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- LED, or light emitting diode therapy, is a skincare treatment that uses varying wavelengths of light, including red and blue.
- NASA originally developed it for plant growth experiments on shuttle missions and later found it to have promise for wound treatment. LED light therapy is now used by some aestheticians to help regenerate the skin from aging. It’s also used for acne.
- Your healthcare provider uses red or blue light frequencies based on the skincare concern. Red is primarily used for anti-aging, while blue is used for acne treatment.
- Unlike other types of light therapy, LEDs do not contain ultraviolet rays. Therefore, they’re safe for regular use.
- LED light therapy doesn’t cause burns compared to other anti-aging treatments such as chemical peels, dermabrasion, and laser therapy. It may be safe for all skin colors and types.
- You shouldn’t use LED light therapy if you take Accutane for acne or if you’re experiencing skin rashes.
- Side effects are rare, but may include increased inflammation, redness, and rashes.
- Office procedures take 20 minutes at a time. You’ll need to go back once a week for up to 10 weeks, then only once every few months.
- At-home LED devices can be used at your convenience without having to go to any appointments. The downside is that the results may not be as dramatic.
- A single LED light therapy session ranges from about $25 to $85, depending on your area of the country and whether you’re combining it with other treatments.
- Home LED kits can cost from $25 to $250 or more.
- When used as directed, LED light therapy can improve your skin over time. You’ll need maintenance treatments to maintain your results.
- Home devices use lower frequencies and haven’t been proven as effective.
Light emitting diode (LED) light therapy is growing in popularity in both aesthetician offices and at home. Using varying LED wavelengths, this skincare technique purportedly helps:
- treat acne
- reduce inflammation
- promote anti-aging effects
You may be a candidate for LED light therapy if you have these types of skincare concerns and haven’t gotten the results you want from over-the-counter (OTC) skin products. LED therapy is also safe for all skin colors, and it doesn’t cause any burning.
However, there are a few potential drawbacks. Here are several:
- LED therapy can be expensive.
- The results aren’t guaranteed.
- It’s also not safe if you take certain medications or have an active skin disorder.
Talk to your dermatologist about your skincare concerns and whether LED light therapy is a good option for you.
Insurance doesn’t cover LED light therapy. You will need to ask about the full costs up front so you can budget wisely.
According to self-reported costs on RealSelf.com, the cost of a single session can range from about $25 to $85, depending on your area of the country and whether you’re combining it with another treatment.
Remember, many aestheticians recommend up to 10 sessions, so factor that total cost into your budget as you consider different practitioners and their price per visit.
Home devices cost anywhere from $25 to $250 or more. This may be a cheaper option overall because you get to keep the LED device and use it for future treatments. However, the results aren’t as dramatic.
In either case, LED light therapy is noninvasive. You don’t have to lose any money from taking time off work.
LED light therapy has an established history of skin uses. The U.S. Navy SEALs began using it in the 1990s to help heal wounds quickly and to help regenerate damaged muscle tissues.
Since then, the treatment has been researched for different situations in aesthetics. It’s mainly noted for increasing collagen and tissues. All of which can smooth out your skin and reduce the appearance of damage from:
- age spots
There are different frequencies, or wavelengths, used with LED light treatment. These include red and blue light frequencies, which don’t contain ultraviolet rays and are readily absorbed into the skin.
Red, or infrared, light is used for treating the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin. When the light is applied to your skin, the epidermis absorbs it and then stimulates collagen proteins.
In theory, more collagen means that your skin will look smoother and fuller, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Red LED light is also thought to reduce inflammation while improving circulation, which can give you a healthier glow.
Blue LED light therapy, on the other hand, targets the sebaceous glands, which are also called oil glands. They’re located beneath your hair follicles.
Sebaceous glands are necessary for lubricating your skin and hair so that it doesn’t dry out. However, these glands can become overactive, leading to oily skin and acne.
The theory is that blue LED light therapy can target these oil glands and make them less active. In turn, you may see fewer acne breakouts. Blue light can also kill acne-causing bacteria beneath the skin, which can help treat severe acne pimples, including cysts and nodules.
Oftentimes, blue LED light is used in conjunction with red LED light to:
- help treat acne
- decrease scarring
- promote anti-inflammatory effects
According to EstheticianEDU, each LED light therapy treatment lasts about 20 minutes. You’ll likely need up to 10 treatments total, depending on the results you’re looking to achieve.
Some providers have you lie down directly under the lights, while others use LED light-infused wands directly over your skin. The choice often depends on the office, as well as the treatment area.
If you can’t make it to a healthcare provider’s office, you can still try LED light therapy at home. At-home devices come in the form of masks or wands that you apply to your face for several minutes at a time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
While LED light therapy can technically be used on any part of the body, its most popular use is for the face. Skin damage tends to occur to your face because it’s exposed to the elements more than other body parts.
LED therapy can also be used on the neck and chest, which are other areas that tend to show signs of aging.
Overall, the American Academy of Dermatology deems this procedure safe. Since LEDs don’t contain UV rays, this is considered a safer form of light therapy that won’t cause long-term damage to your skin. The procedure is also noninvasive and has few risks.
Your provider may recommend LED light therapy if you have darker or sensitive skin. Unlike more invasive procedures such as laser therapy, LEDs don’t burn your skin. They also don’t cause any pain.
However, there may still be risks associated with LED light therapy.
If you currently use Accutane for acne, be advised that this powerful drug derived from vitamin A increases your skin’s sensitivity to light and may cause scarring in some instances.
Do not use LED light therapy if you’re using anything on your skin that makes you sensitive to sunlight.
You also might consider avoiding this treatment if you currently have an active rash. Talk with your doctor if you have psoriasis. Red light therapy could help but only if you use it in conjunction with your regularly prescribed treatments.
Side effects from LED light therapy are rare and were not noted
- increased inflammation
LED light therapy is noninvasive, so no recovery time is required. You should be able to continue with your everyday activities once your treatment is over.
In-office LED light therapy requires up to 10 sessions or more, each spaced out about a week apart. You may start to see minor results after your first session. Results will be more dramatic and noticeable once you’ve finished all of your treatments.
Even after you’ve achieved the recommended number of sessions, your results aren’t permanent.
As your skin cells turn over, you may lose some collagen and start to see signs of aging again. You may also start to see acne breakouts. This is why it’s recommended that you go back for maintenance treatments every few months or as recommended by your provider.
Home LED light therapy treatments aren’t as dramatic because the light frequencies aren’t as high. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you’re curious about the gradual results achieved via LED light therapy, check out the following before and after pictures.
Each in-office LED light therapy session takes about 20 minutes at a time. You’ll need to wear protective goggles so that the light doesn’t cause any damage to your eyes.
Whether you’re using LED lights at home or seeing a provider for treatment, you should not wear any makeup during your session.
Professional LED light therapy will get you the most dramatic results. It may also be used in conjunction with other skin therapies, such as microdermabrasion.
A licensed aesthetician or a dermatologist performs LED light therapy. Since LED light therapy is relatively new for skincare use, the availability of practitioners who use this treatment can vary based on where you live.