LED facials? We know the drill: Blue-light-emitting diodes have been shown to help clear acne, while red light can help address fine lines and other signs of aging. After all, the technology has been a mainstay in spas and dermatology offices for more than a decade. So why are these treatments popping up on celebrity Instagram feeds as of late? (We’re looking at you, Jessica Alba.)
As Susan Beal, the clinic director at the celeb-loved Kate Somerville Skin Health Experts Clinic in Los Angeles assures us, the renewed interest in LED-charged skin care is not simply a #TBT thing. While the LED facials we tried years ago employed a single wavelength of light to penetrate the skin and help repair the dermis, advancement in the technology has quadrupled the number of wavelengths that can be delivered at one time.
An LED facial with the latest technology can now deliver amber, light-red, deep-red, and infrared light simultaneously to the lower levels of the skin, sparking collagen production while reducing inflammation, speeding healing, and increasing circulation. Alternately, blue, red, and infrared can be combined to better destroy acne bacteria, while speeding healing and increasing circulation.
These multiwavelength treatments one-up their predecessor’s feats of causing acne bacteria to self-destruct or helping plump skin to minimize wrinkles. “It’s also able to get oxygenation happening on a different cellular level and put skin in a state of healing, which reduces inflammation,” explains Beal. Meaning, you can go from treatment to black tie without any in-between redness.
The $290 treatment costs as much as some hard-cased LED light therapy masks that are making the rounds online, and aim to provide similar results. But as Dr. Arisa Ortiz, a dermatologist and director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at UC San Diego Health System notes, “while these are fairly safe overall, they tend to be lower-energy devices because they’re made for at-home use, so the results will be subtle if any.”
Though Ortiz notes that laser treatments may give more bang for my buck, she admits that the overall pricing for LED facials is much less expensive. Plus, there’s no downtime or pain involved with light therapy. Unlike with lasers, it’s safe for all skin types.
To show how effective the multiwavelength medical-grade LED therapies can be, Beal connects us with aesthetician Shinobu Lee, who cleanses and exfoliates the skin, then zaps bacteria in zitty regions with a high-frequency current. After performing manual extractions and applying a potent hyaluronic acid, peptide, and amino-acid serum to my skin, it’s time to flip the switch on the LEDs.
The treatment employs a hinged panel of multiwavelength LEDs called LightStim that opens to be the size of two iPads. After covering both of our eyes, Lee hovers the panel just centimeters from my face to ensure deep-light penetration, and illuminates its nearly 1200 LEDs within. Even with my eyes covered, the immaculately white light is so bright at first, I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. (It doesn’t hurt that Lee has taken to massaging my hands and arms while New Age spa music plays in the background.)
This is perfectly normal, she assures, telling me that my eyes will adjust within the first few minutes. And they do. The overwhelming white seems to morph into shades of amber, as a subtle warmth blankets my face. Lee later tells me that the lights themselves don’t change shades; the perception of color change is simply my eyes adjusting to stationary illumination. It won’t be the only time that my eyes deceive me.
After 20 minutes under the lights and a drool-inducing massage to the limbs, Lee applies hydrating and UV-ray-protecting products to my face before handing me a mirror. What I see is a vibrancy in my complexion not spotted since my preteen years. And despite undergoing a number of extractions, my face isn’t red, thanks to the light waves that purport healing.
I follow my treatment with three blissful days of going makeup-free and looking bright, finally understanding how stars like Alba can shine on the red carpet with just a bit of tinted moisturizer covering their visage.