Red Light Therapy Side Effects (2022)

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Red light therapy (RLT) is used to treat skin disorders, muscle fatigue, hair loss, and joint pain. RLT can also treat neurodegenerative brain disorders and chronic inflammation, among other conditions.

However, as with any treatment, it’s important to also keep in mind whether there are any side effects or negative impacts, including how the treatment may interact with other drugs, remedies, and your particular skin sensitivity.

This article provides an extensive review of side-effects of RLT.

The Side Effects of Red Light Therapy

The side effects of red light therapy vary depending on the type of device, the distance of the treatment, and the length and intensity of the treatment.

Red light therapy has been extensively medically reviewed in clinical trials and is generally considered safe.

Additional links to studies and clinical trials are provided in this article below.

Red light therapy panels manufactured and sold by Platinum Therapy Lights are approved FDA Class II Medical Devices that don’t use ultraviolet UV rays.

Side effects tend to be minimal, but can include tightness of the skin. Those with sensitive skin are more susceptible to treatment.

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Users can avoid side effects by limiting early treatment to short sessions of 10 to 20 minutes per day, especially for the first several sessions. This helps users learn more about how their body is reacting to the treatment. Results come from consistent use in short sessions over the long term.

Also, treatment can be customized via a dial that controls intensity. Low power laser therapy may be ideal for those with sensistive skin, whereas others may prefer more intense sessions.

Meanwhile, side effects from wraps and masks can include hot spots, and the treatment from wraps and masks is by default less effective. Treatment at ‘point blank’ range prevents wavelengths from crossing paths, which is required for optimal collagen stimulation.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

There is no research or evidence showing that red light is harmful.

(Video) Red Light Therapy Side-Effects - Is It Safe?

Some light wavelengths, such as UVA and UVB , are harmful to your body, but red and NIR light are actually beneficial for a wide range of health and wellness applications.

When evaluating the effects of red light therapy, it’s important not to confuse it with ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) phototherapy, because treatment involving UV wavelengths does carry risks. As with excessive sunlight, UV exposure can lead to premature aging, skin cancer, and eye damage.

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Conversely, in studies that focused exclusively on the visible light spectrum (630 nm to 660nm and 810nm to 850nm), no side effects were observed during clinical trials, nor were any reported afterward.

Since few studies have examined red light therapy for longer than a few months (one eye study took place over five years) and because the therapy was only popularized in the early 2000s , potential long-term effects of red light therapy remain unknown. The lack of side effects of both red and infrared light therapy may indicate that adverse reactions are unlikely as long as the LED device is used as directed.

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Most chronic skin disorders require one to four months of consistent treatment, and no studies have cautioned against long-term treatment. A few have taken a more conservative stance, stating that more research may be needed; but no adverse consequences have been observed during or immediately after treatment.

The only exception to this strong safety record is individuals with highly photo-sensitive skin, and people taking medications that amplify their photosensitivity. For this reason, it's important to seek medical advice before treating your skin while taking any medications (some do not overtly state that they have photo-sensitizing effects).

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For people with cancer, LLLT should only be used on the advice of a medical professional. The therapy is not associated with the onset of cancer, but its use may be contraindicated in certain types of cancers, and it is not recommended for use during chemotherapy treatments.

Scientific Research on Red Light Therapy Safety

Thousands of peer-reviewed studies have been conducted on red light therapy, and none have found any safety issues eithershort-term or long-term use, to label red light therapy dangerous.

Studies that included follow-ups showed no adverse effects after prolonged use of light therapy LED devices. Here are few examples:

A five-year study of patients with age-related macular degeneration, which was published in 2018, found that LLLT is an effective treatment for the condition, and results in long-term improved vision with no side effects.

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(Video) RED LIGHT THERAPY: What It Is, Health Benefits & My Experience!

Red light therapy is known to stimulate healthy, normal skin cell proliferation in wound healing. But when the patient has a malignant tumor, health care practitioners often hesitate to recommend the treatment for fear of promoting tumor growth. According to a 2011 study, however, red light therapy was safe even in the presence of malignant lesions, and did not contribute to their growth.

9 clinical studies demonstrate that subjects exposed to red/NIR light experienced skin rejuvenation with no side effects.

Fluctuating hormones may cause pregnant women to develop acne. Unlike oral tetracycline, which has been associated with miscarriages, red light therapy has been found to be effective in treating acne and safe for use during pregnancy.

In a 1992 study, elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis in the knee were treated with red light therapy. It reduced their pain by 50% over the control group, and significantly improved range of motion and strength, with no side effects.

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In a four-week rheumatoid arthritis study, 112 volunteers received red light therapy treatments to reduce pain from rheumatoid arthritis, with remarkable results: a 70% reduction in pain, significant reduction of morning stiffness, and increased tip to palm flexibility. No side effects were observed or reported.

How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy?

First, it’s always advisable to seek medical advice before attempting to treat a health condition using LED light therapy at home. For example, if you are treating what you believe to be minor sun damage, you want to make sure you’re not actually dealing with a serious condition such as skin cancer.

Always use the LED light therapy device as directed. This means maintaining the correct distance from the device, and starting slowly with shorter sessions to determine your level of sensitivity. Most commonly, you’ll enjoy a relaxing red light session three to five times per week for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, over a period of one to four months. Feel free to check out a more detailed guide on how often to use RLT.

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When used as directed, red light therapy is safe. Therapy sessions are painless, and free from side effects. Individuals with highly sensitive skin may experience temporary redness and tightness after treating with red light, but this can often be managed by shortening the sessions, reducing the number of weekly treatments, and/or moving farther back from the device.

If you feel uncertain about long-term use of a red light therapy device, one approach you can take is to use the device only until your symptoms abate, and then take a break. Keep in mind that chronic skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema may require a consistent maintenance treatment protocol, so you need to weigh the benefits (reduced or eliminated symptoms) against the possibility of side effects (even though none have ever been found).

In small doses, red light is considered a safe therapy for improving eye health. Eye fatigue may occur after too much exposure to red light, so wear protective goggles while treating other parts of the body. The therapy time needed to treat the skin is much longer than the time needed for treatment of the eyes.

Choosing the Right LED Therapy Device

Different types of red light devices are available, from handheld wands and masks to tablet-sized panels to huge multi-panel units. This makes the choices somewhat overwhelming! Here’s what to look for.

You will get the most benefits and highest return on your investment by choosing an LED panel that irradiates a larger portion of the body, which will activate a positive ripple effect of increased cellular health.

(Video) I Did Red Light Therapy for 10 Days Straight

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The initial investment in a high-quality red light therapy device easily pays for itself if you are considering using red light to treat even one or two conditions, such as improving skin tone and reducing signs of aging. This is because many people who start using red light for these purposes often experience benefits they didn’t expect. Red light therapy is also effective for treating hair loss, skin wounds, stretch marks, and promoting muscle repair and weight loss.

The more of your body's cells that are energized using red light therapy, the better. Choose the largest panel that fits into your budget, so that you can target small areas while still improving your all-over health.

Healing with Light

In order to understand what red light therapy is and how it works, it’s important to know some basics about light and how it affects the human body. Sunlight, which is the main source of natural light, causes biological reactions in our bodies. The sleep-wake cycle (known as circadian rhythm), moods, and even how well our immune systems function are all directly linked to sunlight.

Since ancient times, sunlight has been used for healing. But through the years scientists have learned that too much sunlight can be harmful. Its powerful ultraviolet rays can cause sunburn, premature aging of the skin, and increased risk of skin cancer, as well as eye damage if someone looks directly at the sun.

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Although we see rays of sunlight as white, it is actually all colors mixed together, which collectively appear to be white. In fact, rainbows are light from the sun separated into its separate colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Each of these colors has a different wavelength, with red the longest and blue the shortest. Wavelengths are typically measured in nanometers (nm).

Based on extensive research, scientists know a great deal about the health benefits of specific wavelengths of light. Green, blue, yellow, and red wavelengths have all been used successfully to treat specific conditions. Of all commonly used light therapies, red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths have the broadest range of therapeutic benefits.

The Benefits of Red Light Therapy

The term “red light therapy,” which is also referred to as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, encompasses light therapy in the red (630nm to 660nm) and near-infrared (810nm to 850nm) range. Red light devices use light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to deliver specific wavelengths of light in powerful concentrations that absorb into the skin and have therapeutic benefits at the cellular level.

Red light, and particularly near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths, penetrate deep into the body where they have a stimulating effect on cells. Light photons absorb into the mitochondria, which are colloquially known as the “power generators” of cells. As mitochondria soak up the light, this increases production of cellular fuel known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The cells become energized, making them better able to perform their functions, and repair and regenerate themselves more efficiently.

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Increased cellular energy causes a positive chain reaction that boosts overall health throughout your body.

Increased cellular energy hasa positive ripple effect throughout the entire body. It’s similar to how your energy levels affect your ability to perform at your peak (or your worst) at work, to handle obstacles, to cope with adversity, to maintain healthy relationships, and still have the energy to take care of yourself.

The process by which low-level laser therapy positively impacts health at the cellular level has been scientifically proven. Some of the fascinating benefits of red/NIR therapy include:

(Video) Can You Overdose With Red Light Therapy?

Anti-aging

Regular use has the beneficial effect of photodynamic photorejuvenation. It can help with the reduction of fine lines, restoring sagging skin, heal sun damage, and treat wrinkles by stimulating collagen and elastin production, reducing inflammation, and stimulating blood flow.

Hair Regrowth

Red light supports the regrowth of hair when light photons energize dormant hair follicles. It also helps treat underlying conditions such as hypothyroidism, which can contribute to non-hereditary hair loss.

Osteoarthritis pain

Red light reduces inflammation to ease joint pain and restore mobility.

Chronic skin disorders

Red light in the 620nm to 660nm range, and NIR light in the 810nm to 850nm range, effectively treat acne, psoriasis, non-melanoma skin cancers, rosacea, and other skin conditions by reducing inflammation and promoting healthy collagen production.

Physical Performance

Red and NIR light wavelengths help maximize athletic performance and speed up healing of muscle damage due to intense exercise or injury.

Low back pain: Near-infrared light supports healthy muscle and connective tissue growth and reduces inflammation to ease chronic low back pain.

Weight Loss

Red light therapy can help with fat loss and helps with spot-treatment of fat, since it causes fat cells to develop tiny fissures that allow lipids to leak out. It also increases the thickness and suppleness of skin, which helps reduce the appearance of cellulite.

RLT Wavelengths

It’s important to note that although red and near-infrared wavelengths absorb into the body at different depths, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better than the other; it means they are complementary. In general, the shorter wavelengths (630nm to 660nm) are used to treat skin-deep conditions, whereas the longer wavelengths (810nm to 850nm) are used to treat conditions deeper in the body. For optimal results, both should be used simultaneously.

This is just a sampling of the incredible benefits of red light therapy. Given the current body of research, light therapy is not considered a cure for any condition. However, since the light in the red/NIR ranges has the greatest range of benefits of any wavelengths (according to thousands of studies), they fall into what’s called the "therapeutic window" of light energy. Red and NIR light promote energy production at the cellular level, the ripple effect of healthy cells may have the potential to eliminate the underlying causes of many chronic conditions. Rather than focusing just on relieving the symptoms, light therapy helps to address the root causes.

Red Light TherapySolutions

Given the often severe side effects of many drugs and medications, red light therapy is a much better choice. It is a natural, safe, and effective method to experience relief from symptoms, and even healing.

Take a look at some of our red light therapy panels to find the perfect one for you. We offer a variety of options that are both effective and affordable for at-home use.

To read more about the uses of red light, its innumerable benefits, and the many studies that have been conducted, be sure to visit the PlatinumLED blog.

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FAQs

What happens if you use too much red light therapy? ›

What Are the Risks? Red light therapy is generally considered safe, even though researchers aren't exactly sure how and why it works. And there are no set rules on how much light to use. Too much light may damage skin tissue, but too little might not work as well.

How long does it take to see the effects of red light therapy? ›

It May Take Up to 4 Months to See Results From Red Light Therapy. It helps to think of red light therapy as exercise for your cells.

Can you have a reaction to red light therapy? ›

Even though this type of treatment is generally very safe, negative effects may occur. As a consequence of light therapy, patients can complain of irritability, headaches, eye strain, sleep disturbances, and insomnia. Mild visual side effects are not unusual but remit promptly.

Is it OK to do red light therapy everyday? ›

Unlike many other health treatments, red light therapy is safe to use every day, is non-invasive, and has virtually zero risks and side effects. This means that you don't need a trained professional to administer the treatment - you are completely in charge.

What does red light do to your brain? ›

The theory is that red light wavelengths stimulate the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps you sleep. Your brain releases more melatonin as darkness falls and tends to release less when you're exposed to light.

Can red light therapy reverse GREY hair? ›

In agreement with the results, the Photobiomodulation Therapy using red and blue light improves the alopecia treatment as well as decrease the gray hair.

Does red light tighten skin? ›

Often described as the fountain of youth, red light therapy has been clinically shown to reduce wrinkles, promote the healing of scars and blemishes, and tighten sagging skin, resulting in a more youthful appearance - you know, one that matches the 'you' on the inside.

Can you do red light therapy twice a day? ›

Red light therapy is one skincare treatment that responds well to multiple daily uses and using it more than once a day may bring you faster results. A red light therapy device does not harm the surface of your skin or the underlying tissue.

How long does it take for LED light therapy to work? ›

In-office LED light therapy requires up to 10 sessions or more, each spaced out about a week apart. You may start to see minor results after your first session. Results will be more dramatic and noticeable once you've finished all of your treatments.

Does red light therapy cause detox symptoms? ›

Will light therapy treatments cause detox symptoms? If your cells are starved for light, a full Joovv treatment may cause some detox-related symptoms before your body acclimates. If you experience these types of issues, we recommended stopping treatments until the symptoms go away.

Can red light therapy damage eyes? ›

The short answer: no. With the help of scientific research and technological advancement, red light therapy is a safe and natural treatment option that protects and heals your eyes. In multiple studies, red light and infrared light have been found safe and effective for vision health.

Do you need eye protection for red light therapy? ›

A: It is not required that you wear eye protection, nevertheless the lights are very bright and may be uncomfortable for some individuals with sensitivities to light. Q: Is Red Light Therapy similar to tanning? A: No not at all. You will not get a tan from Red Light Therapy, nor does it expose you to damaging UV rays.

How many times a day can you do red light therapy? ›

You may need a treatment each week for about a month. Then you might need maintenance treatments every month or every few months. Some at-home devices may also require a substantial time commitment. You might need to use your device twice a day for 30 to 60 minutes for four to five weeks.

Does red light therapy burn fat? ›

Red light therapy is also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT). It's a type of body sculpting that may help you get rid of stubborn fat. Most research shows that red light therapy removes some fat from your waist and arms, but results are modest at best.

Is red light therapy scientifically proven? ›

RLT is generally safe and may be a very effective treatment option for people seeking smaller changes in their skin or to keep the skin healthy and reduce inflammation. Other applications of RLT have promising early evidence, but there is not enough reliable evidence in humans to call it effective in every case.

Can red light therapy help aging skin? ›

LED light therapy is now used by some aestheticians to help regenerate the skin from aging. It's also used for acne. Your healthcare provider uses red or blue light frequencies based on the skincare concern. Red is primarily used for anti-aging, while blue is used for acne treatment.

Can red light therapy help internal organs? ›

Therefore, red light therapy may show positive results after surgery to stimulate stem cells which repair tissues and organs. In studies, red light therapy has proven to stimulate mesenchymal stem cells in bone marrow, enhancing their ability to reach the brain.

What is red light therapy pros and cons? ›

It may help with conditions such as muscle strain, dental problems, aging skin, and cognitive decline. Red light therapy should not cause pain or burn your skin. If you experience any irritation, please discontinue use and consult a healthcare provider.

What should I put on my face before red light therapy? ›

What Should I Put on My Face Before Red Light Therapy? For best results, it's always recommended to use LED products on a clean face with no serums or moisturizers. This allows the light therapy to effectively penetrate the skin without any barriers.

How often should I do red light therapy? ›

The answer is more than a simple yes or no. Most experts and device manufacturers will recommend 3-5 sessions a week at 10-20 minutes each. And the reason it's pretty standard across the board is because of how red light therapy works.

Can infrared damage eyes? ›

The most common eye disease associated with near-infrared radiation is cataracts. Prolonged exposure to IR radiation causes a gradual but irreversible opacity of the lens. Other forms of damage to the eye from IR exposure include scotoma, which is a loss of vision due to the damage to the retina.

How strong should red light therapy be? ›

Because of the combination of high degree of penetration in skin2 and absorption by respiratory chain components, light in the spectral range from 600 to 1300 nm is useful for promoting wound healing, tissue repair, and skin rejuvenation.

How much power does red light therapy use? ›

Typically the effective range is between 5mW/cm^2 to 50mW/cm^2 in most panels. Of course, more intensity does not always mean better results, and sometimes using lower power lights for longer time is more practical.

How do you know if red light therapy is working? ›

Most experts say that they don't know yet if RLT is effective for all its claimed uses. Most say that the studies published so far show some potential for certain conditions, but that more studies need to be conducted. Red light therapy is still an emerging treatment that's generating growing interest.

How do I know if light therapy is working? ›

Monitor your mood to see if it's working.

You should start to notice more energy and an improved mood within one to two weeks with daily use. Many people notice a more immediate response to light therapy.

Does infrared light burn belly fat? ›

There is little scientific evidence supporting the claims that infrared light, whether administered by lamp, laser or while in a body wrap, can help people lose weight or shape their body.

Is red light therapy FDA approved? ›

Red Light Therapy is a clinically studied, FDA-approved treatment that can improve the appearance of skin if you have acne, scars, wrinkles, and other visible signs of aging,” says Shane Miller, a licensed esthetician and the owner of the popular Instagram account @howtohydrate.

How often should red light therapy be used? ›

You'll likely need ongoing treatments. This is not a one-time treatment for most skin conditions. You'll need to be seen one to three times a week for weeks or even months.

Can red light therapy damage your skin? ›

If you use red light therapy devices incorrectly or too often, you may experience damage to your skin or eyes. Immediate results are possible in some cases, but it can often take weeks or months before you see improvements.

How far should red light therapy be? ›

For the most effective red light therapy sessions, follow these treatment guidelines: Position Yourself 6 Inches from Your Joovv: You can sit or stand, but clinical research and user experiences have demonstrated that 6-12 inches is the ideal distance during a treatment.

Can red light therapy damage eyes? ›

The short answer: no. With the help of scientific research and technological advancement, red light therapy is a safe and natural treatment option that protects and heals your eyes. In multiple studies, red light and infrared light have been found safe and effective for vision health.

Should you wear goggles in red light therapy? ›

A: It is not required that you wear eye protection, nevertheless the lights are very bright and may be uncomfortable for some individuals with sensitivities to light.

How many times a day can you do red light therapy? ›

You may need a treatment each week for about a month. Then you might need maintenance treatments every month or every few months. Some at-home devices may also require a substantial time commitment. You might need to use your device twice a day for 30 to 60 minutes for four to five weeks.

Can I use light therapy twice a day? ›

Treatment sessions can last from 15 minutes to three hours, once or twice a day, depending on individual needs and equipment used.

Does red light help wrinkles? ›

Red light therapy gives you the instant glow in your face however, it does not correct the fine lines and wrinkles overnight. Collagen production will take time and although red light boosts its creation, it will still take weeks, even months to see visible results.

What should I put on my face before red light therapy? ›

What Should I Put on My Face Before Red Light Therapy? For best results, it's always recommended to use LED products on a clean face with no serums or moisturizers. This allows the light therapy to effectively penetrate the skin without any barriers.

How often should you do red light therapy on your face? ›

Trophy Skin's RejuvaliteMD Red Light Therapy at-home red light therapy device is FDA-approved to treat full facial wrinkles. You can use it a minimum of 5 minutes, a few times per week (5 days a week is ideal, if daily treatment is impossible), for a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks to see results.

Does red light therapy work through your clothes? ›

Can I wear clothes during my session? You can wear clothes during your treatment sessions, or you can be nude. Just make sure the area of your body you are treating is fully exposed to the light and not covered by any clothing.

Does red light have to touch skin? ›

And, just like shower, having exposed skin is necessary. Therefore, if you want the light waves to penetrate as much of the front or the back of your body as possible, then you have to remain unclothed during treatment.

How much power does red light therapy use? ›

Typically the effective range is between 5mW/cm^2 to 50mW/cm^2 in most panels. Of course, more intensity does not always mean better results, and sometimes using lower power lights for longer time is more practical.

Does red light therapy help hair loss? ›

Red light therapy is a safe, effective, and natural treatment option for hair loss that's gaining popularity with professionals and the public. Backed by a strong base of peer-reviewed clinical research, red light treatments have increased hair count, hair density, and hair thickness for men and women alike.

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