Red Light Therapy for Cellulite: The Safe and Natural Way to Bust Those Pesky Bumps

Let’s talk cellulite. Chances are, if you’re a woman, you have it to some degree, somewhere on your body. And you’re not alone. A whopping 80-90% of women over the age of 25 have cellulite, compared to 10% of men. It appears that cellulite is simply a natural part of the female body’s design rather than an aberration. This fact brings little comfort to the *literal* billions of women on the planet with cellulite, however. While it’s completely harmless physically, it can cause issues with body confidence and self-image. 


You might think that accepting cellulite as natural and inevitable means that you’re stuck with it forever. While we may never be able to eliminate dimpled skin completely, it is possible to reduce it as well improve your skin’s appearance. One way to do that is with red light therapy. But before we get into the benefits of red light therapy for cellulite, let’s first answer the question: what exactly is cellulite, and why do most women have it?

What Is Cellulite?

We probably don’t have to tell you what cellulite looks like, but we will anyway. It’s the bumpy, dimpled skin that most often appears on hips, thighs, and buttocks, and again, most often on women. You might also find it on your breasts, belly, and upper arms. 


What it is from a biological standpoint is, to quote a recent journal article on gender differences and cellulite, “an imbalance between containment and extrusion forces at the subdermal junction”. Let’s take a look at what this means.


Connective tissue is a network of cells, proteins, and fibers that provide structure and support to the body’s various organs. Among the many types of cells found here is adipose tissue, which is composed of fat cells. Fat cells group together to form conglomerates called lobules that are separated by thin walls called septae. Septae are fibrous bands made up of collagen and blood vessels. When these septae have irregular tension or begin to break down, fat lobules can squeeze through, creating the dimpled effect you see on your skin. But why do almost all women have it while the vast majority of men do not? 


The answer to this lies in the structure of your body’s connective tissue. Not only do men have more collagen density than women, the structure of their collagen fibers is markedly different. First, they have higher collagen density in general. Second, the septae separating their fat lobules is structured in a criss-cross pattern. Women’s septae, on the other hand, are longer and arranged in a more vertical pattern. We’ve seen the metaphor of a picket fence compared to a chain-link fence used to describe the difference. However, we believe the structure in women to be more like if you used the same wire as for the chain-link fence, but affixed it in vertical strips instead. You can see how it would be way less effective. 


It’s also believed that larger fat lobules are associated with cellulite. Guess which gender has larger fat lobules? You got it! Women also have thinner skin than men, meaning that when they do have cellulite, it’s much more visible. 


So, if we go back to the quote above, they’re essentially saying that the larger fat lobules found in women exert more pressure on the septae. The septae, in turn, are weaker and thus less adept at containing the fat lobules trying to push through. 


There are several other factors that determine whether a person has cellulite, and to what degree. Some of these include: 


  • Genetics: unfortunately, some people are genetically more predisposed to cellulite than others;
  • Weight gain: Excess weight is one of the key factors influencing the appearance of cellulite, although it’s not exclusive to those who are overweight. Even the skinniest of us can have cellulite;
  • Inactive lifestyle; the more active you are, the more muscle you might have, as opposed to fat. Plus, exercise gets your circulatory and lymphatic systems moving, which can help reduce cellulite. 
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women often see an increase in cellulite. This is likely due to an increase in estrogen, as well as extra weight gained during pregnancy;
  • Hormones: this is linked to the male-female differences. Androgens such as testosterone, for instance, are responsible for thicker skin in men. Estrogen, for its part, is believed to be an important factor in the development of cellulite. Also thought to contribute are insulin, adrenaline, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin;
  • Insufficient circulatory system: poor blood flow can lead to decreased collagen production, weakening the fibrous tissue tasked with maintaining the structural integrity of the skin;
  • Insufficient lymphatic system: lymphatic fluids leak out of your blood vessels and travel through your lymphatic system, picking up toxins and other unwanted materials along the way. It passes through the lymph nodes, where it is filtered and returned to the system to cycle once again through the body. If your lymphatic system is working suboptimally, lymph can collect in fat cells, causing them to swell and herniate; 
  • Age: Collagen production decreases as we age. This results in thinner skin which makes cellulite more visible. It also weakens the structure of connective tissue, allowing fat to more easily herniate.

What Are the Current Options Besides Red Light Therapy For Treating Cellulite?

There are a few options for treating cellulite that exist today, with varying results. We’ve compiled a list of the more popular treatments and their pros and cons.


    • Healthy diet and exercise: While not necessarily a treatment, maintaining an active lifestyle and eating nutrient-rich foods can help reduce cellulite. Pros: There are endless advantages to healthy living. Cons: It requires time, discipline, and motivation. 
  • Retinol creams: Retinol-based creams can help thicken skin by stimulating collagen production. Pros: They’re harmless and non-invasive. Cons: The effect is temporary, and continued use can be quite expensive.
      • Coffee scrubs: These are said to help reduce cellulite by dilating blood vessels to improve blood flow, and by dehydrating swollen fat cells. Pros: They can be made at home inexpensively, and exfoliation can result in nicer-looking skin. Cons: There is conflicting evidence as to whether caffeine treatments are actually effective for cellulite (so it may not be worth messing up your bathroom!)
  • Massage: Massaging problem areas is thought to help reduce cellulite by improving lymphatic drainage, causing swollen fat cells to shrink, and by stimulating blood flow, temporarily plumping the skin. Pros: It’s non-invasive and generally harmless (and feels oh-so-good!). Cons: You need a lot of pressure to see results, requiring professional massage therapy or a specialized massage tool. Plus, the effects are temporary, so treatment must be repeated almost daily. 
  • Pressotherapy: This involves a sort of high-pressure massage suit. Think of the blood pressure machine at your local drugstore, but alllll over. It’s used to improve circulation and lymphatic drainage, which are known to help reduce cellulite. Pros: Improved circulation and lymphatic drainage can help with a host of issues. Cons: Like all cellulite treatments, the effects are temporary, so treatment must be continually repeated. And with a price tag of $50-$150 per treatment, it can put quite the dent in your bank account!
  • Ablative laser or subcision procedures: Here, a laser or microblade is inserted under the skin, where it fans out, destroying the septae responsible for cellulite. Pros: Effects can last anywhere from six months to three years. Cons: The average cost per treatment is a whopping $4,000.
  • Liposuction: The idea here is that by removing fat altogether, you take the pesky cellulite with it. However, it is generally not recommended for cellulite, and can actually worsen its appearance. It also can leave you with an uneven body contour, along with a host of other complications. We’d say lipo is one big Con for cellulite. 
  • What Are The Benefits of Red Light Therapy For Cellulite?

    By now you might be thinking that red light therapy is just another of the hundreds of options purported to treat cellulite, ripe for the junk pile. However, there are thousands upon thousands of peer-reviewed clinical studies that show red light therapy to be effective in treating a variety of issues, including cellulite. The difference between it and other treatments is that red light therapy targets the body at the cellular level. It allows you to unlock the power of your own body to heal, treat, and improve various physical ailments and issues. 


    In other words, red light therapy is not a specific cellulite treatment per se. It improves the functioning of the entire irradiated area at the cellular level, and reduced cellulite is but one of the welcome results. 


    But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Before we go on, let’s take a short dive into how red light therapy works and the science behind it. 

    How does red light therapy work exactly?

    Red light therapy, also called photobiomodulation or low-level light therapy, uses light-emitting diodes (LED) to safely irradiate the skin with red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths of light. Of all the lights on the spectrum, red and NIR wavelengths penetrate the deepest, all the way to the mitochondria of the cell. 


    Say it with us: the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell. It’s where energy is produced in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, to be then distributed to your various organs and tissues, allowing them to perform their duties effectively. Like any manufacturing machine, your mitochondria often begin to function suboptimally, resulting in less energy being produced and distributed. This in turn results in the suboptimal functioning of your body’s organs and tissues, leading to a host of issues and ailments.


    Red and NIR light works by creating a biochemical reaction within the mitochondrion, allowing it to use oxygen more efficiently to synthesize ATP. Everyone knows the feeling of staring at a sluggish, lagging laptop, willing it to move faster and do what it’s supposed to do. Red light therapy is kind of like upgrading your hard drive or RAM. It enables your body to perform the tasks it is meant to perform much more efficiently. But how does that apply to cellulite, especially if it’s a natural occurrence in women? Let’s take a look.

    How does red light therapy help reduce cellulite?

    There is an ever-evolving body of evidence to support the effectiveness of red light therapy for reducing cellulite. Some studies found it to be effective as a standalone treatment [1], while others found it to boost the effectiveness of other cellulite treatments such as gels, vacuum, and massage. [2] [3] 


    Red light therapy treatment doesn’t just target the appearance of cellulite. It’s the mechanisms behind the formation of cellulite that can be slowed or reversed. Here are some of the ways red light therapy uses your body’s own potential to help nip cellulite in the butt (we know it’s “bud”, not “butt”, it’s just a little cellulite humor, don’t @ us!)

    Red light therapy increases collagen production

    Hundreds of studies have demonstrated red light therapy’s ability to boost collagen biosynthesis  dating all the way back to the 1980s. [4] [5] [6] Remember that the septae, those fibrous bands that separate fat lobules, are made up of collagen and blood vessels. When collagen production begins to wane, these septae lose their elasticity, creating spaces through which fat can push, causing cellulite. Allowing your cells to more efficiently produce collagen helps maintain a stronger barrier against swollen fat lobules, resulting in smoother skin. 

    Red light therapy improves blood flow

    It is generally accepted in the scientific community that red light therapy can improve circulation. [7] [8] [9]. It appears to do so by triggering the relaxation of smooth muscles in the endothelium (the inner lining of the blood vessels). 

    As it travels through the body, blood brings with it oxygen and nutrients, which are crucial to the production of collagen. It also works in conjunction with your body’s lymphatic system to help eliminate waste, toxins, and other unwanted materials. 

    Red light therapy boosts your lymphatic system

    The lymphatic system is similar to the circulatory system in structure. One important distinction however is that while blood is forcibly pumped through the body by the heart, the lymphatic system has no such pump and must rely on movement to shuttle the lymph around. As we’ve seen, one of the causes of cellulite can be an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the fat cells, causing them to swell and bulge through the septae. 


    Research suggests that red light therapy can help aid in the functioning of the lymphatic system, allowing excess fluid to drain out of the fat cells and complete its journey to the lymph nodes and back into the bloodstream. [10] [11]

    Red light therapy boosts the effects of exercise and weight loss

    It is clear that one of the best ways to effectively keep cellulite under control is to maintain a healthy weight. [12] There exists a growing body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of red light therapy on weight loss, fat loss, and muscle gain. For a more detailed review of how red light therapy is helping people achieve their weight loss and fitness goals, check out our articles on weight loss, obesity, and fitness.

    Red light therapy can improve sleep

    This is an indirect but wholly welcome way that red light therapy can help reduce cellulite. There is mounting evidence to suggest that consistent use of red light therapy can have the benefit of improved sleep. It appears to do so by increasing melatonin production, the hormone that makes us sleepy. It also shows promise in its ability to potentially treat sleep apnea.[13] [14] [15]


    Research shows that sleep is an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight. It is well known that poor sleep is associated with weight gain, obesity, and poor performance. It appears poor sleep creates an imbalance in the hormones that regulate feelings of hunger and fullness, leading to overeating. A preference for foods high in fat and carbs is also observed in those lacking sleep. [16] And we’ve all had the experience of skipping the gym because we’re tired.


    Earlier, we mentioned that red light therapy is not a Cellulite Buster 3000 ™, but rather a full-body therapeutic treatment with an interminable list of benefits, one of which is, of course, reducing cellulite. Now that we’ve gone over the science and mechanisms behind irradiation with red and NIR light, it’s easier to understand why. 


    In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of red light therapy, and the thing that really gets people hooked on the treatment, is that many people purchase a device or visit a spa or clinic to treat a specific issue or ailment, only to find unexpected improvements in other areas. Better sleep is a common side effect of treatment, as is improved skin, healthier hair, and a feeling of mental clarity. Depending on where you apply it on your body, you can experience numerous positive benefits. 

    What Are Some Other Benefits of Red Light Therapy? 

    • Skin rejuvenation, wound, and scar healing;
    • Muscle growth, performance, and recovery;
    • Weight loss;
    • Hair growth;
    • Cognitive health;
    • Immune health;
    • Hormones and sex drive;
    • Pain and inflammation;
    • Mental health and depression;
    • Sleep disturbances;
    • Eye health;
    • Oral and dental health.

    Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

    Absolutely. In fact, all of the cumulative research on red light therapy indicates that there are no major risks or side effects associated with the treatment. In fact, in order to reap the full benefits of red light therapy, it’s recommended to apply it on a daily basis. Here’s where the really good news comes in. Now you can use red light therapy daily without breaking the bank, right in your own home. 

    Why You Should Opt For A Red Light Therapy Device

    Let us reiterate why red light therapy is one of the best options on the market for treating cellulite - in case you weren’t already convinced.


    • It has been clinically shown to reduce cellulite;
    • It has numerous other benefits that all stem from spending a few short minutes a day basking in warm, relaxing red light;
    • Clinic or spa treatments can be costly, especially given that with red light therapy, consistency is key. With a personal red light therapy device, you get your money’s worth in spades.

    With Rouge Red Light Therapy, You’re Getting More Power and More Choice

    Rouge devices come in a variety of price points and sizes. You can opt for the full-body royal treatment with our larger models, or you can keep up treatment when you’re travelling or stuck at the office with our smaller, portable devices (for treating cellulite, we’d recommend an office door that locks, however, to avoid any cheeky surprises).


    This just in: Not only are Rouge Red Light Therapy panels among the most affordable and compact out there, recent third party testing has shown Rouge red light therapy panels to be more powerful and more effective than the other leading brands on the market. Check out the lab’s findings here.


    While we agree that cellulite is a natural occurrence in most women, it doesn’t mean we can’t effectively fight it, or that it’s unnatural to do so. We have a right to try to look and feel our best, and red light therapy is a wonderful way to do so safely and naturally. 


    Shop our family of Rouge Red Light Therapy panels today!

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