How does LED work?
“Think of the light as an ingredient,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross, who has created a range of home-use, FDA-cleared LED devices. “Like an active ingredient, it works via receptors in the skin cells, as retinol does, to stimulate more collagen and have a biological effect.” Drug-free and non-invasive with no downtime – it’s actually rather soothing – LED is proven safe for skin and eyes, “as none of the colors penetrate the eye,” says Dr Gross. In fact, it was developed by NASA to help with healing wounds on astronauts injured in space, “as the light increases blood flow, which feeds the cells with nutrients and oxygen, which is excellent for repair.”
What are the differences in LED colors?
“Using blue light is very straightforward,” says Dr Gross. “It kills the bacteria that causes acne without affecting any else.” When the acne bacteria absorbs blue light, it releases porphyrins (pigment molecules) that destroy the bacteria without damaging the skin. Using red light is less simple, however, “as there are different shades that work at different depths of the skin”. Some work on increasing blood flow, helping to ‘feed’ new cells and encourage wound healing (even eliminating scars), and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Others directly work on stimulating new collagen. “There’s so much today about ingesting collagen, but that’s really just protein, essentially no different from eating a steak,” says Gross. “The only real way to get new collagen is to start within the skin itself; by stimulating the fibroblasts that make new collagen, which is what red light does.”
How to make the most of an LED mask
While layering skincare is usually a great thing, our creams and makeup (especially anything with SPF) act as a barrier and literally block the light. To get around this, Dr Maryam Zamani tells me she just layers a light serum under her LED mask (when using red light). Even better, save your actives to use after a treatment, when the face is warm and the blood circulation is stimulated, as both help ensure skincare works better. Every little helps.
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