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After hearing about its amazing benefits, I set out to shed some light on this wellness fad to see if it's worth the hype.
I’ll admit it—I’m a total sucker when it comes to the latest beauty and wellness trends. From the trendy magnesium supplements in my cupboard to the liquid chlorophyll that TikTok made me buy, I can’t resist a shiny new life hack. So, when red-light therapy (RLT) started taking over my social media feeds, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. It was wellness’ newest “it” girl with (allegedly) zero side effects and too-good-to-be-true benefits that did everything save resurrect you from the dead—so of course my head was fully turned.
Seemingly overnight, beaming red cyborg influencers in LED face masks began haunting my algorithm (and my dreams) with glowing promises of wrinkle reduction, scar diminishment and even hair growth. In my own life, my mother was using red-light therapy as a doctor-prescribed treatment for an unknown skin rash. (It didn’t really help her, but in all fairness, my skeptical mother only tried it a few times.) In other words, I was noticing it everywhere. And I needed answers. I had to find a way to separate fact from fiction. Enter the Orion Pro 300 (2.0) Red Light Therapy Panel ($699).
I was lucky enough (the kind of luck that stems from writing for a magazine) to get to try red-light therapy for myself. And so I set out on a three-month journey to find out first-hand what this wellness craze was all about—and to transform my studio apartment into a glowing haunted house while I was at it.
Orion was responsible for making my RLT dreams a reality. The Vancouver-designed product hit the market in 2020, courtesy of co-founders Clarence Dinh Quang Le and Matthew Liao. The duo is attempting to bring the benefits of red-light therapy to Vancouverites all year round—or at least bring them to those who have at least $449 to spare, because that’s how much the cheapest one will cost you (the most expensive Orion Pro 1800 2.0 will set you back $2879… that’s some pretty expensive sunshine).
When I spoke with co-founder and CEO Le, his initial experience of RLT came from his days as a strength and conditioning coach for Canadian Olympic athletes. “I learned that teams in the NFL, MLB, UFC, NBA and other major professional sports organizations were using red light therapy with their athletes,” he says. While he saw an edge for athletes, he also saw how this technology could help us regular non-sport folks… and when COVID came along and put his coaching career on pause, he saw an opportunity to start Orion and make RLT a little more accessible to the general population, too.
To get the most out of it, he suggests you use it every day, preferably in the morning, for about 15 to 30 minutes, exposing your skin to it, the closer the better. He uses it for everything from healing a lingering lower back injury to treating Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms and boosting his mood.
Among many of the claimed health benefits, red light is known to increase collagen and energy production; it also allegedly improves sleep. The accompanying near-infrared light (which uses a longer wavelength to reach deeper tissues) is lauded for improving muscle recovery, joint pain, inflammation, mental acuity and thyroid function. Orion’s website talks about these benefits and includes 67 references to scientific studies to support these claims—giving me flashbacks to my essay-writing days in university.
When the Orion Pro 300 (2.0) appeared at my door, I felt like a kid on wellness Christmas morning… Nowëll? It was bigger and cooler-looking than I expected, and it emitted a red- and near-infrared light that shot out an ember-red stream of light that might be visible from space. Time to put it to the test!
Easy to set up and use (just plug and sit), it’s a device anyone can use (even my skeptical mother). Sitting in front of the panel for 20 minutes became my sacred “me-time.” It was a way to make myself sit still for long enough to meditate. When pointed at my face, I would take that time to just think about my day and things going on in my life. The warm, soothing light left me in a better mood, with slightly reddish and invigorated skin. Okay, so not a total face transformation, but maybe a subtle glow-up (the kind of glow-up where nobody comments or even notices) and slightly more radiant skin.
To be fair, Le had warned me that unless I was experiencing some notable skin or physical condition I wouldn’t really experience any visibly dramatic transformations. But perhaps the benefits of this device are more than skin deep? I definitely found it to be a form of self-care, the kind that makes you feel like a Zenned out iguana under a heat lamp. I also tried it after exercise and it did seem to help with sore muscles… and it absolutely enhanced my Yoga with Adriene sessions.
Another unexpected perk? My mood got a boost. It did seem to make me feel better, like sunbathing on the beach but without having to wear a swimsuit in public and being exposed to harmful UV rays (as a redhead, huge win). It also helped improve my sleep (or maybe it was just the relaxation—either way, it knocked me out.)
Pros: Easy to use, quality “me-time,” great with yoga and exercise and some sleep benefits.
Cons: You need consistency for noticeable effects. Very pricey.
To sum it up, the Orion Pro 300 (2.0) brought positive vibes to my life. It wasn’t a miracle worker, but it provided a rejuvenating self-care routine. But like any wellness practice, dedication is key.
Now let’s address the expensive elephant in the room: Orion RLT panels will dent your wallet. We’re talking big bucks for a slight glow-up and a mood lift. For a less-expensive option, Mother Nature reigns supreme—the sun is the ultimate healer. But those UV rays can be a nightmare (especially for a redhead like me). So having an indoor light-therapy option to complement sun exposure isn’t a bad call.
Red-light therapy: Is it worth the hype? Probably not. But do I still recommend it? Sure thing! If you’re willing to splurge for a cozy, self-care moment, go ahead. I just wish this fancy tech was more affordable—and maybe it will be one day . I’ll be waiting (slathered in SPF 90) in a sunbeam until that time comes.