One of the most common things I get asked about is LED skincare devices. I utilize LED in my treatment room, love receiving it as a treatment myself, and use it at home as a part of my skincare routine, so you could say I’m a fan.
This can be a significant part of a comprehensive home care tool. If you take away one thing from this article, let it be that LED devices support healthy skin cell functioning; when cells are healthy enough to function correctly, the skin looks better, more healthy, and more vibrant.
What is LED?
You may have seen ads for these Friday the 13th- esq masks with red or blue light emitting from them. It may seem like a new tik tok fad, but phototherapy has a lot of clout behind it and has a somewhat long and interesting history.
In 1903 a Danish physician: the father of phototherapy, named Niels Ryberg Finsen, received the Nobel prize for his discovery that the frequency of light that appears red to us accelerated the healing of sores. However, he did not put it into his practice because he wanted to understand precisely how it worked. Nevertheless, through the 1900s, it was hypothesized that it helped with healing profoundly because it affected the mitochondrial functioning of the cell.
In the 1990's NASA began funding research on red LED light for growing potatoes in space- as plant growth in space was not previously possible. Scientists working with this found that sores on their hands were healing faster! Since then, a remarkable amount of research has been funded by NASA, the US military, and others, and it has been shown that LED light therapy is no snake oil. There are over 5,000 clinical papers on low-level light therapy (LED) and its benefits, and a vast amount of research is on blue, red, and near-infrared frequencies.
LED devices work with light frequency. Remember the visible light spectrum diagrams from science class? Same thing! It isn't MEASURED in color but in nanometers of depth, how deep the light is penetrating your skin... You can see from the photo below that each color has a nanometer range. Violet and blue are the shortest and penetrate the skin surface, while red and then moving into infrared (which we cannot see) frequency penetrating the deepest.
It's like photosynthesis for animals (humans included). Light is made up of particles called photons that can penetrate our tissue. As they do this, it triggers the upregulation of ATP (the energy our cells use to function correctly). This reaction affects numerous cells in the skin:
cells responsible for producing collagen and elastin
cells responsible for immune function
cells responsible for clarity, tone, and texture
Violet/Blue LED (Acne)
A singlet of oxygen encapsulates the specific type of bacteria that breeds, causing acne.
This is perfect for those with acne that have infection or the presence of pus. If you have a breakout here or there that is more red than anything else or cystic, blue is fine, but you may benefit more from Red LED.
Red LED (Supports Vibrant Aging)
Collagen and elastic production, due to fibroblast stimulation, are the cells that excite the production of these proteins.
Mitochondrial activation: helping cellular energy
Apoptosis: healthy cell death of diseased or damaged cells
Cells that are meant to come to clean up debris can do so more effectively.
Capillary supporting and strengthening because it causes vasodilation and vasoconstriction
Infrared LED (Aches Pains, Healing)
Accelerates wound healing eczema, psoriasis,
Heals muscular damage
Reduces aches and pains
How to Choose a device:
Cost is a red flag and may determine the value. Unfortunately, I have learned this the hard way by purchasing cheap LED masks on Amazon in the past that didn't do anything.
FDA Clearance, I have so many thoughts on the FDA that I won't get into here. However, when it comes to FDA clearance for a device, this does tell me one thing, the company that produced this device is willing to put their money where their mouth is. FDA clearance is meant to verify that any claims made in advertising must be backed up. This is an expensive and time-consuming task and does give it some clout. That's not to say if it doesn't have this, it's a bad device, but it is something to consider. If it says "FDA Approved,"… that's not a thing for devices. It is false advertising and would be a red flag.
Read reviews. Again this isn't everything either, sometimes reviews are so weird and entertaining, but they will give you some insight.
Does this company seem reputable? Are they doing their due diligence? I invite you to channel your intuition, not get swept up in marketing, and dig around their website to ensure genuine substance.
I have no affiliation, but devices that I trust include Omnilux, Boost, Light Stim, Celluma (this is the brand I use in the treatment room).
How to use the device:
It is essential to understand a few things:
Any serum or product has the potential to reflect or block light. The light has to penetrate the skin to work.
This light frequency can make a skin cell membrane more permeable, making it more porous and receptive to taking on board outside substances. For this reason, I would not apply concentrated serums, retinol, acids, or synthetic vitamins like a vitamin C serum to the skin immediately after utilizing the red light. I would simply apply moisturizer.
The clinical data shows that (at a safe and effective power output) the light should remain on the skin for around 20 minutes. Of course, follow the directions of your device, but if the directions say 20 min, do it for the full 20 minutes, it will be most effective this way.
LED is something you don't want to sleep on. It can be a very beneficial addition to your home care. It is an upfront investment, but it can be very worth it if you are looking for a natural and non-invasive modality to support vibrancy!