Does Red Light Therapy Really Work? 6 Clinical Studies That Prove the Power of Red Light Therapy

The use of red light therapy has been studied extensively for its health benefits for the human body. Just like sunlight, red light therapy is bioactive, as it stimulates cellular reactions within the body to heal, nourish, andreinvigorate the body for good health and vitality. A myriad of clinical studies about how this spectrum of light interacts with the cells in the human body has created an explosion of interest in the health and wellness arena and increased public awareness of this truly remarkable non-surgical and noninvasive option. 

For the past 60 years, scientists have been conducting thousands of studies on the effects of red light and near infrared light therapy for treating and healing a variety of conditions, particularly in the following areas:

– Body Contouring and Fat Loss 

– Skin Rejuvenation and Accelerated Wound Healing

– Pain Management

– Inflammation Reduction and Immune System Rebalancing


Clinical Studies


Body Contouring and Fat Loss:

Fat Loss and weight management remain top concerns among health-seeking individuals. Many people are turning to their health practitioners for better ways to achieve their goals. Red light therapy, especially in the delivery system design offered by Contour Light, has shown to be a game-changer. Red light therapy, also referred to as Photobiomodulation or Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) stimulates the mitochondria which produces energy, liquefies fat, and deep cleans the cells, releasing fat and toxins into the lymphatic system to be eliminated through natural processes.

The study below focuses on determining the efficacy of red light therapy for the treatment of fat loss and circumference centimeter loss from treated areas. The study included 40 healthy women and men between the ages of 18-64 with red light treatments of 30 minutes twice a week for 4 weeks. Measurements and photos were taken before and after the 4 weeks of treatment. The results showed consistent findings of significant sustained measurable loss of both fat and circumference.


Efficacy Of Low-Level Light Therapy For Body Contouring And Spot Fat Reduction

Caruso-Davis MK, Guillot TS, Podichetty VK, Mashtalir N, Dhurandhar O, Yu Y, Greenway FL

Background: Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is commonly used in medical applications, but scientific studies of its efficacy and the mechanism by which it causes loss of fat from fat cells for body contouring are lacking. 

Objective: This study examined the effectiveness and mechanism by which 635–680 nm LLLT acts as a non-invasive body contouring intervention method. 

Method: Forty healthy men and women ages 18–65 years with a BMI <30 kg/m2 were randomized 1:1 to laser or control treatment. Subject’s waistlines were treated 30 min twice a week for 4 weeks. Standardized waist circumference measurements and photographs were taken before and after treatments 1, 3, and 8. Subjects were asked not to change their diet or exercise habits. In vitro assays were conducted to determine cell lysis, glycerol, and triglyceride release.

Results: Each treatment gave a 0.4–0.5 cm loss in waist girth. Cumulative girth loss after 4 weeks was −2.15 cm (−0.78 ± 2.82 vs. 1.35 ± 2.64 cm for the control group < 0.05). A blinded evaluation of standardized pictures showed statistically significant cosmetic improvement after 4 weeks of laser treatment. In vitro studies suggested that laser treatment increases fat loss from adipocytes by release of triglycerides, without inducing lipolysis or cell lysis. 

Conclusions: LLLT achieved safe and significant girth loss sustained over repeated treatments and cumulative over 4 weeks of eight treatments. The girth loss from the waist gave clinically and statistically significant cosmetic improvement. 


Skin Rejuvenation and Accelerated Wound Healing:

Wrinkles and fine lines, sun damage, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, scarring and other skin conditions have been treated with red light therapy with excellent results. Below are two studies, one that addressed the effectiveness of red light therapy on fine lines and wrinkles, and the other on wound healing and treatment for reduction of scarring. 

In the first study, 136 subjects were divided into 4 groups, each with a different red light frequency, duration and strength. They used before and after photos, as well as proflometrically and ultrasonographically measuring the collagen density, skin tone, texture, and lines and wrinkles. The study found the subjects in the group that used a combined red light frequency in the 600nm range and near infrared light in the 800nm range demonstrated effectiveness and safety for skin rejuvenation and repair. 

The second study is a review of over 68 clinical studies focused on the use of red light therapy to reduce scarring and accelerate wound healing. The consensus of the overview showed that red light therapy, specifically in the mid 600nm range and near infrared in the mid 800nm range activates biological effects related to a decrease in inflammatory cells, increase in fibroblast proliferation, angiogenesis stimulation, formation of granulation tissue and increased collagen synthesis.


A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase.

Wunsch, Alexander, and Karsten Matuschka. NCBI, Photomed Laser Surg, 1 Feb. 2014

Background: Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) increases blood circulation and fibroblastic activity, promotes collagen production and increases healing. In this study, LLLT resulted in increased collagen density, improved skin tone, smoothed texture of the skin, and reduced wrinkles and fine lines. Red light therapy is an effective treatment for a number of skin conditions such as Rosacea, acne, psoriasis, and scarring. 

Objective: The purpose of this study is to investigate and determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and the increase of collagen density. 

Method: 136 volunteers participated in this randomized and controlled study. Subjects assigned into four treatment groups and treated twice a week with either 611–650 or 570–850 nm polychromatic light (normalized to ~9 J/cm2 in the range of 611–650 nm) were compared with controls (n=23). Irradiances and treatment durations varied in all treatment groups. The data collected at baseline and after 30 sessions included blinded evaluations of clinical photography, ultrasonographic collagen density measurements, computerized digital proflometry, and an assessment of patient satisfaction. 

Results: The treated subjects experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, proflometrically assessed skin roughness, and ultrasonographically measured collagen density. The blinded clinical evaluation of photographs confirmed significant improvement in the intervention groups compared with the control. 

Conclusions: Red Light and near infrared light sources in the 600nm range and the 800nm range have demonstrated efficacy and safety for skin rejuvenation and intradermal collagen increase when compared with controls. 


Effects of Low-Power Light Therapy on Wound Healing: LASER x LED

Maria Emília de Abreu Chaves, et al. NCBI, An Bras Dermatol, 2014

Background: Light-emitting diode (LED) technology has the capability to deliver light deep into tissues of the body, in the higher range (600-1000nm) which are optimal for healing wounds, reducing pain and repairing tissues. 

Objective: To determine the biological effects and parameters that support the use of LED on wound healing. 

Method: Sixty-eight studies on the biological effects on cutaneous wounds were analyzed, including 48 on LASER light, 14 related to LED light and 6 for both types of light. The use of different wavelengths (532-1064 nm) was verified, with the most utilized spectral range being between 632.8 and 830 nm. The biological effects included reduction of inflammatory cells, increased proliferation of fibroblasts, stimulation of collagen synthesis, angiogenesis inducement and granulation tissue formation. It was noted in a study that the dose of 4 J/cm2 was more effective than 8 J/cm. 

Conclusion: The reviewed studies show that phototherapy, either by LASER or LED, is an effective therapeutic modality to promote healing of skin wounds. The biological effects promoted by these therapeutic resources are similar and are related to the decrease in inflammatory cells, increased fibroblast proliferation, angiogenesis stimulation, formation of granulation tissue and increased collagen synthesis. 


Pain Management, Inflammation Reduction, and Immune System Rebalancing:

Inflammation in the body appears to be at the crux of most chronic illness, pain and discomfort. With the rise in addiction to pain medication, pain management experts have turned to red light therapy as an effective alternative to narcotic or surgical treatments. Studies have shown that when used properly, red light therapy has no harmful side effects and is effective for reducing inflammation, relieving pain and rebalancing the immune system to anti-inflammatory. The following three studies focus on the effects of red light therapy on pain management, reducing inflammation, and rebalancing the immune system. 

The first study shows that red light therapy utilized post-surgery, effectively decreased both pain intensity and inflammation in hip surgery patients.

The second study examines the use of red light therapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, as a non-narcotic, noninvasive treatment for pain management. The study confirmed that red light therapy is effective for short term pain relief and inflammation reduction.

The third study, led by red light therapy expert, Dr. Michael Hamblin, examines the effectiveness of red light therapy on inflammation reduction and immune system rebalancing. The study shows an overall reduction in inflammation, and a reduction in the markers of M1 phenotype in activated macrophages.


Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) on acute pain and inflammation in patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty-a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

Langella,LG, et al.

Background: Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMt) using low-level laser therapy (LLLT) and/or light-emitting diode therapy (LEDT) has proven effective in tissue repair by modulating the inflammatory process and promoting pain relief. 

Objective: Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze the immediate effect of PBMt on inflammation and pain of patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty. 

Method: This study consisted of 18 post-surgical hip arthroplasty patients divided into two groups (n = 9 each) placebo and active PBMt who received one of the treatments in a period from 8 to 12 hours following THA surgery. PBMt Red Light Therapy (active or placebo) was applied. Visual analog scale (VAS) and blood samples for analysis of the levels of the cytokines TNF-a, IL-6, and IL-8 were recorded before and after PBMt application. The values for the visual analog scale as well as those in the analysis of TNF-a and IL-8 serum levels decreased in the active PBMt group compared to placebo-control group (p < 0.05). 

Conclusion: PBMt Red Light Therapy is effective in decreasing pain intensity and post-surgery inflammation in patients receiving total hip arthroplasty. 


Low Level Laser Therapy (Classes I, II and III) for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

L, Brosseau, et al. NCBI, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 19 Oct. 2005

Background: LLLT has been clinically used for patients who suffer from arthritis as a short-term treatment for relief of pain and morning stiffness. Now an FDA approved treatment, physicians use it to help patients suffering from chronic joint pain. Red light therapy stimulates collagen production, rejuvenates cells, increases blood flow and rebuilds cartilage making it a favorable healing and preventative tool against the root causes of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and various other inflammatory joint issues. 

Method: A total of 222 patients were included in the five placebo-controlled trials, with 130 randomized to laser therapy. Relative to a separate control group, LLLT reduced pain by 1.10 points (95% CI: 1.82, 0.39) on visual analogue scale relative to placebo, reduced morning stiffness duration by 27.5 minutes (95%CI: 2.9 to 52 minutes) and increased tip to palm flexibility by 1.3 cm (95% CI: 0.8 to 1.7). 

Conclusion: LLLT could be considered for short-term treatment for relief of pain and morning stiffness for RA patients, particularly since it has few side-effects. Clinicians and researchers should consistently report the characteristics of the LLLT device and the application techniques used. New trials on LLLT should make use of standardized, validated outcomes. Despite some positive findings, this meta-analysis lacked data on how LLLT effectiveness is affected by four important factors: wavelength, treatment duration of LLLT, dosage and site of application over nerves instead of joints. There is clearly a need to investigate the effects of these factors on LLLT effectiveness for RA in randomized controlled clinical trials. 


Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. 

Hamblin MR

Background: Photobiomodulation (PBM) also known as low-level level laser therapy is the use of red and near-infrared light to stimulate healing, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation. The primary chromophores have been identified as cytochrome c oxidase in mitochondria, and calcium ion channels (possibly mediated by light absorption by opsins). Secondary effects of photon absorption include increases in ATP, a brief burst of reactive oxygen species, an increase in nitric oxide, and modulation of calcium levels. Tertiary effects include activation of a wide range of transcription factors leading to improved cell survival, increased proliferation and migration, and new protein synthesis. There is a pronounced biphasic dose-response whereby low levels of light have stimulating effects, while high levels of light have inhibitory effects. 

Results: It has been found that PBM can produce ROS in normal cells, but when used in oxidatively stressed cells or in animal models of disease, ROS levels are lowered. PBM is able to up-regulate antioxidant defenses and reduce oxidative stress. It was shown that PBM can activate NF-kB in normal quiescent cells, however in activated inflammatory cells, inflammatory markers were decreased. One of the most reproducible effects of PBM is an overall reduction in inflammation, which is particularly important for disorders of the joints, traumatic injuries, lung disorders, and in the brain. PBM has been shown to reduce markers of M1 phenotype in activated macrophages. Many reports have shown reductions in reactive nitrogen species and prostaglandins in various animal models. PBM can reduce inflammation in the brain, abdominal fat, wounds, lungs, spinal cord. 


Contour Light

There are literally thousands of studies on the use and effectiveness of red light therapy for a wide variety of issues. Contour Light is the most advanced red light therapy delivery system available for professional clinical results. It is simple to use, compact and easy to maneuver from room to room, affordable and highly effective.


Contour Light is the most advanced red light and near infrared therapy system available for the professional and clinical settings.

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