What is LED Light Therapy and Is It Right for Your Spa?

The health and wellness industry is constantly changing and new treatments and therapies continue to emerge year after year. In recent years, one of the top new trends is LED light therapy. LED light is an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent and even fluorescent light. More than that, however, it may provide benefits for the skin.

Here’s what you need to know about LED light therapy including what it is, what benefits it provides, and what the science says about it. You’ll also receive tips for incorporating it into your spa menu.

What is LED Light Therapy?

Light emitting diodes or LEDs are small semiconductor devices that emit light when an electric current is passed through them. What makes LEDs different from incandescent bulbs is that they run cool and they use much less energy. In fact, LED bulbs use over 75% less energy than standard incandescent lighting.

LED light therapy is a skincare treatment that uses different wavelengths of light. This form of light therapy was originally developed by NASA scientists for use in plant growth on shuttles, but it was later discovered to hold promise as a treatment for healing wounds. Today, it has several skincare applications including treating acne and anti-aging.

How Does It Benefit the Skin?

Unlike other forms of light therapy, LEDs do not contain the harmful ultraviolet rays that can burn your skin. It is also a much gentler anti-aging treatment than things like chemical peels, laser therapy, and dermabrasion which can cause irritation and burns. Side effects are fairly rare, but they can happen and may include things like redness, rash, and inflammation. For the most part, however, LED light therapy is considered very safe.

The benefits of LED light therapy depend on the wavelength or color of light. LED light therapy most frequently utilizes blue and red light.

Blue LED light is thought to reduce the activity of the sebaceous glands – the oil-producing glands found in the skin. By causing these glands to produce less oil, blue LED light may help improve acne symptoms. Blue LED light is also thought to kill acne-causing bacteria and may even reduce inflammation.

Red LED light is most beneficial for healing and anti-aging. This wavelength of light acts on fibroblasts, the skin cells responsible for collagen production. Collagen plays an important role in skin healing and regeneration, so by boosting collagen production red LED light may help reduce the visible signs of aging (such as fine lines and wrinkles) and may improve scarring as well. Like blue LED light, red LED light also reduces inflammation.

Here are some of the skin issues LED light therapy may benefit:

  • Acne
  • Dull complexion
  • Age spots
  • Wrinkles
  • Sun damage
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • Dermatitis

Though there is some research to support these benefits, more study is needed to understand the effects of LED light on the skin. Many of the studies that have been conducted are small, so the results must be taken with a grain of salt.

What Does the Science Have to Say?

For years, scientists have studied the effects of ultraviolet light on the skin. Early research was primarily focused on ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) – the burning rays of the sun. From there, focus shifted to a second type of ultraviolet radiation – ultraviolet A or UVA. This is the ultraviolet light that ages the skin, triggering pigmentation and wrinkles. What these two types of light have in common is that they are not on the spectrum of visible light – LED light is.

Scientists have only begun to study the effects of visible light on the skin. Even though LEDs have been around since the 1960s, research regarding their effects on skin is still fairly new. What scientists do know is that different wavelengths of visible light correspond to different colors and each color penetrates the skin to a different depth. The biological effects triggered by LED light are determined by the depth to which the light penetrates.

Some research suggests blue LED light can alter the skin’s microbiome while red LED light stimulates collagen synthesis. Lesser-studied yellow LED light may reduce healing time and resolve redness.

Here are a few studies that support the use of LED light therapy for skin benefits:

  • A 2017 study published in Dermatologic Surgery showed that red LED light improved eye-area wrinkles in a group of 50 women.
  • An article published in the March/April 2017 issue of Clinics in Dermatology featured research showing that red and/or blue light therapy reduced acne blemishes by 46 to 76 percent with 4 to 12 weeks of treatment.
  • A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that blue light targets the bacteria that cause acne and may help stop the cycle of breakouts.
  • Research published in the June 2015 edition of the journal Dermatology shows that some UV-free blue light devices help treat mild forms of psoriasis.

On top of research regarding the use of LED light therapy for skin, there is research supporting light therapy in general. Red light therapy, for example, has been shown to promote tissue repair and wound healing, improve hair growth, and build collagen to reduce wrinkles.

Tips for Incorporating It into Your Spa

If you’re going to use LED light therapy in your spa, it’s important to do it right. Look for LED devices that have been approved by the FDA and supported by dermatologists. Some of the top devices that are FDA-approved include the following:

The first two of these devices were developed by New York City-based Dennis Gross, MD. The DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro uses a combination of red and blue LED lights, though you can choose to use either the red or blue lights alone. The SpectraLite EyeCare Pro uses 72 LED lights and is designed to focus on the eye area rather than the whole face.

The Pulsaderm Acne Clearing Mask is specifically designed for acne and incorporates both red and blue LED lights. The Neutrogena Red & Blue Light Therapy Device is a portable, battery-powered device designed for spot treatment of blemishes. It uses both red and blue light and takes just 2 minutes to use. Finally, the Lightstim for Wrinkles device is another handheld and it is designed to boost elasticity and resolve fine lines and wrinkles.

Here are some additional tips for incorporating LED light therapy into your spa menu:

  • Offer LED light therapy as an add-on for facial treatments. Full face treatments only last about 20 minutes, though if you’re offering spot treatments it may only take a few minutes.
  • Create a light therapy-focused facial using an LED light therapy device. You might have the client wear the device while enjoying a hand and foot scrub.
  • Make sure your staff are properly trained to administer LED light therapy safely. Always follow the instructions for the device you choose.
  • Understand how LED light interacts with other treatments and skincare products. LED therapy is not recommended for clients using products that increase the skin’s sensitivity to light.
  • Educate your clients on how LED light therapy works and make sure they understand it may take repeated sessions to see the desired results. It may take 10 weekly sessions or more.

Adding LED light therapy to your spa menu is a simple way to keep your business current. Light therapy devices are fairly inexpensive in terms of upfront investment and it is simple to learn how to administer the treatment. Weigh the pros and cons to determine whether it’s a good option for your spa.