• Penn Smith

Why EVERYBODY should be using RED/NIR LED on their skin (with BEFORE/AFTERS)

Updated: 5 days ago

In the past few months I've been doing a TON of research on red and near infrared (NIR) LED and the impact it can have on our skin health. I have been absolutely flabbergasted by the volume of scientific evidence supporting the use of RED/NIR for health. There are over 5000 peer reviewed papers on the subject of using light to improve health outcomes. Many of these papers are specifically about skin, with a great focus given to wound repair. As LED is relatively inexpensive, gentle and non-invasive it has received a tremendous amount of attention for its ability to heal wounds of all nature. Also, unlike many other home-based modalities, LED therapy has no 'consumables' (such as conductive gel needed for microcurrent/RF) so it really is a single investment that can last for a very long time without ongoing costs.


Lucky for us, the research investment on skin wound repair has led to some findings directly relevant to skin and aesthetics. While I find the whole field of LED and health utterly fascinating, I've been focusing my attention on studies relevant to light and skin health - more pointedly, to reducing the signs of aging.

In this blog, I hope to share some of what I've learned and also give practical guidance on how you might incorporate red/NIR light into your skincare routine. If there is one thing I'm hoping you'll take away is that red/NIR therapy is amazing for the health of cells throughout our body. It doesn't discriminate - it isn't a 'skincare wonder' as much as it is a living cell wonder. Although, as our skin does have an advantage over other organs in our body, as it's the easiest to be 'reached' and therapeutically influenced by light - a process that's called photobiomodulation (PBMT). As a side note, there are many different terms used to describe light therapy, including LLLT, cold laser therapy, low-intensity light therapy, and plain old RED/NIR therapy. Photobiomodulation is considered the most accurate and modern term, so i'll use that interchangeably with RED/NIR light.

Below I highlight research (just a tiny subset of sooo many papers) that irrefutably establish that, when used at the right wavelength, at the right dose, RED/NIR light can have a profound impact on the health and beauty of your skin. I'll then talk a bit about how, and under what conditions photobiomodulation works. This will lead to protocols and outlining some of the most popular RED/NIR devices on the market today, and I'll let you know some of my favorites. We'll cover 'dosing' red/NIR light - yes, there is a 'sweet spot' that takes us to just the right place.


Finally, we'll finish up with frequently asked questions. I'd say that red/NIR is second only to microneedling in the interest, conversations and questions that come up in my Facebook group - so I'll try to cover a lot in the FAQ area below. And, of course, there will be a 'references' section should you wish to learn more.


As this blog is a bit lengthy 🙃, I've broken it up into sections:

  1. Why use red/NIR light therapy - it's an investment in time and money - and we have to choose some things over others. Why do I think that most people should incorporate this in some way into their routines?

  2. How does red/NIR therapy work to help you achieve healthier, more beautiful skin?

  3. Which device should you choose and how best to incorporate that into your routine?

  4. Common questions that I get (about pigmentation, contraindications, etc)

  5. How to learn more about red light therapy




WHY USE RED/NIR INFRARED THERAPY?


What can photobiomodulation do for you? BEFORE/AFTERS

I don't know about you, but I love a good before/after. Progress photos, especially when they're created as part of a controlled clinical study, can motivate me into initial action (buying the right product) and to be consistent with my use of modalities (compliance is key!!). So I'm going to start this blog with some photographs, ultrasound images and graphs that reflect real clinical outcomes. On this blog (link to second blog) we'll talk about how to best choose a device and protocol that can help you get the most of the time and energy you spend on your skin photobiomodulation routine.


These photos are from a 2014 study entitled "A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and intradermal collagen density increase"1

These photos show the results of Red LED treatments (30 sessions) on a 41 year old woman. 611–650nm, ∼9 J/cm2

This is photo shows results of Red LED/NIR treatment (30 sessions) on a 64 year old woman 570–850nm. ∼9 J/cm2 for 20 mins per session


Ultrasound scan, 30 sessions 46 year old female showing collagen density increase


The above study was performed in a clinical setting with clinical tools. While we can't replicate the settings exactly, we do know that photobiomodulation skincare device providers tune their devices and usage recommendations to achieve the optimal outcomes.


Beyond before and afters, it's helpful to peek into the data that's been compiled from larger cohorts. A landmark study conducted in 2007 called 'A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, and split-face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation: Clinical, profilometric, histologic, ultrastructural, and biochemical evaluations and comparison of three different treatment settings' (yes, that's a mouthful!!) showed fascinating results from using red/NIR or a combination.


In this study, 76 participants were treated with LED only on the right side of their faces. They were randomly separated into four groups and treated with wavelengths of either 830nm alone, 633nm alone, a combination of 830 and 633nm, or a pacebo treatment. The treatment was twice a week for four weeks. The devices used were very expensive and precisely powered clinical units (we won't see results as quickly with our home devices.)


A very specific set of clinical measures we taken during the four weeks of the trial and also within a three month follow-up to determine whether the LED worked when compared to the placebo and, if so, which individual or combination of wavelengths had a more profound impact on different measures. Profilometry (to measure roughness) , and measurements of pigmentation and elasticity were taken. Successive photos were taken and both the participants and investigator’s assessments were double-blinded. Finally, biopsies of the skin were examined for the histologic changes (assessment at a tissue/cell level), including for levels of growth factors, and measures that signal collagen degradation. You can read the whole study (linked below), but suffice it to say that it was a solid study!!


Results showed significant reductions of wrinkles (up to 36%) and increases in elasticity (up to 19%) compared to baseline on the treated side of the face in the three treatment groups. A significant increase in the amount of collagen and elastic fibers in all treatment groups was observed. Below are a few of the charts. Note that participants continued to see improvements long after the study completed. We'll talk more about this below!!



https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1011134407000632?via%3Dihub


HOW DOES IT WORK: THE SCIENCE (A VERY BRIEF SUMMARY)


So we know there's evidence that photobiomodulation works. But HOW does it work? I know that the term 'light therapy' can seem a bit woo-woo to some. I mean, is shining a bit of light on my face really going to give me better skin? It's interesting, as most of us have full respect for the impact of a half day's worth of SPF-free sun on our faces!!


First off, are all wavelengths of light worth the same degree of reverence? As far as skin health goes, there are two clear winners: the red wavelength range of 620 to 750 and near infrared with a range of 700 to 1200 nm. Blue has a special role in the treatment of acne, but I won't be covering that in this blog. Within red and IR ranges, 633nm and 830nm are the most studied, respectively.


While some at-home devices contain other colors/wavelengths, these simply don't have the robust support research to back up claims that blue/red/NIR do.


Above: depth different wavelengths penetrate in human skin.


Key to the interaction between light and the tissues of our body are chromophores. Examples of chromophores are melanin, haemoglobin, water, protein, etc. Chromophores absorb specific wavelengths of light depending on their 'absorption coefficient'. When the right wavelength of red/NIR light hits the skin, chromophores inside our cells 'scoop up' the energy of the light and transform it into something wonderful.




While research is still ongoing, Hamblin, Calderwell, Wunch, and other experts believe that there are two primary ways that photobiomodulation helps our cellular health:

  1. LED/NIR helps ATP production. When our cells have more energy they're more efficient at clearing/building/repairing.

  2. LED/NIR activates signalling pathways leading to the activation of transcription factors. These transcription factors tell cells to do good things better.

(There is also a third way that's being actively investigated - we'll call it water activation. There's a lot of research into this area, but there isn't enough grounding for me to share with you here.)


The generation of ATP is an action that must be repeated regularly to reap rewards. Our cells don't store ATP for long, so we need to keep charging it up to see the advantages of more cellular energy. This is one of the reasons why the use of red/NIR light needs to be frequent. Our bodies need a 'trickle feed' of cellular energy rather than a 'one and done.' The mechanisms of enhanced ATP production are pretty complex. To put it simply, photobiomodulation helps all types of cells make more energy. So it can impact our muscles, our tendons, even our hormones like oestrogen.


Exactly how red and NIR light works to boost ATP is an extremely complex process that's not 100% understood in scientific communities (but things are evolving fast.) While I won't cover it in this blog, for those with lots of curiousity (and a good scientific foundation!! ) there is a ton of information about it in Pubmed. This link is a good place to start 🙂.


Additionally, Hamblin and other scientists have identified that there are longer term processes that are stimulated via photobiomodulation. Signaling pathways get activated, which trigger transcription factors. These transcription factors can lead to increased expression of genes related to protein synthesis, cell migration and proliferation, anti-inflammatory signaling, anti-apoptotic proteins, antioxidant enzymes. Fibroblasts are initiated to signal macrophages to remove old, damaged fibres and then those fibroblasts move on to build that gorgeous collagen into our tissue. Additionally, stem cells and progenitor cells are responsive to the right wavelengths of light. In one Hamblin video, he mentioned that by shining IR light on a bony area of our body (say, our shins) we can activate our own stem cells - I'm doing more research to understand this better, but sounds pretty cool! But for the purposes of using LED/NIR for skin health, the key thing know is that when cells are energised and mobilized or new proteins are made, we'll see changes. In our skin this mean the softening of wrinkles, more uniform pigmentation, better glow, less redness, for starters.


Interestingly, the more its needed the better photobiomodulation seems to work. Cells that are either injured (think pain, wounds, or simply very weak) soak up LED like there's no tomorrow whereas for healthy cells it's a 'nice to have'. That's what makes LED particularly useful for after microneedling, chemical peels and in-office treatments like IPL, laser and post surgery (with your doctor's go-ahed, of course.)


HOW TO PICK AN AT-HOME LED DEVICE


So the good news is that we know red/NIR infrared works. But how do we get as close to those in-clinic study results at home, without having access to machines that cost tens of thousands of dollars? Well, we might have to spend a bit longer under our devices, but the evidence says that we don't have to compromise on results. Let's turn to our attention to how to select a device that's right for YOU. If there's one thing I want to convey about getting results from LED, it's that to see results, you must commit. if you're not willing/able to dedicate yourself to regular sessions, you really may want to forgo purchasing an LED device. For those people who want to see 'results' within three weeks, LED may also not be for you.



This is a Visia photo taken one week after a four week (3x per week treatment with the Omnilux Face Mask). There's a softening of fine lines and reduction in redness.


So how do you decide between a 'wearable' such as a mask or collar, a larger panel or a more spendy domed/canopy treatment device like you'll find in dermatologists office? Well, I'm fortunate enough to have owned and tried them all. I've compiled a table below to help you decide. Like a friend of mine once reminded me 'the exercise that works is the one you'll commit to!' So it is with RED/NIR therapy. Light therapy is a largely 'trickle' treatment, and one that will only show results with long term commitment.


If you're in the market for an LED device, I recommend that you glance through this info and the table below to get a sense for the different factors to consider. Alternatively, if you know what you want and/or want to see my suggestions on specific devices, click here.

Some things to start with:

  1. What do you want to treat? Face? Neck, body? Just skin or deeper tissues? Just you or family members/pets?

  2. What wavelengths are important? Just skin antiaging or acne as well? Decide whether you want NIR, red, red + NIR or red+NIR+blue. (see below Table 1)

  3. How much time do you want to devote each day?

  4. Do you need/want to stay active while you do your LED? Are you happy to stand still with your eyes closed for a five minute treatment or would you rather watch paint dry 🙂

  5. What about space? Do you have room to store your device yet keep it handy?

  6. Does your LED need to be portable, or would you be happy to dedicate a place in your home for your LED-zone? And how much space do you have to store a device?

  7. What is your budget?


1. What do you want to treat?

This is a really important place to start. I have so many members of my community who've remarked something like 'I bought a mask and love LED so much, I bought a panel so I could treat my body'. Or I bought a panel but wish I'd bought a dome/canopy that I can slip into a slim space when I'm not using it.' or 'I travel a lot and can't take my panel with me so wish I'd bought a mask' - I hear it all!! I have a friend who has to fight for LED space with her cat 😺(yes, LED is amazing for pets) - so consider all of this! Another thing to consider is whether you want to use your LED immediately after microneedling or in-office treatments such as laser and peels. Generally I'd say non-wearable devices are best for this purpose as you don't want to have close contact with the skin.


2. What wavelengths (colors) do you choose?

This is super important. The wavelength dictates the tissue targeted. See Table 1 for an overview. Some devices allow you to toggle between colours (red, IR and sometimes blue) so that you can opt-in (or out) of a specific wavelength. This can be important as some wavelengths either not useful or contraindicated for certain things (e.g. pigmentation.)


3. How much time do you want to devote?

Different brands have different philosophies around 'low and slow' vs. 'get it done quickly', and you'll want to make sure that philosophy matches with your own. Additionally, there's a huge range in time commitments from one device to another (from under five minutes a session to up to 30.) Don't assume less time is preferable, one of my big joys is to lay down for 30 mins with a podcast on (or a chatting to a friend) and do my light treatment - I'd be crushed if it was shortened to ten minutes!!


4. Do you want/need to stay active while you have your treatment?

Some people love to be able to unload the dishwasher, watch Netflix or chop veggies while they LED. Others don't like 'wearables' and would prefer to do a five minute naked meditation in front of a panel and get their day's 'light nutrient'. Personally, I like the flexibility of being able to relax/chat on the phone while under a dome some days while other day's I'm so happy to have a wearable to wear around the house as I vacuum.


5. What about space?

Some people love LED panels - the bigger the better! And I get that, it can be nice to have a short treatment and cover so much territory. Large panels can take up a lot of space - for this reason, vendors have clever solutions that allow them to hang on the back of doors or even suspend over a massage bed (say in a home gym.) These are great solutions, just factor them into your overall budget.


6. Does your LED need to be portable?

This is a question worth asking. I'm often off for the weekend with my family or visiting friends. Sometimes I'll have a longer trip for vacation or work. Because I know compliance is key with LED I'm always sure to have either a flexible dome or wearable to travel with. Of course, for people who travel once or twice a year, there's no need to consider this.


7. What's your budget?

This may be 'cut and dry' to some but not so clear for others. While most of our skincare devices have a single users and specific function 'I use my Dr. Pen for microneedling for collagen induction - for ME 🙂' - pretty straightforward. But if we've already decided we'd like to have a device that has blue light so we can treat a family member's acne and also infrared in the form that could treat husband's knee, we have an expanded set of requirements which could perhaps justify a slightly higher budget. Something to consider.


We've cover what functionality of the device and how you'll use it. Other important things to consider are:


  • The reputation of the brand, including whether they also make medical devices, their customer service track record, etc.

  • Clinical studies backing the brand's claims https://gmt.egnyte.com/dl/ZhRm4Ng37M (covers all masks that stem from LightSalon)

  • Warrantee period (important if you're investing a lot)


Sorry that this graphic isn't great resolution - I'm working on it!!


LED OPTIONS: MY PICKS



LightSalon

What: All items on sale except collection SETS

Offer: 28% off

Code: PennSmithBF28 (works both in the US and abroad)

When: NOW through the end of December!!

Notes: I LOVE the LightSalon as a company (it’s a female owned small business, and they’re lovely. and I especially love their Collar - it's one of my top 3 LED devices, so portable and versatile. Light salon is THE original mask- all others came after. The specs are the same as Omnilux, CurrentBody and others that you see that look the same. Knowledge is power people!

Link: https://www.thelight-salon.com/en-us


PS I LOVED getting a Light Salon Pro treatment while in London!


CurrentBody Skin LED Neck and Dec Perfector

What: LED Neck and Dec Perfector

Offer: 25% off

Code: PennLED

When: now through December 7th

Notes: CurrentBody is having a GREAT sale AND they ship internationally

Link: https://go.shopmy.us/p-762894

UK link: https://go.shopmy.us/p-762768


CurrentBody Skin

What: LED Light Therapy Mask

Offer: 25% off

Code: PennLED

When: November 14th - 29th

Notes: CurrentBody is having a GREAT sale AND they ship internationally

Link: https://go.shopmy.us/p-762881

UK link: https://go.shopmy.us/p-783911


Dermalux Flex MD

What: Dermalux Flex MD Light Therapy Device

Offer: $250 off 💗 exclusive to my community

Code: PennFLEX

When: Now through December 7th

Notes: The Flex MD is a certified medical device, tested against stringent quality, safety and efficacy standards and independently verified to deliver against medical claims (such as psoriasis, wound healing, pain managment, acne)

Link: https://go.shopmy.us/p-762871

UK link: https://go.shopmy.us/p-762746

Other region links: Just use the link above and then go to the "flag" and then choose your region. All my discounts are valid for CurrentBody in all regions.


Mito Red Lights

What: The entire line of Mito Mobile are on sale. While small, these portable devices could be a great introduction for someone who has been eyeing a panel but not sure.

- Mito Mobile

- Mito Mobile Flex. *This one is interesting as you can switch between red and NIR without sacrificing coverage/output. Could be a good option for someone who has pigmentation issues and wants pure red light.

- Mito Belt - good for back pain. Offer: 15% off

Code: Penny15 When: Now through December 2nd Note: While full size Mito panels aren't on sale for Black Friday, you can stil use my Code 'Penny' for 5% off these items. Link: http://www.MitoRedLight.com/discount/PENNY?redirect=%2F%3Fafmc%3DPENNY


Maysama

What: Entire Maysama skincare range, but excludes beauty accessories

Offer: 22% off 💗 (exclusive to my community!)

When: November 14 through midnight, November 1st (GMT)

Notes: I love to use this before my daily red/NIR LED

Link: https://maysama.com/discount/PennBF?redirect=%2Fcollections%2Fskincare


Deciem

What: Entire line of The Ordinary and NIOD

Offer: 23% off

When: Until November 30

Notes: COPPER PEPTIDES! Need I say more? Super interesting to use before LED

Links: See my latest video with helpful speed reviews here https://youtu.be/VUn39GlimM0

The Ordinary: https://tidd.ly/3DrTsTo

NIOD: https://tidd.ly/3SLL1YY


HOW TO USE AN AT-HOME LED DEVICE


The power and the proximity of the device to the skin, along right wavelengths, and strength of the light and the length of each session, all need to be calibrated provide an effective dose.


Here we'll focus on the skin of the face neck and decollete, although many devices can cover larger areas and NIR is capable of going into much deeper tissues. There's solid evidence around NIR helping with pain, and red can be useful with hair growth. As mentioned above, you might want to consider whether other members of your house are likely to use your LED device. While face masks are somewhat limited to the face, collars, domes and panels can offer additional utility.


DOSING: Whisper, talk, but please don't shout

Red and NIR are so pleasant to use. For me, it has a calming and happy effect. It's the kind of modality where we might be tempted to think 'more is better' or 'stronger is better'. Well, I'm here to tell you that that's not the case - or like my mother always told me, 'moderation in everything' 🙃). There's something called a 'biphasic dose response' which translates to: moderation in everything 😂.


Photobiomodulation is a form of hormesis. Hormeis is the notion that 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger'. We experience hormesis when we exercise, take a winter swim, do intermittent fasting, even when we drink green tea. (I realize some people like the taste... 😂). What these things have in common is that they induce a controlled stress, causing the body to respond by getting stronger. We know what can happen if we exercise too much or too intensely (or stay out too long on a winer swim in water that's too cold - that's NOT good.) So it is with red/NIR therapy. According to Michael Hamblin, "One feature of photbiomodulation that is becoming appreciated is the biphasic dose response (also known as the Arndt–Schulz law. This principle states that a very low dose of light has no effect, a somewhat bigger dose has a positive effect until a plateau is reached. If the light dose is increased beyond that point, the benefit progressively decreases, until the baseline (no effect) is reached, and further increases will actually start to have damaging effects on the tissue.


I love this graphic. It reminds me of catching that wave and riding it just to the right place - to that 'stimulation' zone, and knowing when to exit that wave. And so it is with photobiomodulation. (this really should be a pink wave)


So in choosing a device (and using it correctly), it's important to note that If the device delivers too little, impact may be negligible. Conversely, if the device delivers too much light too quickly it may generate heat in the tissue - which is not a goal, and can contribute to flushing and hyperpigmentation. Additionally, cells may not have time to process the photons - sort of like when you try to soak up a spill too quickly with a dry sponge.


For similar reasons, it's important to follow the manufactures guidelines about dose. If you're not good about setting a separate timer many LED devices come with an internal shut off (most of the ones focused on the skincare have internal timers.) And remember that with light, the dose is related not just how long you use the device but how close you are from it - the manufacturers guidance is key!!


PROTOCOLS - HOW/WHEN DO I USE LED?


Daily protocols

Depending on the device you own, the manufacturer might suggest treatments anywhere between three and seven days a week. There can be large variations in power (and remember, more isn't necessarily better) so it is vital that you look first to your user manual when you're deciding how frequently to use your LED. Having said that, if you have the time to commit, I'd recommend going to the more frequent end of the spectrum. For example, if your device suggests using it 3-5 days per week for 10 minutes, try do hit five days a week if you can - and most manufacturers agree that it's perfectly fine to use their LED device every day.


My own daily LED protocol

Ever since I began delving deeper into LED a few months ago, I've been REALLY compliant fitting LED into my schedule. Now I don't even think about it - I use it nearly every day.


I tend to use LED in the morning. I like to wake very early. First I use my cysteamine then after 15 minutes I cleanse my skin (I'm doing a bit of a test to see how a combination of cysteamine and LED work at handling my pigmentation issues - I'll report back soon!!). Then I'll either use LED on clean skin OR I'll apply a thin layer of Maysama Green Roiboos Serum (wait a few minutes then LED) or NIOD Copper Peptides, and then right on to my LED. I either use my Dermalux Flex MD if I have podcasts to listen to or phone calls to make, or I'll put on my LED mask so I can do morning chores at the same time. If you're in the habit of using an AHA toner every few days, it's a great idea to do it before LED as clearing off those dead skin cells can make way for that healing light.


Then on to the rest of my morning skincare routine!


Pre/post treatment protocol (microneedling, etc)

If you've followed my microneedling protocol, you've heard me mentioning LED as an excellent complement to both cosmetic and medical needling. According to Dr. Lance Setterfield, one of the leading authorities on microneedling and author or The Concise Guide to Dermal Needling, LED after microneedling accomplishes these important goals:


  • Immediate reduction in erythema

  • Pain relief

  • Reduction in inflammation

  • Increase in lymph drainage

  • Increase in keratinocyte and fibroblast proliferation

  • Speeds up wound healing 150-200%

  • Enhances collagen production


Once a week when I do cosmetic needling in the evening (typically a Friday for me) I follow up with NIOD Copper Peptide, Drmtlgy needleless serum, or Revivserum and then NIR LED (ideally 830nm, according to Setterfield), then my night time skincare.


Then once a month when I medical needle, I'll follow up with an LED session.


For post needling, I really prefer to use either my Dermalux Flex MD or my MITO panel as both of these allow me to have an LED session without having the device come into contact with my face. To me, microneedling and LED are best skincare friends.



FAQ


NOTE: I'm working on responses to the below questions (and more) and will have an update this week!)


Q. I have a panel. How do I know how long to use it and how far to stand away?

A. All panels are different. Please always consult the manufacture of your panel and ask about skincare usage as the parameters for treating muscle aches, etc will be different.


Q. Do I need to worry about my eyes when I use LED?

A. I often get the question 'do I really need to use light-blocking goggles when I use red/NIR LED?'. This is a personal decision, and one that you may consider consulting with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to discuss. Panels have a much higher irradiance than wearables, and how far you sit from a panel will impact the strength of light that hits your eyes.


Having said that, I do not typically use light blocking goggles when doing my red light treatment. There are many studies that actually indicate that red light can be good for eye and brain health. This is a very interesting


This is from a 2021 paper published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences - Near Infrared (NIR) Light Therapy of Eye Diseases: A Review:


"NIR light, or PBM, is a promising and powerful method to mediate biological functions via low power light wavelength from red to near-infrared regions. Eyes and neurons rely on cytochrome c oxidase to generate energy for metabolic process. NIR light can penetrate these tissues and assist recoveries of neurons in methanol intoxication, optic nerve trauma and neuropathy, retinal injuries and pigmentosa, and macular degeneration. NIR light can also help brains to recover from atherothrombotic stroke, brain injury, and neurodegeneration. No side effects have been observed from animals and humans. Therefore, NIR light could be a safe and effective method for a wide range of applications in ophthalmological and neurological fields in the near future.


There are scores of other studies about the potential health benefits of red/NIR on the eyes - I'd encourage you to do you own research and consult with your doctor if this is of interest.


Conversely, there is significant evidence that exposing eyes to blue light can be harmful. When using blue LED, please be careful about exposing your eyes - always ensure the eyes are covered during use.


Q. Will using LED keep me up at night?

A. Using blue light devices can help us feel more awake and alert. However, blue light in the evening hours can hinder sleep. Essentially blue light wavelengths can stop the brain from producing melatonin, which ushers us into a restful sleep.


Conversely. studies show that red light, rather than hindering sleep, can help produce melatonin and support healthy sleep patterns. Red light emitted in the wavelengths used in antiageing skin devices may actually improve sleep. A study of female athletes conducted in 2012 had 20 basketball players participate in whole-body irradiation with red-light for two weeks. It was found that the treatment improved the sleep, serum melatonin level, and endurance performance of participants.


Personally, I don't use blue LED but if I did I'd try to do my session in the morning hours. As for red and NIR light I plan my sessions whenever convenient, knowing it'll only support a healthy circadian rhythm.



Q. LED and hyperpigmentation. Are there studies that illuminate why some people have worsening pigmentation with light therapy and others have improvements? Is it only NIR and blue that can cause worsening? Is it only hormone-based pigmentation that can be worsened by LED?

A. I wish I had a clear and definitive answer to this one, but I'm afraid the jury is still out. What we DO know is that both blue and NIR may contribute to exacerbating hyperpigmentation in some people prone to this issue. I have hyperpigmentation challenges and NIR has no impact on me, so that's one data point! We also know that red LED is shown to help pigmentation issues. Again there is no definitive science here, so each of us has to make his/her own decision.



Q. LED and facial fat loss. There is literature that supports the idea that NIR can assist with fat loss, particularly if combined with exercise. For those people using LED on their faces or other areas where they do NOT want fat loss, is there any worry?

A. I have found no evidence to indicate that red/NIR skincare devices can lead to facial fat loss. I've done extensive research on this and asked several experts and can find no data that causes me to be concerned about facial fat loss. Any reports/studies that I've seen that link fat loss to LED are based in very strong LED panels used very close to the skin in conjunction with aerobic exercise - this is not how we used LED for skin health,


Q. There is some evidence that NIR can cause fat loss. How strong (and at what wavelength) would a device need to create fat loss on our faces?

A.


Q. I've heard that LED can be useful for stem cell generation when used close to the bone (e.g. against the shins) Is there any evidence that using red/NIR in appropriate wavelengths can help mitigate bone loss on our faces?

A. I think this is such an interesting question. I've done research and, while experts like Michael Hamblin discuss such theories, I haven't yet found a study that can lead us to this conclusion. But hopefully research will advance and we'll learn more!!


Q. I've seen before/after photos that show dynamic wrinkles (say on the forehead) that have been helped with red/NIR LED. How is this possible if our muscles are still making the same (dynamic) movements - after all LED doesn't work like Botox!

This is another fascinating topic that I've been researching. I listened to a lecture given by Alexander Wunsch. In it, he hypothesised that dynamic muscles may do a better job 'relaxing' after contraction due to increased ATP yielding a more 'efficient' contraction/relax mechanism. Again, I've found no studies to support this notion, but it's such an interesting theory!!



Q. Should red/NIR be used only clean skin, or is it advantageous to have water-based serums applied first? The ‘common wisdom’ is that LED should always be used on a clean face. Can LED help with penetration of certain ingredients, have you seen studies that support this?

A. I've not yet found any study that investigates the potential of topical skincare to inhibit the effect of red/NIR LED. I think the 'clean skin' notion likely came from the industry attempting to simulate the same environment as the study results (understandably.) On the other hand, I've seen information (again, from Alexander Wunch) that states that red/NIR can assist with product penetration. I think this is another one for 'personal judgement'.


Q. Can LED/NIR contribute to cancer?

A. If you are in any way concerned with the any risk in this area I would encourage to discuss this topic with your doctor.


This paper was authored by Michael R Hamblin Ph. D. former Principal Investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, an Associate Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946726/




Resources


Trial for the Omnilux Face mask (worth repeating, while Omnilux sponsored this trial, it has exactly the same specifications - each have slightly different fit - as LightSalon, CurrentBody and a few others.) So we can extrapolate that the same results (adjusted for minor differences in fit) would be obtained from any of the devices that are manufactured by GlobalMed https://gmt.egnyte.com/dl/ZhRm4Ng37M


A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, and split-face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation: Clinical, profilometric, histologic, ultrastructural, and biochemical evaluations and comparison of three different treatment settings


A study to determine the efficacy of combination LED light therapy (633 nm and 830 nm) in facial skin rejuvenation


A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase


Utilization of light-emitting diodes for skin therapy: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Photobiomodulation—Underlying Mechanism and Clinical Applications


A study to determine the efficacy of combination LED light therapy (633 nm and 830 nm) in facial skin rejuvenation



Appendix

Here are some of the technical specifications that we'll need to look out for. In my opinion, the average consumer shouldn't need to be come familiar with these technical details. It's a bit like buying a car and needing to know about mechanics; interesting to a select few, but most of us are more interested in driving!! In any case, If you want to learn a lot more about the nuance that goes into finding the optimal dose of light, have a look here.


Wavelength. To put is simplistically, wavelength is the color. The most widely studied and relevant to us in skincare are blue (400-490 nm), red (620-750 nm) and near infrared (NIR) (750-1200 nm). As mentioned above, 415nm, 633nm; 830nm can be considered the 'sweet spots' of wavelength as they're the most widely studied and agreed upon by photobiomodulation experts.


"Different wavelengths behave differently in the body because they have different chromophore targets and penetration depths" (Calderhead, 2007).


Irradiance represents the energy as it hits the skin (not at it leaves the LED). Irradiance is equal to power (in mW) ÷ beam area at the tissue surface in square centimeters. A higher irradiance often means a shorter treatment time. But, as we'll see below, a higher irradiance isn’t always better.


Fluence. which simply means to the 'dose' of LED

The formula for Fluence is Irradiance x .001) x treatment time in seconds

 

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Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content provided on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or skin related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this website should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare/skin professional. The statements made about specific products throughout this website are not to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. It is important that you check labels to determine if a product is right for you. Before starting any treatment at home consult a health care or skin care professional to determine if it’s right for you.

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