PEMF vs Red Light Therapy

The difference between PEMF and Red Light Therapy is that PEMF traverses the whole body, while Red Light Therapy only penetrates to a range under the skin.

This difference is because of where their forms of energy appear along the electromagnetic spectrum.

PEMF is a pulsing magnetic field, invisible to the eyes, and able to pass through the body, while Red Light Therapy is a range on the light spectrum and is therefore visible and only able to penetrate a short range under the skin.

Red Light Therapy Vs PEMF Quick Compare

The difference in forms of energy between PEMF and Red Light Therapy mean that they are both better suited to certain applications.

If we visualize the coverage of the two different therapies it’s easier to see where the most energy “medicine” would be delivered, and this may help you decide which is better for you.

PEMF therapy coverage range and red light therapy coverage range depicted left to right
PEMF and Red Light Therapy Coverage Representation including skin penetration depths of different light wavelengths

We drew the above graphic to make this visualization a little easier, on the left demonstrating that PEMF as an electromagnetic field can pass through the whole body, on the right the graphic representing the depth of skin penetration of different wavelengths of light including red light and near infrared light.

For example, if you’re looking for some benefits in bone health as PEMF has been shown to help, then Red Light Therapy may not be the choice as it does not penetrate far enough below the skin to help bones.

Similarly, Red Light Therapy focuses its energy on the surface of the skin, so it will be much more beneficial for the skin than PEMF therapy.

PEMF Main Points

  • Traverses the whole body in coverage because the magnetic field can pass through the body
  • Good for muscle recovery
  • Good for inflammation
  • Good for back pain
  • Helps cells function optimally by delivering them energy
  • Particularly beneficial for overall cellular health & at low frequencies for sleep aid

Red Light Therapy Main Points

  • Primarily covers the skin and just below the skin as most benefits coming from the visible light spectrum
  • Good for muscle recovery
  • Good for inflammation
  • Good for back pain
  • Helps cells function optimally by delivering them energy
  • Particularly beneficial to the skin and skin related ailments

Read more on the benefits of PEMF on our PEMF therapy page or even about my own PEMF mat on our PEMF mat benefits page.

Energy Spectrum Diagram

Here we have drawn on top of the electromagnetic spectrum diagram and the visible light spectrum chart to show the operating ranges of both PEMF and Red Light Therapy.

showing red light therapy and PEMF on the electromagnetic field spectrum
Electromagnetic Spectrum Image Credit: Nasa (we added Red Light Therapy & PEMF for visualization reference)

You can see that the visible light spectrum comprises only a small segment of the overall electromagnetic spectrum, and if we magnify that particular part of the chart we can see that range of the red light spectrum where Red Light Therapy operates.

Many Red Light Therapy devices offer more than one wavelength of red light, usually these are in the 620nm to 750nm (nanometer) range, and many will also have wavelengths between 750nm to 1200nm.

The 750nm to 1200nm wavelength range is actually considered “Near-Infrared Light” instead of “Red Light” and penetrates to deeper levels below the skin and is good for inflammation and blood flow. You can see that this range is just to the right of the visible light spectrum on the chart above.

PEMF on the other hand has a much lower frequency and longer wavelength and appears even beyond radio waves on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Best PEMF Mat vs Best Red Light Therapy Panel

Check out our page on the Best PEMF Mats or our page on the Best Red Light Therapy Devices to see the most popular devices compared in detail against one another.

Here let’s take a look at our top recommended PEMF mat compared against our top rated Red Light Therapy panel in one place.

Healthy Wave Multi-Wave PEMF Mat

The Healthy Wave Multi-Wave PEMF Mat is ranked best PEMF mat for 2023.

Price Range

$999 to $2,499 USD

PEMF Therapy

  • 2 Waveforms
  • Sine & Square
  • 30 Settings
  • 1 to 30 Hz
  • 10 Settings
  • 0.3 up to 3 Gauss
Pulse Duration
  • 3 Pulse Drop Off Rates

MitoRedLight Mito Adapt MAX

mitoadapt red light therapy panel
The MitoAdapt MAX panel is ranked best Red Light Therapy device for 2023.

Price Range

$549 to $6,999 USD

Red Light Therapy

Red Light Wavelengths
  • 630nm, 660nm
  • 810nm, 850nm
Factory Rating
  • 130mW/cm2 at 6 inches
  • 62,700 Joules in 10 minute session
EMF Strength
  • Negligible – 0.0 µT

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between PEMF and Red Light Therapy?

The main difference between PEMF and Red Light Therapy is that PEMF will traverse the whole body while Red Light Therapy will only cover the skin and to a range below the skin. This is because of their positions on the electromagnetic spectrum. Red Light Therapy has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength, appearing right on the border between visible light and infrared, while PEMF is a magnetic field with longer wavelength & lower frequency and appears just past the radio wave range on the spectrum. Both are considered forms of “energy” medicine.

Is PEMF therapy better than Red Light Therapy?

PEMF therapy may be better than Red Light Therapy for certain applications, for example PEMF has shown to be beneficial for bone healing, whereas there are countless studies showing the benefits of Red Light Therapy for the skin. The available research on both PEMF and Red Light Therapy indicates that they both have applications that they are particularly best suited to, for example bone health for PEMF or skin health for Red Light Therapy, among many others.

Should I pick PEMF or Red Light Therapy?

You should pick Red Light Therapy if you are looking specifically for benefits for the skin, and you should pick PEMF if you’re looking for overall well being or a sleep aid. If you’re looking for overall inflammation and body recovery, PEMF may be a better choice, though if you’re looking to target a certain muscle group for recovery Red Light Therapy may be a great choice for this also. Both therapies can be beneficial and they do have certain applications that they are each particularly well suited to, it depends on what you want the therapy for.

Which is more affordable, PEMF or Red Light Therapy?

As a general rule, Red Light Therapy is more affordable than PEMF, however you can buy PEMF mats for less than a Red Light Therapy panel and vice versa. It really depends on the model, brand, and features. If you are looking for a full body therapy application you’ll need a full size PEMF mat, or a couple full size Red Light Therapy panels, at this size you’re actually looking at relatively the same cost for a PEMF mat as for the Red Light Therapy set up, unless you’re looking at the most advanced PEMF features or a brand like the Bemer mat.

Thank you for reading! I really hope this page helped answer your questions!

If it did, please share it with friends or family who may also be interested!

Next check out the full review of our number one rated PEMF mat, and after that our comparison of the top red light therapy brands!

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See our Best Rated PEMF Mat!

Check out our review on the Healthy Wave Multi-Wave Mat to see why we say it’s the Best PEMF Mat!

And find out how you can use the Multi-Wave mat to almost exactly replicate the Nasa PEMF waveform!