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Red Light Therapy: Finding the Ideal Distance from Your Skin

Learn about the importance of the distance between red light therapy devices and your skin for optimal results. Explore tips to ensure you're getting the most out of red light sessions.

RedlightTherapyDigest Staff By RLTD Staff Updated February 27, 2024
Medically reviewed Medically reviewed by: Brendan Camp, MD
Advertising Disclosure: Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; we may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. You can learn more about our review process here.

As we continually seek to understand the complexities of our skin, one intriguing topic that often surfaces is red light therapy. Pause for a moment; let’s look into a particular facet of this therapy: the optimal distance between the skin and the light source.

In red light therapy, distance matters. Too close, and you risk overexposure. If it is too far, the treatment may not be as effective. But how can we strike the perfect balance? This article answers this intricate equation, guiding you through the science-backed data and expert insights.

Red Light Therapy – Why Is Distance Important?

The effectiveness of red light therapy revolves around light intensity. The inverse square law explains this concept – as the distance from the light source increases, the intensity diminishes[1]. This scientific principle highlights why positioning yourself correctly during therapy sessions is vital.

High-powered LED panels, the latest generation in red light therapy, are often recommended to be used from a minimum distance of 18 to 24 inches. This guideline ensures the skin receives an optimal level of light without overexposure.

However, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Different products suggest varying distances, with three inches often deemed suitable. Some experts even suggest a range between 6 to 36 inches, depending on whether you’re targeting surface skin or deeper tissue.

Light’s behavior also plays a role. As it radiates outward, its angle widens, and less reaches the target area. Hence, being too far from the light source could result in a loss of photon energy, potentially reducing the therapy’s effectiveness.

So, while the perfect distance may vary, understanding the principles behind it allows for informed decisions, so each therapy session is as beneficial as possible. It’s a delicate balance. But, with every session, you get the right power – the power to fully benefit from your red light therapy.

Determining the Optimal Distance for Your Device

The distance greatly influences the therapy’s effectiveness and safety. For instance, most panels require you to be at least 4 inches away to avoid excessive EMF exposure. This is an essential safety measure to remember during therapy sessions[5].

The once-standard 6 inches distance from red light therapy panels is now obsolete. The optimal distance primarily depends on the specific device and treatment goals[6].

While many believe closer distances benefit deep tissue treatments, the range between 6-36 inches is recommended for general use. However, these distances are not set in stone, as different products may suggest varying distances.

Some users have found that a distance of about 1.5 feet works well for them. Therefore, it’s essential to understand that personal comfort and individual responses to the therapy play a significant role in determining the optimal distance.

Finally, it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific device. These guidelines often provide a starting point, which you can then adjust based on your comfort and response to the treatment.

Safe to say, determining the optimal distance for your red light therapy device is a blend of the manufacturer’s guidelines, scientific principles, and personal experience. This way, you’ll be better equipped to maximize the benefits of your red light therapy sessions.

What Happens When You’re Too Close Or Too Far From Red Light Panels?

Being too close to red light panels can lead to excessive EMF exposure. This overexposure might result in discomfort or even potential health risks[2]. Please maintain a safe distance, typically at least 4 inches.

On the flip side, being too far from the panels may result in sub-optimal treatment. The inverse square law explains how light intensity diminishes with increased distance[1]. Consequently, the therapy’s effectiveness could decrease if you’re positioned too far away.

Different treatment goals also influence the optimal distance. For instance, surface skin treatments may require closer proximity, while deeper tissue treatments might benefit from a slightly farther distance.

Personal comfort and individual responses to the therapy are crucial factors too. Some users find a distance of about 1.5 feet comfortable, offering an effective treatment experience.

Tips for Using Red Light Therapy Devices Safely and Effectively

Maintain Optimal Distance

Positioning yourself at the correct distance from the device is crucial to ensure safety and effectiveness. Being too close can lead to excessive EMF exposure while, being too far could diminish the therapy’s benefits.

Adhere to Recommended Duration

Each therapy session needs to be timed accurately to avoid overexposure, which can potentially cause discomfort. Most manufacturers recommend a session duration of around 10-20 minutes. Don’t exceed this time limit unless advised by a healthcare professional.

How Often to Use Red Light Therapy

Determining the frequency of red light therapy sessions depends on various factors such as the specific condition being treated, individual response to treatment, and treatment goals. While some people may benefit from daily sessions, others may find it more effective to use red light therapy a few times a week. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or follow the recommendations provided by the device manufacturer to determine the optimal frequency for your needs.

Consistency is Key

Regular and consistent use of red light therapy yields better results than sporadic, intense sessions. Consistent exposure encourages an ongoing cellular response, promoting healing and rejuvenation over time.

Skin Exposure

For the red light to effectively penetrate the skin, the treatment area needs to be directly exposed to the light. Remove any clothing, makeup, or materials that may block or interfere with the light. This allows for optimal absorption of the light into the skin.

Care for Your Eyes

While red light therapy is generally safe and not harmful to the eyes, it’s advisable to wear protective goggles during facial treatments. The brightness of the light can be uncomfortable and potentially cause temporary vision spots[3].


Hydration plays a key role in the detoxification process, which is part of the healing response stimulated by red light therapy[4]. Drinking plenty of water before and after therapy sessions helps facilitate this process and enhances the overall effectiveness of the treatment.

Follow Manufacturer’s Guidelines

Each device comes with a specific set of guidelines provided by the manufacturer. These instructions give detailed information about the optimal distance, duration, and frequency of use for that particular model. Adhering to these guidelines will ensure you use the device safely and effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the ideal distance for red light therapy?

A: The perfect distance can vary, but generally, most devices are designed to be effective when positioned 6 to 12 inches away from your skin. This ensures the light can penetrate the skin effectively without causing discomfort or overexposure.

Does the distance vary among different devices?

A: Absolutely. Different devices have different power outputs and thus require different distances. Some companies might suggest keeping the device as close as 4 inches to your skin, while others may recommend a distance of 6 inches. High-powered LED panels might even require a minimum distance of 18 or 24 inches to ensure safety and prevent overexposure.

Is closer better for red light therapy?

A: Not always. While it might seem logical that being closer would increase the therapy’s effectiveness, this isn’t necessarily the case. Being too close can lead to excessive exposure, which can potentially cause discomfort and minimize the therapeutic benefits. Conversely, being too far from the device might diminish its effectiveness. It’s about finding a sweet spot that delivers maximum benefits while ensuring safety.

How can I determine the optimal distance for my device?

A: The best way to determine the optimal distance for your specific device is to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines. These instructions are tailored to the specific model you’re using and provide detailed information about the best practices for use.


In our little adventure, we’ve journeyed through the science of optimal distance in red light therapy, the consequences of being too close or far, and tips for safe and effective use. The key takeaway? Balance. Striking the right balance in distance from the device ensures maximum benefit while maintaining safety.

Consistency, timing, and hydration are crucial factors in optimizing the therapy. Remember, each person’s response can be unique, so listen to your body. Always refer back to your device’s guidelines to tailor your sessions effectively. Now, you can get the most out of your red light therapy. Harness this light, and let it guide you to enhanced wellness.

By Brendan Camp, MD

Brendan Camp, MD, is double board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology and sees patients at MDCS Dermatology.

**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available information and our estimation of efficacy.

*Result may vary. The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only. No medical claims are implied in this content, and the information herein is not intended be used for self diagnosis or self treatment of any condition.

Disclosure of Material connection: Some of the links in the post above are "associate sales links." This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, we will receive commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services which we use personally and/or believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials."

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