LED home light therapy devices are becoming a popular home treatment for a variety of skin concerns, such as acne, melasma, rosacea, and wrinkles. Some also recommend light therapy as a general anti-aging treatment. But are the devices really effective? Are they safe? The answer is that home LED light devices appear to be quite safe and, at least for conditions such as acne, they are generally effective as well, although professional dermatological treatments likely offer the most benefits.
How LED Light Therapy Works
Light Therapy works by using LED light, which can penetrate the skin better than topical agents. LED light produces energy that acts to reduce inflammation and target bacteria. This happens when bacteria molecules react to the light by producing oxygen. The bacteria is then destroyed because it cannot survive in an oxygenated environment. The color of light can have different effects. For example, a red light will target inflammation, while a blue light targets acne causing bacteria.
Light Therapy Effectiveness
LED light treatment for skin conditions such as acne is generally FDA approved, with several home devices being FDA cleared. But measuring the overall effectiveness of home products can be difficult. As Dr. Glenn Kolansky, a Board Certified Dermatologist in New Jersey, explains:
“Many companies make claims about the effectiveness of treatments, but true clinical based trials of the efficacy of home products are rarely performed. Certain wave lengths of light can penetrate tissue better than others *** LED light has been used to repair ‘recent injuries’ that need more energy. Light close to and near the infared range does have documented benefit for promoting wound healing *** Red LED light is non-invasive but can penetrate deeply into the skin tissue. It has shown some benefit to improving skin tone and texture, however the benefit may be difficult to quantify.”
Dr. Kolansky further notes:
“It is difficult to determine the effectiveness of home machines; pictures are not comparable due to the angle the picture is taken, and the amount of smiling can change things. It is sometimes difficult to appreciate any difference, or the minimal difference, in before and after photos in regard to wrinkle improvement.”
Also of concern are devices that do not actually use LED light or that have less powerful, and hence, less effective lights. Dr. Neal Schultz, a Board Certified Dermatologist in New York, notes that “the power and the energy and the actual quality of the lights in the at-home devices just isn’t the same as it is in the professional devices.” Describing the difference between professionally performed light therapy and at home devices, Schultz observed that, in a professional machine, there are approximately 800 LED lights and the treatment usually lasts for about 23 or 24 seconds. In comparison, home treatments normally have a small number of lights and a treatment time of 3-15 minutes. Thus, Schultz states:
“Clearly we’re talking about two very different worlds. If I give the at-home devices the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘Yes, they can possibly have some small level of efficacy,’ I’ll leave you with two thoughts. Number one, of course, buyer beware. And number two, you don’t always get what you pay for, but you can be sure of one thing, you never get more than you pay for.”
Others however, report quite a bit of success. For example, Kathleen Stegman, Founder of Midwest Medical Aesthetics, has used home LED devices in her spa and found them to be especially effective, noting that some of the benefits seen are a decrease in inflammation after spa procedures, decreases in pigmentation, lessening of wrinkles, and a decrease in inflammation in patients who get treatments for acne. Likewise, Debra Jaliman, a New York Board Certified Dermatologist and author of the upcoming book, Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist, says that, while not as effective as professional machines, at home LED devices are effective for acne treatment and she would recommend them. However, Jaliman also noted that, for wrinkle treatment, the light in home devices does not penetrate deeply enough to treat visible lines, but they might be effective for prevention.
In general, home light therapy is most likely to be successful for inflammatory conditions such as acne or rosacea (see our previous discussion of the Light Stim Rosacea Light). But the lights might be best used solely as a preventative for wrinkle and anti-aging treatments.
Home Light Therapy Safety
Dermatologists generally report that using a home LED light device is safe. The eye area should be properly protected (most home devices include goggles for the user to wear), and the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed. The user should also purchase only devices that use LED lights. Non-LED devices can cause burns.
The Top At Home Light Therapy Devices
There are a number of LED devices on the market. The following are a few that are regarded as the best home light therapy devices for safety and effectiveness.
Tria Beauty Skin Perfecting Blue Light ($245): For Acne Treatment, a top recommendation is Tria Beauty’s Skin Perfecting Blue Light. Tria reports that their FDA-cleared device is considered one of the most advanced acne light treatments available, delivering the same strength of Blue Light used by dermatologists.
Baby Quasar ($349-$795): Baby Quasar offers some of the best respected home lights, with acne and anti-aging lights in the $349-$399 price range. For those with money to spare, the company also offers a professional strength anti-aging light for $795. Baby Quasar offers a 60-day money back guarantee.
LightStim ($299-$329): The LightStim Company offers lights for treatment of Rosacea, Acne, and Anti-Aging.
For those looking for bargains, there are a few more affordable choices. While budget friendly, these devices do not claim to provide the same strength of light that is used by dermatologists.
The Verilux Clear Wave ($99-$145): The Clear Wave Blue Light is FDA cleared and sold through Brookstone. Consumer reviews of a previous panel version of the clear wave lights have been fairly good.
The Sirius Aurora ($149): The Sirius Aurora offers multiple treatment colors in one device, along with a 60-day money back guarantee.
Tanda Zap ($49): For Acne Spot Treatment, Tanda, which also offers standard blue and red lights, has a cute little item called the Tanda Zap. Meant for use on single blemishes, it offers a rather affordable way to utilize light in acne treatment. Cosumer reviews of the Tanda Zap have been rather favorable.