What to Expect When Receiving Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy is a noninvasive and painless service that can help alleviate many skin conditions, such as acne, wounds, cold sores, hair loss, and signs of aging. Studios that offer red light therapy will typically either offer it as a full-body booth or a handheld laser that’s meant for a specific part of your body or face. Other types of devices include: single or tri-panel, full-body panel, or mask.
If using a handheld device, a practitioner may press it against the skin where the injury or pain is. If using a panel, lights are directed at the skin several inches away for several minutes at a time. With either the handheld device or full-body bed, you shouldn’t feel pain, and if anything, you’ll feel the warmth from the light bulbs. Many people find it to be relaxing.
There aren’t too many precautions you need to take either before or after your session, so you don’t need to worry about recovery time for red light therapy. There isn’t any damage done to the skin, but in the 48 hours after treatment, you’ll want to minimize sun exposure as much as possible.
Although red light therapy is deemed to be safe and painless, with many positive benefits. As with any service, there are a few potential risks you may want to keep an eye out for:
- Mild or prolonged redness of the skin
- Dry skin
- Itchy skin
- Skin crusting
- Blistering or peeling
- Eye strain
To avoid these risks, studios should have a board-certified dermatologist administer red light therapy at the right wavelength. Eye protection may also help you avoid eye strain.
How much does Red Light Therapy cost?
Costs for red light therapy can range anywhere from $25 for a facial add-on, to $200 for a full-body treatment. Experts recommend utilizing red light therapy three to four times a week for the first two months and then decreasing to one to two times a week. The benefits of red light therapy are cumulative, so if you can incorporate it into a regular routine, the consistency will help you maximize the benefits.
What are the best Red Light Therapy locations?
Red light therapy is typically offered among a host of services that you may be able to find at various wellness clinics – services such as IV drips, NAD+, sauna, float therapy, cryotherapy, massages, cold plunges, and compression therapy.
With the surge in popularity of red light therapy, there are many providers of red light therapy and countless at-home options to choose from. That said, the wide availability doesn’t equate to all providers and devices being equally effective or reputable. When searching for the best red light therapy locations near you, here are some things to look for:
- FDA-approved technology
- Medical-grade devices (versus consumer-grade)
- Device that suits your needs (full-body or localized treatment?)
- Board-certified dermatologist on staff
- Knowledgeable staff that can answer questions and address concerns
We could go down the rabbit hole of what makes one red light therapy device better than another (irradiance, wavelength, coverage area, etc.), but these debates help more if you’re looking to purchase a device to use at home yourself. Otherwise, the criteria above can help you find a reputable studio providing top-of-the-line red light therapy for your needs.
Before and After Effects of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy can help with conditions such as acne, signs of aging, wounds, cold sores, hair loss, muscle recovery, and mental health.
Acne: For acne, red light therapy can calm redness, minimize oil production, and decrease bacteria on the skin. Red light therapy is best suited for mild to moderate cases of acne.
Anti-aging: Red light therapy is most popularly known and used for anti-aging benefits, as it increases production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid in the skin. This can help alleviate skin laxity, fine lines, pore size, texture, and wrinkles.
Wound healing: Red light therapy can minimize scar tissue and increase circulation in the area of the wound. In fact, a study showed a decrease in wound healing time with a group of Navy SEALs simply through the use of red light therapy.
Cold sores: Similar to its wound healing properties, red light therapy has been shown to decrease the duration of cold sore outbreaks.
Hair loss: Red light therapy has been known to be an effective treatment for male and female pattern hair loss, although it’s best used in the earlier stages of hair loss. A study showed that red light can stimulate hair growth.
Muscle recovery, repair, and growth: Red light therapy has been shown to stimulate, heal, and regenerate damaged muscle tissue, which, when applied, can quicken muscle recovery and enhance muscle growth. This also applies not just for when you’ve had a hard workout, but red light therapy can also heal tendon and muscle injuries.
Mental health: Red light therapy can ease various forms of depression, such as seasonal affective disorder, major depressive disorder, and perinatal depression. One study showed that it can help alleviate depressive symptoms within two weeks of a single session.
Benefits of Using a Professional Red Light Therapy Provider
The major benefit of using a professional red light therapy provider is that you don’t need to be a scientific expert in all things light in order to know the proper way to utilize a red light therapy device.
There are a number of factors that go into what makes one red light therapy device more effective than another, but if you are able to find a reputable studio (using the criteria above), you should be able to trust the staff as they guide you through what type of device to use, how to use it, what wavelength it needs to be set to, how far away to position yourself from the device, and how long your session needs to be.
Typically, if a studio is using medical-grade red light therapy devices, the devices are more powerful than the at-home varieties, which means you can see results sooner and, in turn, need less treatments. By buying a consumer-grade product, you can lose yourself in the confusion of comparing specifications of various devices and you may also be wasting money in purchasing a device that’s not very effective.
Not only do you risk wasting money by buying a consumer-grade red light therapy device, red light therapy devices are not cheap, so you risk wasting a good chunk of money on a potentially ineffective device. (If they are cheap, you should definitely be asking yourself why.)
A red light therapy provider should be able to work with you to come up with a treatment plan and recommendations for how many sessions you’ll need to achieve the specific results you’re looking for. By relying on a reputable red light therapy provider, you can have an easier, more convenient, and more effective experience with red light therapy.
What’s the Difference Between Red Light Therapy and Infrared?
Although the wavelength of red light therapy and infrared light are slightly different, the benefits are similar.
From a science standpoint, red light is part of the visible light spectrum, whereas infrared light is not part of the visible light spectrum.
Both red light therapy and infrared saunas employ infrared light. While red light therapy exclusively utilizes near-infrared light, infrared saunas incorporate far-infrared light, and in the case of full-spectrum saunas, middle and near-infrared light are also integrated.
Infrared light penetrates the skin deeper than red light, as red light only works on the surface of the skin.
Red light therapy is great for skin conditions, but if there are deeper conditions that need to be addressed, infrared may be better to use. .
Red Light Therapy and Longevity
Red light therapy can provide a number of benefits that contribute to your longevity:
Enhance Cellular Function
Studies show that red light therapy acts on the mitochondria of cells, which promotes the production of ATP (the primary energy source for cellular function) and ultimately improves our body’s natural processes. More effective biological processes contribute to our longevity.
Photobiomodulation can reduce oxidative stress, a factor which can lead to chronic inflammation. Studies show that when activated by photobiomodulation, inflammatory cells showed decreased inflammatory markers. In fact, one of the most reliable effects of red light therapy is a reduction in inflammation.
There have been a number of studies that show that various brain disorders (traumatic events, degenerative diseases, and psychiatric disorders) can be improved by applying red light to the head.
Outside of brain disorders, even healthy people can benefit from photobiomodulation by enhancing their cognitive function. Additionally, red light therapy has been found to stimulate neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells, and can increase cerebral blood flow – both these benefits lead to improved memory, attention, and overall brain health.
Regulate Circadian Rhythms
Red light can in fact positively impact your sleep by regulating your circadian rhythms. It has been shown to regulate our natural circadian rhythms, which can alleviate sleep disorders or interruptions to sleep-wake patterns. A 2012 study showed that red light, used for 30 minutes a day for 14 days on the study group, resulted in higher sleep quality, increased melatonin levels, and improved endurance performance.