In this blog post, I'll answer the question, "How often should you use red light therapy?" In the past, Alex Fergus from this Light Therapy Insiders website has briefly covered this topic in his How To Use Red Light Therapy 101. Today, I'll give you a more detailed answer.
So let's answer "How often should you do red light therapy" step by step:
How Much Red Light Therapy Is Too Much?
Let's get straight to the point. Asking "How much red light therapy is too much" is like asking "How much exercise is too much". The answer all depends on the context. For a young healthy person, the amount and type of exercise can differ dramatically from an older person with many impactful health conditions. So there's no one-size-fits-all recommendation here.
How much red light therapy is too much depends on:
- The device you're using
- How far you're using that device from your skin
- How long you're using that device
- How many times per day you're using that device
- How many days per week you're using that device
- Whether you're using only that device or other devices as well
- Whether you're getting sunlight exposure in your daily life - which emits the same type of light as red light therapy as well
So, in general, it's not easy to give a recommendation here. Nevertheless, many red light therapy device manafacturers have thought decently about this problem and included guidelines about dosing in their instruction manual.
Now, there is a way to calculate the optimal dose. But, the average user arguably won't use such calculations as they just want to use a device. Nevertheless, for, those who are interested, check the method of calculating the red light therapy dose below:
Next up, let's talk about optimal dosign. Expert opinions disagree here. But generally, an optimal dose of superficial tissues is around 5-10 J/cm2 and for deeper tissues that 50-70 J/cm2. Some experts think doses of up to 100 J/cm2 are best.
For optimal dosing, you'll want to know the exact dose of the device you're using as well as the area affected. You can find the doses many devices emit in our shopping tool. In that tool, you can see the review of the product as well, with independent third-party tested power output (measured in mW/cm2) numbers.
Can You Overdo Red Light Therapy? If Yes, What Happens?
Absolutely, you can overdo red light therapy. There's a so-called "biphasic dose response" in "Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)" or "photobiomodulation" as red light therapy is technically called (1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8).
In plain English, that statement means that some red light therapy has a stimulating or healing effect. Once you add more, you'll reach an optimal dose. And once you go beyond that optimal dose, the benefits level off. Eventually, if you keep adding a higher dose, there will be an inhibiting effect.
So, more is not always better - more could decrease your effects and even cause minor side effects.
Examples of side effects if you overdo red light therapy is feeling tired because of overstimulation. Sometimes, you want to overdo the dose, however, such as in case of pain relief. For pain relief, you'll want to pursue an inhibitory effect intentionally.
For other goals, such as enhancing muscle recovery, or enhancing well-being or cognition in the brain, or increasing blood circulation, you'll want the optimal dose for deeper tissues. And, if you want to improve collagen or elastin synthesis in the skin, you'll want a dose that promotes
Also, you may be interested in some interviews of top expert Alex Fergus on whether you can overdo red light therapy. First, an interview with James Carroll from Thor Photomedicine:
Next up, there's the interview with Michael Chapiro of Chroma, who has a very opinionated view on red light therapy dosing:
Let's now answer some specific questions on dosing:
How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy On Your Face?
So how often should you use red light therapy on your face? Often, once per day is sufficient here. I'm assuming you want the skin health benefits in this case, so a dose that's optimal for superficial tissues is perfect here.
In most cases, products such as red light therapy panels or masks come with an instruction manual explaining how long you should treat your face. Often, a treatment every other day is very popular with red light therapy masks for the face such as the Omnilux Mask.
How Often Should You Use A Red Light Therapy Bed?
Generally, especially if you've got access to a red light therapy bed, treating yourself five to six days a week is best. If you're going to a clinic for treatment, however, that optimal treatment pattern might be very time-consuming or expensive. So in that case I recommend going as often as you can.
With a red light therapy bed, you can apply a very high dose for deep tissue treatment in a short amount of time. So you'll never need a twice-per-day treatment with a red light therapy bed as you'll be overdosing in that case.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe?
Yes, red light therapy is very safe. There are some contraindications though, such as cancer (9; 10; 11; 12). The presence of brain conditions, such as epilepsy or after a stroke recovery, also warrant a green light from a medical expert before treatment. For that latter topic, consider Alex Fergus' interview with Dr. Randy Beck on red light therapy for the brain and associated benefits and risks below:
So Can You Overdo Red Light Therapy?
Absolutely, you can overdo red light therapy. More is not better, as explained earlier. As a general rule, follow the instructions that come with any product you buy. The company selling red light therapy devices have often thought well about calculating the optimal dose for you for different goals.
What Is Red Light Therapy Good For?
Me and other at Light Therapy Insiders have created some very informative blogs explaining what red light therapy is good for. Check out blogs such as:
- Start Here - Light Therapy 101 & Buyers Guide
- What Is Red Light Therapy?
- How To Use Red Light Therapy 101: The Best Guide For Starters
Red light therapy has tons of different benefits, such as upgrading your cognitive performance, lowering overall disease risk, boosting workout recovery and athleticism, enhancing your energy levels, impeding pain, increasing skin, hair and nail beauty, and much more.
The red light therapy benefits are almost countless. Check our blogs about the 36 Powerful Red Light Therapy Benefits if you want to learn more. Next up, let's consider what the best treatment frequency is:
How Many Times Should You Do Red Light Therapy?
Most people have the best results with five or six days of red light therapy per week. Some experts such as Scott Chaverri know from anedoctal experience - because they have tens of thousands of customers if not more - that this usage pattern works best for most people.
So, ideally, keep one day per week off from red light therapy.
Can You Do Red Light Therapy Everyday?
So can you use red light therapy everyday? Absolutely, although it may be better to keep one day per week off. Anecdotally, people state they've got better results with that usage pattern.
We do need more science on the topic of the optimal usage patterns of red light therapy, especially for full body treatments and LEDs.
How Long Should You Do A Red Light Therapy Session?
Many people ask: "How long should you do a red light therapy session?" Well, I'll return to my analogy on exercise here once again. If you're asking "how long should you do an exercise session?"
There's no universal answer here. If you're exercising extremely intensively, a 5-minute session can be enough. If you're doing slow cardio at a low heart rate, a session can last three hours.
So, there's no universally valid answer on how long a red light therapy session should last. Session length should depend on:
- Your goal - whether you want superficial or deep tissue treatment
- The device you're using, which determines the power output
- How you're using the device, for instance, how far from the skin it's located
And so forth.
Once again, the simplest answer here is to simply follow the instructions that come with the red light therapy device. And, if you buy from a reputable seller, there should be decent instructions coming with the device. Check out some great red light therapy devices in our database.
How Long To Do Red Light Therapy On Face?
Once more, how long to do red light therapy on the face has a very similar answer. All depends on the context, so the device you're using, how close to the skin you're using that device, your goals, and so forth.
So for the best results, follow the instructions that come with the device. And, if you don't want to follow the instructions, use the calculations I've supplied at the beginning of this blog post.
Red Light Therapy Twice A Day. Is That A Crazy Idea?
So, can you do red light therapy twice a day? Yes, you can, but it's often not better.
Overall, there's a red light therapy time limit with almost any device. Once you exceed exposure, you're overdosing your body. Then, potential side effects start to emerge - such as tirenedness.
So, red light therapy twice a day isn't necessarily better and can even be detrimental. If the dose is low enough, you can do twice a day treatments.
Additionally, more studies are necessary on this topic, especially regarding higher doses. But generally, the consensus in medical science is that twice-a-day treatments aren't necessarily better.
Alright, Help Me! So, What’s The Ideal RLT Protocol (If There’s Any)?
There's no "ideal" protocol for red light therapy. The protocol will differ according to your goals and the device that you have, as well as other devices you're using and so forth.
Just like there's no "ideal exercise routine" that's universally valid for everyone on this planet, there's no ideal red light therapy protocol either. As a general rule though, I still recommend following the instructions of the company supplying the device as most companies have thought very well about dosing protocols.
Finally, let's conclude:
Conclusion: Most People Shouldn't Overthink This Topic
Red light therapy dose is the central concept to understanding how often should you use red light therapy. Whether you're using red light therapy for hair growth, fine lines, wound healing, skin conditions, or another reason, the optimal dose determines the session's frequency and duration.
More is not better, but less isn't better either - there's a "golden mean". Superficial tissues need a lower dose than deeper tissues, however. Follow the instructions of the device you've purchased, as these are often reasonable guidelines for red light therapy dosing.
Found This Interesting? Then You Might Like: