LED stands for Light Emitting Diode which was first developed by NASA who were looking into how light would influence the growth of plants and doctors decided it may be worth it to see if it would encourage dermal growth in hooman skin… and it certainly turned out to be worth it.
LED treatments are a form of Low-Level Light Therapy, otherwise known as LLLT. The interesting thing about the skin being an organ is that it encounters light so much more frequently than any other organ in the body YET it still responds incredibly well to specific wavelengths of light. The skin can absorb light and convert it into energy. This energy stimulates a higher rate of cell turnover and aids in lymphatic drainage. A higher cell turnover rate equals fresher looking skin and better general skin health and improved lymphatic drainage equals less puffiness and more radiancy… no more under-eye pillows, no more bloaty face, no more dullness or greyness.
Why is it that light can cause the skin to age but that it can also be used in such a positive manner to help diminish the signs of ageing? As explained by Dr. Simon Ravichandran, sunlight is made up of different wavelengths or colours of light but when they are separated out, the beneficial wavelengths can be used on the skin without damage being caused.
Although LED phototherapy targets the dermal layer of the skin, every layer of the skin will benefit so it is ideal for someone looking for a thorough skin rejuvenation.
There are three types of LEDs used in light-therapy facials and treatments: blue, red and near infrared. Each have their own specific benefits and like One Direction, they perform well solo but they’re also fab when they’re together!
Blue LED has been proven to successfully kill P. Acnes, AKA the acne-causing bacteria that lives on the skin. It also calms irritation and inflammation. According to one study, there was an average reduction in inflammatory acne being treated with alternating blue and red LED of a whopping 77.9% by the end of their 8-week study (but bear in mind they saw no difference in acne scarring in this study, so it is not a successful treatment for this).
Using blue light in acne treatment is effective due to the fact that it is not “hands on” per se and so can successfully treat skin that is reactive and has possibly been subjected to trauma for years through harsh exfoliation, microdermabrasion and strong peels, for example.
When red light is emitted onto the skin, it can stimulate the fibroblast cell, which is the type of cell that makes up the connective tissue in the skin and synthesises collagen. This means it could be a game changer for those looking to improve the tone and texture of their skin in terms of anti-ageing. The reason that it is paired with the blue light in acne treatment is because it goes that bit deeper into the skin than the blue light and can also kill bacteria. They are a superhero duo, with the blue light battling the baddies further up in the skin and the blue getting the ones hiding in the shadows. The red light ALSO brings down inflammation and swelling, shrinking them dastardly Fraaaanks.
Near Infrared Light
The near infrared light can be absorbed most deeply into the skin and can aid in the skin’s natural production of collagen, thus counteracting skin damage and the signs of ageing that the skin has already accumulated.
A visible spectrum of light
The Treatment Itself
I am most familiar with the Dermalux LED Phototherapy treatment, which involves lying under a sci-fi looking yoke that has row upon row of teeny-tiny LED lights that beam onto the skin. The feeling can be simply described as the warmth of lying on an island in the Caribbean in the Summer… blissful compared to some other treatments that claim to get similar results. There are different combinations of light types for the skin concerns you are dealing with and the therapist will know what will best target these.
If you are one that feels a tiny smidge claustrophobic or overwhelmed when they have a glowing arch of lights all around their head, do not fret: the treatment is twenty minutes long. The only mild annoyance is that the recommended course of treatment is 10 treatments, with 2 to 3 treatments per week. On the positive side, think about all that lovely time for you where you can sing Enya in your head… sail away, sail away, sail away.
Sometimes, LED phototherapy treatments like Dermalux are paired with peels and other treatments.
At-Home LED Masks
In a study on the effectiveness of at-home LED masks, it was found that over a 12-week period, inflammatory acne improved by 24.4% when used daily*. When you compare that to the study on LED light therapy performed in clinic, that is a whopping discrepancy in how effective it is. On top of this, they must be used daily for ten minutes. Is a 24.4% reduction in spots worth it for that much time? I guess that is up to the individual. What I can say is that an at-home mask can still have an effect and it is certainly a cost-effective method!
A Nerdie Recap On LED Phototherapy
- It is safe and proven to work by years of tests and trials
- It can have incredible results on both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne
- It can stimulate the production of collagen (and elastin), keeping the skin firm and plump
- It requires a course of ten treatments done twice to three times weekly
- At-home solutions are nowhere near as effective
- It is on the pricier side, at around €1,000 for 10 sessions… however, you’re paying for quality and proven, long-lasting results!
The (Nerdie) References:
- Seung Yoon Lee, MD, Chung Eui You, MD, and Mi You Park, MD, PHD*, Department of Dermatology, National Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea, Blue and Red Light Combination LED Phototherapy for Acne Vulgaris in Patients with Skin Phototype IV. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 39: 180-188 (2007)
- Kwon, H.H., Lee, J.B., Yoon, J.Y., Park, S.Y., Ryu, H.H., Park, B.M., Kim, Y.J. and Suh, D.H. (2013), The clinical and histological effect of home-use, combination blue–red LED phototherapy for mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris in Korean patients: a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology, 168: 1088–1094. doi: 10.1111/bjd.12186
- Dr. Simon Ravichandran, LED Phototherapy: When Light Is Good For You, https://www.theskinnerd.com/led-phototherapy/, Feb. 18th 2017