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Red Light Therapy For Cellulite: A Natural Way To Tighten Your Skin?

Last Reviewed on May 1, 2024

Learn about using red light therapy for cellulite, including how it works, what to expect, and some tips and precautions.

If you’ve ever dealt with cellulite, you’ve likely tried everything in the book to get rid of it. Red light therapy is a great choice to help you eliminate cellulite, and there are plenty of studies to prove just how beneficial it can be.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through:

  • The potential benefits of LLLT on reducing cellulite
  • How red light therapy works
  • How to use LLLT (and the best devices for it)

So, if you’re ready to get rid of those unsightly dimples on your stomach and thighs, let’s jump right into how you can tighten and smooth out your skin.

Does Red Light Therapy Help Cellulite?

Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBM) or low-level laser therapy (LLLT), involves the use of low-level red light to stimulate activity in your body’s cells. In turn, it’s incredibly helpful for various therapeutic effects within your body, from wound healing to skin rejuvenation.

Over the last few years, red light therapy has gained a lot of popularity as a non-invasive way to address cellulite and other skin conditions. But does it actually work? Well, with plenty of studies backing up the claims that it has measurable results, it seems like it’s more effective than you may have thought.

Firstly, red light therapy encourages the production of fibroblasts, which are cells that help to create connective tissue [1]. Fibroblasts are essential for collagen production, helping with your skin elasticity. Since collagen is what makes your skin supple and firm, it can reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Illustration of normal skin structure and fibroblast cell

Additionally, red light therapy increases the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in your body. This is responsible for widening your blood vessels, which means that there will be more blood flow to the area that you’re treating [2].

When the circulation or blood flow is improved in the treatment area, important nutrients and oxygen can be effectively delivered there. This helps to break down some of the fat cells that are usually associated with cellulite.

Using red light therapy is also fantastic for reducing your saddlebags and the overall circumference of your thighs – as long as it’s combined with a good amount of exercise. In one clinical study, women reported greater cellulite reduction and skin tightening when adding infrared light therapy to their high-intensity treadmill training [3]. This just goes to show that this light therapy is perfect for losing targeted body fat.

Lastly, you’ll see the best results when combining red light therapy with topical treatments like anti-cellulite gel. In one study, patients with Grade 2-3 cellulite followed a 3-month program of a phosphatidylcholine-based, anti-cellulite gel and LED exposure. 89% of the patients were downgraded to a lower cellulite grade post-treatment [4]. Of course, this also suggests that using gels and creams can make your red light therapy treatment more effective.

Close-up of severe cellulite on thigh

How Does Red Light Therapy Help Cellulite?

Red light therapy works by using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to penetrate the skin with red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths of light. These wavelengths can actually penetrate deeply enough to reach the mitochondria, which is the cell’s powerhouse.

The mitochondria are also responsible for producing energy in the cells in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). But as you start to age, so do the mitochondria. When they age, they can’t function as well as they used to. In turn, they produce less energy, which can affect various organs and tissues.

When you use red and NIR light therapy, the reaction in the mitochondria makes them use oxygen more efficiently, creating more ATP. Although this means your body is functioning more optimally, there are other processes that are specific to cellulite reduction.

Some of red light therapy benefits for cellulite include:

  • Elastin and collagen production: Red light therapy is amazing for stimulating collagen production and elastin, which are essential for your skin structure. Collagen can help to maintain your skin thickness, while elastin allows it to stretch and return to normal. Because of this improvement in your skin tone, it reduces the appearance of cellulite.
  • Blood circulation: Since red light therapy helps to improve circulation, it also helps to bring much-needed oxygen and nutrients to your cells. For this reason, blood flow is crucial for the production of collagen and can help to support your overall skin health. Plus, it can help to mitigate the factors that contribute to cellulite.
  • Support to the lymphatic system: Red light therapy can help to enhance the lymphatic system, which, in turn, helps to drain your body of excess fluids and waste [5]. When you can effectively drain this fluid, it won’t accumulate in your fat cells. This is important because too much fluid in these cells can potentially cause cellulite.
  • Weight loss: In a study in 2017, it was found that red light therapy can contribute to fat loss [6]. It can help to stimulate your metabolism, which helps your body to break down subcutaneous fat. Since maintaining a healthy weight is important for cellulite reduction, LLLT can help you stave off pesky cellulite through proper weight management.
  • Muscle toning: When you combine exercise with red light therapy, it can help with muscle toning and recovery [7]. When you strengthen your muscles through exercise and LLLT, you may be able to reduce the visible effects of cellulite.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Red light therapy can have anti-inflammatory properties and reduce the amount of inflammation in your skin tissues [8]. Generally, inflammation can make cellulite worse, so being able to soothe it can help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

How To Use Red Light Therapy For Cellulite

To get the most out of your red light therapy for treating cellulite, you’ll want to start by picking a great device to use at home. This could be either a handheld device or an LLLT panel (but more on this later).

When you’re looking through devices, you’re going to want to read all of the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that you’re using your device safely – and getting the most out of it! If you’re not using your device properly, it may not be as effective as you’d like.

Then, before you start a session, you’ll want to clean the area as thoroughly as you can. It should be clean and dry for the best light absorption, so be sure to clean off any lotions or creams beforehand. Unless you’re using an anti-cellulite gel!

When you’re ready, you can set the length of your session. Typically, most red light therapy sessions are between 5 to 20 minutes, but they can change depending on how severe your cellulite is. You should also start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time as your skin gets used to the treatment.

Just remember: If you want to reduce cellulite, you’ll need to be consistent. You’ll need to use the device a few times a week over several months to really reap the rewards and see your cellulite melt away.

Expert Tip: Combine LLLT with other cellulite treatments for the best results. Studies have found combination treatments to work the best.

Red Light Therapy For Cellulite: Side Effects

Red light therapy is safe and easy to use when you follow the instructions. There are no side effects, and it doesn’t involve any discomfort, harmful radiation, or excessive heat.

That means that you can reduce cellulite in a carefree, simple, and pain-free way. All you need to do is make sure you’re keeping the right distance between your skin and the device during your sessions.

Still, if you’re wary about using LLLT, then you can always consult with your doctor or another healthcare professional before you start using this therapy.

What Is The Best Red Light Therapy Device For Cellulite?

When it comes to red light therapy devices, you’re going to want to pick the right one to get the best possible results. The right device also depends on what you want to achieve and where you’re targeting for cellulite reduction.

Typically, wearable gadgets like red light belts or wraps are great for targeting specific spots like your thighs or stomach. They’re also portable, which means you can go about your day while the red light therapy does its work – it’s that simple.

Man using red light therapy device for thigh cellulite

However, if you want an all-over solution, you may want to pick panels that cover a bigger surface area. Since they can ‘cover more ground’, they’re ideal for dealing with cellulite in different parts of your body.

It may be important to note that handheld devices aren’t always the most effective for cellulite reduction. This is mainly because they don’t cover much of your skin, which means it may take much longer to get the results you’re after.

Remember, you’ll also want to look out for:

  • What kind of light the device uses (red and NIR light is best)
  • How strong the device is
  • How easy the device is to use

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about using red light therapy for cellulite:

How to use cellulite cream with red light therapy?

Cellulite cream or anti-cellulite gel can be a great addition to your red light therapy regime. However, it’s important to remember that you should only apply your cream after your treatments. While some gels can be applied to use in conjunction with your LLLT session, it’s important to check that they’re compatible.

Usually, you’ll want clean, dry skin before using your therapy. This is because thick layers of cream can potentially prevent the light waves from penetrating your skin. So, unless your gel has been specifically designed for use with your device, you may want to only apply it after your session is finished.

How long does it take for red light therapy to tighten skin?

Now that you know how red light therapy can help you to reduce cellulite, it’s only natural that you’re itching for results. But you’ll need to be patient. With consistent use of LLLT, you could possibly notice the effects of the therapy after a few months.

Still, results usually depend on other factors like how often you use the therapy and your skin type.

How often should I use red light therapy for cellulite?

For the most effective results, you’ll want to use red light therapy around 2 – 3 times a week. Of course, you can always adjust the frequency and duration of your treatments, but you’ll need to do so safely. Be sure to read all of the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions before you increase the amount of red light you expose your skin to.

Final Thoughts

Red light therapy is an effective and non-invasive option to help you reduce your cellulite. By incorporating it into your routine and using the right device, you can work towards improving your skin tone and texture for good!

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8783057/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1011134421000919
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21740089/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17558758/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8366198/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5642174/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5167494/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523874/
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.

John Ni, BSc.

John, a graduate of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, serves as a respected scientific reviewer at TherapeuticBeams.com. His expertise extends across various domains, including chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and dermatology. He contributes to publications like Royal Society of Chemistry, Drug Topics, and Practical Dermatology.

John Ni, Content Editor & Scientific Review

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