Red Light Therapy for Cellulite: Does It Really Work?
Many people would like to lose some weight and specifically, to get rid of stubborn cellulite. Could red light therapy be the answer to effective cellulite reduction and fat loss? In this article we show how research has shown that natural red light therapy can help you lose body fat, sculpt and tone your body, and yes, get rid of cellulite.
What Is Cellulite and Why do I Have It?
Cellulite is really nothing more than fat. Its dimpled, lumpy appearance is often described as resembling cottage cheese, but it’s a cosmetic issue, not a health issue. It is most commonly found on the hips, thighs, buttocks, and abdomen. Cellulite forms when subcutaneous (beneath the skin) fat is squeezed through the mesh of collagen fibers that join the skin to the underlying muscle.
Nearly 90% of women and about 10% of men develop cellulite at some point in their lives. Cellulite is most noticeable in overweight people, because the more fat that presses up against connective tissue, the more will end up pushed against the skin. Yet even those who are lean and fit, and exercise regularly can develop cellulite because many different factors play a role in its creation.
Age, hormones, and genetics have all been connected with the formation of cellulite. If you develop cellulite in middle age, it could be the result of weight gain. It could also be caused by a natural reduction in collagen and elastin creation that comes with age, and can lead to thinner and less elastic skin. When your skin isn’t as thick or elastic as it used to be, the underlying fat is more noticeable.
Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss and Cellulite Reduction
Getting rid of cellulite is a hot topic—just about as hot as weight loss itself. People try many different remedies to rid their bodies of cellulite, from spot reduction exercises, to so-called skin firming creams, to fillers, and they often end up frustrated when their efforts don’t achieve the results they want. Following is a synopsis of some common remedies that people use in an effort to rid their bodies of cellulite.
Lifestyle Changes: Great for Health and Weight Loss, Not Necessarily for Cellulite
As fabulous as healthy eating and exercise are for your health and wellbeing, these steps alone rarely eliminate cellulite. It is true that reducing excess body fat can help ease the pressure against the connective tissue between the skin and the muscles, which can help reduce cellulite. But individuals with thin and weak skin, caused by genetics and/or aging, will still show some dimpling from subcutaneous fat, even when their bodies are lean.
The key to minimizing cellulite is to increase collagen production so that ...
- the connective tissue that binds skin and muscle forms a firmer latticework with fewer weak spots where fat can push through, and
- the skin becomes thicker and more elastic, which camouflages the appearance of cellulite.
Skin-Firming Creams Provide Minimal, Temporary Effects
There is no scientific evidence that skin-firming creams work. The theory behind these creams is that tightening the skin will reduce the appearance of cellulite. But any effects they might achieve are minimal and temporary, and creams can irritate the skin of individuals with sensitivity. Active ingredients typically include:
- Caffeine: a vasoconstrictor (an agent that reduces blood vessel size and increases blood pressure) and diuretics that temporarily dehydrates fat cells. According to a 2015 study, many people report itching and other undesirable side effects.
- Retinol: a vitamin A derivative that increases collagen production and thickens the skin; many individuals are sensitive to retinol and develop adverse reactions like redness, pain, and tightness;
- Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE): a natural antioxidant found in fish that plumps and firms the skin by stimulating muscle contractions. Very little is known about its long-term safety.
Skin Fillers and Lasers: Invasive, Expensive, and Temporary Fixes
Skin fillers (injectable dermal fillers) can offer a temporary reduction in dimpling—but they cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per therapy session. Because these fillers are temporary, you must commit to ongoing injections, which gets expensive. Skin fillers come in different types, including:
- Calcium Hydroxylapatite (CaHA): a naturally occurring substance found primarily in bones. When used as a filler, the particles are suspended in a gel. This filler lasts about 12 months before it is reabsorbed and must be reapplied.
- Hyaluronic Acid (HA): a naturally occurring substance already present in the skin that keeps skin hydrated and plump-looking. HA fillers are gel-like and results last 6 to 12 months; optimal results last only a few months before the body starts to absorb the HA particles.
- Poly-L-lactic Acid: a synthetic substance that has long been used in medical devices such as dissolvable stitches, and is believed to stimulate the production of collagen. Although the gel dissolves after a few days, results may last up to two years.
- Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA): a synthetic filler that contains collagen and creates a “microsphere” (tiny ball) that remains under the skin indefinitely to support it. Side effects and complications may occur, including (as a 2015 study found) weak foreign body immune reactions.
It’s important to note that fillers add volume to the area being treated. They may not fully reduce the dimpled appearance of cellulite if the main cause of cellulite (skin thickness and elasticity) is not addressed.
Laser treatments require incisions to introduce high-powered laser beams to literally pop fat cells—at the cost of many thousands of dollars. Laser treatments must be performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
This type of therapy does not improve the thickness and elasticity of skin, or the structural integrity of connective tissue. So while fat may be removed, the skin may not necessarily “shrink to fit” after treatment, especially in older patients whose skin has lost elasticity. Laser treatments also come with the risk of burns.
Red Light for Cellulite: An Effective Alternative Treatment
Red light therapy is emerging as a safe, natural, non-invasive, and highly effective way to treat cellulite. Red light therapy utilizes light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to safely bathe the body in red and near-infrared (NIR) light waves.
Red light therapy beneficially alters cellular function to promote health, skin rejuvenation, and significant fat loss. Learn more about the amazing fat-burning effects of red light therapy in our blog about red light and weight loss.
Here’s how red light therapy works on cellulite:
- Increased cellular metabolism and energy: As light photons are absorbed by the mitochondria (energy centers of cells), energy production in the cells is stimulated. This leads to cells that are healthier and more resilient.
- Increased collagen production: Red light stimulates fibroblast production (fibroblasts are the precursors to collagen), which will help thicken skin as well as the underlying connective tissue, and restore elasticity. Once skin becomes more elastic and thicker, subcutaneous fat is more contained and less likely to push outward.
- Increased elastin production: Elastin is a structural protein that gives skin and connective tissues their elasticity. Once damaged, it often does not regenerate, which is why photoaged or sun-damaged skin becomes loose and saggy. Red light therapy activates growth of fibroblasts, which leads to abundant elastic and collagen fibers.
- Fat leakage: Red light causes fat cells to “spring a leak” by forming small openings in the cell walls, which releases fatty acids known as lipids. One study by Boston researchers found that 80% of lipids were released from fat cells after just four minutes of exposure to red light. Within six minutes, nearly all the fat had been released.
One clinical trial on the effects of red light therapy on cellulite involved 20 female participants aged 25 to 55. The women were split into two groups: one that engaged in high-intensity treadmill training along with 850nm NIR light therapy, and a treadmill-only control group. The treadmill-plus-red light therapy group achieved a significant reduction of cellulite, whereas the treadmill-only group did not.
In another study that involved nine female participants, red and NIR light therapy was used along with an anti-cellulite gel to treat cellulite in the thighs and buttocks. After 24 15-minute red light therapy treatments, Those who were treated with the gel/red light therapy combination showed significant reduction in cellulite.
It’s important to note, however, that at the 18-month evaluation (15 months after treatment) five participants reverted to their pre-treatment cellulite levels. This means that maintenance treatments are needed for ongoing cellulite reduction and to maintain results.
How Should I Use Red Light for Cellulite?
Thanks to technological advances in LED lighting, high-quality red light devices are now available for home use. This means you can self-administer red light therapy to treat cellulite in the comfort and convenience of your own home.
You will get the results you want from a high-output LED device that can deliver the intensity of light needed for absorption into the body’s tissues. The very best results will be achieved by combining red and NIR light.
Red light will affect subcutaneous fat, which is the jiggly fat just under the skin, and NIR light is absorbed much deeper into the body where it positively affects your body composition by increasing the ratio of muscle to body fat. Increased muscle growth will stimulate your metabolism. Increased muscle mass increases your baseline metabolism, which increases the number of calories burned while you’re at rest.
A combination of the most therapeutic wavelengths: 630nm and 660nm (red light), along with 810nm, 830nm, and 850nm (NIR light) will deliver the comprehensive therapeutic benefits of each wavelength. This combination can only be found in PlatinumLED’s BIOMAX series—an investment that will pay off with a variety of health benefits, from improved immune system functioning, to reduction in symptoms of chronic skin conditions, to reduction of fat and cellulite.
Be careful when choosing an LED device for home use, since all red light devices are NOT created equal. Cheap LED red light masks, wands, and wraps don’t have the power to deliver enough light, which means they are not effective. And since many are battery-powered, you can expect an even greater drop in intensity as the batteries drain.
How Often Should I Use Red Light Therapy?
You can self-administer red light therapy three to five times per week, for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. For a noticeable reduction in cellulite, we recommend the use of red light therapy treatment for one to four months. Red light therapy works at the cellular level and is not considered a “band aid” fix that only focuses on symptoms, which is why relatively extended treatments are required.
Red light therapy stimulates the body’s regenerative processes, but since skin cells take about 27 days to replicate themselves and connective tissue cells replicate even more slowly (and cells don’t all replicate at once), expect at least a month to see optimal results.
Can I Get Too Much Red Light Therapy?
There are no known side effects to red light therapy. Red light won't burn the skin or cause premature aging of the skin like ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) rays. However, because red light works on a cellular level and cells need time to repair and replicate, "more" isn't necessarily better. Skin and connective tissue regeneration cannot be accelerated by adding more red light sessions or moving closer to the device.
Treating excess fat, including cellulite, requires consistency and patience. Just as it takes time to build up muscles and lose weight with resistance training, it takes time for the effects of red light therapy to reach their peak results.
You should, however, achieve some encouraging results from red light therapy rather quickly. Its fat-dissolving properties can offer immediate visible reduction in the appearance of cellulite. After a few treatments, you may even see a significant reduction in size of the treated areas.
For the best possible results in reducing cellulite, combine red light therapy with smart lifestyle choices, including a healthy diet and regular exercise. In order for your cellulite loss to be permanent, stay committed to a healthy lifestyle and an ongoing maintenance program of weekly red light treatments.
You can Smooth Your Thighs, Butt, Belly, Hips, and Arms With Red Light Therapy!
Red light therapy can be a healthy and safe tool for weight loss and for minimizing the appearance of cellulite. You can target problem areas with small low-level laser panels, or even combine several large panels for whole-body fat reduction. You’ll be pleased to know that red light therapy is effective, natural, safe, and pleasant (all you feel is a gentle warmth) and there are no known side effects.
Many people start using red light for the treatment of skin conditions and experience benefits far beyond what they expected. You’ll be inspired to continue using red light therapy to stimulate your metabolism, burn fat, and restore a firm and young appearance on your face and body.
PlatinumLED offers two types of high-quality LED panels: the BIO series, which gives you the option of targeting specific conditions with red or NIR light; and the BIOMAX series, which offers a spectral configuration of the most therapeutic red and NIR wavelengths. Get the details here.