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Sunday, November 27, 2022

LED Light Therapy to Combat Wrinkles and More

LED light therapy has come into vogue as a noninvasive way to treat a host of conditions, especially on the skin. We explain what it is and how it works. 

NASA started investigating the unique properties of light-emitting diode (LED) colored light in the ‘60s on plants sent to space, and the Navy SEALS began to use it in the ‘90s to help heal wounds faster and regenerate damaged muscle. Now, the lights are used to mitigate several conditions found primarily on the skin. Older adults as a whole may be particularly interested in their ability to erase fine lines and soften the color of spots. 

LED light therapy has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
  • Age spots
  • Basal cell carcinoma (when small and superficial), a common skin cancer
  • Eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Psoriasis
  • Actinic keratosis (rough, scaly, precancerous spots on the skin)
  • Rosacea
  • Sun damage
  • Wounds
  • Wrinkles

LED Light Therapy Safety

Generally, LED light therapy is considered safe when used alone or at your doctor’s office. It is not invasive or damaging, such as dermabrasion or acid peels. However, long-term studies are lacking.

When LED Light Therapy Should Be Avoided

While LED light therapy is appropriate for all skin types and colors, there are some people who should avoid it.
  • People who take medications that increase their sensitivity to sunlight, such as isotretinoin (Retin A) and lithium.
  • Those who have a history of skin cancer and inherited eye diseases.

The FDA has approved a variety of devices that emit LED light for use at home. These are less powerful than those found at medical facilities, but you still must be careful to shield your eyes while using them. Neutrogena was compelled to recall its Light Therapy Acne Mask due to concern that it could damage the eyes of people with certain eye conditions or whose eyes are more sensitive to light due to medication. 

Be sure to consult your doctor before using LED light therapy. For example, some people may want to lessen what appears to be a little sun damage, but a visit to the doctor can reveal skin cancer or another condition that requires a different treatment. 

LED Colors Penetrate Different Depths

Different colors of LED light, created from different wavelengths, travel to different depths in the skin. Wavelength is measured in nanometers. From most shallow to deepest penetrating, the colors of LED light are:
  • Purple light 400-420 nm
  • Blue light 440-500 nm
  • Cyan light 500-520 nm
  • Green light 520-565 nm
  • Yellow light 565-590 nm
  • Orange light 590-565 nm
  • Red light 625-700 nm
  • Infrared light 750-1000 nm

Red and Blue LEDs Used Most

Red LED light therapy is the most commonly used in aesthetics. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen production. Collagen is a protein that makes skin appear smoother and softer; the body produces less of it with age. Collagen is also important for healing wounds. Increasing collagen can lower redness, swelling, and bruising, and speed up the healing process. 

Red LED light therapy has also been shown to stimulate hair growth for people with male- or female-pattern baldness. Red and near-infrared wavelengths have been used to reduce the redness and inflammation of psoriasis. One study showed that these LED light colors also reduced the red, itchy patches, or plaques, caused by psoriasis.

Sports performance can be enhanced using red LED light therapy over a large portion of the body, according to some sports clinics that point to peer-reviewed studies to back up their claims. They promote consistent, multiple exposures to the light for better sleep, enhanced blood flow, more energy, better physical performance, and quicker recovery. 

Red and green LED lights have been used to treat skin cancers, and red LED light therapy has been used to treat the lesions caused by basal cell carcinoma.

Blue LED light therapy destroys the bacteria that cause acne and acts to diminish oil production in the sebaceous glands. This combination fights acne and allows the skin to heal.

Dermatologists may use a combination of light colors to treat individual issues.


There are two ways to get treatment with LED light therapy. The first is with medical-grade equipment in a healthcare setting, such as a dermatologist’s office. The second is via a device that has been purchased over the counter. Either way, multiple treatments will be required as well as follow-up exposures that are more spaced out.

A facility with medical-grade equipment may require a series of 10 visits at weekly intervals, for example, although it will vary widely with what is being treated and how. That is a common regimen for facial rejuvenation. Each treatment may require exposure to LED light therapy for around 10 to 20 minutes and take place at weekly intervals. Patients report that the cost per treatment varies from about $25 to $85, depending on the market in a particular area. Then, you may need to visit once every month or so to maintain the result.

An alternative is to buy your own personal device. Many are available online; be sure to purchase eye protection at the same time. There are handhelds, wands, folding devices, and those used to target specific areas like the neck and upper chest. Cost varies widely, from about $50 to many hundreds of dollars, generally depending on size. 

Having a personal device would seem to be a great solution. You can use it at your own convenience for a great number of sessions. However, the LED light emitters sold for home therapy are not as strong as those used by medical professionals and may take many more sessions — even several a day — for a similar result, or they may not deliver a similar result. The FDA only reviews devices for safety, not for quality or efficacy.


Because the LED lights are non-invasive, you can go from your treatment right back to your daily activities. Results may start to appear after your first session, but don’t expect anything dramatic. Take a look at some before and after photos and remember that these tend to be the best cases.