LED Light Therapy: How It Works, Colors, Benefits & Risks

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LED light therapy is popular non-invasive treatment widely used in salons, spas, and clinics globally.

The therapy employs specific wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin at different depths, promoting anti-aging effects, reducing inflammation, and combating acne, among other benefits.

The treatment is generally considered safe with minimal risks, though long-term safety data is still limited.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about LED light therapy. 

What is LED light therapy?

LED light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to emit specific wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin and trigger various biological processes. This therapy is used to treat a range of skin conditions and promote overall skin health.

Aestheticians often incorporate LED light therapy into facial treatments to address issues such as sun-damaged skin and the appearance of scars.

You can purchase at-home LED light therapy devices, such as masks and wands, for personal use. However, you must make sure your device is FDA approved and consult a dermatologist before using it. 

Different Kinds of LED Light Therapy

LED light therapy utilizes different colors of light, each corresponding to specific wavelengths and penetrating the skin to different depths. The most common types include:

  • Red Light Therapy: Uses wavelengths between 620 to 750 nm. It penetrates deeper into the skin and is primarily used for anti-aging, reducing wrinkles, promoting collagen production, and improving skin elasticity. It also helps in reducing inflammation and accelerating wound healing.
  • Blue Light Therapy: Uses wavelengths between 450 to 495 nm. It targets the uppermost layers of the skin and is effective in treating acne by killing acne-causing bacteria and reducing oil production. It can also help with sun damage and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Similar to red light, yellow light therapies penetrates deeper than blue light and is used to reduce redness, alleviate sunburns, and stimulate the lymphatic system.

For green light therapy, it penetrates the skin to a moderate depth and is used to reduce hyperpigmentation, even out skin tone, and soothe the skin. 

There are are light therapies which are a combination of the above lights, including:

  • Purple Light Therapy: A combination of red and blue lights, it is used for cell regeneration, reducing acne-causing bacteria, and minimizing acne-related scars.
  • Cyan Light Therapy: A combination of blue and green lights, it helps with acne, pigment stains, and reducing swollen capillaries.

Near-infrared light therapy is often used to enhance the effects of other light therapies. It is beneficial for deeper tissue repair and reducing inflammation.

What Does LED Light Therapy Do?

LED light therapy is a non-invasive skincare treatment that uses different wavelengths of light to treat various skin concerns, including:

  • Acne
  • Wrinkles and fine lines
  • Sun damage
  • Rosacea
  • Wounds and scars
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Hair loss

When combined with photosensitizing agents in photodynamic therapy (PDT), LED light therapy might even treat small and superficial BCCs. This method uses a light-sensitizing drug followed by exposure to a specific wavelength of light, which activates the drug to destroy cancer cells.

Who Should Not Have LED Light Therapy?

LED light therapy is generally safe, but there are certain contraindications. The treatment isn’t suitable for people who

  • Take photosensitizing medications such as certain antibiotics, retinoids, and other drugs that increase sensitivity to light.
  • Have a history of skin cancer.

For pregnant women, they should consult their GP before beginning treatments. If you have certain medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus and diseases involving the retina of the eye, you should also avoid LED light therapy. 

Procedure Details

What You Should Prepare Before In-Office LED Light Therapy?

Before undergoing in-office LED light therapy, it is important to prepare your skin to ensure optimal results.

Use a gentle, non-drying cleanser to remove any makeup, sunscreen, or other skincare products. This helps the light penetrate your skin more effectively.

Minimize sun exposure and avoid tanning beds for at least 48 hours before your treatment. Sunburned or tanned skin can be more sensitive to the light therapy.

Discuss any medications you are taking, especially those that increase photosensitivity, such as certain antibiotics or isotretinoin.

What is the Procedure During In-Office LED Light Therapy?

You will be given protective goggles to shield your eyes from the bright lights. After that, you will lie comfortably on your back while the LED device is positioned above your face.

The device emits specific wavelengths of light (red, blue, yellow, or green) for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the treatment plan.

You may feel some warmth but no discomfort during the session. It is important to lie still and relax while the light works on your skin.

What to Do After LED Light Therapy?

After your LED light therapy session, you should drink plenty of fluids to keep your skin hydrated. Consider these aftercare measures to minimize any potential side effects:

  • Wash your face gently the evening after treatment to remove any residual products or sweat.
  • Avoid sun exposure for several days and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Refrain from using products containing retinoids, AHAs, or other potentially irritating ingredients for at least a week unless advised otherwise by your dermatologist.

You may apply a hydrating serum or moisturizer to soothe your skin and enhance the treatment results.

What is the Recovery Time After LED Light Therapy?

LED light therapy is a non-invasive treatment with minimal to no recovery time. You can typically return to your normal activities immediately after the session.

However, you should be cautious about sun exposure for the first 48 hours and follow the aftercare instructions provided by your healthcare provider.

Benefits of LED Light Therapy

LED light therapy is non-invasive, painless, and suitable for all skin types and colors. It does not use UV light, so it does not cause skin damage or burns. The treatment offers several benefits for various skin conditions. It might

  • Treat acne
  • Reduce wrinkles and fine lines
  • Promote tissue repair and faster healing of wounds and scars
  • Reduce redness and pigmentation

According to some research, red light might even help with conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea by reducing inflammation and redness.

Risks of LED Light Therapy

While LED light therapy is generally considered safe, there are some potential risks and side effects:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Dryness
  • Tenderness

High-intensity LED bulbs can be too bright for the eyes. Always use protective goggles to prevent eye damage.

Since LED light therapy may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with certain skin conditions, you should consult a healthcare professional to determine if this therapy is appropriate for you.

When Should I See My Healthcare Provider?

While LED light therapy is generally safe, you should contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe redness or swelling
  • A rash or itching
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

Frequently Asked Questions

Does LED Light Therapy Actually Work?

LED light therapy has been shown to be effective for a variety of skin conditions. Research shows that it can help with acne, fine lines, wrinkles, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and wound healing.

Different wavelengths of light penetrate the skin at various depths, triggering biological processes that promote skin rejuvenation and healing. For example, red light stimulates collagen production and reduces inflammation, while blue light kills acne-causing bacteria.

However, the effectiveness can vary based on the condition being treated, the specific wavelength used, and the consistency of the treatment.

What Doesn’t LED Light Therapy Treat?

LED light therapy is not effective for all skin conditions. It does not treat suspicious lesions or malignant tumors, and it is not suitable for people with certain medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus or those taking photosensitizing medications. In addition, while it can improve the appearance of the skin, it is not a cure for severe skin conditions or diseases like skin cancer.

How Long Does It Take for LED Light Therapy to Work?

The time it takes to see results from LED light therapy can vary. For acne, improvements can be seen within a few days to two weeks. For anti-aging benefits, such as wrinkle reduction, it may take up to 10 weeks of consistent use.

Generally, users report improvements in skin texture and tone after a few weeks of regular sessions, but more pronounced results may take several months.

How Do You Use an At-Home LED Light Therapy Device?

To use an at-home LED light therapy device, you usually have to follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the device and select the appropriate light mode (e.g., red for anti-aging, blue for acne).
  2. Hold the device close to your skin or wear it as a mask, depending on the design.
  3. Use the device for the recommended duration, typically 10-20 minutes per session.

Although LED lights do not contain UV rays, it’s still recommended to protect your eyes with goggles or sunglasses. or best results, use the device regularly. Many devices recommend starting with three sessions per week and increasing to five times a week if possible.

After using the device, you can continue with your regular skincare routine. Avoid sun exposure for a few days and apply extra sunscreen.

How Much Does LED Light Therapy Cost?

For most in-officie treatments, a single session can range from $25 to $85, depending on your location. Many aestheticians recommend up to 10 sessions, so the total cost can add up. These treatments are typically not covered by insurance, so you will need to budget for the full cost.

Home LED kits can cost anywhere from $25 to $250 or more. While the initial investment might be higher, these devices can be more cost-effective in the long run since you can use them multiple times without additional costs.

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

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