light therapy for skin benefits

Who said that all light is bad for skin?

Sure, you won’t find me sunbathing at the beach on a sizzling hot summer day. That’s a recipe for wrinkles, wrinkles, and more wrinkles. Oh, and cancer, too.

But I do enjoy the odd LED light treatment every now and then. Or I did, before Covid-19 forced beauty salons to shut down. Is this the perfect time to switch to at-home devices?

Let’s find out:

What Is LED Light Therapy?

Did you know that LED Light Therapy was discovered by NASA?

You know how there’s no gravity in space and you struggle to do normal, everyday things, like walking or drinking a glass of water?

Your skin behaves differently in space, too. A paper cut that heals in a couple of days on Earth can take months to heal in space.

While looking for something that would speed up the healing process, NASA stumbled onto LED Light Therapy. They discovered that red and infrared light therapy speeds up the growth of healthy skin cells by 150/200% – and without side effects, too!

But not all light will do. LED Light Therapy uses targeted rays of light at specific wavelengths that easily penetrate skin, reaching those deeper areas where they can boost collagen, treat acne, and work all kinds of magic.

There are 2 kinds of LED Light Therapy that really work wonders for your skin. Red Light Therapy and Blue Light Therapy. Let’s take a closer look at them and what they can do.

Can Blue Light Therapy Treat Acne?

It depends. Studies are promising, if mixed:

  • 2002 study found that 2x weekly light therapy sessions reduced lesions by 64% in people with mild to moderate acne. Only two patients experienced dryness. In vitro investigation revealed this therapy reduces the amount of P.Acnes (the bacteria that causes acne) on the skin.
  • 2004 study found that 8 sessions with ClearLight system improved acne lesions by 65% in patients with facial acne. This study mentioned that “there were no bacterial changes before or after the therapy, although damaged Propionibacterium acnes were observed at the ultrastructural level”.
  • A 2007 study found that using the MultiClear light therapy system once or twice a week significantly reduced acne severity in 8 out of 10 patients. Only 2 saw no results. None experienced any side effects.
  • A 2011study tested the effectiveness of self-administered blue light therapy together with a skincare regime that includes “a skin rebuilding serum containing 1.25% salicylic acid, 0.5% niacinamide, 0.08% liposomal-based azelaic acid and superoxide dismutase”. The results showed that 90% of the 33 parents reported an improvement in skin texture, clarity, tone, and smoothness.

All these studies show that blue light therapy can treat acne and reduce pimples. The catch? A lot of these studies are based on self-reported outcomes rather than scientific test.

If you want to try it, make sure the device uses 404-420nm wavelengths. Anything higher or lower doesn’t seem to work as well.

Related: Adult Acne: What It Is And How To Treat It

Can Red Light Therapy Treat Wrinkles And Make You Look Younger?

Again, the research is promising, but not conclusive. Here’s what we know so far.

  • A 2005 study found that nine light therapy treatments using the OmniluxTM LED system helped reduce wrinkles: “52% of subjects showed a 25%–50% improvement in photoaging scores by week 12; 81% of subjects reported a significant improvement in periorbital wrinkles on completion of follow‐up.”
  • A 2006 study found that it helps to speed up wound healing.
  • Another 2006 study found that 9 red light therapy treatments improve skin softness, smoothness, and firmness. Plus, “electron microscopic analysis showed evidence of post-LED treatment of thicker collagen fibers.”
  • A 2014 study found that participants treated with red light experienced an improved skin complexion, roughness, and collagen density. In other words, it helps boost collagen, the protein that keeps your skin firm.

Again, not all red light treatments are the same. For best results, make sure the device uses 630-660nm wavelength or it may not work at all! 

Related: Treatment VS Prevention: What Really Works Against Wrinkles?

Does Light Therapy Have Any Side Effects?

Not really. This is why light therapy has become super popular – even though science isn’t fully behind it, yet.

While other common treatments like Tretinoin, chemical peels, and invasive procedures can be terribly drying, incredibly irritating, require days of downtime, and even aggravate pigmentation in darker skin types, light therapy is well-tolerated by pretty much everyone.

Just make sure you pick the right device or you won’t see any benefits. That may not be a side effect for your skin, but it certainly is for your wallet!

How Do At-Home Devices Compare To Dermatologists’?

Deep down, you know this. Nothing that you can buy Sephora can ever be as powerful as a professional treatment at your dermatologist.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying at-home devices are completely useless. They’re just less powerful. Their only advantage is that you can use them every other day or so instead than every few weeks.

If you use them consistently, you’ll see an improvement. But, will you?

I know myself. I’m too lazy to add an extra step to my skincare routine – especially when I know I can get better result if I visit my dermatologist.

But if you love this kind of gadgets, and regular dermatologist’s treatments are out of your budget, getting an at-home light therapy device may be a good compromise. Just don’t believe anyone who says you’re gonna get professional-like results…

The Bottom Line

Light therapy works – if you get it right. Blue light in the 404-420nm range helps treat acne while red light in the 630-660nm boosts collagen and reduces wrinkles. For best results, visit a dermatologist. Most at-home devices are too weak to give you the results you crave.