Better known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), red light therapy is a non-invasive procedure that can be performed in a doctor’s office.
It’s a popular form of body sculpting — a type of non-invasive procedure that claims to remove fat cells without surgery.
The procedure uses a low-irradiance laser that emits wavelengths of red, blue, and infrared light approximately 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) into your skin. It targets the layer of fat that sits just below the surface of your skin (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
Though the mechanism is unclear and controversial, one common theory is that LLLT temporarily breaks down part of the cell membrane. This allows stored fat cells to leach out, shrink, and be removed through your body’s natural waste removal process (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
When you attend a laser session, a trained professional, such as a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon, will place the laser on each treatment area for 10–40 minutes. Most clinics recommend at least six sessions to see results.
There’s no downtime, and you can resume your normal activities right after the session. That said, eating a healthy diet and exercising are strongly encouraged.
Red light therapy for weight loss is very controversial. Despite positive patient testimonies and impressive results from various studies, many researchers and healthcare professions are skeptical of its purported benefits.
To date, several studies have found that LLLT or red light therapy provides benefits.
A recent 6-week pilot study in 60 people found that LLLT treatments twice per week led to a modest 0.8-inch (2-cm) reduction in waist circumference.
Another randomized double-blind study in 67 people revealed that those who received 6 LLLT treatments for 2 weeks lost significantly more collective inches from their abdomen, hips, and thighs (3.5 inches or 8.9 cm)
Furthermore, a 2-week study in 86 people at a U.S. clinic observed a significant decrease in waist (1.1 inches or 2.8 cm), hip (0.8 inches or 2 cm), and thigh circumference (1.2 inches or 3 cm).
Finally, one study in 40 people compared the efficacy of LLLT treatment on the circumference of the upper arms with a placebo treatment.
After 2 weeks, the LLLT group experienced a significant decrease in upper arm circumference of 1.5 inches (3.7 cm).
If you’re looking to try red light therapy, it’s important to know about some of its downsides.
Most studies to date have been performed on individuals with a BMI of 25–30, so its effectiveness is unknown in populations outside of this BMI range.
Furthermore, most participants in the studies have been white, which calls its efficacy among other racial populations into question.
Most research points to a healthy lifestyle as the most effective way to lose weight. Healthy lifestyle tips include eating a nutritious diet of minimally processed foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress levels
To date, most studies show that red light therapy is safe, and none have reported significant side effects.
Always make sure to speak with a qualified professional before trying red light therapy.
Red light therapy — or low-level laser therapy (LLLT) — may produce modest fat and weight loss.
Despite this, outcomes appear to be modest at best.
If you want to try red light therapy, it’s best to visit a qualified healthcare provider, such as a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon, who can assess your health status and provide tailored recommendations.
Nevertheless, you do not need red light therapy to lose weight. Following a diet comprised of minimally processed foods and adopting a regular exercise regimen can help you achieve the calorie deficit that’s needed for weight loss.
Red light therapy is also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT). It’s a type of body sculpting that may help you get rid of stubborn fat.
Most research shows that red light therapy removes some fat from your waist and arms, but results are modest at best. Furthermore, it’s very costly, and it’s unknown how long the results will last.
If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s best to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly — two research-backed strategies to support healthy weight loss.
Nonetheless, if LLLT is something you want to try, be sure to speak with a qualified healthcare provider who can help you decide whether it’s right for you.