Does Red Light Therapy Tan You?

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Red light therapy has been gaining popularity for several years due to the many benefits it offers. Many beauty devices now use red light technology (e.g. the TrophySkin Rejuvalite or the Beauty Angel RVT30) to improve the appearance of the skin. Additionally, there are also some who turn to red light therapy to help their body heal.

With all these benefits of blasting skin with light, the obvious connection is to tanning beds.

Does red light therapy tan you?

No, red light therapy doesn’t tan you, even if it uses light energy — unless it is from a specialized hybrid red light tanning bed. 

In this article, we will explain why red light therapy cannot tan you and what it is that makes you tan with light exposure. Plus we’ll also discuss what red light therapy does to the body. 


Does Red Light Therapy Tan You?

Trophyskin RejuvaLite

If you are looking into red light therapy from a light therapy mask or other light therapy device to get that gorgeous bronzed goddess skin, you may be disappointed to know that it doesn’t make you tan.

However, that is also great news.

This is because it means that your skin is not getting damaged by UV light from a tanning bed. As we all know, tanning beds can be harmful compared to other tanning methods

Some of you might have heard about “red light tanning”, which is why you could be curious as to how it tans the skin. The truth is, it doesn’t really tan the skin (unless it’s in a hybrid bed, which we’ll discuss below).

That term simply means basking under the red light

Different Wavelengths

Do not confuse red light therapy with UV tanning beds. In some cases, the machines may look similar, and you may go to a tanning salon and see a red light therapy machine right next to a tanning bed

But they are completely different and made for different purposes. In fact, they use light from different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Here’s an image of the electromagnetic spectrum from Wikipedia.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Red light therapy uses a select wavelength of light at about 660nm while UV light is at about 100-400nm. UV light is only used for tanning and results in skin damage, while red light is used for its therapeutic effects and results in skin restoration. 

The spectrum used in light therapy is on the opposite side of the visual spectrum from ultraviolet light. You won’t get a tan from red light therapy.

The spectrum used in light therapy is on the opposite side of the visual spectrum from ultraviolet light. You won’t get a tan from red light therapy.


How Does UV Light Make You Tan?

Tanning beds and UV lamps use bulbs that produce UV light to give you that gorgeous tan skin. The sun produces UVA, UVB, and UVC light. With UVA light, the melanin that’s already present in the skin is oxidized, which causes a darkening of the skin.

Additionally, UVB light affects the melanocytes. The melanocytes are responsible for producing melanin, which gives the skin color.

With the presence of UVB, the melanocytes are triggered to produce more melanin (as well as the production of vitamin d, Nitrous Oxide, and other things). 

Of course, this can lead to skin cancer, which is an obvious concern. But remember there are benefits to tanning as well, which shouldn’t be ignored.


What Does Red Light Therapy Do?

Pulsaderm Red Light Therapy

Many consider red light therapy (such as the Pulsaderm device we reviewed here) as a treatment procedure. These red light treatments may be done at a spa or salon, or at home.

Unlike UV lights that are used only for cosmetic reasons, many use red light therapy not only for cosmetic needs such as spider veins, acne, and wrinkles but also for healing treatments and skin rejuvenation. See our article on the benefits of light therapy for more details.

This is because of red light’s capability of penetrating deep within the muscles and not just the skin. 

When cells are exposed to red light therapy, whether it is skin cells, cells in the muscles, or any other cells in the body, the mitochondria are affected. The mitochondria become more energized at a cellular level because of exposure to these near-infrared wavelengths, a process known as photobiomodulation.

Many believe (and some research shows) that with energized mitochondria, the cells can better repair themselves. This would also reflect in the healing of the skin and muscle tissue,

This is one of the reasons the Planet Fitness Total Body Enhancement Devices are so popular. 


Red Light Therapy Applications

Improve The Skin 

Tria Anti Aging Laser

People usually use red light therapy to slow down the process of aging on their skin. There are now many light therapy devices like the Tria Age-Defying Laser that you can use at home for anti-aging purposes.

These devices can boost the cellular production of collagen and elastin to make the skin more elastic. It also helps increase blood circulation so that cells are properly nourished and stimulated. 

It is used to help smooth the skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. They also use it to help with healing the skin that has already been damaged like those that have burns, acne scars, stretch marks, wounds, uneven texture, or sun damage. 

Small at-home panels can be used to target specific areas of the body like the face, while large bed or booth-style machines can bathe the whole body in red light.

Reduces Pain

Laser Touch One

Additionally, red light therapy can also be used to help with pain management for certain conditions. Studies about using red light therapy for those who have musculoskeletal disorders were compiled. They show that it was able to reduce the pain that the patients felt. 

Similarly, there are also studies that show that red light therapy can help with the healing after a patient with facial bone defects has been treated. 

Devices like the handheld Laser Touch One pain-relief device (we reviewed here) are a new frontier in pain relief. With their ability to promote better blood circulation, the muscles and joints are better healed to help prevent prolonged pain. 

Anti-Inflammatory

Red light therapy can also help the body due to its anti-inflammatory properties. There isn’t an exact explanation as to how it does that but some believe that it could greatly help with various chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes, rosacea, arthritis, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others. 

Of course, this is all pretty speculative, and you should consult with your doctor if you want to try red light therapy to treat these issues.

Hair Growth

HairMax Light Therapy Device

There is also a study that talks about the improvement of the hair density of people with alopecia. Some people believe that this is possible because of red light therapy’s ability to increase blood circulation. That may be enough to help the hair follicles grow hair.

Nowadays, there are laser hair caps and laser combs that also use red light therapy for this purpose. 

HairMax and iGrow are two popular devices in this space.


What is a Hybrid Tanning Bed?

A hybrid tanning bed combines both UV bulbs from a traditional tanning bed with red light therapy bulbs from a light therapy device. This is the only type of red light device that will make you tan — because it’s not just a red light device!

The idea behind a hybrid tanning bed is to use the red light bulbs to mitigate some of the damage commonly caused by UV tanning beds, such as wrinkles and premature aging. Ultimately, the hybrid bed will produce a better tan.

Red light bulbs will not lower the risk of cancer, so these devices are still unsafe. But if you’re willing to take the risk to get a tan (and we all take risks all the time, even if we don’t think about them as risks), a hybrid bed may be worth trying.

See this article on how to incorporate red light therapy into a tanning schedule.


Final Thoughts

Does red light tan you?

No, red light therapy doesn’t tan you. It can’t make your skin look darker because it doesn’t use UV lights. 

Red light therapy is an innovative technology that uses light energy for skincare and wellness purposes. People may assume that it makes you tan because it uses light energy and the devices look like tanning products.

Red light therapy only uses light at the infrared or near-infrared wavelength. It has an effect on the mitochondria of the cells. With energized mitochondria, the cells can better function and heal themselves.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).