Do At-Home Red Light Therapy Treatments Actually Work? Here's What the Science Says
DIY red light therapy at home is exploding in popularity thanks to growing awareness of its scientifically proven benefits, from clearing up chronic skin conditions to improving sleep. With the increasing number of red light therapy products, prices are becoming more competitive, and variations of these products are getting versatile, so the need to own one is starting to turn into somewhat of a necessity, mainly because of all the great benefits it comes with and the high expense of spa sessions.
Whatever your reason for turning to red light therapy, you may be curious if you can purchase equipment and use it in the comfort of your own home. The short answer is yes — red light therapy works very well in the comfort of your home. And it's usually much more affordable than red light therapy treatments in a salon.
Below, we'll walk you through a brief overview of what red light therapy is and how it works; walk you through how to use red light therapy at home and show you what to look for in a device. Finally, we'll show you how we designed our own red lights for at-home use.
Note: Navigate through the article using the links below. Or, if you want to skip ahead and learn more about our red light therapy devices, visit our BIO and BIOMAX product pages. You can use either model in the comfort of your home.
Table of Contents
What Is Red Light Therapy?
How does red light therapy work & benefit your body? In general, the human body is highly responsive to light. Different wavelengths, which correspond to different colors, penetrate the skin to varying depths where the light stimulates natural biological processes. Sunlight has long been hailed as a therapy for chronic skin conditions, seasonal depression, and other health problems.
But since prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) rays is harmful, natural sunlight is unfortunately not the best solution. Red light therapy is also called photobiomodulation, or low-level laser therapy. It uses light-emitting diode (LED) devices to expose the skin to specific wavelengths of light that are known to have innumerable therapeutic benefits.
The term red light therapy refers to the application of a narrow spectrum of visible light, including red light (630nm to 660nm) and near-infrared light (NIR) (800nm to 850nm) to your skin and body using an LED device. This treatment occurs in what’s called the “therapeutic window" — in other words it uses light that's beneficial to your body, unlike harmful UV rays or benign yellow light. It can be administered in a dermatologist’s office, but also in the comfort of your own home.
Red light stimulates the body at the cellular level, providing a host of benefits for a variety of conditions or health concerns.
The primary red light therapy benefits are due to stimulation of energy production within cells, which has a positive ripple effect on the skin, muscles, bones, and connective tissues.
- Reduction of scars and the effects of aging
- Relief from symptoms of psoriasis and other chronic skin conditions
- Restored hair growth
- Accelerated wound healing
- Faster muscle recovery, and muscle growth
- Pain management, including neuropathic pain
- Improved symptoms from depression, anxiety, and insomnia
- Stimulation of the immune system, including the lymphatic system
- Weight loss
New studies about red light therapy’s advantages continue to emerge as more potential uses and benefits are discovered. Often, when people use red light therapy to treat a specific condition, they begin to notice other benefits as well.
How Do Red Light Therapy Devices Work?
Red light therapy works on the human body in a way that’s similar to how photosynthesis works in plants. An LED panel radiates red and near-infrared light particles (photons) into your skin, where they're absorbed by mitochondria, which are the energy centers of cells. There, the photons are converted to energy.
This boost of additional energy allows cells to regenerate successfully, and to build new proteins including collagen and elastin. Energized, optimally functioning cells directly affect the body’s health and proper functioning, since all bodily systems are interrelated and interdependent. In short, increasing cellular energy improves the functionality of the body’s systems, which leads to an improvement in overall health.
Can I Use Red Light Therapy Devices at Home?
Yes, you can! Because treatment for chronic conditions often takes place over a period of weeks or months, many people choose to purchase devices for home use. For example, treating eczema with red light typically involves three to five visits per week to a dermatologist over a period of several months until symptoms abate.
Following that, an ongoing maintenance program typically involves one to two treatments per week indefinitely. This same protocol, administered at home, is far more convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective. And when used as directed, red light is safe and has no known side effects.
Red light therapy at home can work well as long as these criteria are met:
1. You commit to a regular and consistent treatment program (preferably after consulting a medical professional). Since red light therapy works at a cellular level, many conditions will require several weeks or months of treatment; and some may require maintenance sessions to prevent the condition from flaring up again.
2. You use a high-quality, high-output red light therapy device that irradiates the skin using an optimal combination of red- and near-infrared light. Many devices built for home use are weak and ineffective. An investment in a high-quality device from a reputable manufacturer will give you many years of beneficial red light therapy in your home.
The following section can serve as a guide to key features you should look for in an LED device.
The Best Red Light Therapy Devices For At-Home Use
With the growing availability of light therapy devices for use in the home, it’s important to know what to look for. Choose only devices that are capable of delivering the intensity of light needed for deep absorption, and be sure those devices deliver the specific red and NIR wavelengths that are recognized for their therapeutic effects.
The Science Behind the Best Devices
Let's dive a bit deeper into the science behind the best red light therapy devices for at-home use.
Dr. Michael Hamblin — red light therapy expert and Harvard Associate Professor — once said, “total energy is the most important thing,” when asked what makes a red light therapy treatment effective.
This means when you're comparing LED devices, you should look for the highest possible total energy output, or irradiance. The light emitted from the device must be strong enough to actually penetrate the skin.
Most hand-held red light therapy devices do not deliver the power output needed for the light photons to be effectively absorbed into the skin. Or if they do, you must use them for long periods of time to get results — often double the amount of time required to get the same results with a panel (sometimes even more!).
For instance, imagine the difference if you put your hand under a 60-watt bulb versus a 100-watt bulb. You get a lot less light from a 60-watt bulb than you get from a 100-watt bulb. You need extra power to allow as many photons as possible to penetrate deeper where they have therapeutic value: into the cells of your skin, muscle, bone, and connective tissue.
You can quickly narrow your field of choices by eliminating low-powered devices that don’t deliver the optimal wavelengths within the therapeutic window (630nm, 660nm, 810nm, 830nm, or 850nm). This includes most caps, showerheads, wraps, and wands.
Going back to our example of comparing a 60-watt light bulb versus a 100-watt light bulb, many wands deliver even less light: more like a low-watt appliance bulb! Many wands, LED masks, and wraps we researched emit only 24 watts to 150 watts of light, compared with the 300- to 900-watt output of PlatinumLED BIO and BIOMAX devices. (Output increases with size, but the device also has to use high-output bulbs.)
It’s also important to avoid battery-powered devices. As battery power is discharged during use, the lights will dim even further.
Light Therapy Wavelengths
According to prolific research that has been conducted on phototherapy, the most therapeutic wavelengths of light range from 620nm to 660nm (red), and 800nm to 850nm (NIR).
Other wavelengths of light — such as UV or blue light — also work for niche applications. For example, UV light is sometimes used for eczema, and blue light for surface-level acne. But these wavelengths typically work for a single application only.
Red light on the other hand, also is used for skin health, and a wide array of other health benefits. You just have to use the right wavelengths within the red and infrared spectrums.
To achieve the best results, choose a device that will give you the optimal therapeutic effects using red and NIR wavelengths. PlatinumLED red (R+) array devices emit two red wavelengths simultaneously: 20% 630nm, and 80% 660nm.
The NIR+ array devices emit three NIR wavelengths simultaneously: 10% 810nm wavelength, 10% 830nm wavelength, and 80% 850nm wavelength. This ratio is based on exhaustive research, from the many third-party studies on red light, as well as PlatinumLED’s own in-house research.
These studies have also shown that red light wavelengths (630-700 nm) penetrate skin cells and sebaceous (oil-producing) glands. This promotes collagen production and rejuvenates the appearance of the skin, which improves skin health. PlatinumLED lights use two specific red light wavelengths: 630nm and 660nm.
- The 630nm wavelength penetrates into the skin cells and sebaceous glands to rejuvenate the skin. It is used to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, treat psoriasis, stimulate hair regrowth, treat non-melanoma skin cancers, and reduce acne-related inflammation and breakouts.
- The 660nm wavelength reaches through the skin into the joints and muscle tissue. It is used to delay muscle fatigue and enhance muscle performance, accelerate bone healing, reduce inflammation after injury, reduce neuropathic pain, accelerate wound healing, and reduce scarring.
Near-infrared (NIR) light wavelengths (700-1100 nm) penetrate deeper into the body to stimulate energy production in a greater number of cells. These wavelengths can pass through bone to assist with healing deep wounds, as well as relieving muscle aches, nerve injury, or joint pain. PlatinumLED lights deliver 810nm, 830nm, and 850nm wavelengths.
810nm Wavelength Benefits
The 810nm wavelength has the ability to penetrate the skull, so it has proved to be successful at treating neurological disorders such as recovery from stroke and traumatic brain injuries. It has also been used to successfully treat depression and anxiety. In addition, the 810nm wavelength has far-reaching therapeutic effects for muscular regeneration and performance, pain management, and wound healing.
830nm Wavelength Benefits
The 830nm wavelength penetrates even deeper than 810nm. It has been used to accelerate wound healing, enhance results of plastic surgery, stimulate the release of endorphins, improve bone repair, and accelerate post-injury return to activity.
850nm Wavelength Benefits
A combination of red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths delivers the unique benefits of both, giving you the most versatility to stimulate healing, increase mitochondrial function, improve blood flow and tissue formation, and reduce inflammation.
It is important to note that the wavelengths we use were not chosen at random. Rather, our recommendations are based on exhaustive studies collected by the PlatinumLED in-house research team on the therapeutic benefits of red and NIR light.
As extensive as research has been on red light’s therapeutic benefits, it should not be considered a cure or a medically endorsed treatment for most conditions. Rather, red light therapy should be viewed as a general wellness/fitness product.
The FDA has approved LED devices for home use. PlatinumLED products are low-risk, general wellness/fitness products that do not require FDA clearance, in accordance with the “General Wellness: Policy on Low-Risk Devices” draft released January 20, 2015 and updated in September 2019.
Platinum Red Light Therapy Devices
We offer two product lines: BIO and BIOMAX.
We’ve designed both lines based on the most up-to-date scientific research, and believe they’re the most advanced panels you’ll find — for at-home use or otherwise. Here’s why:
Higher Power Output and Shorter Treatment Times
Our panels provide more total energy output than any other red light therapy device. And, we measure this power output at multiple distances from the light, so you’ll know how much light your body is actually absorbing during a treatment. Here’s one example from our flagship BIOMAX line:
Notice that we measure using units of “mW/cm2,” or “milliwatts per centimeter squared.” This unit measures the total amount of light energy produced at a specific point, which is the most accurate indication of how much light your body will absorb.
This high energy output means you can absorb enough energy for an effective treatment in less time. As Dr. Hamblin says, it’s all about the “total energy” absorbed. And our panels help you absorb that energy more quickly.
Get The Widest Array of Health Benefits
We designed our light therapy devices to offer all five of the most effective red and near-infrared wavelengths. Most panels only offer one or two wavelengths total, but we offer all five. This means you get the widest array of benefits possible from each treatment.
For example, one trial by a group of doctors in Brazil showed positive results using 830 nm LED light for muscle fatigue. In a separate review, Dr. Hamblin references a study that showed positive results using 850 nm LED light on a patient with brain deficits.
But it’s not clear that 830 nm shouldn’t be used for brain health, and vice versa. So which one should you use?
Our solution is to provide both, so you have the best chance of seeing great results from each therapy session.
Of course, you still have the option to select which wavelengths you use. As you’ll see in a minute, we offer BIO and BIOMAX panels with options for red, near-infrared, or combination wavelengths. On our BIOMAX series, you can even select which of the five you’d like to use at any time.
Let’s take a look at the panels:
Platinum LED BIO Series
Our BIO series is designed to be an affordable option for people who are on a budget or who just want to dip a toe into the world of red light therapy.
You’ll still get some of the most powerful red light therapy devices on the market, but they’ll be slightly less powerful than our BIOMAX line and only feature two light wavelengths: 660 nm (red) and 850 nm (infrared).
BIO lights come in three sizes:
The BIO 450, which is best for larger sections of the body, such as the torso, a full arm or leg, or other larger, but still targeted treatment.
The BIO 600, which is best for full-body treatments, depending on your height. It will reach your torso, as well as adjacent areas such as your head, arms, and neck. Exact coverage depends on height, but with a few adjustments during treatments you’ll be able to treat your entire body.
Visit the BIO red light therapy device page to learn more.
PlatinumLED BIOMAX Series
Our BIOMAX line is designed to be our top-of-the-line flagship product line. In addition to all the features you’ll find in our BIO line, you’ll also get:
- A built-in timer
- A touchscreen control panel
- Compatibility with optional stands, including tabletop, mobile, and horizontal stands
- Standard inclusion of all five therapeutic wavelengths
- The ability to select which wavelengths you’d like to use
For example, during a single treatment you can choose to use just 660 nm, 630 nm and 850 nm, or any other combination. Then select different wavelengths for the next treatment.
The BIOMAX line features four red light therapy device models:
The BIOMAX 900 is a unique size for the BIOMAX line, and is optimized to treat the entire body. Some people may still need to combine this with a BIOMAX 450 if they want to remain stationary during treatments, but it will serve most people who want to purchase a single panel.
Visit the BIOMAX red light therapy device page to learn more.
Here are a few other elements to consider when purchasing a light:
Nothing is more frustrating than not getting help when you need it. PlatinumLED has a dedicated customer service and sales line, where real people are standing by to answer your questions and guide you in using your panels. No other similar product has a real number to call.
Warranty and Buyer Protection
Since all LED devices have a set lifespan (for example, all PlatinumLED lights are rated for 100,000 hours of use), you’ll want to protect your investment with an ironclad warranty. PlatinumLED offers a three-year warranty as well as a 60-day trial that lets you experience the benefits of red light therapy with no risk.
Don’t take our word for it; read what real users have to say!
Choosing the Right Size Device For You
Now that you know what to look for in a red light device, which size should you choose? That depends on how you intend to use it. Here’s some information about the various devices that can help you decide what size you need.
These devices are best for targeted applications such as wrinkle and anti-aging on the face, hair loss, chronic localized skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea), minimizing the appearance of scars, thyroid health, localized pain (such as joints), and other treatments that only focus on a small area of the body.
Full Body Devices
These devices are ideal for treating widespread skin conditions, overall skin toning, improved circulation, chronic pain in multiple areas, and muscle recovery from injury and training.
PlatinumLED lights provide the highest levels of irradiance with the most advanced spectrum on the market.
How Do I Use Red Light Therapy At Home?
Once you've purchased a panel, simply choose a convenient place to hang or place your panels, so that you will be comfortable during the treatment. Then, position your body so the area you'd like to treat is facing the panel, and turn the panel on.
The area of your body you are treating must be fully exposed to the light and not covered by any fabric or clothing. If you feel more comfortable, you may cover areas not being treated.
We recommend eye protection if you’re treating facial wrinkles or other skin conditions on the face. If you are treating other areas of the body, protective goggles are not necessary. Be sure you don’t look directly at the lights, though. near infrared bulbs may appear dim or unlit because near infrared light is at the outer reaches of the visible spectrum—but even if your eyes can’t see it, to your body the light is extremely bright.
What Will I Feel During Treatment?
Expect to feel a soothing, gentle warmth during and after your treatment. Some people experience a temporary tightness of the skin, which should disappear shortly after you’ve been treated. If you experience any discomfort or feel you’re getting too much exposure, you can decrease the therapy time or increase your distance from the light.
How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy?
Targeted treatments can be repeated three to five times per week until you experience a noticeable improvement in the condition you’re treating. Then you can reduce to 2 days per week for maintenance, though daily treatments will not be harmful to your body.
How Long Should I Use Red Light Therapy?
Currently, there are no set rules about how long to use red light therapy, since treatment times vary based on specific conditions being treated and individual sensitivity. Here are some general guidelines, and remember to start slowly with shorter therapy times and gradually work up to the maximum recommended time.
For targeted treatment, such as on the face, start with a 10-minute session and gradually work up to 20 minutes, keeping the area being treated 6 to 12 inches from the device. The skin on the face is particularly sensitive, so be sure not to overdo the duration or try to accelerate results by moving closer than the recommended distance. You won’t get burned by red light or NIR light as you could from exposure to UVA/UVB light, but just remember that more is not necessarily better. Treat a maximum of two or three areas per day.
Read more about specific targeted treatments by visiting these linked websites:
Full Body Treatment
For treating the large muscle groups, chronic skin conditions that cover large areas, or for overall health improvement, start with a 10-minute session and gradually work up to a 20-minute session, keeping the body 6 to 12 inches from the device.
Read more about full-body treatments here:
When Will I See Results?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some conditions respond very quickly and noticeably to the treatment, such as muscle recovery. Conditions like chronic skin disorders typically require several months of consistent treatment before you experience full relief. Remember that red light works on a cellular level. The body requires time to generate new cells and new capillaries, as well as to generate positive effects in the skin, muscles, and other tissue.
Again, keep in mind that LED light therapy is not a cure. You can experience significant relief from chronic skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, but maintenance sessions will be required indefinitely to prevent these conditions from flaring up. Dermatologists recommend one to two sessions per week on an ongoing basis to maintain the desired results.
We recommend you download the PlatinumLED Therapy Companion app, which will guide you through setting up your device for maximum effect.
What’s the Best Time to Do Red Light Therapy?
Consistency is the most important aspect of red light therapy, and when you do it is less important than doing it faithfully. Here are some suggested times that work well for specific conditions:
- Athletes wanting to accelerate muscle recovery, grow muscle mass, and enhance performance can use red light therapy just before exercise to prime the muscles for activity, and again afterward to promote recovery.
- If you are treating a chronic skin condition, use red light therapy prior to your nightly wet-wrap or dry-wrap routine. You can also use red light therapy early in the morning after cleansing the skin and before applying therapeutic creams.
- For chronic pain, experiment with morning sessions to prime achy joints for the day’s activities, or in the evening to fall asleep pain-free.
- For insomnia, try a relaxing session just before bed.
- For wound healing, treat the area prior to reapplying bandages and dressings.
Are There Any Dangers to Red Light Therapy?
Unlike UVA and UVB light, red light and NIR cannot burn the skin. When used as directed, there are no known side effects to red light therapy, although individuals with sensitive skin may experience temporary redness and tightness.
One commonly asked question is whether these devices generate harmful electromagnetic emissions. All electrical devices generate some type of electromagnetic frequency (EMF); this is a normal byproduct of electrical consumption. However, PlatinumLED devices use shielded components to eliminate EMF emissions. In fact, they have zero detectable EMF emissions as measured at the minimum usage distance (4 to 6 inches). See this testing for yourself here: EMF Blog + Verification Video.
Enjoy Enhanced Wellbeing with Red Light Therapy
With regular use, you can experience the many wonderful benefits of red light therapy at home, at your convenience. Whether you’re looking for high-quality portable red light therapy (popular with professional athletes traveling to competitions), want the best red light therapy for your face, or want to use red light for healing chronic conditions, high-quality home LED devices can give you the relief and results you seek in the comfort of your own home.
Be sure to choose a high-quality, high-output device that delivers the most therapeutic wavelengths of light. A clinical-grade device will give you results and value; and if you have any questions, please contact the experts at PlatinumLED. Start enjoying the far-reaching wellness benefits of red light today.