So-called "happy lamps" are popular these days—and for good reason: according to Cleveland Clinic, these LED lights have been shown to help boost a person's mood and often get used in the winter when days are short and sunlight is more scarce.
There are also benefits of using LED light for skin care. Both at-home and in-clinic light treatments may help with a wide range of skin problems, from acne to wrinkles. That said, LED treatments aren't a cure-all and may not be right for everyone.
Here's what you should know before you get started.
1. What Is LED Light?
Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are a type of light source invented in the 1960s. According to ENERGY STAR, LEDs work by passing an electric current through a light source on a tiny microchip. This is different from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and incandescent bulbs, which use gases and heat, respectively, to illuminate. As a result, LEDs are notably more energy-efficient.
2. What Are the Benefits of LED Light for Skin Care?
LEDs contain different wavelengths (what we perceive as different colors) of what's known as "visible light," which can improve skin health in different ways, reports Medical News Today. Blue light, for example, works closer to the surface of the skin. It can help suppress oil glands that cause acne, but it doesn't treat blackheads or whiteheads, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes. Blue light may also help eliminate bacteria and support burn repair.
Red light gets a little deeper into the skin barrier, adds The New York Times, activating inner cells that make wrinkle-reducing collagen. There's also green light, which may help promote skin tissue growth and wound healing. Purple light is a combination of both red and blue lights in one treatment.
3. How Is LED Therapy Different from Other Types of Light Therapy for Skin?
As a non-invasive method, LED causes fewer short-term effects and burning than other light treatments, such as laser therapy or photopneumatic therapy. Plus, there's typically no recovery period afterward.
4. What Are the Risks of LED Treatment?
During and after treatment, most people won't feel pain or burning—but rarely, some people may get side effects such as redness or inflammation. These side effects usually go away shortly after treatment, but let your doctor know if they persist. Long-term effects are a little more unclear: As Harvard notes, there's more research needed around the safety of light therapies over time.
5. Can LED Therapy Cause Skin Cancer?
If you're shining a lot of focused light on your skin, it's natural to be worried about radiation. Here's some reassuring news: Experts say LEDs don't give off as much ultraviolet (UV) rays as other forms of lighting, and certainly not compared to natural sunlight. One engineering expert from the American Lighting Association told NPR that LEDs have no UV component. LEDs also don't show up on the FDA's radiation-emitting products page, unlike CFLs, which do. Talk to your Dermatologist to learn more about the safety and risks associated with light therapy.
6. Will the Blue Light from LED Treatments Keep You Up at Night?
You may have heard that blue light-emitting devices, such as cell phones or tablets, can disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythms. And yes, the same can be true with LED treatments. So, if you're using an LED therapy device at home, avoid doing so right before bed. The blue light may make it harder to fall asleep (which can further affect your skin).
7. Should You Get LED Treatments at Home or from a Dermatologist?
While there are many different kinds of self-administered LED devices that offer the benefit of at-home convenience, your clinician can discuss whether it's better to receive treatment in the clinic or at home. Dermatologists typically have access to more powerful technology that may work better than a home device, but you'll want to balance those potential benefits with the cost of multiple visits.
8. What Should You Expect from an LED Treatment?
If you receive LED therapy from a Dermatologist, the clinician will typically have you come in for multiple sessions over a few weeks, at about 20 minutes per session. You may need to wash off any sunscreen products from treatment areas and wear goggles to protect your eyes before lying down under the LED lights. After each session, your doctor may give you special instructions for post-treatment care, but most people will probably be able to return to regular activities right away.
9. How Long Does It Take to See Results from LED Skin Treatments?
Although there is promising research, LED therapy isn't a cure-all or miracle treatment. The AAD cautions that results can vary, and it can take time over multiple weeks and sessions to see a noticeable difference. Some people don't see improvements until after they've completed therapy.
10. How Can You Get Started with LED Therapy?
The first step is to check with a board-certified Dermatologist. Your clinician can help you decide whether LED therapies are right for your needs and goals, as not everyone is a good candidate for LED treatment. People who take certain medications, for example, may need to avoid this form of therapy.
Keep Your Skin Happy
Light therapies may not work for everyone, but some people have given the treatments rave reviews. If you're interested in learning more, talk to your Dermatologist about this special form of treatment. You may even get the extra benefit of a mood boost, too!