After you read this complete guide to choosing a red light therapy device, you’ll find it simple to choose your new device.
The three questions to answer when buying a light therapy device are:
- What am I treating (what condition do you want to address)?
- What wavelengths support health in that area?
- What type of device fits that body part?
What if you could narrow down your red light therapy research into three decisions? You could quickly become a red light therapy expert by mastering just three pieces of information.
Studies repeatedly find that red light therapy improves many conditions, including these:
- Acne: See my guide How to Shop for a Red Light Therapy Face Mask (for Acne and Wrinkles)
- Aging: See my article How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy on the Face? (Expert Advice)
- Arthritis (Inflammation and Joint Pain); See my article: Does Red Light Therapy Really Help with Arthritis Pain?
- Canker Sores
- Cognition (Addiction, Alcoholism, Anxiety, Autism Irritability, Cognition Decline, Dementia, Depression, PTSD, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Parkinson’s): See my series on red light therapy for dementia: Why No One Has Told You About Red Light for Alzheimer’s
- Fat Melt (Fat Release, Reduction in Body Size, Reduction in Blood Cholesterol): Can Red Light Therapy Burn Fat? (Beginner Edition)
- Herpes (Shingles, Post Herpetic Neuralgia)
- Frozen Shoulder
- Tendonitis (Carpal Tunnel, Soreness, Weakness)
- Diabetic Wounds
The most successful colors (wavelengths) are:
- Red and infrared treat aging, inflammation, and pain
- Blue light is essential for treating acne
- Green light for wounds and migraines
The devices you can buy include:
- Panels: My top pick: Buyer’s Guide: Best Red Light Therapy Panel for 2022-2023
- Transcranial: My top pick: What is Vielight, and Why Do You Want a Vielight Device?
- Pads and wraps: Best Red Light Therapy for Back Pain Pads and Wraps in 2023
- Face Masks: How to Shop for a Red Light Therapy Face Mask (for Acne and Wrinkles)
- Face Domes
- Handhelds: Best Infrared Light Pain Treatment: Visum Light Review
- Torches: Best Red Light Therapy on Amazon
- Intranasal (again, the Vielight Neuro)
- Knee Massager
Use the guides below to narrow down the COLOR LIGHT for your condition and the DEVICE TYPE that fits that part of your body.
Want the Quick Guide?
For a quick guide to choosing which type of device to buy, read my article: The Shortcut Guide to Choosing a Light Therapy Device
For answers you need to be a confident light therapy buyer, read my article: Is Red Light Therapy a Scam? What Do 9,188 Studies Say?
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Panels
Panels are tall, thin boxes that can support hundreds of LEDs on the high end. I separate out “handheld” panels into their own group. You hang a panel from the ceiling, the wall, or a door; or put it on a dedicated stand.
The bigger the panel, the more of your body gets light exposure. Only pads can treat as much surface area at the same time.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Panels
Red light therapy panels save time when treating large areas
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Panels
- red light therapy panels with fans and 110v power are likely to output unwanted electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
- use a panel at least 6 inches away to avoid these fields, but that means:
- the extra distance means less light will make it to your skin
Panels usually run on 110v electricity and have fans. The EMFs they generate might be unhealthy.
Vendors often brag that their devices have “zero EMF.”
But at what distance?
To get the most light, you want to hold the device on your skin. To avoid EMFs, you need to keep the panel further from your body.
All devices are safe at six inches. That’s not a feat of engineering to make that claim.
“Zero EMF at six inches” is not “zero EMF.” True zero EMF means you can hold the device on your body and not get exposed to unwanted EMFs.
When there is a distance from the lamp to your body, you lose photons to distance and to reflection.
Pros and Cons of Light Therapy Face Masks
Light therapy face masks usually target acne, aging, or both. They sit over the face. Either a set of eyeglasses hold the mask on your ears, or a band holds it around your head.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Face Masks
Red light therapy face masks excel at getting photons to facial skin.
These devices are designed to fit the contours of the jaw, nose, and cheeks.
The lights are close to the face. This means the photons are more likely to absorb into the skin. You don’t lose photons to distance, either
Masks are hands-free, but sometimes they cover the eyes, so the hands are of limited use.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Face Masks
- the lights are close to the skin, so more photons make it to the face
- flexible face masks are comfortable (rigid ones are not)
- battery face masks are portable (plugged-in ones are not)
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Face Masks
- Face masks can be uncomfortable. If you have a stiff mask, try putting cotton around the edges
- and avoid any mask whose marketing says “seven colors.” They just mix primary colors and the eyes see the new colors, but these don’t emit the necessary wavelengths to work. It’s a scammy trick that doesn’t work
- wired masks tether you to the wall outlet
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Domes (or Pads Shaped like Domes)
A dome is a rigid half-circle or a pliable pad that creates a dome when placed into a holder. The lights are on the underside and shine down on the face. You can use a dome on other body parts but it is usually narrow enough to fit only over an arm or so.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Domes
Domes offer targeted therapy to the face without the discomfort of a mask. The material does not touch the face, and you are not wearing it the way you wear a mask.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Domes
When you are under a dome, you need to relax and maybe listen to something. You don’t have the ability to walk around or read. This is true of panels, too, but I didn’t mention it under panels. The reason is, face masks are more portable, compared to domes. Domes are more comfortable. You lose a bit of the photon quantity to reflection and distance, as the dome is several inches from your head.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Wands and Torches
A handheld light therapy wand is a light you can hold with one hand. They are “wands,” or just “handheld” lights. A torchlight device looks like a small flashlight.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Wands and Torches
Wands and torches allow you to treat anywhere on the body with light therapy. So long as you’re not working on your face, you can open your eyes to watch TV or read during treatment.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Wands and Torches
Wands and torches are handheld, so at least one hand is busy during treatment. They don’t attach to the body so you have to hold them in place during the session. Battery-operated wands and torches are portable, while plugged-in versions are not.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Pads
A light therapy pad is a rubber-like pliable pad with lights on one side. You place the pad on the area you want to treat. If you use the pad to make a facial treatment dome, you put the pad in a holder that allows you to shape the pad into a dome.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Pads
Pads feel nice to the touch. You can use some nylon and Velcro to hold a pad in place. You can wrap pads around your legs, arms, and body. You can wrap the pad around the area to treat and then read or watch TV. Because you press the pad onto your body, the pad is one of the most efficient light therapy systems.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Pads
Battery-powered pads are portable but plugged-in pads are not.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Wraps
A light therapy wrap is a neoprene fabric with LEDs embedded into a section. Wraps usually have a Velcro-type closing system so you can wrap the light around a leg, arm, or waist.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Wraps
Wraps don’t lose photons to reflection and distance. They output photons that reach the skin right away. Battery-powered wraps are portable while plugged-in wraps are not. Battery-operated Wraps are usually EMF-free. You can buy wraps designed to fit on elbows, wrists, and knees, as well as flat wraps that fold around any part of the body.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Wraps
Cord-powered wraps emit EMFs that might you sick over the long term. Wrap LEDs have a higher fail rate (in my experience) than other device types. Wraps are great for targeted treatment; just ensure you get a solid company and warranty. Face therapy is difficult with a wrap.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Knee Massagers
A knee massager looks like a helmet that straps to the front of the knee. Not all devices are massagers, but usually, they have both massage and LEDs. The purpose of the device is to offer targeted therapy for arthritis and tender knees.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Knee Massagers
Knee devices output light directly to the knee without losing photons to distance or reflection. The massage device can be therapeutic and help reduce pain. The device offers targeted treatment to the knee. When battery-operated, knee devices are portable
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Knee Massagers
It’s not easy using a knee device on other parts of the body. When cord-operated, knee devices are not portable.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Wrist “Watches”
A wrist light therapy device sits on the arm where you wear a watch. It’s just bulkier than a watch. The intent is usually not to treat the wrist (for repetitive motion strain, for instance) but to stimulate acupuncture points related to blood pressure. This device design was on the market for a couple of years but is not available anymore.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Belts
A belt device is a portable set of lights that you wrap onto your body with a strap and a Velcro-like closure. A belt is somewhat similar to a neoprene wrap except that wrap lights are embedded into fabric, and belt lamps are individual units that string together between two pieces of fabric.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Belts
The Belt device delivers light to the target without losing photons to distance or reflection. A well-designed belt wraps around the legs, arms, back, or tummy and stays on with a Velcro type of attachment. A belt with rechargeable batteries is portable. You can read and watch TV while using the belt.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Belts
Belts that use fans emit high levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that might be harmful over time. Belts that plug into the wall are not portable. Face therapy is difficult with a belt.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Bulbs
A therapy bulb is a large light bulb with LEDs embedded in the front, that screws into a standard light socket.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Bulbs
Bulbs are one of the cheapest ways to get light therapy. If the bulb does not emit EMFs, you can hold it on your skin to avoid losing photons to distance and reflection.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Bulbs
Light therapy bulbs are often too heavy to use in even the strongest gooseneck lamp holders. If you put a therapy bulb in a flexible floor lamp, the weight might pull the arm downward. If the bulb emits EMFs, you want to stay at least 3 to 6 inches from the device.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Eyeglasses
The Eyeglass device looks like a pair of glasses. It delivers light to the brow, eye, and under the eye.
If this device comes with eye protection, then the pros are that it delivers light to the target without losing energy to distance or reflection. However, many lights with eyeglass designs do not come with goggles or eyeshades. Blue light is definitely dangerous. A device called Re-Timer, for example, emits blue light directly into the eyes. This is a terrible idea and should be banned.
Not sure if you need goggles or dark glasses with your red light therapy? Find out whether you need goggles in my article 1 Way to Know if You Should Wear Goggles in Red Light Therapy (opens in a new window)
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Hair Helmets and Hats
Hair regrowth and brain therapy helmets are lined with LEDs to target the scalp, neck and sides of the head. Red light therapy can regrow hair for men and women with several types of baldness. When used for brain therapy, it’s best if the user does not have hair that absorbs the photons. Some people shave their heads when using helmets for brain therapy.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Hair Helmets and Hats
A hair helmet delivers light to the hair, which can absorb it without energy loss to distance or reflection. The hair is good at absorbing red light. Dormant follicles can be awakened using helmets. Battery-operated helmets are portable.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Hair Helmets
Helmets can be (but are not always) heavy. A helmet has to be large enough to reach areas of dormant follicles. When using the helmet as a brain device, it’s best not to have hair in the way.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Homemade Brain Buckets
A brain therapy light helmet is lined with LEDs. To get to the brain, this light must power through skin, blood, bone, and possibly hair.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Homemade Brain Buckets
The brain helmet delivers photons to the scalp, neck, and sides of the head.
12 to 15% of infrared and 2 to 4% of red light penetrates the skin, blood, water, and bone between the light and the brain. Studies show that this is sufficient to help traumatic brain injury, stroke, and dementia patients. You can use a brain helmet as a hair growth device, but the hair will block the majority of the light from reaching the brain.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Brain Buckets
The fact is that only a small portion of scalp light makes it to the brain. To ensure best penetration, the target area should be bald or shaved.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Hair Brushes
A hair regrowth brush is a handheld red light designed to stimulate hair regrowth. The light awakens dormant follicles in people with many types of baldness or thinning hair. You don’t “brush” the hair as you would with a grooming brush. You lay the brush on the hair and let it sit for the instructed time, and then move it to the next spot.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Hair Brushes
A hair brush can be significantly cheaper than a hair regrowth helmet.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Hair Brushes
You need to hold and operate the brush as instructed, which can be a bit tedious over the length of the treatment period.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Beds
A light therapy bed or pod is a whole-body light box similar to a tanning bed. In theory, it’s a whole-body treatment with healing light. Until I can assess the non-natural EMF status of these beds, I reserve comment.
Pros and Cons of Red Light Therapy Intranasal Applicators
Shining light up the nose looks silly, but it has one of the most profound healing effects of all light devices. That is because the nose is the most direct route for light to reach the brain.
The Pros of Red Light Therapy Intranasal Applicators
Nasal therapy sends light to the brain without the hair and skin barriers found on the scalp. The light is no more than 3 inches from the brain when inserted in the nose. While 810 nm light can penetrate the scalp to the brain with sufficient power, the nasal passage requires comparatively little power to direct light to the brain’s ventral area. That light does not have to have the deepest penetration ability (810 nm), and so multiple wavelengths can penetrate the ventral area through the nose with therapeutic success.
The Cons of Red Light Therapy Nasal Devices
Nasal light therapy looks silly.