Red Light Therapy: Is It Effective Or Not? Check!

Red light therapy has become an increasingly popular wellness treatment over the last few years. But what exactly is red light therapy and does it work?

Red light therapy involves exposing your skin to low-wavelength red light emitted from LEDs or lasers. The light penetrates your skin to a depth of about 8-10 mm, which has been found to provide benefits at a cellular level resulting from positive changes in cell function and signaling. When cells absorb certain wavelengths of light, it influences their metabolism and other cell activities.

The purported benefits of red light therapy include improving skin complexion and reducing signs of aging, easing joint and muscle pain, speeding up wound healing, and protecting against brain cell degeneration.

With minimal risks compared to other treatments like medications or surgery, it’s easy to see why red light therapy is creating such a buzz. But with so many claims being made, it’s important to take a closer look at the science.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Red Light Therapy Working

Multiple studies have shown that certain wavelengths of red light applied to the skin and cells can have beneficial effects that promote better cell functioning. Red light can penetrate the skin and influence cellular activities because it has long wavelengths of roughly 600 to 1000nm.

When the light is absorbed by cells, specialized structures called mitochondria (the cell’s power producers) are triggered to produce more ATP energy.

This causes more reactive oxygen species (ROS) to be generated as a byproduct. In moderation, ROS provides important cell signaling proteins that prompt the cell to operate more efficiently.

The light also leads to increased blood flow in the treated area. Better circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients to cells and helps remove waste products. Over time, this supports the growth of new blood vessels in a process called angiogenesis.

The combination of better mitochondrial function, improved cell signaling, and increased circulation delivers benefits throughout the body. Exactly which wavelengths of red light provide optimal benefits is still being researched, but common options are in the range of 630-680nm or 810-850nm.

Red Light Therapy Benefits

While still an emerging therapy requiring more research, red light therapy has shown promising results for:

  • Skin Health: Red light penetrates the skin to boost collagen production which reduces fine lines/wrinkles. It also improves skin complexion and texture, healing acne scars by rebuilding damaged tissue.
  • Wound Healing: By stimulating new blood vessel formation and better cell signaling, red light facilitates faster and more efficient healing of wounds, burns, etc.
  • Joint & Muscle Pain: Red light reduces inflammation and swelling in joints/muscles. It also improves circulation to affected areas which provides pain relief.
  • Brain Function: Animal research found red light protects brain cells, improving function and slowing degeneration. This could help with cognitive conditions like dementia.
  • Hair Regrowth: Red light may stimulate hair follicles and increase blood flow to boost hair density and growth patterns on the scalp.

Is Red Light Therapy Effective?

While more research is still needed, studies have shown promising evidence that red light therapy can be effective for a variety of conditions and benefits as mentioned above.

Multiple clinical trials and experiments have demonstrated red light’s ability to penetrate the skin and positively influence cellular functions.

The evidence seems most robust for red light’s cosmetic benefits on the skin, and its ability to provide pain relief for muscle and joint issues.

Emerging research also shows promise for uses like wound care, brain health, and hair restoration, but more study is still required to validate the efficacy of these conditions.

Red light therapy’s non-invasive nature, minimal side effect profile, and lack of recovery time make it an attractive treatment option compared to more intensive approaches like surgery or medications with serious risks. The flexibility of red light therapy at home devices means consistent treatment is easily attainable.

Overall, while not a miracle cure, red light therapy before and after comparison suggests that the therapy provides meaningful health and wellness benefits when used responsibly.

As research continues to refine optimal treatment protocols and parameters, the effectiveness and acceptance of red light therapy will likely continue to grow.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

Red light therapy is widely considered very safe, with a low-risk profile compared to medications or surgery. The light levels typically used don’t emit enough heat to damage the skin.

Mild red light therapy dangers like a headache or red/itchy skin may occur after treatment. More serious risks would only arise from improper device use, like directly staring into high-power lasers. Be sure to use reputable products approved for home use rather than industrial devices.

Talk to your doctor before undergoing red light therapy if you’re concerned about any interactions with medical conditions or medications. Those with light-sensitive conditions would also want to consult their physician first.

Can Red Light Therapy Cause Cancer?

Red light therapy is considered extremely safe and does not cause cancer or increase cancer risk. The wavelengths of red light used in therapy (600-850nm) have very low energy levels compared to ultraviolet or ionizing radiation which can damage DNA and lead to cancer.

Multiple long-term studies monitoring individuals receiving frequent red light treatments have found no increased incidence of cancer.

When used following proper protocols, red light therapy can be considered a very low-risk option for cancer compared to some drugs, chemicals, radiation, and invasive procedures.


As research continues demonstrating its efficacy and safety profile, red light therapy is poised to become a mainstream wellness treatment. The non-invasive nature and low risk of side effects means it can complement other treatment options. Just a few minutes per day may deliver meaningful benefits.

More clinical trials are still needed to refine and validate the most effective treatment protocols. Variables like the light wavelength, device power, dose amount, and treatment frequency can produce different results. Standardized guidelines will help consumers compare products and services for the best value.

In the future, will red light therapy become as commonplace as other light-based modalities like laser hair removal? Could primary care doctors one day prescribe red light devices rather than drugs or surgery? The possibilities remain exciting, but a note of caution is warranted for unrealistic claims not yet substantiated by science.


  • Avci, P., et al. (2013). Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: Stimulating, healing, restoring.
  • Lee YS, Park KH, Choi JW, et al. A prospective, randomize, placebo‐controlled, double‐blinded, and split‐face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation: clinical, profilometric, histologic, ultrastructural, and biochemical evaluations and comparison of three different. J Photochem Photobiol. 2007;88:51‐67.

Dr. Luna Rey specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of skin conditions, from common conditions like acne and eczema to more complex conditions like psoriasis and skin cancer. In addition to her medical practice, Dr. Luna has a strong interest in writing and has published numerous articles on dermatology topics in leading medical journals. Her writing style is clear, concise, and easy to understand, making her work accessible to a broad audience.

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