LED light therapy has become increasingly more popular due to its affordability, beneficial cosmetic result, and minimal downtime .
So what is LED light therapy? How does it work? And most importantly – What can it do for you?
What Is LED Light Therapy?
First of all, I should let you know that LED stands for light-emitting diode. LEDs have been around for a while, but it wasn’t until the NASA LED was introduced in 1998 that they became widely used in medicine and research . This is due to the NASA LEDs having specific wavelengths unlike the old-generation LEDs 
LED light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that can provide rejuvenation  and improve acne , in addition to its many medical uses.
How Does It Work?
LED light therapy uses different wavelengths of visible light (between 400-760 nanometres). It is still not fully understood how light therapies work, however, there are three factors that are necessary. These three factors are light, molecules that are activated by light when they absorb it, and oxidative stress resulting from the activation of these molecules .
When photons of light are absorbed by the skin they initiate chemical changes in the skin cells and boost cellular metabolism . As a result, the skin cells have more energy to multiply which helps tissue regenerate. A series of studies demonstrated the regenerative benefits of LED phototherapy with their observations that wounds healed faster after tissue was exposed to a 670nm LED treatment . LED therapy can also be used to destroy the p-acnes bacteria that is associated with acne .
Here is a visual I created to show the different wavelengths/colours of visible light:
Blue, Yellow, Red, and Near-Infrared are the most commonly used wavelength colours in LED light therapy.
Blue LED: 450-500 nm
Yellow LED: 570-590 nm
Red LED: 610-760 nm
Near-Infrared: < 760nm
LED Light Therapy Benefits
Blue LED Light Therapy
Blue LED light phototherapy has proved to be a successful treatment for acne . The light activates the porphyrins produced by the p-acnes bacteria which causes a reaction that destroys the bacteria . The porphyrins absorb the highest amount of light at 415 nm, which is considered to be within the blue light waveband .
What’s The Evidence Behind Blue LED?
There have been multiple randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effect of blue LED light therapy in the treatment of acne .
For example, one study had 41 patients use a 414nm blue LED every other day for eight weeks. After the 8 weeks, the number of acne lesions had reduced by 52% compared to patients who did not use blue LED . Another study found that 414nm blue LED light decreased the size of acne lesions by 35% when used twice a day for two days .
Blue LED light can be combined with red LED light to further improve the symptoms of acne . For example, one study treated patients with 420nm blue LED light and 660nm red LED light twice a day for 4 weeks. Patients experienced a 77% reduction in inflammatory acne lesions and a 54% reduction in non-inflammatory acne lesions with relatively mild side effects (mild dryness/redness) .
Blue and red LED light therapy has been compared with other light and laser treatments used to treat acne, such as photodynamic therapy, intense pulsed light (IPL), and pulse-dye laser. While the blue and red light combination did improve acne, patients required 2-3 times as many treatment sessions as those who underwent photodynamic therapy or IPL .
Based on the evidence, blue and red LED light therapies are recommended to reduce the number of acne lesions and the associated inflammation. While they may require more treatment sessions than other phototherapies, LED light therapies have fewer side effects and may be safe for home use .
There are individual blue LED and combination blue and red LED home-use light systems that have demonstrated effectiveness at reducing the size of acne lesions in a short period of time .
Red And Near-Infrared LED
Red LED light therapy increases the production of collagen by four times the usual amount . As mentioned earlier, red light is visible light and absorbed by the skin, causing chemical changes and boosting cellular metabolism which allows tissue to regenerate. Near-infrared LED light, however, is absorbed in the cell membranes (the layer around the cell) rather than by the cells themselves. Here it stimulates inflammatory cells as well as increasing collagen production . Therefore, in theory, red LED light in combination with near-infrared LED light should enhance the collagen boosting effects of LED light therapy.
What’s The Evidence Behind Red and Near-Infrared LED?
There have been multiple RCTs investigating the rejuvenation benefits of either red LED light, near-infrared LED light or a combination of the two .
For example, one study had 112 patients use either red LED light, near-infrared LED light, or the two together, twice a week for 4 weeks. The appearance of wrinkles was improved by 26% with red LED, by 33% with near-infrared LED, and by 36% with the combination of the two .
Patient satisfaction rates for red/near-infrared LED combination treatment are as high as 100% . Furthermore, near-infrared LED treatment daily can improve skin texture by 32% . In another study, between 52% and 57% of patients reported improvement in fine lines and wrinkles, and between 37%, and 46% reported improvement in the bags under their eyes, after daily treatment with near-infrared LED light for 6-8 weeks .
However, red LED light therapy does not appear to improve skin elasticity or hydration , and sometimes assessments of wrinkle improvement by digital software do not match up to assessments by dermatologists .
It seems, then, that daily treatment with a combination of red and near-infrared LED for 8-10 weeks is the most effective LED therapy for improving wrinkles. Of course, these results are much more gradual than stronger or more invasive light and laser treatments, but there is also less risk of side-effects .
Are There Any Side-Effects With LED Light Treatment?
LED light treatments are safe and well tolerated by patients, but they are not free from side-effects. However, side-effects with LED tend to be mild such as dryness, redness, and swelling.
In theory, blue LED light therapy could present a risk of skin cancer or photoaging as the blue wavelength is near UVA. However, there are currently no reports of either of these issues resulting from LED light therapy .
Overall, there appear to be many LED light therapy benefits. Specifically, it appears to be a gentle but effective treatment for both acne and anti-aging. While there are other laser and light treatments that can get results faster, they are often more expensive, require more downtime, and have more side-effects.
Aesthetic clinics will have stronger LED light sources that would require fewer treatments than at-home products. However, multiple studies demonstrate that at-home treatments are effective. Furthermore, in the long run, purchasing a home LED light device would be more cost efficient and convenient.
In theory, there could be a risk of photoaging or skin cancer from blue LED light as it is near UVA, and UVA is the biggest contributor to premature skin aging. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.
It appears, then, that LED light therapy could be an effective addition to your skincare routine. In terms of acne treatment, research suggests that you may see a 35% reduction in the size of acne lesions in as little as two days with twice-daily treatment with a blue LED light home-device.
Most home-use LED light devices do not come with eye protection. While home-use devices are not as strong as the LED lights used in clinics, repeated exposure to LED lights may cause damage or irritation to your eyes. For this reason, I would highly recommend some form of eye protection if you are using a home-use LED light system.
Why not see for yourself?
Not all home LED Light Therapy devices need to break the bank. Neutrogena offer up a reasonable priced option that fits over your entire face!
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Laura is a skincare addict and sunscreen enthusiast with more than 10 years of experience working in healthcare and over 5 years of experience working as a nurse. She has experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and aesthetics and has received training in laser treatments. Laura is currently working in healthcare education and writes for ScienceBecomesHer in her spare time. Read More.