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Red Light Therapy for Cellulite

Cellulite is one of the most common skin complaints. So common, in fact, that for many women (and even men!), it’s just a fact of life. You may have tried all the creams, completed all the dry brushing, and even bought the very best exfoliators… only to find that those stubborn marks remain. 

While it’s always great to embrace the skin you’re in, cellulite can affect your body image and your confidence. Fortunately, you don’t have to learn to live with dimpled, sagging skin. Red light therapy offers a natural, gentle way to shrink, smooth, and lessen those unsightly marks, all while improving your skin’s texture and tone.

Sound interesting? Continue reading to learn how infrared treatment can smooth and tone cellulite.

What is cellulite?

Around 90 percent of women and 10 percent of men have cellulite. This irksome condition is instantly recognizable – dimpled, lumpy, and rough-looking skin (also known as ‘orange peel’). It’s hard to miss and even harder to treat.

Orange peel skin usually shows up where we store our fat, i.e., stomach, butt, thighs, and buttocks. Yet, while it may appear in our trouble spots, it’s not actually fat. 

Cellulite occurs when there’s a breach in the barriers between the various levels of the skin. If you think of your skin as scaffolding, there’s a lot of structural work going on beneath the surface – first, there’s the layer closest to the skin’s surface and then a deeper layer of fatty tissue.

If the fatty tissue breaks through and bulges around the connective tissue holding it in place, it shows up as the pocked, uneven skin we know as cellulite.

So what causes cellulite? While it’s typically hard to pinpoint one specific cause (as cellulite can occur for all sorts of reasons), here are some common culprits:

  • Aging – as our body’s first line of defense, our skin takes a lot of wear and tear over the years. The older we get, the more damaged our skin becomes.
  • Sun damage – harmful UV rays can penetrate our skin and damage it.
  • Loose skin – the skin’s texture naturally changes throughout our lives, directly influenced by how well we look after it. Loose skin means loose connective tissue, which can contribute to cellulite.
  • Diet and lifestyle – we are what we eat, and unfortunately, people with a poor diet are more likely to have cellulite. The same is true for smokers, people who are mostly sedentary, and anyone suffering from obesity.

While cellulite is perfectly normal and painless, it can have a huge impact on our self-esteem. Being self-conscious can make activities like swimming, going to the beach or the gym, and even simply wearing summer clothes a nerve-wracking, embarrassing, and daunting experience. 

The good news is that cellulite is treatable. Whether you’re dealing with mild, moderate, or severe cellulite, exposing your ‘cottage cheese’ skin to infrared light can help it look and feel significantly better. 

What is red light therapy?

Red light is light with longer wavelengths than blue or white light. It’s safe, painless, and doesn’t damage the skin like UV rays. You don’t have to worry about burning or over-exposure – infrared light is gentle and well-tolerated. In fact, studies show it can actually provide a powerful boost to skin health, encouraging our cells to repair, restore, and rejuvenate.

In a red light therapy session, users sit under an infrared light source to expose the body’s affected part to the healing rays. The type of red light used generally falls in the so-called therapeutic window between 650 and 850 nm. 

It’s worth mentioning that red light treatment goes by a variety of names. You may have also heard it referred to as:

  • Low-level light therapy (LLLT)
  • Photobiomodulation
  • Laser therapy

Whatever you prefer to call it, red light therapy is becoming a well-recognized medical tool for many common health issues (from insomnia to arthritis). And yet, as we’ve mentioned, one key area where it’s really proving its worth is in the treatment of skin. 

Red light helps with various skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, eczema, stretch marks, and, yes, cellulite!

Does red light therapy really work on cellulite?

When you sit under an infrared lamp, there’s a lot more going on than you’d think. This unique therapy improves cellulite in several ways:

1. Red light therapy tones, smooths, and firms skin

Our skin relies on collagen, the building block protein of our connective tissue. Collagen is what keeps our skin supple and elastic, so it can bounce back from any damage and retain its soft feel and texture. When cellulite forms, it’s often a sign that we don’t have enough collagen. 

Red light stimulates collagen production, leading to an increase in intradermal collagen density. The result is firmer, thicker skin with less cellulite. 

2. Red light therapy helps with weight loss

While weight isn’t the only predictor of cellulite (plenty of slender women and men have it), obesity is one of the popular suspects when identifying a cause. Carrying around extra weight puts a strain on every part of the body, including the skin.

Red light can help target fat cells, shrinking the adipose tissue to make us leaner and more toned. In one study, participants noticed a reduction in their body fat and a better body shape, indicating that red light also helps tone and contour those areas most prone to cellulite by firming up the skin. 

3. Red light therapy improves circulation

Poor circulation may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to cellulite, but this common issue does play a role in cottage cheese skin.

Our circulation is vital to our survival. Blood rushes around our body, delivering oxygen and nutrition as it goes. Our skin needs a healthy supply of blood and nutrients to stay strong and elastic. 

Red light significantly improves skin blood flow, reducing your risk of developing cellulite, as well as encouraging existing orange peel skin to repair itself.

4. Red light therapy helps damaged skin cells regenerate

There’s plenty of evidence that blasting our skin with red light sends a powerful message to our cells… to repair and heal.

In one study involving over 100 volunteers, those exposed to infrared light reported improvements in skin complexion and feel and a reduction in visible lines and roughness. 

Why? Because the longer wavelength light penetrated the skin to stimulate the cells active in regeneration and repair – fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and immune cells. Switching these all-important cells ‘on’ encourages repair deep within the skin layers for lasting results.

How do I use red light on cellulite?

Whether you’re researching red light therapy to help beat cellulite before it develops or looking for an effective remedy after you’ve already noticed bumpy skin, the treatment is widely available and accessible for everyone.

You can drop into a salon or spa that offers the treatment (some people like to combine their red light therapy with a relaxing session in an infrared sauna) or seek a therapist who can give you targeted treatment on a specific area. You can also choose a portable LLLT device to use at home. 

LED lamps, wands, or handheld torches… there’s plenty to choose from so you can pick a product that matches your lifestyle and your budget. If you want to venture into something a bit more innovative, there are also many wearable technology options (such as an LED face mask) specifically created for skin issues.

How often should I use LLLT?

One study suggests using LLLT twice weekly for six weeks if using red light to firm skin, tone trouble zones, and lose weight.

That said, it’s always imperative to develop a treatment plan that specifically works for you. The best therapy is the one you’ll do consistently, so if two sessions a week don’t suit your schedule, aim for something more manageable.

Red light is gentle (and generally very low-risk), so there shouldn’t be much of a concern about overexposure. Just be sure to carefully follow the instructions if using a device, and consult with your primary caregiver if unsure whether the treatment is right for you.

In conclusion

Conventional skin rejuvenation treatments for cellulite, such as cosmetic surgery and other medical procedures, are generally time-consuming, expensive, and carry some degree of risk. There’s the trauma of surgery, which is often accompanied by pain, inflammation, and some serious recovery time. Or you might try creams or supplements…, but these are often unreliable, with a minimal noticeable difference or results.

By contrast, red light treatments are a tried and tested holistic alternative that can bring genuine results. Quick, non-invasive, and very convenient, infrared is a natural route to firmer, stronger, healthier skin. 

Best of all, you don’t have to rely on medications or medical interventions – by stimulating your own innate self-care mechanisms, you’re letting your body do what it does best… heal!

Catherine Morris is a freelance content writer and award-winning journalist. Originally from Northern Ireland, she's now based in Canada where she writes about health, wellness, travel, the environment and anything else that sparks her curiosity.


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