LED has been around for decades, but its applications in the skin care industry have seen a rise in popularity—both in over the-counter devices and professional units used by estheticians to treat the entire body. These LED light therapy devices seem like a dream, promising to alleviate inflammation, address pigmentation, reduce acne, and so much more. So, what is LED light therapy and how does it work?
WHAT IS LED LIGHT THERAPY?
LED stands for light-emitting diode, which is essentially a very small light bulb that fits into an electrical circuit. The bulb is illuminated by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor without generating heat. As electrons move through the semiconductor material, or diode, photons of energy are released in the form of light.1 Research has shown that when skin cells absorb photons of energy from the light emitted, there is an increase in adenosine triphosphate (ATP, the energy source of the cell that fuels cell metabolism and mitosis), an increase in collagen synthesis, and an increase in blood flow.2 The LED was first invented in the 1960s but was not adopted for skin care purposes for 30 years. In the 1990s, NASA further developed LEDs to produce a very narrow spectrum of light that allowed for clinical applications,3 including aiding in cell regeneration and wound healing for astronauts in space. Different colors of LED light penetrate the skin to various depths. Depending on how deeply they penetrate, LED lights are thought to have a variety of biological effects.4
LED LIGHT THERAPY COLOR EFFECTS
The colors used in estheticians' LED light therapy treatments range through the visible spectrum, but most devices have variations in blue, red, and yellow. Blue LED light is often used to treat acne and has a positive effect in reducing Propionibacterium acnes, the acne-causing bacteria. Some research indicates blue light may also reduce the activity of sebaceous glands, resulting in less breakouts. Red LED light therapy is considered rejuvenating and healing. It has the deepest tissue penetration of the visible spectrum and has been shown to stimulate fibroblasts, leading to an increase in collagen production. Red LED light therapy is a good post-recovery treatment and could help reverse the signs of aging.5 Yellow or amber LED light therapy is often used for photoaging and post-laser treatment. It has been shown to reduce the intensity of erythema after fractional laser skin resurfacing.6
Article by Maggie Staszcuk
This article appears in the November | December 2020 issue of ASCP Skin Deep magazine.
The award-winning ASCP Skin Deep magazine is the premier estheticians' source for the latest trends, techniques, products, and news from the biggest names in the industry. In this issue:
• You've been upgraded: Who doesn't love an upgrade? Thank your clients for their support with exceptional extras
• The power of gratitude: Showing clients that you're grateful for their business is easy with these five creative ways to thank them
• You get what you give: Philanthropy not only helps your community, it can also help you develop a loyal clientele
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1. Tom Harris, Chris Pollette, and Wesley Fenlon, HowStu Works.com, “How Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) Work,” accessed October 2020, https://electronics. howstu works.com/led.htm#pt0.
2. Daniel R. Opel et al., “Light-Emitting Diodes: A Brief Review and Clinical Experience,” Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 8, no. 6 (June 2015): 36–44, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4479368/#__sec5title.
4. Harvard Health Publishing, “LED Lights: Are They a Cure for Your Skin Woes?” October 2019, accessed October 2020, www.health.harvard. edu/staying-healthy/led-lights-are-they-a-cure-for-your-skin-woes.
5. Harvard Health Publishing, “LED Lights: Are They a Cure for Your Skin Woes?”
7. Joel Gerson, Milady Standard Fundamentals Esthetics (Clifton Park: Cengage Learning, 2015).