Can using red light therapy on your hands really help reverse the signs of ageing? The pros explain

Experts reveal whether red light therapy for hands is *actually* an effective treatment…

A close up of a woman rubbing hand cream into her hands/ in a purple-pink template
(Image credit: Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial)

If you’re up to date with the latest in beauty tech, chances are you’re familiar with red light therapy - but how about red light therapy for hands? 

Until recently, the best red light therapy devices have been targeted towards the face but now, there are several at-home gadgets available, specifically designed to treat the body and hands - the latter of which concerns us today. "The hands can be one of the first skin areas to show signs of ageing, " explains Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and medical director of Eudelo Dermatology & Skin Wellbeing.

There are several contributing reasons for this; "Firstly, the skin on the back of the hands is thinner than that on the face, which makes it more susceptible to ageing. There’s also very little fat on the backs of the hands, so any decline in collagen and skin elasticity will become noticeable quicker on the hands. In addition, the skin on the hands has less oil glands, so tends to be drier," she notes. Our hands are also exposed to more ageing UV and infrared light from the sun than other skin areas and, as a result, can be prone to hyperpigmentation (or sun spots).

So, how can we give them a helping hand and ward off signs of ageing? As well as applying SPF and hand cream, advocates of red light therapy say it can also work wonders on the body and hands. Thus, we've asked the experts if they agree - and if LED devices are really that efficacious.

Can you use red light therapy for your hands?

If you're new to the buzzwordy LED treatment, allow us first to breakdown exactly what red light therapy is and how it can benefit your skin...

What is red light therapy, exactly?

First developed by NASA, LED (which stands for Light Emitting Diode) Light Therapy uses colour light in a spectrum of wavelengths via tiny LED bulbs to treat various skin concerns.

Different coloured lights have different benefits. While blue light kills the bacteria that causes acne, "red light is anti-inflammatory and has also been reported to help stimulate collagen production and new tissue growth," says Williams. Some devices, specifically those used in-clinic, emit a combination of visible red light and near-infrared light with slightly longer (and stronger) wavelengths.

Does red light therapy work for wrinkles?

"Red light is a useful wavelength for stimulating collagen production, leading to improvement in lines and wrinkles," says Dr. Sophie Shotter, award-winning aesthetic doctor and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic in Kent. For this reason, it may be beneficial for the skin on the hands that’s prone to premature ageing. "However, apart from the Dermalux Flex, I am yet to see a home-use device which emits the power necessary to achieve real results," says Shotter, adding that in-clinic devices are far more powerful. 

According to Williams, there are much more effective options for treating ageing hands than red LED light. "Don’t get me wrong, I do like LED light for other benefits, e.g., a defined course of red LED for anti-inflammatory benefits after in-clinic treatments, or anti-bacterial benefits of blue LED light for acne breakouts. I am just not a fan of ongoing LED light for anti-ageing purposes," she tells us. 

Why, I hear you ask? "We don’t know enough about the long-term effects of LED light when used continuously. In fact, we do already know that ultraviolet light as well as infrared light will prematurely age the skin (plus we also know that visible light is contributing to irregular pigmentation and oxidative stress), so it’s not too far-fetched to question whether continuous use of LED light treatment may age the skin over time," flags Williams.

Does red light work for arthritis?

Anti-ageing aside, can red light therapy help with pain, inflammation, and common hand conditions like arthritis? "There is some evidence to suggest that red light therapy may be helpful for those suffering from joint conditions,” assures Shotter.

“The therapy works by penetrating deep into the skin, where it can help reduce inflammation, increase blood circulation, and stimulate cellular repair, leading to relief from discomfort and improved joint mobility," explains Dr Jinah Yoo, consultant dermatologist at Maylin x Dr Yoo Dermatology.

Can you overdo red light therapy?

According to Williams, yes you can. "There is definitely a sweet spot when it comes to red light therapy; while less may be ineffective, more might damage the skin. Think about infrared light. We know that the powerful infrared heat emitted from the sun contributes to skin damage and premature ageing. Yet a very well calibrated, small dose of red LED and infrared light has been proven to bio-stimulate skin and support its regeneration and rejuvenation (Barolet et al. 2016)," she says. 

If you have a red LED device at home, Shotter recommends following the manufacturer’s instructions (as they can vary depending on the device). "A device like the Dermalux Flex is used twice per week, half an hour per session, for effective results. Results are usually visible after a few weeks of consistent use."

Any other treatments that are beneficial for the hands?

"Firstly, we must start to treat the hands as diligently as we do our face with preventative anti-ageing products," says Williams. This includes topical antioxidants, SPF 30-50 and collagen-stimulating retinoids.

"In addition, in-clinic treatments can do wonders to how old our hands look. Regenerative treatments such as Exokine Needling can help boost collagen and elastin, while laser or IPL treatment can reduce irregular pigmentation. I also recommend hyaluronic acid-containing skin boosters, not only to hydrate the skin from the inside but also to give them their youthful plumpness back," advises Williams.

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Emma Stoddart

Emma Stoddart is a freelance beauty journalist and self-confessed skincare aficionado with over five years’ industry experience. Emma has worked for some of the UK’s top women’s titles including Net-A-Porter, Stylist and Grazia. Her experience spans online and print as well as producing editorial shoots with some of the industry’s biggest artists, including Val Garland. Asides from working with them behind the scenes, she’s also had the chance to interview the likes of Patrick Ta, Pat McGrath, and Sam McKnight for all their insider tips and tricks.