Red light therapy: Benefits and how it works

Learn the basics of red light therapy, including advantages and key considerations.

Red Light Therapy: Benefits and How it Works
minute read

In the never-ending quest for health and wellness, new methods and tactics are always emerging. Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy, is one of the more promising techniques to come about in the 21st century. 

From skin rejuvenation to energy optimization and workout recovery, red light therapy has countless potential benefits, with the added advantage of a non-invasive approach. If you’re new to the idea of red light therapy and don’t know where to start, we’re here with a broad overview that addresses all your questions and concerns.

Let’s explore the science of red light therapy, see how it might benefit you, and discover the best way to take advantage of this powerful technique.

What is red light therapy?

Red light is a naturally occurring form of light that doesn’t register on the traditional UV spectrum. Unlike the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun, this is a gentle, subtle type of light with numerous therapeutic benefits.

The body needs light — that’s well understood by science, ancient wisdom, and the common public. However, overexposure to UV rays can be detrimental to one’s health and isn’t always accessible based on your region or schedule.

Red light therapy addresses this need by providing a specific wavelength of light to the skin and penetrating to the muscles, organs, and cells of the body overall. This light can support energy production by the mitochondria, promote collagen synthesis, kickstart your natural healing abilities, and so much more. 

Just 15 minutes of red light exposure can be hugely beneficial to your physical health while offering a moment of stillness and relaxation during your day. Whether you’re training for a triathlon, bouncing back from injury, or just looking for a boost in your daily routine, red light could have the answers you’re looking for.

How does red light therapy work?

Red light therapy can be experienced in many ways, with countless different formats and devices to choose from. From traditional tanning bed formats to smaller at-home units and even helmets for hair restoration, red light devices range in size, shape, and purpose.

However, the basis of red light therapy remains the same across these various formats and tools. These devices are equipped with specialized LED lights designed to emit a narrow range of gentle, restorative red light. The result is a warm and soothing glow that feels completely different from the sun’s rays or the abrasive blue light of your computer screen.

With so many new ways to get red light and experience its benefits, your approach is all about priorities and preferences. You may want the full-body effects of a cocoon-like bed, or you want to focus on a specific area like an injured ankle or wrist. If you’re fighting hair loss, a red-light helmet could be a useful part of your arsenal. 

No matter how you adapt red light therapy as your own, it’s intuitive and easy to use at any time of day. 

Is red light therapy painful?

Because red light therapy uses very narrow wavelengths of non-UV light, you should experience no pain in the process if done correctly. This is one of the main selling points of red light therapy and photobiomodulation techniques — the experience is non-invasive and can even be pleasant and relaxing.

The typical red light therapy session looks something like this: plug it in, switch it on, and position the light in close proximity to your target area. You can keep the light in one region of the body for several minutes at a time or move it around if you have a handheld device. For full body benefits, just remain still and occasionally turn your body for total exposure.

If you follow best practices and avoid overexposure, red light therapy should cause no pain or discomfort. Unless you have an adverse reaction or a major skin condition causing more serious problems, red light is for everyone.

What is red light therapy used for?

We’ve hinted at some of the benefits of red light therapy so far, but what are some practical effects you can expect from the treatment? Let’s cover the main reasons why more people are signing up for red light therapy and reaping the benefits. 

Breakouts and blemishes

Acne and other skin blemishes can negatively impact your appearance and self-esteem. While lifestyle adjustments and over-the-counter medications can help, red light therapy can be a powerful addition to your skincare approach.

One of the core effects of red light therapy is its antimicrobial impact, eliminating bacteria that may accumulate on the surface of the skin. Additionally, red light can boost blood flow throughout the body and face, reducing skin roughness and getting to the root of breakouts. 

Skincare is an ongoing process, and everyone needs a different approach. Still, red light therapy has proven to be a reliable treatment option for acne, whether on the face or other regions of the body.

Collagen production

As soon as natural collagen production begins to decline in a person’s 20s, signs of aging begin to appear. These may first emerge as barely detectable fine lines, then turn to deeper creases and wrinkles that further compound with sun damage and lifestyle factors.

The photons from red LED light therapy can promote an intradermal collagen density increase, helping you maximize the power of the collagen you still have. Furthermore, this laser light can boost circulation and nutrient delivery to sensitive layers of facial skin and make your dermatologist proud.

Skin conditions

When it comes to skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, there are only so many medications approved by the FDA that can help. Dermatology has come a long way, but there’s a reason why more doctors are recommending red light therapy as an effective treatment option for such conditions. 

Clinical studies have shown that RLT can reduce swelling and scarring from serious skin conditions and offer a non-invasive way to minimize symptoms. While red light is not a certified cure, it’s a simple and comfortable method to add to your skincare regimen.

Just keep in mind that all conditions must first be discussed with your doctor before starting a red light therapy routine. 

Wound healing

The human body has the incredible ability to heal wounds, whether they be scratches on the skin or more severe injuries to muscles, skeletal structures, and organs. Red light therapy boosts the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which supports energetic and healing processes throughout the body. 

This increased energy combined with upregulated overall function can be a powerful recipe for supporting wound healing with few side effects. 

When injured, you want to bounce back stronger than ever and use every advantage in the book. Based on clinical trials so far, red light therapy may be worth adding to your recovery game plan. 


The pain response in the human body is there for a reason—it signals a deeper problem and urges us toward a solution. However, chronic pain can restrict movement and hurt our quality of life, which is why red light therapy is now in the spotlight as a treatment style.

Red light therapy has a soothing effect on muscles and the connective tissue of joints, tendons, and more. This can reduce swelling in key areas and ease discomfort for those with injuries or chronic conditions. The healing aspect of red light may also reduce the timeframe required to bounce back from a surgery or injury with less discomfort and fewer disruptions.

What are the risks of red light therapy?

Red light therapy has been well studied, with minimal risks for patients of all backgrounds. But like any form of treatment, there are some factors to consider that may mean it’s not right for you. Here are some possible risks to account for when looking at RLT and its variations.

Damage to skin tissue with overexposure

Red light is a type of low-power laser therapy, meaning these devices emit low levels of heat and intensity compared to standard bulbs and the sun. While you don’t need to worry about the effects of sun damage from UV rays, overexposure can cause irritation to sensitive skin tissue in some people.

Take it slow when starting with RLT, and try shorter sessions at first. Gain familiarity with the process and track your results before committing to more.

Associated costs

Red light therapy devices have become more accessible in recent years, but all forms of photodynamic therapy are still relatively costly. You can find salons that let you use devices for a one-time fee or monthly charge or find at-home devices for easy daily use.

The price of red light therapy can be steep to get started, but for many, the health benefits of this light treatment are 100% worth the cost.

Premature skin aging

While blue light and UV tend to be far more damaging to the skin, overexposure to red light can also cause issues. Be sure to dial in your skincare routine with proper moisturizers and collagen creams to support your red light therapy routine and minimize aging. 

You can also reap the benefits of red light with just a few sessions per week rather than daily treatments.

Headaches and dizziness

Red light therapy — especially full-body treatments — can be disorienting or uncomfortable for some. Being enclosed in a clamshell bed may cause discomfort or dizziness if you’re not accustomed to the feeling. 

Therefore, we suggest starting with a smaller device and less exposure to ease into the red light routine.

How can you decide if red light therapy is right for you?

Red light therapy has something for everyone, but how do you know if it’s right for you? Start by talking with your dermatologist or primary care physician and make sure they sign off with their approval.

From there, you can test out red light therapy for yourself and see how you respond over the first few days or weeks. Keep track of progress in priority areas such as skin quality, comfort level, recovery, and more. If you see positive results and want to keep going, stick with the plan and enjoy RLT for the long term!

The bottom line

Red light therapy is one of the more exciting technologies to come out of the healthcare world in recent years. With potential benefits for skin care, hair growth, and the treatment of more serious health conditions, we think red light lives up to the hype.

In the meantime, it’s never too late to start caring for your skin and reducing daily discomforts. Sunmed has a full range of hemp products to help balance your body and mind, whether you pursue red light therapy or other health optimizers. Begin your journey today and use the latest in tech and supplementation to get the most from life.


How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy? |

A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light | NIH

Low-level red and infrared light increases expression of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid in skin | JAAD

What Can Red Light Therapy (Actually) Do for Skin? | SELF

What is collagen? | Cleveland Clinic