Just about everyone we know is on a quest for an easy skincare routine to make us look and feel more youthful. We already know the importance of cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing on a daily basis, but when it comes to anti-aging and repairing our sun-damaged skin, it gets a bit more complicated.
Walk the aisles of any beauty store or pharmacy, and you’ll see an endless array of firming eye creams, peptide-filled moisturizers and collagen-inducing serums. And just when you thought you finally had it all figured out, there’s a new method that fine line and wrinkle-fighters swear by:
Red light therapy.
Go ahead and give us the eye roll right now. We already know what you’re thinking: another miracle cure to get gorgeous, glowing skin?
If you’re a bit skeptical, we understand. So here’s everything you need to know about red light therapy, what it claims to do and if it’s safe to add to your daily skincare routine.
What is Red Light Therapy?
So what exactly is red light therapy? Forgive us, but we’re going to have to dive into a bit of science here to explain what it’s all about.
Red light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light-emitting diodes that emit both infrared light and heat. When used at very low wavelengths, you see actual red light – it’s not like those harmful UV rays that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
The scientific premise behind the technique is that when red light is absorbed deep within the skin, it can stimulate cells and boost collagen production. In fact, in the 1990s, NASA scientists used RLT to grow plants in outer space.
The treatment is a bit controversial, mostly because there simply isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that it actually does what we think it can do. The FDA has approved RLT as an effective method for treating minor pains and arthritis, though we still don’t know how effective it is on the skin.
The concept of LED light therapy doesn’t end with red light therapy. There are also various applications of blue light therapy (which provides some of the same effects as RLT).
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
RLT is used to treat a variety of different skin and cell conditions, including building collagen, tightening the skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and improving hair growth. Red light therapy treatments are available in all sorts of different places, including gyms, tanning salons, spas and dermatology offices.
Dermatologists use it on patients living with acne scars, looking for anti-aging methods for skin rejuvenation, and suffering from various skin conditions. It’s also used for wound healing, to reverse the signs of sun damage, to speed up muscle recovery, and to treat patients with alopecia.
RLT works by placing a red light therapy device anywhere from 6″ to 18″ from the surface of the skin and holding the light there for a series of between 3 and 20 minutes. Depending on what you’re using it for, RLT can be used several minutes per day, a few minutes once or twice a week or as often as twice a day.
The Benefits of Red Light Therapy
We can’t say for sure if red light therapy is an effective treatment for skin, hair and muscle issues. But no matter what you use it for, there’s one thing you won’t have to worry about:
Red light therapy does not hurt. It is nothing like having a laser treatment that zaps your skin. It actually penetrates the skin tissues 5mm under the surface of the skin, so it does not cause any damage to the skin surface.
If you’re looking to regrow hair, improve the look and texture of your skin, or heal sore muscles, it’s worth giving red light therapy a try. Just keep in mind that RLT doesn’t work overnight – you’ll need to have multiple treatments or multiple sessions in order to see any results.
The Potential Side Effects of Red Light Therapy
Some people have reported getting burns and blisters from using red light therapy. To be on the safe side, consult with your dermatologist or have your derm perform the first few treatments for you. Once you get comfortable with how RLT works, moving to a home device can be a more cost-effective option.
Red light therapy can also cause eye strain. Whenever using an RLT device, be sure to wear the proper eye protection (like those little goggles you wear when you’re in the tanning salon).
RLT Devices You Can Use at Home
Don’t feel like going to a spa or a dermatology office over and over again? There are a variety of at-home RLT devices that you can use on your own. When using a red light therapy device, be sure to read instructions thoroughly and follow the guidelines for how long to use it and how far away to position it from your skin.
Tired of living with fine lines and wrinkles? LightStim for Wrinkles uses RLT technology to nourish the skin and help you restore a youthful appearance.
LightStim is a handheld wand that’s easy to hold and comfortable to use. It’s safe for use on all skin tones and has been proven in clinical studies to reduce fine lines and wrinkles after eight weeks of use.
This device comes with a carrying case and a pair of protective eye goggles, and it includes a timer that beeps after three minutes of use. When it beeps, it’s time to move it to a new area of the skin.
Prefer to do a full-body red light therapy treatment? The JOOVV Solo 3.0 has a large surface area, so you can treat entire areas of your body at the same time.
This device is a good option if you’re looking to repair sore muscles, as it can shed red light onto your entire arm or entire calf muscle at once. It includes protective eyewear, and it’s Bluetooth enabled for ease of use.
JOOVV recommends using the Solo once daily for a period of 10 minutes at a distance of about 16 to 24 inches away from the body.
Perfect for use on small areas of the face, the Baby Quasar PLUS is a portable RLT device that recommends daily use of three minutes of light on each area of concern. It comes with goggles, a pouch for storage or travel, and a lens cap to protect the LEDs.
The Baby Quasar PLUS is designed specifically for use on the face to target fine lines and improve the look of acne-prone skin.
FDA-cleared to reduce wrinkles and fine lines, Rejuvalite MD works to lighten age spots, reduce hyperpigmentation, fight inflammation and improve the skin’s firmness. This device is built on a stand with a curved surface that contains multiple LED lights, making it easier to target large portions of the body than similarly priced handheld devices.
Designed to be used for about five minutes a day several times per week, this at-home RLT device comes with a timer, protective goggles and a flexible arm that makes it easy to put in the proper position.
Looking for an inexpensive way to try red light therapy? The Pulsaderm Red LED Light Therapy wand gets four stars on Amazon and costs a fraction of the price of similar products.
FDA-cleared for at-home use, this wand targets fine lines, wrinkles, and crow’s feet and can be used for three minutes at a time three times per week.
Pulsaderm advises that you use it for 12 weeks before you expect to see any results, so don’t expect to see drastic changes or improvements in your skin overnight.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe?
Red light therapy is FDA-approved and generally considered a safe way to treat a variety of different issues. However, RLT may not be safe for pregnant women or people with diabetes, Herpes, eczema, skin cancer and those on certain prescription medications.
Everyone is different, so people often see different results and experience different side effects. To be on the safe side, consult with your dermatologist before starting RLT treatments, especially if you have an underlying condition. If your doc gives you the okay, then go ahead and give it a try!
Does Red Light Therapy Actually Work?
People swear by red light therapy, but the fact is that there just isn’t enough scientific evidence to back up the claims.
Our suggestion? If your doctor says it’s safe to use, test it out. If it does what it claims to be able to do, it will certainly become a more cost-effective anti-aging treatment than paying for a lifetime of eye creams and expensive moisturizers.