Recently, as part of my skin “rehab” journey to achieve better skin with professional treatments, I learned about and experienced an LED light therapy session for the first time. And I quickly fell in love.
LED light therapy is rapidly increasing in popularity for its convenience and incredible results. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the science behind LED light therapy for acne and skin health, and how you can use LEDs at home for a fraction of the cost of at a clinic.
What is an LED?
LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode, which describes the unique structure of the LED bulbs that produce light. A light emitting diode harnesses electricity to create light.
LEDs were commercialised around 1970, and are now one of the most common forms of light bulbs you see in everyday life. Infrared LEDs – lights outside of the visible spectrum – are used on the ends of remotes to wirelessly signal televisions and other electronics without any visible light. All sorts of visible LED lights such as red, yellow, green, blue and orange are used for a wide range of purposes, from traffic lights to billboards, as they are incredibly bright yet use little energy and have a long lifespan.
How does LED light therapy for skin work?
These powerful lights give off certain wavelengths of light in the spectrum. They produce negligible amounts of Ultra Violet light, making them totally safe for use on the skin.
Different wavelengths of light correspond to differences in colour. Humans can see within the range of 400 to 700 nanometres. The lower end of this spectrum produces violet light, progressing to blue, green, yellow, orange and finally red light at the upper end. The wavelength also determines how deeply the light can penetrate skin – violet and blue light only penetrate slightly while red light penetrates far deeper.
The effect that LEDs have on the skin depends a lot on the colour and wavelength of the light being produced. Two of the most popular colours for skin rejuvenation are:
- 407~420 nanometres
- This light kills the P. Acnes bacteria that causes acne.
- The porphyrins in acne bacteria absorb blue light, triggering free radical damage that kills the bacteria itself.
- 610~700 nanometres
- This light can penetrate through the outermost layers of skin into the dermis, where it reaches the cells that produce brand new skin.
- It is converted into ATP or ‘adenosine triphosphate’, a form of energy the cell can use to produce healthier skin.
What are the benefits of LED light therapy over other treatments?
Other treatments such as peels and lasers can produce great results but come with potentially serious side effects.
Especially for those with darker skin, peels carry the risk of triggering hyperpigmentation. They can cause irritation and dryness, and depending on the strength may cause the skin to flake and peel. Some unlucky people may be allergic to certain acids, and without proper precaution, this can cause serious adverse reactions.
Lasers, while they can offer impressive results, are sometimes uncomfortable or downright painful and may have significant downtime. They also can have similar risks of hyperpigmentation to patients with dark skin.
LED light therapy, on the other hand, is unique. It’s ingredient free, meaning no risk of allergic reaction. It does not cause trauma to the skin in the same way a laser does, and so has no downtime. It’s safe for all skin tones and is painless to have done. Best of all, it is scientifically proven that LED light therapy positively affects skin on a cellular level.
What results can you get from LED light therapy?
While things like safety and convenience are incredibly appealing, the real draw to LED light therapy is the proven results it brings.
Blue LED light therapy benefits
effective in treating acne, with some studies showing up to 80% improvement
Red LED light therapy benefits
effective in treating fine lines and wrinkles, collagen loss, inflammation and redness including rosacea
What’s involved in getting LED light therapy at a skin clinic?
When I went to my local skin clinic recently to have a LED light therapy session, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest I was sceptical.
Before the treatment, I first had a Hydrafacial followed by a moisturising mask. Then, while the mask soaked in, I went under a large folding panel covered in hundreds of small bulbs. My eyes were covered with protective goggles and the lights were turned on. I received a blue light treatment as one of my main concerns is acne.
Let me tell you – these lights are bright! So bright, in fact, that I could see the light seeping through my protective goggles and I felt the heat coming off the lights. Luckily a small built-in fan kept the air circulating around me and I was very comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that sometime during my 20-minute treatment, I fell asleep!
In the days and weeks following my first and second treatments, I noticed a real reduction in the lower chin and jaw acne that has plagued me for years. This then reduced the amount of PIE after acne I was experiencing, leading to an overall clearer complexion. After my first red light session, I saw improvement in the speed at which my blemishes healed and a reduction in redness. I was hooked!
How much does LED light therapy cost?
Depending on your skin care clinic, LED light therapy sessions cost around $40 each. While this is fairly affordable for a one-off treatment, experts often suggest undergoing therapy twice a week for a month for maximum results. Of course, these visits can quickly start to add up.
However, you can save money by buying your own machine for use at home.
Where can you buy an at-home LED mask?
LED masks, handheld red lights and blue lights, and even standalone red lamps and blue lamps are available all over the internet. They are offered for a fraction of the cost of a professional system, ranging anywhere from $50-$400. This means that within 1-10 uses, you will have paid off the device in savings as compared to attending a skin clinic for each treatment.
My experience using an at-home LED light therapy mask
So, once I realised how much I liked LED therapy, I bought an at-home LED mask and have been loving the results. I purchased my mask from Amazon.
The mask is face-sized and contoured, with an adjustable strap to hold it in place. It has eye holes, a nose hole, and a mouth hole so you can still see, talk and breathe. Inside are many rows of adjustable LED lights that can emit red, blue, green, yellow, purple and white light.
It comes with a remote control that can adjust the light colour and intensity and to set the duration of the auto-off timer.
To use, simply plug in and switch on the mask, set it to your desired colour, strength and time, and put it on!
Yes, you do look a little crazy while wearing the mask and being tethered to a power cord is a tedious process. Luckily your hands are free, so it’s possible to use your laptop or do some reading. I personally enjoy the dedicated “relaxing time” where I’m using my mask and can’t do much else. I still sometimes fall asleep with it on (luckily, the mask I purchased comes with a built-in timer that switches the lights off automatically once your allocated time is up)!
But despite the limitations the results are well worth it, and the one-time investment pays itself off very quickly. Of course, these masks available online aren’t quite as strong as the in-office treatment. But considering the price, they’re an awesome way to try out LED light therapy or to supplement existing clinical visits.
I’d highly recommend LED light therapy as an entry-level skin treatment for those suffering from acne, redness or early signs of ageing. LEDs are backed up by some serious skin care science and won’t break the bank!
LEDs too tame? If you feel ready for some next-level skin care, try out the Laser Genesis for size (I did!).