How Often Should I Use Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy offers effective relief from a large and diverse variety of conditions. When people are considering it as a treatment method, a question we often hear is, “How often should I use red light therapy?” The typical answer is, three to five times per week for 10 to 20 minutes. And that’s a great place to start. But keep in mind that...
...There’s actually no one-size-fits-all dosage for red light therapy.
This article offers some guidance on how to get the optimal dosage for you. But before we get into that, here’s some general information about red light therapy and how it works.
Red Light Therapy Basics
Red light therapy is also called photobiomodulation, or low level light therapy (LLLT). Red light devices are fitted with LED bulbs that expose the skin to specific wavelengths of light. These wavelengths, which vary in length based on their color, are measured in nanometers (nm). Different wavelengths of light penetrate the skin to varying depths where the light stimulates natural biological processes; specifically, it supercharges cells.
The term “red light therapy” includes red light, whose wavelengths range in size from 630nm to 660nm; and near-infrared light (NIR), which ranges from 800nm to 850nm. Research has shown that the most health benefits occur within the red and NIR wavelengths (known as the therapeutic window).
Everyone Has Unique Treatment Needs
Now that you know more about the science behind red light therapy, we’ll talk about some of the most common conditions treated with red light, including the typical dosage—which differs from person to person.
It’s a scientific fact that no two people are exactly the same. Just as each person has unique DNA, fingerprints, ears, and teeth, everyone has unique health needs and responds differently to treatments. With that in mind, your optimal red light dosage depends on the condition(s) you want to treat, your overall health, and your light sensitivity.
Condition(s) Being Treated
Some effects, like muscle recovery or improvement in skin tone, can happen quickly after red light application.
Other effects take more time.That’s because results depend on improved cellular health and other biological processes that occur when red light stimulates cells. For chronic conditions, a realistic expectation for results is from one to four months.
After you’ve achieved your desired results, ongoing sessions can help maintain improvements in skin tone, pain management, muscle health, and hair regrowth.
Your Overall Health
If you’re in poor health and suffer from several chronic conditions, waiting for results from red light therapy may be frustrating—but be patient and stick with it. Red light heals from within, at the cellular level. It promotes optimal functioning of cells, which means the body’s natural healing mechanisms go to work on a wide variety of conditions. You will likely see a positive ripple effect of health benefits.
Your Light Sensitivity
In study after study, red light therapy has proven to be safe and side-effect-free. Still, the color, tone, and thickness of skin can affect the absorption of red light photons, which may necessitate adjusting your treatment times. And if you are taking photosensitizing medications or have skin cancer, always consult your doctor before using any type of treatment, including red light therapy.
The “Goldilocks Approach” to Optimal Dosage
The following guidelines offer recommendations for treating common conditions. Don’t hesitate to experiment … be like Goldilocks. If the recommended duration/intensity proves to be not enough, or too much, keep experimenting until you find the dosage that is just right. (Porridge optional.)
Light intensity, known as irradiance, is greatest at 6”, and this is perfect for joint or muscle health. For skin conditions, 12” to 18” is ideal. To learn how distance affects irradiance and the treatment area, check out the irradiance chart for PlatinumLED BIO and BIOMAX models.
A large part of treatment success is due to consistency, so be sure you are consistent with your red light sessions. Also, remember to apply red light to bare skin, rather than through clothing.
A Small Sampling of Conditions
Following are some of the most common conditions that can be effectively treated with red light therapy, along with the typical dosage.
Research has overwhelmingly shown that red light therapy benefits skin in innumerable ways, from improving skin tone to softening the appearance of wrinkles. In one study on skin health, participants used red light twice a week, and they showed significant improvements after 30 sessions. That’s a good starting point for you.
Position the LED panel at a distance of about 12” to 18”. Once you’ve achieved the desired results, ongoing sessions will help maintain your skin improvements.
Red light therapy has proved to be effective at stimulating, healing, and regenerating damaged muscle tissue. Many athletes improve their sports performance by using red light for pre-conditioning before exercise, and also after exercise.
A 2017 review by researchers from the United States and Brazil found that by combining red and NIR light during treatment, every layer of muscle is treated in both small and large muscle groups. A maintenance program of pre- and post-exercise red light therapy may promote optimal physical performance and help prevent injury.
- Before exercise (preconditioning and injury prevention): three to five minutes per day at a distance of 6” to 18”
- After exercise (accelerated recovery): 10 to 20 minutes per day at 6” to 18”
- Injury: 20 minutes per day at 6” to 12” until the injury heals
Although it may sound too good to be true, red light therapy really has been proven to regrow hair. One of many studies was conducted during 2017 and involved 90 patients aged 18 to 70. All participants suffered from androgenic alopecia, which is the scientific term for baldness. Those who were treated with red and NIR light showed “statistically significant improvement” in hair growth.
To stimulate hair regrowth, use red light for 10 to 20 minutes three to five times per week at a distance of 6” to 12”. Once hair starts to grow, a maintenance program will continue stimulating normal hair growth.
Arthritis Joint Pain
An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from arthritis, with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis the most common types. Red light has been shown to relieve pain and increase mobility for many arthritis patients.
One study of 50 elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis showed great results using red/NIR light for 15 minutes twice daily. While the study didn’t cite the distance from the device, placing the LED panel 6” from the affected joint will deliver maximum irradiation. Ongoing maintenance treatment may slow the progression of osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint disorders, while continuing to relieve pain.
Chronic Skin Disorders
People with chronic skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, endure a great deal of suffering, from severe itching to burning pain. Research has shown that these disorders can be effectively treated with red light therapy.
One study, for example, involved patients with psoriasis who had no success with conventional therapy methods. After being treated with a combination of red light and NIR light (630 nm and 830 nm) in two 20-minute sessions every other day for four or five weeks, their skin was noticeably improved.
Consistent exposure to red light therapy can reduce symptoms and promote skin health. Start with 10- to 20-minute sessions with the LED device at 6” to 12”. Continue this program three to five times per week for one to four months, followed by a maintenance program.
Skin Wounds and Scars
Because red light therapy energizes cells and stimulates collagen production, it can effectively treat skin wounds and minimize the appearance of scars. One major research review that confirmed this was conducted in 2014 by researchers from Brazil. They concluded that red light therapy effectively treats skin wounds, which minimizes scarring.
For skin wounds, stretch marks, and mild scars, a good treatment program is 10- to 20-minute red light sessions three to five times per week at 6” to 12” for a period of one to four months. This will stimulate collagen production to soften and minimize scars, although older and/or deeper scars may require longer treatment.
Low Back Pain
An estimated 80 percent of adults are affected by low back pain at some point during their lives. It’s a leading cause of job-related disability, and depending on severity, can significantly impair quality of life for those who suffer from it.
If you’re one of them, the good news is that red light therapy can be very effective in treating low back pain. This includes both acute (short-term, often injury-related) and chronic (longer-term). One study from 2006 found that patients with low back pain who were treated with infrared therapy (800 nm to 1200 nm) had a 50 percent reduction in pain over six weeks.
For your low back pain, position the panel 8” to 12” from your back for 10- to 20-minute sessions daily (remain seated if it’s more comfortable for you). Ongoing treatment can significantly relieve chronic low back pain.
Can I Get Too Much?
In short, no, you can not get too much red light therapy. According to Michael Hamblin—associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a noted expert on red light therapy—“You could use RLT for 24 hours a day and wouldn’t damage the skin. It’s almost impossible to cause any harm.”
However, while red light is side-effect-free, temporary tightness or redness is possible if you have sensitive skin. This can be alleviated by reducing the treatment time or moving farther back from the device. You’ll have to test out the optimal time for your body and adjust as you go along. But overall, red light therapy is very safe.
Red Light Therapy: Convenient At-Home Treatment
A high-quality LED device with both red and NIR wavelengths lets you conveniently administer red light therapy in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Explore the PlatinumLED BIO and BIOMAX series, both of which combine wavelengths in an exclusive R+/NIR format to deliver the optimal spectrum of light and superior irradiance.
If you’re experiencing the frustration of accelerated aging, suffer from chronic pain, or have a condition that has been stubbornly resistant to conventional treatment, consider red light therapy. And remember—how often and how long you use this incredible approach to healing depends totally on you and your unique needs.