Light therapy has been monumental in treating a broad range of health concerns since the early 1900s. Scientist Niels Ryberg Finsen treated nasty tuberculosis-related skin lesions with ultraviolet radiation (and won a Nobel Prize for it); NASA sent tiny electronic light sources into outer space to enhance the cellular activity in plants; and closer to home, devices that mimic sunlight are also used to make us happier. Turns out, exposing living objects to different wavelengths of the electromagnetic light spectrum has prolific uses. The latest is LED light therapy that can overhaul your skin’s health.
Panels emitting either blue or red LEDs (light emitting diodes) are placed above your face. “It’s a non-invasive technique that creates heat by emitting infrared lights in different wavelengths, which also defines their colour,” says dermatologist Dr Jaishree Sharad. “Different colours then create different reactions in the cells to treat everything from acne to dullness. Blue light triggers production of oxygen in your oil glands and kills the acne-causing bacteria called P.acnes within them.” Which means you’ll be left with breakout-free and clear complexion. “On the other hand, red light can treat signs of ageing as it stimulates production of collagen in the deep layers of the skin,” she adds. For best results, it’s essential that you use both the colours individually and as an add-on to any facial, microdermabrasion or microneedling treatments that primarily boost circulation in the skin.
The Rule Book
Though clinics have always offered this therapy, its recent popularity is a result of at-home LED devices showing up on celebrity (like Jessica Alba and Kim Kardashian West’s) Instagram feeds. Sharad says, “These devices come with lower power, but they’re great for prolonging the benefits of your in-clinic treatments.” Some of them come with disco-coloured lights for more specific concerns: green targets wrinkles, purple increases lymphatic flow, and cyan fights inflammation. But Sharad cautions: “A typical session should not exceed 15 minutes and must be restricted to twice a week.” Though LEDs never damage the skin, they can lead to rashes, redness or dryness on sensitive skin. Our advice? Avoid retinol-based products and slather on some extra sunscreen and moisturiser before you step out.
Get photo ready Start with these ultra-cool LED therapy devices
Photograph: Aik Chen