Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss

Yes, Red Light Therapy Works for Weight Loss : Here’s How and Why

fit man getting out of a pool

Whether your goal is improved health, fat loss, a more attractive body – or all three – red light therapy could be the answer you’re seeking. 

Red light therapy is best known for its effectiveness with pain relief, as well as treating chronic skin conditions, scars, skin damage from aging, and accelerating muscle recovery after injuries. Clinical research has also shown that red light therapy can lead to weight loss. In fact, it is becoming increasingly popular as a body contouring treatment.  

Of course, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lose excess fat and maintain a healthy weight. But with red light therapy, you can benefit from the emotional boost of achieving fast results, which will improve your mindset and motivate you to stick with your weight loss program. 

And even better, red light therapy supports your body at the cellular level. So, in addition to using red light to lose fat, it also treats many causes of excess weight.

In this article, we’ll explore red light therapy for weight loss: what it does, how it works, and how it can help you lose body fat and achieve your ideal weight.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work for Weight Loss?

Also known as photobiomodulation or low-level light therapy (LLLT), the term “red light therapy” refers to both red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths. Research has overwhelmingly shown that the most beneficial wavelengths fall between 650 nanometers (nm) to 850nm, a range that’s known as the "therapeutic window." 

Within this window, red light ranges from 620–700nm and NIR light ranges from 810–850nm.

These particular red and NIR wavelengths have been widely studied and are proven to have dozens of therapeutic benefits on the human body. In this article you’ll find a great deal of information about the benefits of red and NIR light therapy.

Red light therapy uses light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to bathe the body in light waves in both the red and NIR spectrum. The most effective red light devices are powerful panels that are fitted with LED bulbs precisely calibrated to specific red and NIR wavelengths.

Once light photons from these LED bulbs interact with the body’s cells, they spark a chain of positive biological effects.

Increased Cellular Metabolism

In the same way that you don’t perform at your best when you’re sleep-deprived, hungry, or jet-lagged, your cells don’t perform at their best when they’re depleted.

Red and NIR light stimulates cellular energy. As red and NIR photons are absorbed by chromophores in the mitochondria (cellular energy centers), this stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary fuel of all the body’s cells. 

Increased cellular energy leads to healthier cells and better cellular performance. Not only will your organs function better, but you’ll also have more energy. Many people have reported feeling more energized and ready to take on the day; in terms of weight loss, this could mean added energy to hit the gym or go for a brisk walk.

Fat Cell Reduction

The ability of red light to cause fat cells to "leak" could be one of the most exciting findings in red light research.

Studies have revealed that red light triggers the formation of small openings (or pores) in fat cells, which release fatty acids known as lipids. A study led by Harvard researchers found that just four minutes of exposure to red light therapy at 635nm caused 80 percent of lipids to be released from fat cells, and by six minutes, almost all of the fat had been released. 

Scientists theorize that red light causes temporary pores to form in fat cells, which is what allows lipids to leak out. Red light also appears to stimulate adipocyte apoptosis, which is the natural death of fat cells. As a fat cell dies, it releases lipids stored within the cell into the body, where the lipids are naturally expelled.  

While targeted fat loss (body contouring) has historically been considered difficult, the research into how red light causes fat cells to release their contents and die more quickly is very exciting. It is a promising finding for anyone wanting to lose belly fat or improve the appearance of other areas where fat reduction is desired.

close up of muscular back

Increased Muscle Mass

It may seem counterintuitive to focus on building muscle in the legs to burn belly fat. It’s important to know, however, that muscle burns calories: each pound of muscle can burn 50 calories a day at rest. So, building mass in large muscle groups is one of the most effective ways to boost your metabolism to burn more fat.

This does not mean you have to “bulk up;” everyone's body is different. Just focus on firming up your body, and your body’s “engine” – aka, your metabolism – will burn hotter, making body contouring easier and helping you keep the weight off.

A 2016 study co-authored by Michael Hamblin, one of the world’s premier researchers into red light therapy, found that athletes who were exposed to red light before and after exercise had faster muscle recovery and increased muscle growth. The researchers found that NIR light and a combination of red/NIR light therapy can increase muscle mass, as well as decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in muscle.

Read more about how red light can supercharge your fitness routine.

Thyroid Regulation

Hypothyroidism, or low-functioning thyroid, has been linked to excess weight gain. One study with this finding was conducted in 2012 by a team of researchers from Brazil. The study showed that red light therapy can reduce the autoimmune activity in the thyroid, which helps restore its normal functions in regulating the metabolism. Normal thyroid functioning can also increase your overall energy, making it easier to stick to a fitness routine.

Reduced Insulin Resistance

Near-infrared light therapy combined with exercise has been proven to reduce insulin resistance and body fat, and enhance the physical exercise effects in obese women undergoing weight loss treatment. This was the finding of a 2015 study by Brazilian researchers on metabolic flexibility, or the body's ability to adjust fuel (fat) burning in response to exercise.

In the study, 64 obese women participated in a 20-week program that combined exercise (three weekly aerobic and weight training sessions) with red light therapy. The researchers measured insulin as well as fat loss and found that adding red light therapy to an exercise regimen reduced insulin resistance and reduced fat mass. The study also found that physical training along with red light therapy was more effective in boosting metabolism than physical training alone.

Appetite Suppression

Red light can affect hunger levels by controlling appetite-regulating hormones known as leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells; when you’re carrying excess fat, more leptin is produced, decreasing your appetite. Its counterpart, ghrelin, is a hormone that increases appetite.

Researchers conducting a 2012 study on the effects of light on leptin and ghrelin levels found that changes in day length often result in fluctuations in body weight since the circadian clock affects leptin and ghrelin levels. This is also evident in sleep-deprived adults (the subjects of the study).

Sleep-deprived adults experience lower than normal leptin levels and higher than normal ghrelin levels, which makes them feel hungry more often. The study also found that red light therapy reduced ghrelin levels from 28 percent to 19 percent.

woman sleeping peacefully

Improved Sleep

Sleep deprivation has been associated with many health issues, including weight gain. One cause of insomnia is chronic stress, which amplifies weight gain by stimulating cortisol production and disrupting how the nervous system regulates metabolism (leptin and ghrelin levels). 

A 2021 study by the China Institute of Sport Science found that elite female basketball players who received red light therapy before bed experienced better sleep through increased melatonin production – and; better sleep directly affected their endurance performance. Read more about using red light therapy to help with insomnia in this article

Reduced Inflammation

According to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, chronic low-grade inflammation and cellular stress contribute to the type of metabolic dysfunction that is linked to obesity. Chronic inflammation is a symptom of an overactive immune system; therefore, obesity can (in part) be seen as a symptom of low-grade systemic inflammation. 

In several animal studies and clinical trials, red light therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation. Reduced chronic inflammation means cells can function normally.

Improved Mood

Many overweight people are prone to emotional eating, which can result in steady weight gain. Anxiety and depression have both been linked to challenges with fat reduction.

NIR light therapy shows great promise as a treatment for anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health issues that can contribute to emotional eating. The mood boost that often results from red light therapy can also help people feel more motivated to exercise and to practice good self-care, which further promotes weight loss.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Weight Loss

Now that you’re familiar with some of the ways red light therapy can promote fat reduction, you undoubtedly have some questions about specific applications for red light therapy treatments. In this section, we address some of the most common questions. 

Does Red Light Get Rid of Cellulite?

Cellulite is excess subcutaneous fat, meaning fat that is just beneath the skin. It’s a stubborn, persistent problem that cannot necessarily be remedied with exercise and fat loss alone – but red light therapy has shown great promise in reducing it. 

One fascinating study on cellulite examined the effects of combining near-infrared light with treadmill training. The study divided 20 female participants into two groups: one that was treated with 850nm NIR light along with high-intensity treadmill training, and one that only used the treadmill. The group that used both forms of treatment achieved reduced cellulite in the buttocks and hip areas, whereas the treadmill-only group did not. 

Is Targeted Weight Loss Possible with Red Light Therapy?

Targeted weight loss, also known as body sculpting or body contouring, is on the wish list of almost everyone who wants to lose weight. It is the process of removing fat from certain areas of the body while keeping fat stores in desirable areas. For example, many women want to keep the fat around their breasts but remove belly fat or “saddlebags,” meaning fat stored on the outside of the thighs near the buttocks. 

This desire for control over body shape has resulted in the popularity of body contouring, which is a cosmetic approach that focuses on areas of the body where fat tends to settle: the waist, hips, thighs, and upper arms. 

Historically, targeted weight loss has been viewed as an impossibility. And it’s easy to see why, since a combination of eating less and exercising to burn more calories results in overall fat and weight loss but doesn’t target specific areas; and everyone has different areas where they tend to store fat. But ...

Red light provides an effective mechanism for localized fat loss.

In one 2011 study on the effects of red light on body contouring, 40 healthy men and women experienced a significant reduction (about 1”) in waist measurements after undergoing 30-minute treatments twice per week for four weeks (eight total treatments) – and they achieved these results without altering diet or exercise habits. 

Another study used 635nm red light to spot-reduce excess fat stored around the waist, hips, and thighs of 65 male and female participants. When the targeted areas were measured, the combined loss was an average of 3.51 inches, with no changes to diet or exercise. 

woman wearing pants that are a little too large

Can Infrared and Near-Infrared Light Help You Lose Weight?

The fat-loss benefits of red light (620-660nm) are profound, but they are limited to fat stored directly under the skin. Red light can only penetrate the dermal layer where it activates cellular metabolism at and just below the surface of the skin. This is where most excess fat is stored, so it is possible to have great results with a red-light-only approach.

Near-infrared and infrared (IR) light penetrate deeper into the body than red light. To promote weight loss and improve body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat), it’s necessary to stimulate the metabolism at a deeper level.

Technically, near-infrared light is part of the infrared spectrum. However, between 810 and 850nm, these wavelengths behave more like red wavelengths than far-infrared, which the body perceives as heat. 

IR light is effective at treating deep-body conditions, but must be used with caution to prevent thermal damage. This makes NIR light (which does not generate heat in the body) safe and effective.

Let’s go back to increasing muscle mass, which will boost your metabolism and make it easier to lose weight and keep it off.

Infrared light (which includes near-infrared light below 850nm) has been intensively researched. During a 2018 study, researchers from Brazil found that near-infrared light improved body composition and reduced inflammation. When NIR light therapy was added to an exercise regimen, it showed significantly increased fat loss over exercise alone.  

Another Brazilian study in 2017 found that NIR wavelengths accelerate deep-tissue muscle healing and growth when applied before exercise. Increased muscle mass is directly tied to an increase in baseline metabolism, meaning the number of calories burned while the body is at rest. The more muscle mass you have, the “hotter” the body burns at rest, which contributes to the loss of fat mass.

What About Low-Level Laser Therapy Weight Loss Results? 

Like LED light therapy, low-level laser therapy can be used to support fat loss. A 2019 study by Mayo Clinic researchers involved comparing the effects of three different LLLT frequencies on weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, and quality of life.

Sixty overweight participants were randomized to various LLLT treatments (three times weekly for four weeks, two times weekly for six weeks, or once weekly for 12 weeks). The group that experienced the greatest results was the one receiving two treatments per week for six weeks. The most remarkable outcome was a 6–12” reduction in waist circumference after the six-week treatment.

The study authors concluded that LLLT “has the potential to enhance motivation for weight management treatments by providing immediate positive feedback through reductions in waist circumference recognizable by the individual.”

The challenge with the most effective LLLT treatments is that they are done in a dermatologist’s office, which can be inconvenient. Also, treatments are costly: often on average several thousands of dollars for a six-treatment package, and results are not permanent.

At-home laser devices, which are typically handheld, will yield results over time, but it’s difficult to target larger areas with small handheld devices. It is possible but will require spending a lot of time treating your belly, thighs, etc.

A much better solution is LED red light panels, which allow you to achieve your target weight and continue to use red light therapy on an ongoing basis to maintain your weight loss. And, each treatment could be as short as 10 minutes if you have two large panels that can shine red and NIR light front and back.

Is Red Light Therapy Effective for Loose Skin After Losing Weight?

After losing a significant amount of weight quickly, many people are left with loose, sagging skin. This is especially true for older people whose skin has already succumbed to the aging process. Loose skin can be unsightly and embarrassing, and notoriously difficult to get rid of.

Cosmetic surgery can help, but there are non-surgical options that can restore firmer skin over time, including exercise, retinoid creams, collagen supplements, and massage.

  • Exercise can build muscle mass that will help to create a more filled-in appearance;
  • Retinoid creams stimulate the production of collagen and elastin; as skin replaces itself, it will gradually become firmer and more elastic over time, although some people develop allergic reactions;
  • Collagen supplements will also help stimulate collagen production; however, they won’t increase elastin production, and both are important for skin firmness and elasticity;
  • Massage stimulates blood flow to the skin, which helps promote healthy fibroblasts or the precursors to collagen and elastin

Red light therapy works to improve your skin from the inside out – but patience is key. Your skin didn’t stretch overnight, and it will take time for it to “bounce back” as new, healthy skin cells along with collagen and elastin proteins regenerate. It’s a long-term, but effective treatment. Get more in-depth information on how red light tightens loose skin in this article.

To tighten skin, you could treat each area of loose skin individually with a small LED red light panel such as the BIOMAX 300. Or, you can treat larger areas of the body simultaneously with a large panel such as the BIOMAX 900.

We recommend using a device that emits both red and NIR wavelengths. This gives you a combination of skin-deep (red wavelengths) and systemic benefits (NIR wavelengths), such as reducing inflammation that could be interfering with your skin’s health.

How Does Red Light Therapy Tighten Loose Skin?

As mentioned earlier, red light increases cellular energy and can help increase muscle mass. But there’s much more to skin health than energized, fully functioning cells or the support that firm muscles provide.

  • Increased Collagen and Elastin Production. According to a 2008 research review by Joseph Tafur and Paul Mills of the University of California at San Diego, certain cells, including fibroblasts (the cells responsible for collagen and elastin synthesis), are particularly responsive to light. 

Collagen, a protein that makes up about 80 percent of the skin, provides the structure for skin and keeps it feeling firm. Elastin is the protein that makes skin stretch and bounces back. Read more here about how red light can boost collagen production.

  • Improved Microcirculation of Blood and Lymph. Improved circulation provides nutrients to skin cells and removes waste products that could be interfering with cellular functioning. Endothelial cells, which make up the inner layer of capillaries, are present in both the cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system.

A 2017 study by researchers from Austria found that red light therapy promotes the growth of endothelial cells to improve circulation. Here’s an article that can help you learn more about how red light therapy can help heal damaged skin.

woman with stretch marks on her leg

How Red Light Therapy Helps Reduce Stretch Marks

If you’ve gained a lot of weight rapidly, you probably developed stretch marks. Untreated, these don’t go away after you lose weight, although they may fade over time. 

Red light therapy can boost your skin’s ability to regenerate itself as healthy skin, not scarred skin. The mechanisms for this include enhanced collagen and elastin production, increased microcirculation, and improved cellular metabolism, which also regulates how quickly cells regenerate themselves. 

For more information about how red light therapy can minimize the appearance of stretch marks, check out this article.

Can I Use Red Light Therapy at Home?

Absolutely! There’s no need to spend money or time on clinic visits when red light therapy can be self-administered in the comfort and convenience of your own home. In fact, because of its many benefits, you may opt to make it part of your regular self-care routine. Explore the many ways red light therapy can boost your health here.

Whether you want to lose a few pounds or you're after a complete body makeover, we recommend investing in a quality high-output LED device that is capable of delivering the intensity of light needed for optimal results. 

To receive the comprehensive benefits of each wavelength, look for a device that provides a combination of the most therapeutic red and near-infrared wavelengths: 630nm and 660nm (red light); and 810nm, 830nm, and 850nm (NIR light), 

Treat unwanted fat on your abdomen, arms, hips, and thighs with red light for 20 minutes several times a week until you’ve achieved the desired results. As your body metabolizes and expels the released fat, you will notice a reduction in fat deposits and a corresponding reduction in waist, upper arm, thigh, and hip measurements. For the fastest possible results, combine red light treatments with a healthy diet and exercise program. 

Do not use red light therapy if you are pregnant unless advised by your doctor. 

Also, be careful when purchasing red light devices; cheap LED red light wands and masks do not have the reliability or the light intensity to offer any measurable therapeutic effects. 

Red Light Therapy Weight Loss Reviews

It’s one thing to read about why red light therapy for weight loss is so beneficial … and it’s another to hear success stories from people who have actually used it. Here’s what real verified PlatinumLED Therapy Lights customers have to say:

Debie L. – “Love it! In 14 days I can tell my tummy is flatter.

Natasha – “AMAZING RESULTS! I've been using it for ~2 weeks for anti-aging purposes as well as targeted fat loss, cognitive health, and joint inflammation. I've definitely seen results with my skin and the fat loss protocol I've been following (based on Ari Whitten's book which compiles the relevant research on LLLT); enough that it justifies the $600 price tag alone. In just two weeks, my complexion has improved significantly, my under-eye hollows have seen a 50–60% improvement, and I've noticed an overall tightening/plumping effect on my skin. I haven't measured my results in the fat loss experiment yet (I'm doing a 4-week protocol) but I can visually SEE the difference in my stubborn fat being reduced. As for my joints and any cognitive effects...well, anecdotally my knee pain is a lot better/less bothersome/noticeable when I use my standing desk for long periods, and using this machine first thing in the morning is like a full-body caffeine jolt without any crash. All in all, it definitely does something if you're interested in skincare or fat loss and you do your research, making it 100% worth the money.”

Jeffrey L. – “Ordering a second BioMax. I can feel my skin tightening when I use it.”

  1. H. – “It’s Fantastic! It’s well made and easy to use – and the results have been immediate and impressive. With fewer aches and pains, smoother and clearer skin, and more energy, what’s not to love about this amazing device?”

J.M. – “Incredible product! I began using the BioMax 900 10 days ago, using it for 10 min. per front/back of my body (total time 20 min. using both the red and NIR settings simultaneously). Results so far: skin feels tighter, varicose veins shrinking/lightening, blood pressure down, deeper sleep, greater awareness of my thoughts and mental clarity, less depressed about current events and more energy!”

Debbie B. – “Large and In Charge! I wheel my 2x 900 BioMax over me in my bed and let the good times shine! Sleep has already improved and I’ve noticed changes in my thyroid and gut health too.”

Robyn S. – “My skin! I realize others may purchase the lights for other reasons but for me, it was for my skin. Can’t say enough about the results. Skin glows, is firmer and any little issues heal faster.”

The Biggest Question: Will My Weight Loss Be Permanent?

In the short term, red light therapy is effective at reducing fat, which in turn results in weight loss. But keep in mind that no procedure or treatment will result in a permanent loss of excess fat. That can only be accomplished through a consistent commitment to healthy eating and frequent exercise; and, continuously treating underlying conditions that affect weight gain such as hormonal imbalances. 

The “magic” formula to achieving and maintaining your ideal weight could include a healthy lifestyle, stress management (to lower cortisol levels which promote weight gain), and consistent red light therapy as part of your self-care routine.

Maintain a “Summer Body” All Year Long with Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy, using a quality LED device that delivers powerful light energy output, can help you lose weight and achieve your goals. This amazing therapeutic technique stimulates your body to burn more calories more effectively and supports a healthy hormonal balance that affects your appetite and tendency to store or burn fat. 

With red light, you can target stubborn belly fat, minimize the appearance of cellulite on your buttocks and thighs, and reduce upper arm fat while stimulating your metabolism to boost your body’s fat-burning abilities.

PlatinumLED offers two types of 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 on the various options and jump-start your path to your ideal weight.

Meanwhile, the SaunaMAX Pro has all the features of the BIOMAX Series, but can be used for in-sauna treatment. It's the ideal panel for red light therapy users who also have a home sauna. 

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