The Best Red Light Therapy At Home: Benefits & Risks

Red light therapy is gaining popularity around America as a more natural, safe, yet effective biohacking treatment for a long list of health issues! What is light therapy? How does it work? Are there red light therapy benefits? How often should you use one? What are the best brands?

Keep reading to learn more! Let’s dive in.

Red Light Therapy Devices

(Note: This article contains affiliate links, meaning In On Around will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me maintain the site. As always, I value full transparency & only work with brands I love and trust.)

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is a treatment that exposes your body to low levels of red or near-infrared light wavelengths. Basically, you’re exposed to a certain type of light that can potentially help your body heal.

Sounds crazy… but let me explain!

Red light therapy panels use LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs that release the same type of light that naturally occurs in nature… like from the sun and fire. As a species, we used to be exposed to a lot more light throughout the day (our ancestors were always outside!). Instead, today we’re regularly stimulated by blue light, which is released by electronic devices (what you’re using to read & share this article 😉).

Red light therapy is also known as:

  • Low-intensity light therapy (LILT)
  • Low-level laser therapy (LLLT)
  • Light emitting diode therapy (LEDT)
  • Photobiomodulation (PBM)
  • Laser light therapy
  • Light therapy work
  • LED light therapy
  • Level laser light
  • Low level diode
  • Low level light therapy

So, Is Red Light Therapy A Hoax?

I get it! It can seem too good to be true… but the science thus far weighs in red light therapy’s favor. Red light therapy is (thankfully) not a hoax! Although it’s still new, there is a surprising amount of research on the topic.

It has even caught the attention of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration! NASA conducted a two-year clinical trial on red light and cancer side effects. They found a 96% improvement in pain from high-risk patient groups who had radiation or chemotherapy for cancer. [1]

That being said, don’t expect it to completely transform your life – the results will be subtle.

Let’s dive into how it works!

The Science Behind Red Light Therapy

Think back to high school science class for a minute! In school, we were taught about the different wavelengths of light from non-ionizing to ionizing. Non-ionizing rays are not harmful to the body, while ionizing rays (like x-rays) can damage or kill our atoms/cells, leading to cancer.

The Light Spectrum, or the electromagnetic spectrum, ranges from simple radio waves to harmful gamma rays. Visible light (including red light) and near-infrared light are found near the middle of the spectrum, with red light falling within the “visible” spectrum (meaning we can see it with our eyes). Near-infrared is invisible to the eye.

Most wavelengths of light don’t penetrate into the body, but red and near-infrared can (this is why it’s oftentimes called infrared light therapy)! Red light wavelengths can penetrate at a cellular level and stimulate ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production in our mitochondria (aka the “powerhouse” of the cell). Our mitochondria provide energy for our body to carry out biochemical reactions and they’re always producing ATP. We need it for everything!

Pretty cool… huh?!

Red light stimulates ATP production, which is like “energy food” for your cells.

Red Light Therapy

Does LED Light Therapy Actually Work?

Yes, there are many health benefits to using red light therapy and it actually works. Let’s dive into some:

22 Benefits Of Red Light Therapy:

Red light may…

  1. Reduce inflammation [2] – To learn more about reducing inflammation, check out: How To Eat An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
  2. Wound healing, burn healing, and skin repair [3]
  3. Protect against sun damage [4] (don’t use this as an alternative to proper sun safety) – Read more about proper sun safety here: Holistic Sun Safety Tips & Non-Toxic Sunscreen
  4. Increase testosterone [5]
  5. Improve the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite [6, 7]
  6. Pain relief (like for neck pain or back pain) [8]
  7. Improves mood & seasonal affective disorder (aka seasonal depression) [9, 10]
  8. Improve hair growth (slow hair loss) [11]
  9. Can ease arthritis symptoms & joint pain [12]
  10. Increase muscle mass [13]
  11. Decrease oxidative stress [14]
  12. Improve vision [15, 16]
  13. Decrease insomnia [17]
  14. Aid in scar reduction [18]
  15. Improve fibromyalgia symptoms [19]
  16. Activate stem cells [20]
  17. Improve muscle recovery (great for athletes) [21]
  18. Improve skin conditions & skin concerns, like acne, psoriasis, eczema, & rosacea [22]
  19. Improve brain-degeneration diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s [23, 24]
  20. Increases collagen production and collagen density [25]
  21. Decrease symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome [26]
  22. Improve oral mucositis (mouth swelling) & TMJ symptoms [27, 28, 29]

… clearly, there are many therapeutic benefits to using red light panels!

5 Things To Look For In Any Red Light Therapy Device:

1. Irradiance or Power

  • Irradiance = how intense/strong the device is
  • If your panel has a higher irradiance, it provides a higher-output of light.
  • You want the highest irradiance possible (typically measured in mW/cm2)!
  • Wattage, on the other hand, is how much power the device uses. Instead of wattage, focus on irradiance.

2. Wavelengths

  • The most popular devices use wavelengths of 660 nm for red light and 850 nm for NIR light. Opt for devices within this range.
  • It’s common for red light AND near-infrared to be combined together in a panel. This is a great way to reap the benefits of both at the same time!
  • NEVER buy from a brand that does not specify the wavelengths they use (ideally they would provide 3rd party studies to back up their claims).
  • Don’t fall into the trap of “pulsed light” marketing. The light doesn’t need to pulse to make it effective. Red light devices shouldn’t pulse.

3. EMF

  • Anything with an electrical component can release electromagnetic frequencies (aka EMFs).
  • Make sure you avoid any panels that connect to wifi or Bluetooth. This is unnecessary and can increase EMF exposure. If your red light device comes with a phone app, that’s a red flag. 🚩
  • We always want to opt for a no or low-EMF device when possible.

Buyer beware: low-quality red light devices can release EMFs!

4. Size

  • Of course, larger red light panels are more effective since they will cover a larger portion of your body… but they’re also more expensive. Opt for the size that’s most convenient for you! I prefer a smaller panel since it’s easier to store & travel with.

5. Ease of use

  • Does the device come with a stand? Do they provide goggles/sunglasses? How long does the battery last, if it has one? These are just some of the questions you should be asking when considering the ease of use.
  • The easier it is to use = the more often you will likely use it!

What Are The Dangers Of Red Light Therapy?

The Federal Department of Agriculture approved the use of red light panels in the United States in 2003 based on over 4,000 research controlled trials. Many of the devices are FDA-cleared, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Red light therapy will not “cure” you of any ailment or disease.
  • Consistency is key, otherwise, you will not reap the benefits.
  • If you’re very sensitive to light, this may not be the best treatment for you!
  • Anything in excess can have risks – be careful with your exposure and listen to your body.

Keep in mind: light therapy studies are growing, but still limited. We don’t necessarily know the long-term effects of red light therapy on the body (the good & bad). While there are many short-term studies conducted, it is still a fairly new technology.

Anti-Inflammatory Light

What Are The Side Effects Of Red Light Therapy?

Thankfully, there aren’t many side effects to using red light devices! If you’re using the device for too long, you can experience skin sensitivity. If you’re not using a low-EMF device at the proper distance from your body, you can also be exposed to electromagnetic frequencies (as with any electrical device). As always, listen to your body and don’t overdo it.

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, sensitive to light, or actively fighting a disease, make sure you talk to your doctor since studies are limited.

How To Use Red Light Therapy (Don’t Make These Mistakes!)

Red light treatment can take just 10 minutes a day!

Point the device towards the area of your body that you’d like to target (i.e. if you have pain in your knee, point it towards your knee). You can use it on your full body.

Follow these best practices:

  1. Be consistent – you must use the devices regularly to potentially see any difference. Don’t expect immediate results.
  2. Don’t sit too close or too far from the panel. Sit as far away as needed to reduce EMF exposure (usually about 6 inches), but read the full instruction manual for your specific device.
  3. Stay hydrated. Red light panels can get hot! Make sure you stay hydrated while using the machine and afterwards.
  4. Strip as much clothing as possible to ensure the light is directly hitting your skin.

How Often Should You Use Infrared Light Therapy Devices?

How often you should use a red light therapy device all comes down to personal preference!

Red light therapy is safe to use every day since it rarely has any negative side effects. As I always say, our bodies are all bioindividual. You may not tolerate red light therapy as well as someone else… make sure you start slow.

If you’re not sensitive to the heat, opt for 10-20 minute sessions a couple of times a week (of course, speak with your primary care physician before starting any light therapy treatments. This is not medical advice).

You can start using the device for about 10 to 20 minutes every other day and work your way up. Some people will get too sensitive to the heat – if this is the case, keep your exposure to a minimum.

Is Red Light Similar To A Tanning Bed?

No – red light panels are very different than tanning beds.

Tanning beds utilize UVA/UVB light, which is known to damage and burn the skin from long-term exposure (hence the tan). Red light therapy does not release UV rays, nor do they help our bodies produce Vitamin D.

Don’t substitute infrared light treatments for sun exposure – they don’t have nearly the same impact. Sunlight is essential for life, but be very cautious of skin sun damage.

How Does Red Light Help With Wrinkles And Anti Aging?

If you have wrinkles or fine lines on your face (who doesn’t?!), red light therapy can be an excellent addition to a skincare routine! Many people swear by red lights’ ability to even out skin tone and decrease aging from sun damage.

Many LED masks/light therapy masks or skin lights claim to help with wrinkles, but the evidence is slim. Oftentimes these machines don’t provide enough information to confirm the wavelength. Instead of using a “facial treatment device,” opt for a higher-quality panel (which I go into detail below).

How Expensive Are Red Light Therapy Devices?

Red light therapy panels and devices are, unfortunately, pretty expensive! They wouldn’t be the first treatment method I would incorporate if starting out on a holistic health journey (instead I’d clean up your personal care products & food, like in my program here).

… but despite the expense, it can be a great addition to a daily or weekly routine if the cost doesn’t bother you.

Do You Need To Protect Your Eyes From Red Light?

Red light panels can very bright! Unlike UVA or UVB rays, red light therapy should not damage your eyes.

In fact, there was a five-year-long study conducted on red light showed it actually improved the eyesight of those with age-related macular degeneration. [30, 32, 32] They also saw an improvement in vision sharpness with reduced visual inflammation (discuss with your ophthalmologist).

On average, eyesight declines after the age of 40 years old… so red light therapy could be a useful option to support ocular health.

However, I wouldn’t recommend glaring straight at a red light panel. Any intense light can damage your eyes over time, especially if you’re particularly sensitive. Avoid putting a red light device close to your eyeballs, mostly because of the emitted heat and intensity. Most ocular studies with red light only use it for about 2 minutes every other day – don’t overdo it.

It’s best to avoid looking straight into the light, closing your eyes, or using sunglasses/goggles. You don’t need to stare directly at the light to reap the benefits! 🥽

Does Red Light Therapy Disrupt Your Sleep?

No – red light therapy does not disrupt your sleep! This is why it’s great to do at any time of the day.

It may be best, however, to use your red light therapy device during dawn or in the morning. This best reflects our natural circadian rhythm or sleep cycle (since sunrise releases red light). [33]

… but there’s no bad time to use the device!

Best red light therapy at home

Best Red Light Therapy Devices To Use At Home:

Many red light therapy panels, wands, or wearable wraps are not delivering the proper intensity of light. For EMF reasons, it’s best to avoid putting the red light device directly against your body.

I don’t recommend using most wands or masks at home, like Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare line, Revive Light Therapy, or some other light therapy products sold on Amazon. Many brands don’t provide any information about the wavelength even if they claim to be “medical grade” and “FDA-cleared.” Many of these wands and masks are very expensive, but without knowing the wavelength it’s nearly impossible to know if they are truly effective.

Best Affordable Red Light Panels:

Red light panels, even smaller hand-held ones, are not cheap! All of these options use both red light up to 660 nm and near-infrared light up to 850 nm. These panels can range anywhere from about two hundred into thousands of dollars. These are the more affordable high-quality options I could find:

Note: prices were pulled in March 2022 – these may have changed.

1. LUMEBOX ($599, but $250 discount with our link!)

  • Very low EMF exposure, even when applied just a couple of centimeters away from the skin. Most other companies test 6+ inches away from the body – this device is tested at 0 cm from the body and emits very low levels of EMF (0.2uT).
  • Irradiance at 1cm = 140 mW/cm2 for NIR and 125 mW/cm2 for red light
  • They don’t add wifi or Bluetooth (which is great)!

2. MitoMIN ($229)

  • This is one of the best red light therapy devices (for the price) in my opinion.
  • MitoMIN has little to no EMF exposure when used 6+ inches away from the body.
  • They don’t add wifi or Bluetooth (which is great)!
  • One of the more affordable options available (… we love to see it).
  • Irradiance at 6 inches = >115mW/cm2

3. Platinum Bio300 ($369)

(Use code inonaround for 5% off!)

  • This device comes with a door mount, however, they also sell a wall mount bracket for an additional fee.
  • Platinum has no EMF exposure when used 6+ inches away from the body.
  • Irradiance at 6 inches = >124mW/cm2

4. Biolight ($369)

  • Biolight Shine is hand-held and uses both red & near-infrared light.
  • Biolight also offers the “Guardian” device intended for oral care.
  • They claim to have no EMF emissions at a distance of 4+ inches from the body.
  • “Shine” Irradiance at 6 inches = >150mW/cm2

5. Hooga ($170)

  • One of the most affordable units I’ve found online, however, the irradiance is low compared to other brands. It’s readily available on Amazon, which is convenient.
  • No EMF exposure when used 6+ inches away from the body.
  • Irradiance at 6 inches = 73 mW/cm2 (you will need to sit in front of it longer to reap the same benefits as units with higher irradiance)

Note on JOOVV: Joovv “The Go 2.0” model is a very popular red light device that’s handheld and comes with a strap & stand (which is great), however, I don’t love that it incorporates Bluetooth. I prefer to avoid Bluetooth when possible, so I would opt for another brand (and there are many that are high-quality & more affordable).

Can You Make Your Own Red Light Device From Home?

It’s not advised to make your own LLLT device from home, mostly because you won’t be able to achieve the specific wavelength required.

Even though it’s tempting to try to DIY one and save money, it will likely be a bust.

Heat lamps or halogen lights are not the same as red light devices. Many of these can actually do more damage than good, especially if they’re releasing low levels of UV waves. Buying miscellaneous red lights will not do the trick.

There are some LED light bulbs available for individual sale, but most brands don’t make a claim on the wavelength emitted.

Using Red Light Therapy At Home: Commonly Asked Questions:

What is red light therapy?

Best Red Light Therapy Panel

Red light therapy is a treatment that exposes your body to low levels of red or near-infrared light wavelengths. You’re exposed to a certain type of light that can potentially help your body heal.

How does red light therapy work?

Best Red Light Therapy Panel

Red light wavelengths can penetrate at a cellular level and stimulate ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production in our mitochondria (aka the “powerhouse” of the cell). Our mitochondria provide energy for our body to carry out biochemical reactions and they’re always producing ATP.

How often should you use red light therapy?

Best Red Light Therapy Panel

You can start using the device for about 10 minutes every other day and work your way up. Some people will get too sensitive to the heat – if this is the case, keep your exposure to a minimum.

Can you make your own red light therapy device?

Best Red Light Therapy Panel

It’s not advised to make your own LLLT device from home, mostly because you won’t be able to achieve the specific wavelength required.

Have you tried a red light therapy device?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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Want to read more? Check out my other articles here!

Information on Mold Detox Protocol from: Peak Performance, Cosmopolitan, Platinum Therapy, Degree Wellness, LHSC, UCAR, Kaiyan Medical, UCL, Platinum, Bio300

Copyright In On Around LLC 2022 ©. The statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration). They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided by this website should not be used as individual medical advice and you should always consult your doctor for individual recommendations and treatment.

About Catherine Power

Catherine Power is the Founder and CEO of In On Around. She is a Harvard-educated Ingredient Safety and Environmental Toxins expert. Catherine has a background in Food Science, Personal Care Quality, and Regulatory Compliance.

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