You flip a switch and turn on the lights. Pretty simple, right?
But what if flipping that switch did more than just turn on a light bulb. What if you could flip a switch and receive instant pain relief?
What if that same switch helped with inflammation healing, tissue regeneration, autoimmune health, brain recovery, increased athletic performance, seasonal depression, better eyesight and even relief from painful cancer side effects.
Do I have your attention now?
That switch is a new kid on the block: Red light therapy at home. The truth is, there’s nothing new about red light therapy. It’s been around for almost 50 years but is only recently gaining the traction it deserves.
In the 1990s, NASA used concentrated red light therapy to activate plant growth in space. After seeing the effectiveness, they began researching what applications this could have for people as well. The power of light to literally cure whatever ails you is a real treatment with real results. “The number of conditions red light can treat is ‘continuously expanding,’” said Michael R. Hamblin, Ph.D., associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
But is it too good to be true? Let’s break it down to see what red light therapy actually is, how it helps literally every single person on the planet, and best of all – how you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.
What is Red Light Therapy?
First, let’s just be clear about what red light therapy at home is NOT. It’s not a tanning bed. It’s not a laser. It’s not ultraviolet rays and you can’t get it from the sun.
Red light therapy is a concentrated form of light waves in the red and infrared spectrum. The light emitted in this spectrum is perfectly safe for the skin and poses no risk of skin cancer, sunburn or tanning.
The red light wavelengths go straight to the cellular level, deep inside the body. At this level, it enhances ATP, which is the source of energy in every cell in your body. This means that each cell gets a boost to do its job a little bit better, which can affect almost every system in your body.
How is Red Light Therapy Different Than Sunlight?
Red light therapy at home is completely different than the harsh UV rays of sunlight. While the sun can give you Vitamin D, a sunburn (if you’re not careful) and promote a great day at the beach, red light therapy is actually making a difference at the cellular level of your body. The sun’s rays are actually harmful to the body when used in excess while red light therapy is completely safe with absolutely no side effects.
What Does Red Light Therapy Do?
As you sit or stand a few inches away from a panel of red lights, their wavelengths can actually alter the way your cells produce energy and antioxidants. Because it’s working with the way your body already functions, it has increased efficiency in healing bones, nerves, skin, tendons, and ligaments within the body. Thousands of studies have been done on red light therapy at home and new benefits are being discovered almost every day.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Thousands of studies have been done on red light therapy and new benefits are being discovered almost every day. Evidence for the effectiveness of red light is overwhelmingly in favor of both effectiveness and safety. The FDA has approved light therapy for the treatment of joint pain, reduction of wrinkles, and many other conditions.
- Inflammation: A study showed red light therapy to be useful in decreasing inflammation and stimulating post-procedure wound healing.
- Hair and Skin: It can help bolster hair growth in people with alopecia and stimulate collagen production in people who hope to lessen fine lines and wrinkles.It also helps naturally decrease oil production and bacterial levels in your skin with no drying effects or harsh chemicals.
- Soft-Tissue Damage: When it comes to injuries like sprains and strains, red light therapy may both promote healing and offer pain relief as well.
- Pain Relief: The studies and data on red light therapy at home for pain relief is so clear the FDA has approved it as a therapy for treating minor pains and arthritis.
- Wound Healing: A 2014 study found red light therapy promoted “increased tissue repair and healing…[plus] beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and healing of burns.”
- Muscle Repair: A 2014 study found that the therapeutic technique led to reduced muscle strength loss, less muscle soreness, and fewer range-of-motion impairments for up to four days after exercise. A more recent 2018 study also proved that RLT both before and after exercise reduces knee muscle fatigue.
- Circulation: Studies have shown an increase in circulation in the body which allows the tissues to receive more oxygen and nutrients for internal healing.
- Sleep Therapy: Using a high-quality red light therapy at home during the day has been shown to increase your body’s natural melatonin output, which helps you sleep and stay asleep longer.
- Weight Loss: Some researchers have found red light therapy to be effective at washing away fat cells from the body and control hunger-related hormones.
- Cellulite: A 2011 study on red light therapy shows reduced cellulite in women ages 25-55 when combined with light treadmill exercise.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
All things need cell energy to function and survive. Most living things rely on natural light to power this process. Natural light encompasses a wide range of wavelengths and colors, but it’s the red and near-infrared wavelengths that make the difference. By concentrating these wavelengths, you can concentrate their benefits of stimulating the mitochondria in your cells, which is the cellular powerhouse.
Before you get any creative ideas, you can’t just pull out your red Christmas lights and stand in from of them hoping for a miracle. Red light therapy at home must use medical-grade LED lights with a concentrated wavelength. More specifically two wavelengths of red light in particular—660 nanometers and 850 nanometers. These specifications deliver the best biological response.
The former, 660 nanometers, is more quickly absorbed by the skin, making it the go-to for dermatologist and cosmetic treatments, while 850-nanometer wavelengths penetrate deeper into your body to help with muscle recovery, joint pain, and full-body health.
Are There Any Side Effects to Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is not UV rays, is not a laser or intense pulse light, and is completely non-invasive. As of today (2019) there are no known side effects of red light treatment. But I might mention that overuse can be a little tiring on the body if you haven’t built up to using it regularly.
How Can I Get the Benefits of Red Light Therapy at Home?
As evidence for red light therapy benefits grows, so does the accessibility of the therapy itself. You can find red light therapy options at the dermatologist, spa, or maybe a fancy gym, but you can also enjoy red light therapy at home. At-home options for red light therapy include masks, hand-held devices, bulbs, and full red light beds.
How to Choose the Right Light Device
You can buy a variety of DIY devices, but it’s important to be sure that it specifies a clear output intensity.
Red Light vs. Infrared Light: Most products are marketed as either a Red Light device or an Infrared Light device. This is not just a difference in wording, but a complete difference in application, so it’s important to know the difference:
- Red Light reaches 600-700 nanometers and is designed for skin and cosmetic treatment.
- Infrared Light reaches 700-900 nanometers and is designed for muscle recovery, joint pain, inflammation, etc.
It’s important to base the device you purchase off of the intended purpose you’d like to use it for. You can use either red light or infrared light and sometimes both. One is not better than another, they simply target different areas. Both can be effective for skin treatment, but infrared light will penetrate deeper to help with bone and muscle health.
Recommended Red Light Therapy Products:
If you’re just getting started into the world of red light therapy at home, it’s worth doing a little research. Ari Whitten is an energy and fatigue specialist as well as a nutrition and lifestyle expert. You can get his book and learn more about red light therapy here on Amazon.
Why we love it:
- This book gives a deep dive into the science of red/infrared light so you know what you’re doing when you invest in a device.
- Details on how to use red light therapy at home to get the best results
- Critical information on dosing, health issues, and protocols.
With over 90 percent 5-star reviews, it’s clear why this book is an important part of red light therapy at home. One 5-star review reads, “This information could save you thousands of dollars! Through personal experience, I already knew that red light therapy was useful. I had received LLLT cold laser treatments that helped me regain the use of my arm after a long period of debilitating pain in my shoulder…”
It’s definitely worth doing your own research with the help of industry expert Ari Whitten before you get started. Grab this book on Amazon here.
Best Bulb: SGROW 24W Red Light and Near Infrared LED light Therapy Bulb
This bulb is the Amazon Choice award for red light therapy at home devices and it’s easy to see why. It fits in any basic light but delivers the best properties of both red light and infrared light therapy. SGROW LED technology is ideal for red light therapy at home.
Why we love it:
- Gives benefits of both 660nm and 850nm with both red light and infrared right in one bulb.
- It’s energy-efficient and comes with everything you need to get started.
- It’s small and lightweight making it easy to use anywhere.
Almost 80 percent of the reviews are 5-stars. One review, after four months of using the light, said:
“This bulb really works! I ran into a friend whom I have not seen in about 6 months. Her first remark was a “Wow…you look so much younger! What are you doing to your skin?” Also, my poor old giant breed dog (mastiff mix) was limping and had a hard time getting up out of bed. I have been applying this light to his spine and hindquarters every day for about 20 minutes a session (putting the light directly on his fur). He is getting up more easily and more willing to go on walks. I am a true believer in this Red Light Therapy science.”
It’s important to note that this purchase is only the bulb, so you will need a desk lamp or other fixture to use with it. You can learn more about SGROW and purchase this Amazon Choice bulb here.
Best Portable Panel: SGROW Portable Red Light Therapy
This portable light is best suited for the face but can help with a wide range of whole-body health. It’s a combination of 660nm and 850 nm with 50 percent deep red light and 50 percent near-infrared light. You can learn more about this light or buy it now on Amazon.
Why we love it:
- You can put the light anywhere with the convenient portability
- It’s lightweight and is about the same size as an iPad making it easy to travel with.
- All you need is an outlet and you’re ready to go.
- Has a built-in timer that shuts off automatically.
- Combines the best of red light therapy and deep infrared technology to get you the best results.
Most customer reviews are at 5-star and it’s clear this light is both easy and effective.
Tkfan said, “I absolutely love this red light therapy. have very severe rheumatoid arthritis in my leg, it makes me very comfortable. I love the recovery aspect of it, It really can relieve pain. I’ve also noticed a significant difference in my legs, chest and my feet in the joints. It works great without getting overly hot. I also use it on my face and have seen a difference as well! My skin feels great and much more even skin tone. Its portability allows me to take it anywhere. So, I highly recommend.”
The panel is great for the face or targeted body areas. The same product is also available as a 36-watt bulb if you’d rather have the bulb shape than the panel. You can learn more or buy now on Amazon.
Best Handheld device: Quantum Rejuvenation Red Light Therapy Device
This is a handheld optical red light therapy device that delivers light therapy at 660nm. The handheld devices are best for targeted muscle or pain relief. This is a very similar treatment used by doctors on athletes for fast relief and better performance. You can learn more or buy the Quantum Rejuvenation device here on Amazon.
Why we love it:
- This is an FDA registered product manufactured in an FDA-registered medical device facility right here in the USA.
- It comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. If it doesn’t work for you, you can simply send it back for a full refund.
- 5-year warranty on the bulb itself.
- The bulb is a high quality LED, producing deep-penetrating 660nm
- The concentrated light is designed to be used in direct contact with the skin.
- Travel-friendly, lightweight and with a convenient case.
If you’re looking for a product specifically for use on the face, you’re better off with a panel light rather than a direct light. This optical light is great for spot treatment in a specific area or muscle, but it doesn’t work as well for a larger area like the full face.
One Amazon reviewer with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia uses this for pain management as opposed to strong pain drugs. He said, “Most days I walk with a limp because the pain in my lower back and hip is so bad. Over the past four days, I have only taken ibuprofen twice instead of every four hours. I’ve only had pain in my lower leg on two different occasions instead of nearly all day and all night. THE RELIEF IS BEYOND WHAT I HAD HOPED FOR. Normally I’m very skeptical about overly glowing reviews, but here I am writing one.”
This makes it easy to recommend this product for anyone who is looking to relief targeted pain anywhere in the body. Learn more, and buy it for yourself here on Amazon.
Best Face Mask: Dermashine Pro 7 Color LED Face Mask
If you’ve been on Instagram lately, you know the cult following of LED face masks. These are the best way to get the benefits of light therapy specifically for the face. Celebrities like Katy Perry, J-Lo, and Jessica Alba are huge light mask supporters.
Why we love it:
- The shape allows the LED lights to penetrate every area of the face for even treatment.
- Completely safe and natural with no harmful UV rays
- 150 different LED lights emit wavelengths including red light for increased blood flow and collagen boost and other colors to offer additional calming, tightening, and tissue benefits.
- 60-day money-back guarantee and 2-year warranty on the product.
Dermashine recommends using the product for 15-30 minutes once a day to quickly and naturally treat many blemishes like scarring, lumpy uneven skin, fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, large pores, inflammation, redness, dryness, oiliness, and more.
Almost 300 reviewers have given the mask an average rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. Phylicia said, “When I found Dermashine, I was cautious in reading the reviews as at the end of the day everyone’s skin is different. Having suffered from acne in my teens, I still have scars on my cheeks that I am trying to get rid of. Once I received the Dermashine, I was blown away. I used the blue LED light for 20 minutes then the red LED light for 20 minutes and I honestly saw a difference immediately. My skin looked and felt tighter.”
Some reviewers commented that the mask felt heavy, but this doesn’t interfere with effectiveness, and even just 5-10 minutes can make a big difference. This makes it easy to recommend the Dermashine LED face mask, you can read more reviews or order the product on Amazon.
How to Use a Red Light Therapy Device at Home
Because the technology is still new and the effects are constantly being researched, the jury is still out regarding the exact dosage needed for an optimal effect. What we do know is that there is no fear of overdoing it because there have been no side effects. It’s almost impossible to cause any harm so long as the bulbs are in working order. Start with 5-10 minutes and work up from there. You can use the device every day or even several times a day. You will see more benefits from consistent use.
Every device, due to the different levels of intensity and recommended exposure for the area you want to treat, will have their own directions on how to best use their device. Please read your manual for the best results when it comes to treating the internal issues. But there are a few guidelines I would like to recommend when it comes to treating the skin.
- How to treat the skin surface?
- For skin aging and pigmentation, look for wavelengths near to either 610 to 630 nm or 670 nm.
- How close should the light be from your skin for the best results?
- Depending on your light, position it so that the light hitting the skin is between 20 mW/cm² and 200 mW/cm². The highest results are under 100 mW/cm².
- How do you use the red light to treat acne?
- A slightly higher intensity of red light seems more appropriate for severe cases of acne, for up to 10 minutes every day.
- Depending on the device, the distance would be around 10 cm or less with one of the more powerful units. Treating acne treatment involves reducing skin inflammation, but also sterilizing the acne bacteria. Red light has a photodynamic bactericidal effect on certain bacteria, including acne bacteria, due to a photosensitive pigment they have. The photodynamic effect is dose-dependent, meaning more is better.
- How about to treat general skin aging or pigmentation?
- It has been suggested to use a relatively moderate light intensity exposure, but for a longer time. This might range from a 50 to 100 mW/cm² light intensity. Results tend to be worse if you go for short intense sessions.
- Use for 5-15 minutes, four times a week.
- What about treating hair loss?
- Because hair loss doesn’t have the root cause at the scalp you should be using light on other areas—like the thyroid, for example, as well as the scalp.
- Use fairly high power densities, 50 to 100 mW/cm² or more.
How Long Should Each Treatment Be?
Closer and longer treatments are better in certain conditions such as infections, but otherwise, a more moderate dose is better. Five to 15 minutes is all that is usually necessary.
The weaker devices out there might need 20 to 30 minutes or more. If you can’t find information on a device’s power density, in mW/cm², and how that changes by distance, I would be skeptical whether it is useful at all.
Just remember – the closer the device to your skin the deeper the treatment will penetrate.
Everyone from soccer moms to Olympic athletes is discovering the benefits of red light therapy. Most often it’s used for joint pain, inflammation, physical performance, and skin health. Imagine what red light therapy at home could do for you.