In-Office vs. At-Home LED Therapy: What’s The Difference?

We talk a lot about the damaging effects of certain kinds of light (think: ultraviolet) on the skin, but what about light that can actually be healing and regenerative? Here’s the scoop on LED therapy.
Expert Opinion
Written by Meg Storm
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In-Office vs. At-Home LED Therapy: What’s The Difference?Aiony Haust/Unsplash

If the COVID-19 pandemic has meant you are spending more time tending to your own complexion (without the help of a professional) than ever before, you’re not alone. In this four-part series, The AEDITION is teaming up with Lizette Ludwig, RN, to compare some of the most popular minimally invasive in-office aesthetic treatments (microneedling, chemical peels, LED light therapy, and microcurrent) to their at-home counterparts.

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We spend a lot of time hearing about the damaging effects of certain kinds of light (think: ultraviolet) on the skin, but what about light that can actually be healing and regenerative? Enter light emitting diode (LED) therapy, a non-invasive treatment that utilizes different wavelengths to treat a wide array of aesthetic concerns and skin conditions on the face and body. Here, we break down everything you need to know about the versatile therapy that has both in-office and at-home applications.

What Is LED Therapy?

First developed by NASA to aid plant growth experiments in space, LED therapy has become known as a non-invasive healing and aesthetic treatment option for just about every skin type and skin tone. “Using varying wavelengths, LED helps with anti-aging, acne, inflammation, and overall skin regeneration,” explains Lizette Ludwig, RN, an aesthetic nurse and injector in southern California. Because it does not contain UV rays, it is considered safe for regular use and studies have not shown any adverse effects on the skin.

Types of LED Therapy

LED therapy works by taking advantage of the skin's natural ability to metabolize light. The benefits are wide-reaching thanks to the different wavelengths employed. Below are the most common for aesthetic use:

  • Red Light: Also known as infrared light, Ludwig says red light is used to treat the epidermis, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation. The result? A healthier glow. “I like to think of red light as anti-aging and improving fine lines and wrinkles,” she adds.
  • Blue Light: Acne beware, blue light targets overactive sebaceous (oil) glands. In turn, you may see fewer breakouts. “It can also kill acne-causing bacteria beneath the skin,” Ludwig shares. She often combines red and blue light in her treatments.
  • Yellow Light: Useful in treating chronic skin conditions, yellow light improves “overall redness” from rosacea, eczema, and broken blood vessels and capillaries, Ludwig explains. It can also soothe irritated and/or sensitive skin.
  • Green Light: “There are lots of wellness benefits to using green light therapy,” Ludwig says. “You may notice improvement in sleep and relief from pain.” And it can be used as skin therapy as well, often in combination with other colors.

While LED therapy is best known for addressing facial skin concerns, it can also be used on the neck, chest, and body. Some offices have LED beds that can treat skin and wellbeing from head to toe.

In-Office LED Therapy Treatments

In a professional setting, LED therapy is often combined with other skin procedures. As Ludwig explains, it is an effective add-on to a facial, chemical peel, or microneedling treatment. Each LED session lasts about 20 minutes and, depending on the offerings of your provider, may include multiple types of light. The treatment itself is completely painless. In fact, it often results in improved mood, in addition to the skin benefits.

For best results, a series of LED sessions is usually required. Ludwig often suggests eight to 10 treatments spaced about a week apart. From there, a follow-up session every few months is recommended for maintenance.

LED Therapy Safety & Results

Side effects are minimal and rare with LED, though it is possible to experience increased inflammation, redness, rash, pain, or tenderness in the area of treatment. While LED can be classified as an acne treatment, it is not recommended for Accutane patients because the medication causes light sensitivity. Additionally, there are questions around how continued use of light can affect the eyes. “We don’t know for sure, but it's recommended to use eye protection during treatment,” Ludwig says. This is especially true of in-office LED procedures that are more powerful than their at-home counterparts.

If you’re wondering how long you’ll enjoy the skin-boosting benefits, Ludwig says “results can last a few months, but continued use of LED therapy is recommended” for maximum effect.

At-Home LED Therapy

As with any professional versus at-home treatment, in-office LED therapy is stronger than consumer versions — but that’s not to say it’s ineffective. “At-home LED masks or wands usually require additional treatments,” Ludwig says, adding that there is one major benefit. “The nice thing about the at-home treatments is you can use them at your convenience,” she notes.

Most of the at-home LED therapy tools you’ll find on the market utilize red light, blue light, or a combination of the two. Some come in the form of masks that cover a larger treatment area (think: the whole face or chest), while others offer more targeted treatment.

Treatment & Results

Consistency is key when it comes to enjoying the benefits of at-home treatments, and it’s best to follow the instructions that come with your specific device and consult with your provider to ensure the therapy is right for you. Most at-home LED tools will encourage regular use for a certain amount of time for initial results and then ongoing maintenance thereafter (check out what happened when one of our writers used the Priori Skincare UnveiLED Mask for a month).

“For in-office treatments, we usually recommend 10 treatments for 20 minutes about one week apart, but at-home devices usually come with instructions from the manufacturer,” Ludwig shares. “A lot of them recommend daily use for a few weeks, so follow the manufacturer guidelines.” While it might take a bit more patience to see results, you can enjoy the same glow-inducing and breakout-reducing benefits you’d expect from professional LED therapy.

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MEG STORMis the editorial & content director at AEDIT.

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