, your cells function more efficiently and repair damage faster .
(Which might explain the anti-aging properties of RLT.)
RLT can also improve your immune cells’ efficiency and dilate your blood vessels. This increases your body’s ability to kill bacteria and deliver oxygen to cells that need it, leading to enhanced immunity and faster wound healing .
How Often Should You Do It?
People often recommended doing red light therapy three to five times per week for 10-20 minutes a session.
However, this is just a general guideline. In reality, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to RLT because everyone’s in a unique situation.
Some conditions, like hair loss, take longer to treat than others.
Your skin might be more light-sensitive. While you’ll more easily absorb the red light (which often translates to less treatment time!), you might damage your skin if you consistently overdo it.
That’s why the recommended dosages and durations are decent starting places but often not optimal treatment times.
Scientists all agree, however, that consistency is key to seeing results and improvements.
Here are some quick tips by your desired goal.
In one controlled study, researchers saw significant improvements in collagen density, skin tone, and wrinkle reduction in participants (aged 27-79). The study consisted of 30 sessions over 12 weeks (around two to three treatments per week).
Researchers noticed even better results for people who opted-in to the long-term, follow-up study and had 60 sessions .
For Sports Performance
A review of 46 scientific studies found two main uses of red light therapy in athletic performance: pre-exercise and post-exercise.
RLT, when used three to six hours before exercise, improved the performance and endurance of muscles .
What this means: If you’re squatting at the gym, you’ll be able to lift heavier and do more repetitions.
RLT, when used after exercise, improved muscle recovery and reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This combination seems to work together to increase the potential gains of training, e.g., more muscle mass .
What this means: If you’re sore after leg day at the gym, your muscles will feel better sooner, and you won’t have to worry about limping up (or down) the stairs.
For Hair Loss
Are you worried about thinning hair?
Fear not! Red light therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for stopping hair loss.
While most studies focus on androgenic alopecia, many people without pattern baldness have used RLT to successfully stimulate hair growth. The one downside, however, is that it takes longer to see results. The majority of people see results within 24 weeks (6 months), with some needing 52 weeks (12 months) to see improvements.
The treatment timeline will depend on your current situation, so expect to use RLT longer if you have a more severe hair loss problem.
For Joint Pain
A review of 823 scientific studies found RLT useful in relieving pain, reducing stiffness, and improving function in people with KOA, a condition where the natural cushioning between joints has worn away .
More specifically, one of the studies asked people to shine a red light on both sides of their knee joints for 15 minutes twice a day for ten days .
People with joint pain, whether from knee osteoarthritis (KOA) or rheumatoid arthritis, tend to be the quickest to notice the beneficial effects of red light therapy.
For Chronic Skin Disorders
One study found that people who used RLT twice a week for 12 sessions (6 weeks total) experienced a significant reduction in acne . Although this study solely investigated the effectiveness of red light, it’s often best to combine red light with blue light for maximum results. They’re used for their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects, respectively.
While still preliminary, some studies have shown RLT to help treat psoriasis without any adverse effects. Research participants used RLT every other day for 20-minutes for four to five weeks and saw a complete resolution of their psoriasis .
For Skin Wounds & Stretch Marks
While perhaps not as relevant to you (but still pretty cool!), RLT can be used to treat burns, amputation injuries, skin grafts, and infected wounds . That’s probably why it’s one of the many tools used by NASA and the military.
If you do happen to have any of the above, please don’t use your RLT device at-home. Seek a doctor or qualified medical professional because RLT is best used in conjunction with other treatments. RLT’s there to speed up the healing process.
But, if you have a small cut or scrape, RLT might be a great option to add after you’ve disinfected the wound.
Or, if you’re looking to get rid of your stretch marks or acne scars, RLT has been anecdotally shown to help. It normalizes collagen production, reduces inflammation, and improves blood flow.
Take Progress Photos
Because many of these results happen over a long period, I’d recommend taking pictures before you start and monthly once you begin your at-home red light therapy treatment.
We often contextualize our appearances based on what we see in the mirror every day. So, while we might only be marginally better than yesterday, we might be shocked at how far we’ve come if we compare ourselves to a picture we took in the beginning.
Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Yes, red light therapy works.
With over 4,000 scientific studies, red light therapy has been proven to diminish wrinkles, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve hair growth, enhance physical performance, promote wound healing, and much more.
However, RLT is not a cure-all, especially when it comes to mental health.
For instance, some companies might say their red LED light devices can treat depression. While the preliminary scientific evidence is promising, many scientists still agree that more research needs to be done before they’re able to recommend this as an alternative treatment to antidepressants .
What Is The Cost of Red Light Therapy?
The short answer: it depends.
For instance, you can get red light therapy done at a wellness center, clinic, or spa. These sessions will be cheaper in the short run, but the cost can quickly build up.
Purchasing a red light therapy device will be cost more upfront. But this allows you to do as many sessions as you want… all in the comfort of your home!
What Are The Side Effects Of Red Light Therapy?
There are no side effects of red light therapy.
In study after study, scientists have yet to notice any adverse effects of red light treatments. There’s so much buzz around RLT because it’s one of the few non-invasive treatments without any adverse side effects. It also doesn’t hurt that it has a lot of promising benefits or that it works for all skin types.
But, if your skin is particularly sensitive, you might notice some tightness or redness. This is entirely normal and will resolve on its own. Although, you may want to consider reducing treatment time or moving further away from your RLT device if the redness becomes a consistent problem.
Also, be sure to check if any of the medications you’re currently taking make you more sensitive to light, e.g., cholesterol-lowering drugs. While rare, it is possible that using these medications with RLT might result in some minor hyperpigmentation.
The only “potential” side effect comes from faulty or damaged equipment. If you experience any burns or blistering, stop treatment and seek medical advice.
Do You Need Eye Protection Or Goggles For Red Light Therapy?
No, you don’t need eye protection or goggles for red light therapy. Some studies have actually concluded that RLT might be beneficial to eye health .
There is, however, a small risk associated with infrared light. Infrared light is invisible to our eyes and is often felt as heat. Prolonged exposure can cause the eye to overheat, leading to diseases like cataracts. But, this mostly affects people who work in high-heat environments, e.g., glassblowers and furnace workers.
While your RLT device might emit some infrared light, it’s often not an issue. Although to be safe, I’d recommend wearing some kind of eye protection if you find yourself looking at your red light device. This is most applicable if you’re using a panel or bed). After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Can You Overdo Red Light Therapy?
No, you can’t overdo red light therapy (in the traditional sense). There are virtually no adverse side effects or health risks. That being said, there is a point of diminishing returns, where you’ll get less and less benefit from red LED light treatments. And, if your skin is particularly sensitive, you might experience some redness or tightness.
So, while you can technically use your red light device five times a day, the question you need to ask yourself is: do I really need to use it?
What Does Red Light Do To Your Brain?
Red light can have several positive effects on your brain, from increased neuroprotection and brain repair to reduced inflammation. Some scientists even believe that “[RLT] for brain disorders will become one of the most important medical applications of light therapy in the coming years and decades” .
A pilot study, for instance, found RLT to have improved cognition in people who were suffering from chronic, mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) .
Also, preliminary findings indicate that RLT may improve the condition of people with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s .
While these early results are promising, more studies are needed.
What’s The Difference Between LED Therapy And Laser Therapy?
Most at-home red light therapy devices use LED lights. LED lights, while not as powerful as lasers, are much more affordable and better for general use.
If, however, you’re primarily looking to use red light therapy for hair growth, it’d be best to get a device with laser diodes, instead of LEDs. Lasers can penetrate deeper and are often better at stimulating hair follicles.
Let There Be Light
While RLT won’t cure all your woes, the science behind it is incredibly promising. Especially if you’re using it for its anti-aging and skin healing properties.
As someone who’s tried many expensive “anti-aging” creams and serums out there and gotten very “eh” results, I wish I’d discovered RLT sooner. I’d have saved myself from a lot of self-induced stress, and my wallet would probably be happier.
You can rest easy knowing this is the closest thing there is to a fountain of youth.
For more information about RLT and its growing list of uses (or to fact-check a company’s claims), visit this website regularly.