- Red light therapy beds use low levels of red or near-infrared light to address various skin concerns
- With regular treatments, they can treat acne, hyperpigmentation, collagen loss and inflammatory skin conditions
- These beds are commonly found at medical spas, gyms and tanning salons
- At-home devices and masks are also available for purchase and offer a more cost-effective alternative
Red light therapy beds are growing in popularity as a cosmetic treatment. They can improve the appearance and health of the skin, fight signs of aging and address acne. However, while effective, these beds require frequent use to maintain results.
How Do Red Light Therapy Beds Work?
Red light therapy beds are lined with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that produce specific wavelengths of low-level red and near-infrared light. The light penetrates deeply into the skin, where it’s absorbed by cell mitochondria, microscopic organelles that create most of the energy for the cells.
When exposed to the red light, the mitochondria produce increased levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy-carrying molecule. That ATP energy accelerates the process of cell repair, resulting in skin that’s smoother, firmer and less prone to acne and irregular pigmentation.
Red light therapy goes by many names, including low-level light therapy (LLLT), low-level laser therapy and photobiomodulation.
Are red light therapy beds effective?
It is well established that red and near-infrared light therapy has beneficial effects on the skin. However, to achieve best results, ensure you choose an FDA-approved bed for the condition you’re treating.
Benefits and Uses of Red Light Therapy Beds
These beds can improve skin in several ways. And because they expose the entire body to low-level light, they’re especially beneficial for people whose skin concerns aren’t limited to the face.
Fights signs of aging
Red light therapy has multiple anti-aging benefits. It increases levels of collagen and elastin, two proteins that are vital to skin firmness and elasticity.
Higher levels of collagen and elastin in the body can treat and prevent fine lines, wrinkles, folds and the appearance of loose, sagging skin.
The treatment also increases blood circulation in your skin tissue and reduces oxidative stress, fighting damage and improving skin’s overall health.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when damaged or inflamed skin cells produce abnormally high amounts of melanin which causes dark spots or patches of skin. Common types of hyperpigmentation are age spots, sunspots, melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Red light therapy reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, encouraging cell repair and controlling melanin production. Combining this treatment with regular exfoliation can help fade dark spots on the skin.
This therapy has been shown to improve acne lesions and decrease oil production in the skin. It’s most effective when used with blue light therapy, which kills Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) bacteria.
Red light therapy’s anti-inflammatory properties have the potential to treat multiple inflammatory skin conditions such as:
This therapy can offer other benefits in addition to the skin. This therapy can accelerate wound healing, alleviate muscle soreness and reverse hair loss. It also shows potential in treating a great range of conditions from obesity to spinal cord injuries.
Before and Afters
Please note that the patients pictured here may have undergone other cosmetic procedures in addition to red light therapy.
How Safe Are Red Light Therapy Beds?
Red light therapy is considered safe and has virtually no side effects. The biggest risk is falling asleep under the light and sustaining burns; it is therefore advised to not spend more time in a bed than directed.
You should avoid red light therapy if you:
- Are pregnant
- Have epilepsy
- Have low blood pressure
- Take medications that cause photosensitivity
Do you need any kind of protection to use red light therapy beds?
It’s not yet known whether excessive exposure to red light can damage the eyes. For that reason, it is recommended to wear eye protection.
How often can you use red light therapy beds?
No upper limit has been established for undergoing red light therapy. Undergoing sessions 10–15 minutes in length 3–5 times per week is generally recommended when you’re first starting. After several weeks, you can switch to weekly maintenance sessions.
Red Light Therapy and Tanning
The experience of using a red light therapy bed and a tanning bed may seem similar, but their outcomes are quite different. Red light therapy increases the overall health of your skin, while tanning does the opposite – causing premature aging, sun damage and skin cancer.
Despite these differences, red light therapy beds are often found in the same types of businesses that offer tanning, such as gyms, spas and tanning salons.
Can you undergo red light therapy and tanning on the same day?
Many tanning salons recommend undergoing red light therapy right before a tanning session. Some even offer hybrid beds that emit both red and UV light.
Undergoing red light therapy immediately before tanning may decrease the damage caused by your tanning session. So, while it’s likely a good idea for people who are committed to tanning, it’s important to keep in mind that tanning with or without red light therapy will likely harm your skin in the long run.
Can you put red light therapy bulbs in a tanning bed?
Rather than purchasing FDA-approved red light therapy beds, many salons simply replace the UV bulbs in their tanning beds with red LED lights. However, these altered devices do not meet the FDA’s guidelines for red light therapy.
Using red light therapy bulbs in a tanning bed likely won’t cause any damage to your skin. However, since the bed itself wasn’t built for this purpose, you might not be reaping the full benefits. For this reason, you’re better off using products that are designed and FDA-approved specifically for red light therapy.
Red Light Therapy Bed Options
Red light therapy beds on the market vary considerably in quality and cost. They’re not considered medical devices, and anyone can buy them for commercial or at-home use.
The most effective option available to you, medical-grade red light therapy beds are approved by the FDA to improve skin health. They’re typically found at medical spas, day spas and other wellness centers. The cost per session is typically $100 to $150.
If you have the space and the budget, you can purchase a professional-grade bed for your own home. These beds can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $140,000.
Other types of beds
Many places of business have red light therapy beds that aren’t FDA approved or, as mentioned above, are simply tanning beds retrofitted with red LED lights.
You can purchase a non-FDA-approved bed for as little as $5,000. However, it may not offer the same benefits as a professional-grade product and may be detrimental to your skin.
Cost per session
Red light therapy sessions at spas can cost from $100–$150, while sessions at tanning salons are significantly less expensive, at about $30 per session.
Because frequent use is necessary to receive its therapeutic benefits, many places of business offer monthly packages to reduce your cost per session. At some gyms, access to a red light therapy bed or booth is included in the price of membership.
If you’re only interested in addressing facial skin concerns, you don’t need the full-body benefits of a red light therapy bed. Instead, consider a smaller light therapy device such as a lamp, curved panel or mask.
These products are found at dermatology offices and medical spas, and you can also purchase FDA-approved products for at-home use. These devices cost about $300–500, making them significantly more affordable than the beds.
Are Red Light Therapy Beds Worth It?
Regular use of a red light therapy bed improves the look, feel and quality of your skin. However, because this therapy requires frequent use to be effective, visiting a tanning salon multiple times a week might not fit your budget or your schedule.
If you’re primarily interested in treating only your face, undergoing sessions at a dermatologist or purchasing your own panel for at-home use may be more cost-effective than using a full-body bed.
Red light therapy beds benefit the skin by increasing collagen production, reducing inflammation and giving cells a boost of energy to repair themselves. This therapy treats many skin concerns, including fine lines, sun damage, hyperpigmentation and acne. It’s a safe, effective treatment with virtually no side effects.
These beds are typically found in medical spas, gyms and tanning salons. You can also purchase one for at-home use. If you’re only interested in treating your face only, you may be better off purchasing a red light panel or mask for at-home use.
Anyone with a serious skin concern should first ask a dermatologist for medical advice before using red light therapy.
- Glass GE. Photobiomodulation: The Clinical Applications of Low-Level Light Therapy. Aesthet Surg J. 2021 May 18;41(6):723-738. doi:10.1093/asj/sjab025
- Lee SY, Park KH, Choi JW, Kwon JK, Lee DR, Shin MS, Lee JS, You CE, Park MY. A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, and split-face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation: clinical, profilometric, histologic, ultrastructural, and biochemical evaluations and comparison of three different treatment settings. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2007 Jul 27;88(1):51-67. doi:10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2007.04.008
- Avci P, Gupta A, Sadasivam M, Vecchio D, Pam Z, Pam N, Hamblin MR. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Mar;32(1):41-52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24049929/
- Barolet D. Dual Effect of Photobiomodulation on Melasma: Downregulation of Hyperpigmentation and Enhanced Solar Resistance-A Pilot Study. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(4):28-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891084/
- Szymańska A, Budzisz E, Erkiert-Polguj A. The Anti-Acne Effect of Near-Infrared Low-Level Laser Therapy. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2021;14:1045-1051. Published 2021 Aug 25. doi:10.2147/CCID.S323132
- Yoon JS, Ku WY, Lee JH, Ahn HC. Low-level light therapy using a helmet-type device for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: A 16-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Jul 17;99(29):e21181. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000021181
- Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS Biophys. 2017;4(3):337-361. doi:10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337