Turbocharging Your Cells With Red Light Therapy

| Modified on Jan 03, 2024
Red Light Therapy Benefits.

by Deirdre Layne
Published October 18, 2020

Red light therapy, or RLT, uses low-level wavelengths of red LED lights to treat inflammation, scars, wounds, wrinkles and fine lines, anxiety, hair loss, and more.

RLT was first studied by NASA scientists in the early 1990s to see if it would help grow plants in space. Researchers discovered that intense red LED lights promoted both photosynthesis and synthesis of plant cells.

After these initial plant experiments, scientists began to research red lights to see if they could similarly increase energy inside human cells. Thousands of laboratory studies have been conducted over the past 30 years to determine if and how Red Light Therapy is beneficial to the human body.

The most commonly reported benefits from this therapy are dramatically reduced wrinkles & fine lines, the elimination of stretch marks, joint pain relief, and increased circulation. It is also being promoted as an excellent tool to improve hormonal health in men and women.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Red lights produce a cellular biochemical effect that strengthens your mitochondria. Mitochondria are considered "powerhouses" of the cell; it is where a cell's energy is created.

Mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles (a specialized subunit within a cell) considered to be the power generators of the cell. They convert oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the chemical energy that powers a cell's metabolic activities.

Why Mitochondria Are So Important To Your Health

Mitochondria are thought to be strengthened using Red Light Therapy. When this happens, your cells make more ATP.

When cells have more energy, they can repair damage, function efficiently, and rejuvenate themselves.

According to one study, when we are sick, stressed, or injured, mitochondria cease to function at full capacity. When weakened, mitochondria will start producing excess nitric acid. Nitric acid is bad for the body because it interferes with the consumption of oxygen within the cell. This leads to oxidative stress, ceasing ATP production (the cell's source of fuel). Cellular death may occur as a result.

RLT is beneficial because it protects the cell from Nitric Oxide Damage. The absorption from red light photons minimizes the disruption that nitric acid can cause.

Only Red Light wavelengths can reach all the way into a cell's mitochondria (see below diagram). As soon as it penetrates the mitochondria, the light starts to stimulate, heal, and regenerate your cells. This, in turn, improves your skin's appearance, improves energy, and boosts the immune system.

One of the main benefits of RLT is that it doesn't damage the skin's surface. Red light from an LED device penetrates 4-5 millimeters into the skin and directly stimulates the skin's regeneration.

The diagram below from this clinical study shows that red light can penetrate the skin deeper than blue, green, and yellow lights.

Light penetration into skin illustrating the depth to which wavelengths penetrate human skin. Red light is extinguished some 4–5 mm beneath the surface of the skin whereas ultraviolet hardly penetrates at all and blue barely 1 mm into tissue.  Fig 1

RLT is often compared to the photosynthesis process, where plants absorb sunshine and convert it into complex molecules. In Red Light Therapy, our bodies absorb energy from red light photons to enhance cellular potential, promote oxygen utilization inside each cell, and generate cellular food (ATP).

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

RLT is said to help the following conditions:

  • Wounds
  • Tissue Damage
  • Androgenic Alopecia
  • Male Pattern Baldness
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Diabetic Foot Ulcers
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
  • Wrinkles
  • Insomnia
  • Sun Damage
  • Cold Sores
  • Degenerative Osteoarthritis
  • Scars
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cellulite
  • Weight Loss
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries

Frequently Asked Questions

Does My Skin Need To Be Exposed or Can I Wear Clothes?

The area where you are treating should be bare to be fully exposed to the red light.

Do I Need to Wear Eye Protection such as Tanning Goggles?

If you are pointing the device directly at your face, the red lights are very bright and may be quite uncomfortable. Those with sensitivities to light should wear tanning goggles.

Some people believe that allowing the red light to hit closed eyelids is very beneficial to the eyes.

How Often Should I Use An LED Red Light Device?

The answer depends on the type of device you are using:

On the Face

Most estheticians advise using it no more than three times a week and only twenty minutes each session.

On the Body

You can use it 30 minutes a day, 7 days a week.

Do I Have To Do This Indefinitely To Maintain Results?

Yes, you do have to be consistent about using your LED device a few times a week once results have been achieved.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Red light therapy is considered to be very safe. Be aware that there are reports of burns and blistering after the reviewer fell asleep while the unit was on and also from faulty devices.

If you experience any kind of reaction after using a red light therapy device, immediately discontinue using the device and contact the manufacturer. Side effects are rare, but they can happen.

What's the Difference Between Red Light Therapy and Infrared?

Red light is visible whereas infrared light is invisible.

Red light is most effective for use on the surface of the skin. It can penetrate up to 4-5 millimeters into the skin. Infrared light is also effective for use on the surface of the skin, but can penetrate much deeper; up to 38.1 millimeters (1.5 inches) into the body.

How Much Does It Cost?

Red Light Therapy devices come in all shapes and sizes and range in price. You can find simple ones for under $100 on Amazon. Here are the most popular selling devices on Amazon, and pricing to give you an idea.

Red Light Therapy Device by Bestqool, 660&850nm Near Infrared Led Light Therapy with Timer, 60 LEDs, Clinical Grade Home Use Light Therapy Lamp for Anti-Aging, Pain Relief 



Red Light Therapy Device, Serfory Therapy Light Deep 660nm for Muscle Pain Relief, Improved Blood Circulation and Skin


TENDLITE Red Light Therapy Device - FDA Cleared Advanced Medical Grade Technology Targets Injury Directly and Provides Joint and Muscle Pain Relief


Led Red Light Therapy Lamp for 660nm Grow Light Set with Stand


DGYAO® 660nm Red Light and 880nm Infrared Light Therapy - Combination 2 in 1 - Knee Elbow Pain Relief Device at Home ,Hands Free for Tissue Recovery


YOOVE LED Face Mask - 7 Colors Including Red Light Therapy For Healthy Skin Rejuvenation | Home Light Therapy Facial Care Mask


SGROW 24W Red Led Light Red 660nm and Near Infrared 850nm Led Light Therapy Bulbs for Skin and Pain Relief- FDA Cleared


Have you tried Red Light Therapy? Has it worked? Please share your feedback with us!

We'd love to know what device you used, how long you use it for each day, and how quickly you saw results.

Related Links:

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Alzheimer's and Dementia

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Art (California) on 10/18/2020 2182 posts

Hi Deirdre!

Great article!

Red light therapy is used for more than all that you listed. Many people claim it is also useful in Alzheimer's disease / dementia as well as for Parkinson's disease! It is also supposed to be helpful to improve sleep. These type of red lights are installed inside a helmet type device and are warn for specific amounts of time each use.

They're a bit more expensive than the handheld unit shown in your article though at about double the price and higher.


Recommended Brands

2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by Frances (Cabarlah, Qld., Australia) on 10/18/2020

I would like to mention a supplier in the UK, The Red Light Man. He was disappointed with what was available on the market at the time, so learned all he could and developed his own. Not the cheapest.

Replied by Maria Arroyo

What is your brand and when can I get more info?

Molly G
7 posts

The Red Light Man and his products are found at https://redlightman.com.

Replied by Angela
(South Africa)

I have been looking into some of the benefits of red and near infrared therapy. Has anyone had positive results from a purchase they made in the UK? I have Hashimotos and adrenal fatigue, and my body hates the winter and thought this may help. They are quite an investment so wanted recommendations and positive reviews before I take the plunge. Thank you on advance.


Just buy a red light therapy panel, the price depends on its size, mini or a full size. I have both - Joovv full size and MitoRed Mini. Using it daily is beneficial for the overall health, so you have nothing to lose. Even my cat when sick doesn't mind to lie down next to it.

Red Light Therapy Books

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Frances (Tx) on 10/20/2023 1 posts

I have been on this website for many years and always go back to EC for advice. I was reading up on the Red Light Therapy, I have learned alot of it by reading a book The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy by Ari Whitten, he tells you which light is best for your aliment, just benefits of the Red and Near-Infrared Light is the best for deep tissue, which is best as far as watt, were to buy and what brand is best and make sure you get a warranty if they don't offer don't buy, which one is good for the brain, yes the brain they say this light helps cure Alzheimer's disease, improves memory. Nerve pain, Healing bones, Tendons, and Wounds, Nerve Pain. He also gives you advise on which dose to use. This book is a must for you to read and get all the wonderful things Red and Near Infrared Light offer you and the e Affects on the Human Body. I bought my book on Amazon still reading and learning all about the Red Light Therapy. I love love EC and the advise I have received may God Bless You All.

Red Light Therapy Vs. Infrared Therapy

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Bev (WI) on 10/19/2020

I got a clear front infrared heat lamp from the hardware store on the advice of Ray Peat PhD. Used it on my son with bad congestion and asthma symptoms at the age of 4 which began just after his first birthday. This happened with every cold resulting in antibiotics, nebulizers every 3 hours and steroids which stunted his growth.

I put it on his back as much as I could. I then went to a red one, which didn't disrupt his sleep [also used eye mask]. Put him on his side on the couch, clamped to a chair, used a light colored cotton blanket. Infrared will go through white or light colored fabric. He never needed another nebulizer, steroids etc though he did require the light treatments for years everytime he got a cold. It saved my life because the sleep deprivation I got from doing the nebulizers was contributing to my own ill health. Have used it for knee pain, wounds, eczema with great results, anything needing cell regeneration. The Phillips brand is the best. Others have fluoride coating which when heated you can inhale.

Replied by Christopher

Hi! That's great to hear it has helped with congestion! Can you share which model by Phillips? As you mentioned others are coated with fluoride. Thanks!

Red Light Therapy Vs. Infrared Therapy
Posted by ORH (TEN MILE , TN) on 10/18/2020

HI U D,,,,,,,,, just got your e mail on Red Light. Read it once but, did not get what wave length you are speaking.

A fine woman called me a year ago from Colorado and knew me from my rants on EC. She suggested I modify my sauna from a natural and FIR to a NIR and told me why. I did that so I am already into what you call red light. I get into the shower and spray down with MgCl and the get before the red lights for 10 minutes front and 10 minutes back. I then do my sink things so I get at least 30 minutes of transdermal magnesium. I then shower. I promise you that I am rejuvenated as best an old man can be. You have more skin than any other thing and all need to use it to your advantage. D, I used to look like Tom Crews, but that was awhile back. Now, I look like an 84 year old. Some folks tell me that I don't look 84, but fat folks don't wrinkle. It's called collagen.

Anyways, you have my attention. I now know that NEAR INFRA RED will penetrate your body far more than any other wave length. It gets to your organs. I try to pull every trick known to man to stay above ground. I think you have a good thought here but have turned it into a commercial instead of science. If I know Bill, Art and others, they will take this to where it needs to go. We don't need to know what to buy, but the science behind this red light. Start my EDTA Chelation again tomorrow, and taking the doctor some of our apples, muscadines and veggies. I BROWN NOSE when necessary. He is not only my doctor, he is my friend. All need a doctor friend.


EC: Thanks for your feedback, ORH. Yes, I need to add a section to the article on infrared vs red light therapy. Just like you said, infrared penetrates deeper than red light. There was one article I found about ideally having a device that combined the two.

Red Light Therapy Vs. Infrared Therapy
Posted by David (AK) on 10/18/2020

Can you use normal infra-red bulbs like you would find in bathrooms? Which ones specifically? What is the difference between Near-infra red and Far-infra red?

Replied by Margaret

I turned my extra shower into nir sauna and I uses therabulbs. Don't know if I am allowed to use a link here but you can find them in search.

Replied by ORH

MARGRET, I do not know what therabulbs are. Suggest you research Phillips at 250 watts as that what works for me. You in Tn and the Co-ops have them for the chicks in the early winter. I bought an egg incubator last year because I knew we would be in a bind and have to live like PawPaw. So I can use these lights to raise chicks or to cure my health ails. Suggest you coat your body with MgCl before you get under your lights. That will put magnesium into you without the bowel problem. You will love it. Suggest you consider your skin as as way to better health. It bypasses your digestive system and causes no grief. Whatever goes on your skin, goes into your body. Simple as that.




Therabulb is a near infrared bulb. I was using Philips 250 watts before I switched to the therabulb. What is MgCl?

EC: MgCl = Magnesium Chloride

(New York)

Hello, Can you tell me what type of lamp you used? I am unable to find one that can withstand the 250W bulb. Thank you in advance

Replied by ORH

HI U OLE PATOOTS, ORH here, this light thing has taken over by storm. I only know about FIR ( FAR INFARA RED) AND NIR ( NEAR INFRA RED). I use both in my sauna. This Red Light thing is new to me. D says it will make the old young again, so this caught my interest.

So who will step up and explain the difference. I understand FIR AND NIR, but not red light. I got a feeling if they cannot say what wave length it is.......then it is a scam, because that is the way light is measured. D flushed me on my last post. Maybe I'll get through this time. I think both Bill and Art can explain this. But I know this for fact....... do not mix up Red light with FIR and NIR. They are two different health things. Red light maybe the best thing since sliced bread, but I doubt it.


Replied by ORH
(Ten Mile, TN)

HI U OLE PATOOTS, ORH here, and since I have no takers to explain this new phenomenon called Red Light........ I will take this on. At Ga Tech and all universities, when the professor has no clue, then he says.... this is a phenomenon. So I declare Red Light is a phenomenon. Nobody knows sheet about it, but it is the greatest thing going. Why? Heck, they have no clue, but I sleep better. A pint of whisky and you too will sleep better . So here goes what I have learned researching the net.

What does Red Light do? It does the following; Celular function, Inflamation, Sleep, Blood Flow, Memory, Weight Loss, Balance, Recovery, and Skin. Wow...... where do I get a bucket of this stuff? It is far better than https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadacol of my youth. What I can say about this light .... not wave length, effects lots of stuff. One is sleep. My HI DOLLAR FEMF device turns on the goggle red lights at dark and the blue lights in the mornings. So maybe they know something. Red for sleep, blue for awake. I think there is something to Red Light and few understand why, nor which Red light works. So all can post to their hearts content, but it means nothing until we understand the science. Did a Vit C IV with Vit B complex this morning, so I will probably live another week, I did that so I can aggravate D one more week.


Red Light Therapy Vs. Sun Gazing

Posted by Cindy (Illinois, USA) on 10/20/2020 480 posts

Would Sungazing with eyes closed be like red light therapy?

I wonder if this accounts for the difference between sungazing and sungazing with your eyes closed - which is quite different and very red, in my experience.

Side Effects

1 User Review

Posted by Kim (Liverpool, UK ) on 10/19/2020

I was visited a salon that uses a dermalux red light machine, which are very expensive pieces....While it gave me great skin and definitely works in the collagen. However, I got dry eyes every time so stopped using it. That was even wearing goggles and covering my eyes with a flannel!

Would anyone know why this was?

Replied by Philip Dawes

I am not a medical doctor, but am deeply interested in alternative health systems as opposed to mainstream medicine, which I consider corrupt. That aside, colour therapy or colour healing goes back thousand of years. In its modern modality a hundred years ago, colour healing was practiced using an incandescent light bulb shining through different coloured glass sheets for specific health conditions. This colour healing system produced very positive health benefits and cures. But then the 'modern' corrupt medical system in America used its powers to destroy people who practiced colour healing. The rest is history.

The Dermalux Red Light Machine that you used uses banks of LED lights, which 'may' have been the cause of your dry eyes. LED light has been scientifically proven to be harmful to biological life - humans included. LEDs give off negative radiations, causing some sensitive people to develop migraine or other health conditions. Therefore, the traditional incandescent lamp with a red filter is more harmonious and beneficial for biological life - humans included. You could try one in your own home and test its effect - and it won't cost you much to buy.


Where could I purchase an incandescent light with a red filter? Thanks so much for your response.

(Earth Clinic)

Hi Phillip,

I just tested my new red light led therapy lamp, which I bought on Amazon, with a GaussMaster (AC Magnetic Field Meter) and it gave off absolutely NO EMFs . Can you explain what you mean by negative radiations? Thanks.

My device is has a number of small LED banks, by the way, and not a single bulb.

(Somewhere in Europe)
84 posts

Hi Deirdre,

An Electrical Engineer is here.

1) I do not know what Philip meant by "negative radiation".

2) There is no "negative radiation"; you either radiate, or you don't.

3) "Negative radiation" could be a scenario where you receive energy that is radiated in your direction.

4) These diodes *emit* light. No, we do not say they "radiate" light.

5) I think he was talking about one of the *negative* side effects of ordinary, common LEDs, I.e. the ones that are made and sold for the express purpose of replacing incandescent light bulbs.

6) I think he was talking about the "blue light hazard" (BLH). The issue with those ordinary, common LEDs is that the light spectrum they emit is different from that of the incandescent light bulbs. In other words, these ordinary LEDs emit way too much blue light. Or, to put it differently, as compared to the incandescent light bulb, the light emitted by these ordinary, common LEDs is more intense in the blue and violet end of the visible light spectrum.

7) The LEDs with the BLH tend to have a *negative* effect our circadian rhythms. The issue is, it is the blue light that controls our sleep cycles, therefore the correct exposure would be important for the maintenance of our circadian rhythms.

8) Due to this BLH, people also tend to complain of blood-shot eyes and headaches after continuous exposure to these ordinary, common LEDs. Additionally there is talk about cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, retinal changes, if there is high exposure, for even short periods of time.

However, 9) We should not generalize. LEDs are produced in a variety of shapes and sizes. Their manufacture is also based on many-many different technologies. Therefore it would be a mistake to assume that all LEDs are the same. Example: just because the ordinary, common replacement LED bulbs come with the blue light hazard, it would be a mistake to assume that, for example, the so called "red light LEDs" also emit blue light, and or they also come with the blue light hazard. No, they don't.

I hope this will help someone!

(Somewhere in Europe)
84 posts

Hi Janet,

> Where could I purchase an incandescent light with a red filter?

I do not and cannot speak for Philip... however I believe, in effect, his message was... there is nothing to buy... as you might already own an incandescent light bulb... and maybe a red plastic sheet, too, that can be used as a red filter.

Replied by RB
(Somewhere in Europe)
84 posts

Hi Kim,

> Would anyone know why this was?

Because your salon wanted to save money, too, so they replaced their incandescent light bulbs with ordinary, common LEDs that are made and sold for the express purpose of replacing incandescent light bulbs. And these ordinary, common LEDs come with the blue light hazard. And the high intensity blue light gives you dry eyes.