What is LED Light Therapy For Skin?

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LED light therapy is gaining popularity in healthcare and is available for both medical and home use. It mainly targets skincare, aiming to fight aging and reduce inflammation.

Benefits include increased collagen production for smoother skin, and it can help with skin issues like acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, scars, and sun damage.

What is LED Light Therapy?

LED light therapy is a skin treatment that uses safe, low-level light in different colors like amber, blue, red, and green. Sometimes, it’s combined with a medication called 5-aminolevulinic acid to enhance its effects, but this may make your skin more sensitive to light.

You can get LED light therapy at a dermatologist’s office, but there are also at-home options like light masks, spot treatment wands, ultrasonic devices, and more. LED lights are used to treat various skin issues. While getting it from a professional is promising, the effectiveness of at-home devices is still being researched, and their long-term results are uncertain.

LED Light Therapy

How LED Light Therapy Works

LED light therapy has a fascinating history in skincare. It was first used by the U.S. Navy SEALs in the 1990s to speed up wound healing and repair damaged muscles.

Now, it’s well-studied for its beauty benefits, especially in boosting collagen and tissue repair. This can make your skin smoother and reduce issues like age spots, acne, and wrinkles.

LED light therapy uses different light wavelengths, including red and blue, which are safe and don’t have harmful UV rays.

Red Light:

  • Red light targets the outer skin layer (epidermis) and stimulates collagen production.
  • More collagen can make your skin look smoother, reducing lines and wrinkles.
  • Red light can also reduce inflammation and improve circulation for healthier skin.

Blue Light:

  • Blue light focuses on the sebaceous glands, which control skin oil and prevent dryness.
  • Overactive glands can lead to oily skin and acne.
  • Blue light therapy can reduce gland activity and kill acne-causing bacteria, helping with acne treatment.
  • Combining blue and red light can treat acne, reduce scarring, and ease inflammation.
  • A 2018 study even showed that blue LED light improved healing for severe skin burns, suggesting therapeutic potential.

Benefits of LED Light Therapy

LED lights, originally developed in the 1960s, have found new uses in skincare recently. They emit different types of light that can penetrate the skin to address various skin issues, such as:

  1. Acne:
  • Blue light is great for fighting acne. It kills acne-causing bacteria and controls oil production, preventing clogged pores.
  • Red light is often used with blue light to reduce acne-related inflammation and redness.
  1. Aging:
  • Red light stimulates skin cells called fibroblasts, which produce collagen for skin repair.
  • Studies suggest red LED light therapy tightens skin, reduces wrinkles, and leaves skin smoother and softer.
  • Photodynamic therapy with 5-aminolevulinic acid and LED light can also reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture.
  1. Wound Healing:
  • Red LED light boosts collagen production, aiding wound healing.
  • It has helped reduce redness, swelling, bruising, and speed up healing after skin resurfacing surgery.
  1. Hair Loss:
  • Red LED light therapy can promote hair growth for those dealing with hair loss.
  1. Psoriasis:
  • Red and near-infrared LED light therapy can reduce redness and inflammation in psoriasis.
  • It may also alleviate psoriasis pimples and plaques.
  1. Skin Cancers:
  • Photodynamic therapy with red and green LED lights is used to treat skin cancers like Bowen’s disease and basal cell carcinoma.
  • Red LED light is often more effective in treating Bowen’s disease and removing basal cell carcinoma lesions.

LED light therapy is generally safe when used alone, without sensitizing medications or creams. It doesn’t harm the skin or underlying tissues, making it a promising option for various skin concerns.

Does LED Light Therapy Really Work?

The evidence suggests that LED light therapy can be effective for certain skin issues.

In the past, Navy SEALs used it to speed up wound healing, with impressive results – over 40% improvement in injuries and faster healing times.

For cosmetic treatments, studies show that LED light therapy devices work well for skin conditions like psoriasis and mild-to-moderate acne.

The American Academy of Dermatology says LED light therapy can generally improve acne symptoms for most people, but it might not clear all acne. Visible results may need multiple sessions, and the best results show up a few weeks after the last treatment. You might need follow-up sessions to keep the results.

Keep in mind that home LED devices are less powerful than professional ones, so they may not work as well as treatments from a dermatologist or skincare pro. They can still help, but don’t expect the same level of effectiveness. I personally use the Cleopatra LED Mask, which emits different wavelengths of light to address various skin concerns. 

Learn more: Best LED Light Therapy Masks

Risks of LED Light Therapy

While LED light therapy has promising benefits for the skin, more research is needed to fully understand how effective it is.

When choosing LED light facials, they are generally safer than options like lasers, with fewer side effects. However, you might still experience mild reactions like:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Dryness

If your treatment includes photosensitizing drugs, you might also feel burning and more redness. Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Home Devices: At-home LED masks and devices are not as strong as what doctors use. So, while they won’t burn your skin, they might not work as well.
  2. Sensitizing Medications: Some drugs can make your skin more sensitive to light. If you’re on these medications, it’s best not to use home LED masks.
  3. Eye Safety: Protect your eyes during LED therapy. It can increase sensitivity to light and could harm people with eye conditions. Some home devices might not have good eye protection – Neutrogena even recalled its home LED face mask for this reason.

How LED Light Therapy is Done

Getting LED light therapy is easy. Here’s how it works:

At a Healthcare Provider’s Office:

  • Each session is about 20 minutes long, and the number of sessions depends on what you want to achieve.
  • You can either lie under LED lights or have wands with LED lights applied to your skin.
  • The choice of method depends on the office and the area being treated.

At Home:

  • If you can’t visit a healthcare provider, you can try LED light therapy at home.
  • You’ll use devices like masks or wands that you apply to your face for several minutes, following the instructions from the manufacturer.
  • Make sure to follow the instructions carefully for safe and effective use.

Getting Ready for LED Light Therapy

Before you begin LED light therapy, here’s what you should keep in mind:

In the Office:

  • Sessions usually last about 20 minutes.
  • Wear protective goggles to shield your eyes from the light and avoid any potential harm.

At Home or in the Office:

  • Don’t wear makeup during your LED light therapy session, whether you’re at home or with a provider. This helps get the best results.

What Happens After LED Light Therapy

Curious about what comes next after your LED light therapy? Here’s what you can expect:

No Downtime: LED light therapy is gentle, so you won’t need recovery time. You can resume your normal activities right away.

In-Office Treatment: Typically, you’ll need several sessions in the office, often 10 or more, spaced about a week apart. You might see some small improvements after your first session, but the big changes usually happen after you finish all your sessions.

Results Aren’t Permanent: LED light therapy can do wonders, but it’s not a permanent solution. As your skin renews itself, you may lose some collagen and start seeing signs of aging or acne again. That’s why it’s smart to come back for touch-up treatments every few months, as your provider suggests.

At-Home Treatment: If you’re using an at-home LED device, keep in mind that the results may not be as dramatic as pro treatments because the light isn’t as intense. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get the most from your at-home sessions.

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you have any of these symptoms after LED light therapy, reach out to your healthcare provider:

  • Hives
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Rash or redness

Your provider can check your condition and give you advice on how to deal with these symptoms.

How Much Does LED Light Therapy Cost?

LED light therapy usually isn’t covered by insurance, so it’s important to know the costs:

  • Ask about the total costs upfront to plan your budget.
  • The price for a single LED light therapy session can vary a lot, from about $25 to $85. It depends on where you are and if it’s combined with another treatment.
  • Many experts recommend up to 10 sessions, so think about the total cost when comparing providers and their session fees.
  • Home LED devices are available to buy and can cost between $25 and $250 or more. While they might seem cheaper in the long run, remember that their results are usually not as impressive as professional treatments.
  • The good news is that LED light therapy is noninvasive, so you won’t need to take time off work or have additional expenses for recovery.

FAQs about LED Light Therapy

Here are some common questions and answers:

1. What Doesn’t LED Light Therapy Treat?

LED light therapy is great for many skin concerns but not for acne cysts, blackheads, or whiteheads. Some studies suggest blue light therapy might contribute to skin aging by causing free radical damage.

2. How Long Does it Take to See Results?

You usually need a series of in-office treatments, often once a week for about a month, to see significant benefits. After that, you might need maintenance treatments every month or so. At-home devices may also take several weeks of consistent use.

3. Who Should Avoid LED Light Therapy?

It’s not suitable for everyone, especially those on meds that make them sensitive to sunlight, like isotretinoin and lithium. It’s also not recommended for people with a history of specific conditions like skin cancer or inherited eye diseases.

4. Is There a Recovery Period?

No, there’s no recovery time for LED light therapy. After treatment, you can go back to your normal routine without any skin damage, except for being careful about sun exposure in the first 48 hours.

5. How Can I Ensure LED Light Therapy is Right for Me?

Before trying LED light therapy at a spa or buying an at-home device, consider talking to a dermatologist. They can give you an accurate diagnosis and recommend the right treatment. Some skin issues that seem cosmetic could be more serious.

6. What Happens During In-Office LED Light Therapy?

During in-office treatment, you wear protective goggles and lie down. The healthcare provider positions the LED light therapy device over your face, and the treatment usually lasts around 20 minutes. It’s painless, and you might feel some warmth but no discomfort.

7. How Do You Use an At-Home Device?

At-home LED devices come in different forms, like masks or hand-held products. Follow the instructions that come with your device. For example, some LED masks are worn on your face for a few minutes each day, while hand-held devices are held at a certain distance from your face for a specified time. Always follow the directions carefully for the best results.

Looking for professional skincare advice? Schedule an online consultation with dermatologist Dr. Ava Patel to address your concerns.

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