Red light Therapy panel

Red Light Therapy – In Depth Review – What Is It & How Does It Work

Red Light Therapy Explained


This Red Light Therapy article includes a large compilation of information about the therapy and associated light treatments.  It should answer the question “how does red light therapy work”.  There is an depth look at many of the treatment possibilities of light therapy.  The aim is to demystify light therapy, and leave the reader with confidence to make an informed decision on whether it is a suitable treatment for them.

This is an in depth article, so we have provided a convenient table of contents to enable the reader to navigate easily, and skip to the section that they are most interested in.

What Is Red Light Therapy?

It provides a non-invasive, drug free technique to treats various medical and cosmetic conditions.

By using a specific set of scientifically researched light wavelengths it produces a natural response from the body’s own resources. 

In some treatments it activates the body’s natural defence systems. And in others it reactivates complex nutrient systems, to start a rejuvenating or healing process. 

We know that shining a red light on the skin for therapeutic reasons may sound a little implausible to some. But this is no ordinary light, and no ordinary treatment. For the doubters that think pointing a red light at the skin to start a metabolic response is ridiculous, please read on.  

We are going to look at the science behind it, and how it works.

1 Red Light Therapy Diode Rainbow

How Does Light Therapy Work?

The colours in the visible light spectrum all have properties that can penetrate through the skin to various different depths.

When you were young you probably played with a torch. Everyone remembers when scaring thier friends in the dark, turning our faces into ghoulish spook by putting the light just below our chin. And when I was young a least the torches came with options to change the colour of the light from plain boring white to blue, red and green. If you shone the red light through your cheeks, Yikes that was really spooky. If you pressed the red light to the palm of your hands in the dark you could see the bones. Do the same with the blue or green light and nothing, just darkness. This is because the three different light colours have different and distinct properties. Their colours can penetrate the skin and layers below to different depths.

This is simple story but it illustrates one of the fundamentals of light therapy.  

Ok so what? What can it do when it does penetrate the skin. Well the answer is a lot, and it has had science testing and documenting the results for over forty years now.

Everybody knows that light effects our skin. Sunlight, that’s UV light, can cause some significant changes to our skin, some desirable and pleasing but other changes can be damaging, or in the worst cases life threatening. We can’t see the sunlight, but we can see its effects. A nice healthy sun tan, or bring out some freckles, which can be charming. But go too far with sunlight and it’s not nice and not cute. All this and just from light that we can’t even see.

Red light and all the wavelengths used in light therapy home treatments are safe. Red light does not burn but it does penetrates the skin deeper than the sun’s UV light. Where it can produces significant therapeutic changes to the skin tissues.  

Where Does Red Light Work?

It’s a very busy place just below our skin. That’s where the red light is going to go to work.

1 Red Light Therapy Infografic dermis

The dermis is packed with and the home of blood vessels, hair follicles and sebaceous glands for skin lubrication. We also find the crucial cells that produce collagen and elastin.  These important ones for anti-ageing treatment.

Just as plants use a process of photosynthesis that converts light energy into a form of chemical energy, our body reacts in similar way when red light treatments are applied. This light energy in our case is converted to cellular energy.

This renewed cellular energy can make significant and rejuvenating changes to dormant or ageing cells. Multiple metabolic processes are affected by this increase in cellular energy.   For example our blood circulation is increased, not by the application of heat, but by triggering the release of nitric oxide. A natural and short-lived gas , but naturally produced gas, nitric oxide widens and relaxes our blood vessels to allow fuller circulation.

What makes Light Therapy Special ?

Once treatment is started,  the effects can sometime be dramatic and fast, It all depends on what it is being used to treat. Some treatments like anti-ageing requires patience, time and consistency. But for pain management the results can often be rapid, and sometimes long lasting.

But that’s not all

For cosmetic reasons, the therapy works on several levels. With a home use device, it is a one purchase investment. Unlike creams, serums and other topical treatments that require repeat, and often expensive purchases. A red light device provides a convenient tool in the beauty regime. Its power and results do not diminish over time either.

For medical treatments, when drug treatments have failed to produce the required results. Or ever increasing doses are needed to maintain the same result. Then people start to search for an alternative. Unfortunately many people just end up at the light therapy door, after main stream medicines have left them disappointed. 

Red light therapy marshal’s the body’s own natural resources,without the need for chemical intervention, or topical creams. It works at the source level from the inside to the out.

5 Green Clover for red light therapy

  • Non invasive
  • Chemical free
  • Drug free
  • Natural

5 Green Clover for red light therapy

  • Painless
  • Does not damage the skin
  • Easy to use at home

5 Green Clover for red light therapy

  • Safe on all skin types
  • FDA approved
  • Results do not diminish over time

Recommended Home Treatment Devices

The buyer has a wide range of home use light therapy devices to choose from. It can be a  kind of baffling minefield, full of unfamiliar jargon and manufactures claims and promises.

Let’s see if we can steer you though it, and recommend the best …….

Best Hand Held Devices.

These are most popular of all devices, so there is a wide range of devices to choose from.  Of course they are all portable, but some are more convenient to use than others . 

Rechargeable cordless models offer the most flexibility of use.  A corded device effectively tethers the user to a power socket, but corded are often more powerful, and more power means shorter treatment times.

Hand held devices offer targeted, precise treatment. But the treatment head is often quite small, so if a large area is being worked on it can be quite time consuming.

Some multicolour devices are available, but generally they are single colour, mono therapy devices aimed at a specific treatment.

From pain management, anti-ageing and hair loss, hand held devices cover the range of different red light therapy treatments.

 Flexibility in where you use them
 Accessible price
 Best to prioritise treatment area
 Low LED count
 Limited treatment area
 Extended treatment time

Rejuven Light Therapy Device

 rejuven explained

Price when written

RED LIGHT THERAPY EDITORS CHOICEGiving the possibility of a range of different treatment therapies. the Rejuven comes with a great choice of four different colour options. Each large treatment head contains a whopping 48 LEDs. So this should really help to cut down your overall treatment times. It also has three pulsed light settings to choose from.

LED density is an important factor in deciding to purchase. We think that the 48 that is on offer here is much higher than other devices.  The Rejuven has simple to operate functions built into the handle .

It ships with a comprehensive users manual with explanations of the various colour treatment options and safety goggles-

Norlanya Red Light Therapy Device

Norlanya red light therapy

Price when written
From a great manufacturer this Norlanya cordless red light therapy machine is for anti ageing treatment . Norlanya has fitted an LED array giving an effective red light wavelength of 660nm.

You can choose from continuous or pulse mode depending on the treatment you require.  A built in timer  turns off the device when treatment time is over. The head is a large 2.95in (7.5cm) wide by 1.95in (5cm), and it packs 40 LED lights. This should help to give a short treatment time. Light weight too, tipping the scales at a measly 5 ounces. The device can be charged from a normal power source or via a usb.  As a built in safety feature the device will not turn on while being charged.

Best Mask Devices

These were popularised when the Hollywood set were pictured using them.

Constructed to look like, well a plastic face from a bad dream, they tend to all look a little spooky. But hey,  the user is not looking at themselves and the better models really work well.

Coming in a variety of colours, the LED lights are embedded in the inside mask matrix.

So when the lights get turned on, best get the kids out of the room, you’ll frighten them sick, or they’ll fall over laughing.

They are very effective though, and as they give a full face coverage, they can also be very time efficient.

 Portable to a point
  Reasonable price on some models
 Reduced treatment time.
 Prioritised treatment area
 Just one treatment area
 Need to lay down to use effectively
  Can be uncomfortable.
  Scares the kids !!!

Project E Beauty 3 Colour Mask

Project e red light therapy

Price when written
RED LIGHT THERAPY EDITORS CHOICEFrom a great supplier the Project E Beauty Photon Mask offers red, green and blue treatment options.

Mask controls are from a digital remote, with touch sensitive buttons. It also has a built in timer, which is important as it is incredibly easy to fall asleep when using a mask.

The three colours allow not only anti ageing therapy, but also pimple and acne treatment. The green light option helps calm any inflammation associated acne breakout, and assists anti ageing.

This is a really credible therapy mask, that has been carefully contoured for maximum comfort and LED density.

It ships with a comprehensive users manual with explanations of the various colour treatment options and safety goggles-

Illumask Light Therapy Mask

1 illuMask red light therapy

Price when written
This is a mono treatment mask. There are two options in the range, either anti ageing or acne therapy. Buyers choose from one or the other.

This is a very popular if rather unconventional mask as it only allows the user thirty 15 minute sessions. Effectively 7.5 hours of treatment, then a new timer must be purchased to continue treatment.

Although initially a budget entry into light therapy, the cost of renewing timers does quickly mount up.

For those who want to see if light therapy is suitable for them it is a cheap way to find out. However we do disagree with this type of unsustainable business model. It is effectively use and throw away. Neutrogena also offer a similar session timed system. Cheap, but is it worth it? We think not.

Best Panel Devices

Normally top of the range devices panel are getting to the more professional end of the light therapy market. These are really grown up machines. Not eye watering prices, but they do have a premium tag.

They generally follow a tryptic design pattern. The three panels offer complete facial coverage, and a very large LED density. A typical panel houses over 400 LEDs, and offers a range of colour options. Not far off what you would find in a dermatologists clinic in fact.

 High LED density
  Multi colour options
 Desk top so hands free
 High build quality
 Not Portable
 Premium price tag

Norlanya Photon Therapy device

NNorlanya panel red light panel

Price $265.00 at time of writing
RED LIGHT THERAPY EDITORS CHOICEThis is a tryptic of wrap around panels. It has a huge overall sweep of 32cm (1ft and 1/2in). The red blue and yellow LED lighting options are really sufficient for all types of home treatments.

A total of 420 LEDs spread equally over the three colour wavelengths. This coupled with a high power output makes for for very short treatment times indeed. An easy to understand control panel, and a built in timer assures you  of precise treatment time measuring too.   It also has an additional two seasonal program modes. Built to an exacting standard Norlanya. The Photon Therapy device has a professional high quality finish and a clever design.  When not in use it folds down to just 3 inches. 

A great light therapy lamp, produced and marketed by Norlanya, a world leader in home and professional cosmetic treatment devices

Project E Beauty Mini Panel

Project e panel red light therapy

Price $299.99 at time of writing

The Project E Beauty Mini Panel has every colour therapy choice you are ever going to need.

Red and blue wavelengths are the most commonly used for anti ageing and acne or simple pimple treatments.  But the other five complementary colours are useful for a variety of conditions including age spots, freckles. The purple wave length is particularly used for toxin elimination.

The well built adjustable panel has an impressive overall sweep of just over one foot and houses 420 LEDS. This makes for extremely fast full face treatments, although the device can be used on other parts of the body too.

For easy storage the unit folds down to a shade under 3 inches, so can easily be stowed in a drawer when not in use. If you want a light therapy powerhouse in your own home this is one of the top two models on the market.


Best Hair Growth Devices

This are for hair loss treatment. The helmet has lasers and LED lights fitted into the inside of the helmet, allowing users a fast, full head treatment session. The hand held comb houses the LEDs in the comb head, it is better suited to prioritise treatment to particular areas of the scalp.
Both systems are widely used, but the particular device choice depends on the baldness profile being treated. We have written an extensive explanation of hair loss treatments here

 High LED/laser count
  Short treatment times
 Hands free
 Semi portable
 High Price

iRestore Laser Hair Growth System

RED LIGHT THERAPY EDITORS CHOICEA lightweight device the iRestore Laser Hair Growth Helmet is FDA approved to treat hair loss or thinning hair. It has a sprung head band fitted with foam pads to ensure that it fits snugly on the head. This is not a cordless device, having a built in battery would make it unacceptably heavy. The built in timer will turn the device off after the recommended 25 minute treatment time has elapsed. 

The 21 medical grade lasers and 30 LEDs are bedded into the matrix of the cap to give complete scalp coverage.

The mix and ratio of light wavelengths give a great chance of a positive treatment outcome.Of the helmet devices we have researched and reviewed the iRestore is the best device from a price/LED laser ratio.

Hairmax Ultima 12

The HairMax Ultima 12 Laser Comb is cordless so you aren’t tethered to a power outlet. Although it has a built in rechargeable battery it is still a very light weight device.

All Hairmax comb products come with a special hair parting system to allow the red laser light to reach the scalp. It has the twelve therapy red light lasers built into the matrix of the body of the comb. The comb teeth can easily be detached  for cleaning when required.

Easy to operate, an LED screen built into the comb body shows the elapsed treatment time. The manufacturer recommends just 8 minutes treatment time, three times a week. The Hairmax system has been used in many scientific studies to treat hair loss

Light Therapy Treatments


Many dermatologists consider light therapy as a major breakthrough in skin care. Blue light is the primary wavelength for treating acne, it deals effectively with the bacteria that causes acne. Red light is generally considered as a necessary complimentary colour to reduce the inflammation that often accompanies the outbreak.  It also helps to reduce pore size and smooth the skin. Many of the better home treatment devices conveniently include both light frequencies in the device.  Very many successful scientific studies have been carried out using this dual approach to treatment.

Acne Treatment Devices
Our recommended  devices fully reviewed  
Trophy Skin BlueMD Review

Tanda Clear Plus Review

More Acne Information
Acne treatment using light therapy.
Read our full article.



Between the ages of twenty and twenty-five our collagen levels start to decrease at around one percent per year. By the age of forty the collagen protein has stopped being produced completely.  Elastin, a protein that does what it sounds like it does, it provides elasticity in the connective tissues. Without elastin our skin would not resume its original shape after stretching. Yikes !!  Sounds important then. Well they both are, collagen and elastin. Combined they keep the connective tissues firm and plumped. Young in other words.

Red light therapy stimulates the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) This is the magic molecule that carries chemical energy to the collagen and elastin cells, and rejuvenates them. It restarts the processes that age has stopped. This is why the various signs of ageing like fine lines, crows feet and wrinkles are smoothed, and the face has a fuller, healthier look. It does not bring back the full bloom of youth,  but it can make a significant difference.

Anti- Ageing Treatment Devices
Our recommended  devices fully reviewed  
RejuvaliteMD Review

Norlanya Photon Therapy Review

More Anti_Ageing Information
Anti-Ageing treatment using light therapy.
Read our full article.



Maybe surprisingly light therapy has been used to treat arthritis for very many years now. Because arthritis is such a common complaint, many clinical studies have been carried out. The therapeutic wavelengths best suited to arthritic pain management have been pretty well established. Nowadays a combination of red and infrared is often prescribed as a dualistic approach to reduce inflammation and the associated pain. The choice of the dual wavelength approach has many benefits.  Infrared will go deeper and produce a warming effect on the tissues.  Red light will reduce the inflammation and combined with the infrared increase circulation to the joints. By relieving the inflammation the pain subsides.  Many users actually get very rapid relief.

Arthritis Treatment Devices
Our recommended  devices fully reviewed
LightStim for Pain Review

Light Relief Review   

More Arthritis Information
Arthritis treatment using light therapy.
Read our full article.


Pain Mangement

For doctors, sports coaches and physiotherapists, red light therapy on its own or combined with infrared, is one of their most rewarding treatments. The effects are often fast and visible. So the quality of the patients life can be improved in a natural and sustainable way. Red light effects are very similar to anti-inflammatory drugs, but without unpleasant side effects. By increasing the blood supply, and the release of endorphin pain will temporarily subside.

Pain Management Devices
Our recommended  devices fully reviewed
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Pain Management Information
Pain Management using light therapy.
Read our full article.



Ultraviolet B (UVB) is the most common light therapy for psoriasis sufferers.  It is a natural component of sunlight and has been shown to be an effective treatment in some psoriasis cases. Broad and narrow band UVB treatments are available. Narrow band seems to be more efficient, needing less treatments and giving a longer remission time.

A study using red and near infrared frequencies, showed some promising results too. But not enough research has been done yet to confirm the successful findings due to the size of the control group.

Psoriasis Treatment Devices
Unfortunately due to the lack of solid scientific studies into red light therapy treatment of Psoriasis, we are unable to recommend sufferers a suitable home treatment device.   
Psoriasis Treatment Information
Psoriasis treatment.
Read our full article.



Although it affects more than 16 million Americans, the causes of rosacea are still not fully understood. Red light is thought to be the most beneficial in easing the uncomfortable symptoms of rosacea.  The red itchy, dry and burning symptoms can sometimes be be eased by a combination of light frequencies.  Green light can help the flushing symptom, and blue with its anti bacterial properties is helpful too.

Rosacea Therapy Devices
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 More Rosacea Information
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Hair Loss

Two out of three males, and one in five females will start showing signs of hair loss and balding by the time they reach their fifties. Not many people do bald brilliantly, so  people are using all kinds of home remedies, and OTC drugs for solution.

Red light therapy offers another way of tackling the problem. Oxygen deficiency and cellular energy has an important part to play in some forms of hair loss. When the microcirculation around the hair follicle is starved of oxygen, hair will grow only sparsely or not at all. By reactivating cellular energy,  the ATP production encourages more oxygen, and the mitochondria start a regrowth pattern. It is rather more complicated than that. We have written about it extensively about the science behind it elsewhere on the website.

Hair Loss Treatment Devices
Our recommended  devices fully reviewed  
iRestore Laser Review 

HairMax Ultima 12 Review   

 More Hair loss Information
Hair loss treatment using light therapy.
Read our full article.


Red Light Wavelengths and Power

We find our red light therapy wavelength between 620 and 700 nm on the light scale spectrum. As the red light travels up the scale it changes, from an orange red into a deep red at around 700 nm. The most common values used in red light therapy treatments are 630 and 660 nm. with slight variations either side.

The intensity of the red light affects the duration of the treatment. It’s the intensity of the light that governs the manufacturers recommendations for treatment times. You can think about pretty much as “dosage”.

7 Medical Syringe Red Light Therapy

The lower the intensity of light, the longer it takes to get the therapeutic dosage for efficient treatment.  We have written a full explanation of light intensity article here >>

Really high intensity devices are generally used in clinics and university hospitals for medical research.  Home use devices are never more than warm to the touch, but as the power increases so does the heat, High power devices are for professional users, after the correct training.

What’s the difference between Lasers and LEDs

Originating for commercial use in the 1950s, lasers and LEDs have now found there way into most modern households. 

If any one still uses a CD player; then you are using laser technology. It’s a type of laser that reads the CD for decoding into sound. LEDs on the other hand can be found in a wide range of home appliances, from simple stand-by lights to digital panels. The new style of energy efficient light bulbs all use LED technology too.

So in the red light therapy world we often see lasers and LEDs talked about as light sources in the various products on the market. So what’s the difference?

Well the laser is coherent, and the LED is incoherent !!! 

Doesn’t make too much sense yet. But it’s pretty simple, let’s explain.

1 Red Light Therapy Diode Rainbow

A coherent light source like a laser sends out light waves that are all working in unison The waves like all waves have crests and troughs.  With coherent light they rise and fall together, lined up and always maintaining the same formation.

The dictionary defines coherence as “ logically or aesthetically ordered “ ,  and that’s just how the laser emits its light. Because of this orderly characteristic extremely accurate measurements can be taken. As used by our old friend the CD player.

Most other light sources produce incoherent light and that includes LEDs. Incoherent light is as you can imagine is pretty much the opposite. Light is still produced in waves, but in a more random patten. They are “out of phase “. Instead of all peaking and troughing at he same time, it happens in a random fashion. Again the dictionary says it best. Incoherence in physics means “ having no definite or stable phase relationship “. We can’t better that definition.

A Little Light History

Although there is some dispute about the invention of the laser, the first working laser was patented by the Hughes Research Laboratories in 1960.

But our red light therapy story doesn’t really begin until 1965 when Endre Mester, a research professor at a Hungarian university, made a startling discovery.  During the course his pioneering work, Endre Mester noticed that a control group of mice, subjected to laser treatment, grew hair quicker than ones that weren’t treated. Doesn’t sound much but it started a huge research effort into the general healing properties of laser light. 

The professor’s research, and further research carried out in the former Soviet Union, and USA eventually prompted the NASA space program to contract Quantum Devices to investigate, and develop the LED (light emitting diode). We still use them in a modified form in our devices to this day.

How safe is Red Light Therapy?

Light Therapy has been well researched and is considered safe. It has no known unpleasant side effects.  But it is always good practice to test your new device on a none sensitive area of your body just to check your skins reaction.

Build up your treatment time slowly. Be careful not to stare into the light. We always recommend the use of goggles. Most manufacturers supply a set with their devices.  Perhaps surprisingly blue light is more likely to cause problems with your eyes than red light. The LED lights in home devices might get warm, but never hot.

If you take any medications that increase your sensitivity to light, check with your medical professional before starting any red light therapy.


Is Red Light Therapy comparable to suntanning?

No. This form of Light Therapy uses light between 620nm and 680nm. This is a way different part of the light spectrum than sunlight. So no harmful UV light is present.

What distinguishes Red Light Therapy from other types of treatment?

It is non invasive. Unlike some other skin treatments it works at low temperature.  It does not damage the cells or tissues. On the contrary, it enhances and rejuvenates them. It is a simple natural resource that requires no regeneration time. The effects of light therapy do not diminish over time.

Are there side effects with Red Light Therapy?

Not really. It is important to build treatment times slowly. As well as stimulation of tissues, the body may start a detoxifying process.  Very mild flu like symptoms have been occasionally reported if detoxification takes place too quickly.  Some acne sufferers have found that their acne flared up after beginning light therapy. But after continuing the treatment the flare up normalised. Light therapy will then accelerate the healing process.

Which parts of the body can I use Light Therapy on?

Anywhere. Except the eyes. Always avoid looking at the light. Wear googles.
On sensitive parts of the body, use the light only for a couple of minutes for the first session. Then wait for 24 hours to see if there has been any adverse reaction. If not then follow the manufacturers guidelines. 

Do I need to prepare my skin before a light therapy session?

When using the therapy for facial treatments you should thoroughly clean your skin before treatment. Most devices don’t need any other preparation. Remember to read manufacturers instructions.

Do I need to wear protective goggles?

Facial treatment really always requires the use of protective googles. However for your comfort some people may prefer to keep your eyes closed. Avoid looking into the device directly.

How long does it take for Light Therapy to work?

Well it depends on what it is treating. It is important to remember that it does not provide a miracle cure or transformation.  Many facial patients however have noticed some immediate improvements even after a single session. Injury healing is all depends on the injury of course but some chronic sufferers of Plantar Fasciitis how found almost instant relief.

 A tip for facial treatment is to take weekly photos to monitor your progress. Just looking in the mirror is not the best way to see the subtle changes to your skin texture.

How long are the sessions?

A difficult one to answer, it depend on the device, and the treatment. For cosmetic sessions it can range between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment head. 

I have tattoos can I use Red Light Therapy?

Light therapy effects on ink is not yet fully researched, so covering tattoos is recommended.

Can I over do it?

During the initial treatment period sessions are usually once a day. Then maintenance therapy could be a couple of sessions weekly. Stick to the manufacturers guidelines. Like many things in life more does not necessarily mean better.
For pain management most manufacturers advise to use as required.

What is the difference between continuous and pulsed wave devices?

Pretty simple really. As it sounds, the continuos wave device keeps a constant output of light, at a constant level. There should be no fluctuation. Pulsed wave does sound a little mis-leading.  It just means the light source is stopped and started at a pre-programmed time interval. It is rapid, so rapid in fact that the human eye cannot detect it. Some manufacturers claim that by pulsing the light may reach deeper into the tissues.

Can I use colour combinations of light therapy?

Yes for many conditions such as acne respond better to both red and blue therapy. Many devices do actually house various LED combinations of different colours to increase the treatment value. They have chosen the best combination of lights for a particular application. For example the LightStim for pain uses four separate wavelengths in the red and infrared spectrum to maximise the effect of the treatment. 

Can Red Light Therapy burn me?

The bulbs used in treatment should remain cool. No UV is present so sunburn is not a danger. In fact red light therapy is helpful in treating sunburned skin.

How can I maintain the results?

Normally one or two sessions a week are sufficient to maintain results, after the initial treatment. In the case of injury treatment of course this does not apply. Once you are better you are ready to go!!!

Can I wear cosmetics during the session?

No. Thoroughly clean the skin before starting red light therapy treatment. 

Do certain medications affect the results?

They can if you are taking medication your should consult your medical provider before starting any red light therapy treatment.

Is red light therapy worth the cost?

Well certainly yes  We all want great skin. if you want to have younger-looking skin without spending lots of money on cosmetic treatments. A home use device will certainly work out cheaper over the long run. Expensive skin creams and serums and and perhaps visits to the beauty salon don’t really make for financial sense. They are great for a bit of TLC and pampering though. 

For pain relief, well really; it’s hard to put a value on that. If the treatment is effective, it’s worth a lot. Not only to the patient, but also their family.