The 411 On Red Light Therapy—Does It Work?

Aug. 16, 2019Is red light therapy the real deal, or just another anti-aging fad that doesn’t make a dent? The research is in, and the outlook is bright.



I have a guilty pleasure. About four times a month, I go to my local tanning salon and get a spray tan.

It’s bad, it’s a little smelly, and my sheets are never really 100% white. 

But what I really love doing while I’m there is the double-dip — 15 minutes in the red light therapy bed, and a coat of body paint to make me feel like a bronze beauty over my pale skin and freckles.

I’m not yet a person who freaks out about wrinkles, but my stretch marks and me? We have a long, sordid past involving childbirth and hormonal weight gain. They’re a part of who I am, but they can also get the heck out of here any time now.

A lot of tanning salons bill red light therapy beds as a cure-all for everything from eczema to crow’s feet. I’ve never gone consistently enough to know that it does anything but perk me up after a long night with the baby.

This month, I decided to dig a little deeper.

 

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is the practice of exposing yourself to red light, typically the wavelengths between 630-670 and 810-880 on the light spectrum.

What this does is kickstart your mitochondrial cell function. The wavelengths of light will penetrate up to 10 millimeters into your skin, activating your cells and their metabolic processes.

People sit under lamps in their homes, go to beds at their local salons and dermatology offices, and even install apps on their phones and computers to get the effects.

 

The Benefits of Red Light Therapy

There’s some pretty definitive science behind red light therapy. The practice isn’t exact, but the logic is sound — cells need red light to function properly.

The problem is, most people don’t get nearly enough. Humans spend almost their entire lives indoors, especially in the developed world. By contrast, in front of screens and smartphones, we’re exposed to too much blue light, and almost no red light.

The result is cells and systems that don’t function as well as they should. At a cellular level, our bodies struggle to produce energy, which means that everything else moves slower, too. We don’t heal as fast as we should, we stay sick longer, and our bodies age faster.

Boooooo.

Red light therapy has a whole list of benefits — it’s staggering what it can do:

  • Heal wounds and sunburns
  • Reduce puffiness and inflammation
  • Jumpstart your lymphatic system for detox
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by improving collagen production
  • Reduce the appearance of stretch marks by improving your skin’s ability to heal
  • Reduce the appearance of scars
  • Prevent and heal cold sores
  • It might also help to stimulate hair growth
  • Reduce moodiness/Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms
 
 

What’s the Difference Between Red Light Therapy and Infrared Treatments?

At my local tanning salon, there are two options for red light therapy: an infrared pod, and a tanning bed with red light bulbs in it.

The tanning bed isn’t really a tanning bed at all, just a tanning bed outfitted with red bulbs to give you a full-body dose of red light. This light isn’t concentrated and penetrates just barely into your muscle tissue.

The infrared pod is more expensive, and what the staff recommends for everything from weight loss to muscle pain. It gets very hot, but again, doesn’t expose you to any UV light.

Infrared treatments are more intense and penetrate more deeply into your body. If your goal is to reduce some wrinkles, red light therapy is probably enough. If you want to work on an achy back, infrared therapy is going to be the way to go.

 

The Side Effects of Red Light Therapy

My mom has had skin cancer twice, so when I told her I was doing red light therapy, she instantly gave me a lecture on tanning beds.

It’s important to note that even though these beds often reside in places for tanning and botox injections, red light therapy beds have almost no adverse side effects, only benefits.

You don’t get hot in them. Your skin will not burn in them. They are NOT the same thing as a tanning bed.

The only adverse effects of using a red light therapy bed are typically related to the fact that you’re laying in a bed full of light. As such, it’s recommended that you wear eye protection if you want to avoid eye strain or the potential headache.

 

Doing Red Light Therapy At Home

I go to the tanning salon for my red light therapy (you know, since I’m there anyway), but there are several ways to do red light therapy at home:

Personal Red Light Therapy Lamps

Companies like Joovv make personal red light therapy lamp units that you can buy (and even finance) for your home. They make them smaller, for targeted therapy, and larger, for full-body benefits.

SHOP JOOV RED LIGHT THERAPY LAMPS

 

Red Light Bulbs

Some people opt to just pick up a few specialty red light bulbs and set up lamps of their own in their homes. The therapy isn’t as intense or targeted, but it can do wonders for mood, energy levels, and even sleep.

 

Red Light Therapy Apps

Yep, they’re totally a thing. The jury’s still out on whether smartphones are capable of exuding strong enough wavelengths of red light to have any impact, but a slew of apps are out there that will turn your phone into a miniature red light therapy device.

CHECK OUT A RED LIGHT THERAPY APP

 

Red Light Therapy Beds

Red light therapy beds are an easy way to get a full-body dose of red light, without sinking a few hundred bucks into an in-home unit. They’re reasonably priced — often in the same ballpark as a tanning membership — and can help you reduce the appearance of stretch marks, scars, and other skin issues.

To be effective, most salons will tell you that you need to lay in one of their beds at least three times a week, which is a lot of handle for most busy working Americans. Still though, if your goal is just to head off a case of SAD as fall sneaks up on us or improve your circulation, stopping on the way home from work once a week for a dose of red light is well worth the detour.

 

Real Life Red Light Therapy Reviews

I’m a skeptic at heart (it’s probably why I get asked to write so many articles like this). Ain’t nothin’ convincing me something works until I’ve:

  1. Tried it
  2. Researched it
  3. Read reviews

That said, these reviews of Joovv’s red light therapy systems have sealed the deal for me.

Hasalyn from Bulletproof experienced improved mood and more energy when she tried out red light therapy for 30 days.

Alyse experienced smaller pores and smoother skin within just a few days of using her red light therapy device, relief from her headaches, and even faster recovery from the occasional cold.

 

I’m sold, are you? What’s your experience with red light therapy been like? Tell us on Facebook or Instagram and tag us in the post — @AvocadoMattress and @JoovvSocial


Destiny Hagest

By Destiny Hagest

 —  Destiny is a freelance writer with a background in sustainability and natural health. She lives in the mountains of central Montana with her husband and young son. When she's not writing or chasing her toddler, you can find her wandering the quiet wilderness in search of wild herbs and antler sheds.

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