LED (light-emitting diode) light therapy treats various skin conditions and concerns, such as acne, fine lines and psoriasis. It comes in different types, including red light LED therapy and blue light LED therapy, which are sometimes used in combination.
LED (light-emitting diode) light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that enters the skin’s layers to improve the skin.
In the 1990s, NASA began studying LED’s effects in promoting wound healing in astronauts by helping cells and tissues grow.
Today, dermatologists and estheticians commonly use LED light therapy to treat a range of skin issues. Skin specialists often use LED light therapy together with other treatments, such as creams, ointments and facials, to give you the best results.
You can also buy an array of at-home devices that use LED light therapy, including LED masks.
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LED light therapy helps treat a variety of skin concerns and conditions, including:
In some cases, LED light therapy may treat small and superficial basal cell carcinoma (BCC). BCC, a skin cancer, is the most common type of cancer, affecting about 3.6 million Americans each year.
LED light therapy uses various wavelengths that correspond to different visible colors. Each color penetrates the skin at different depths.
Different LED colors do different things. For example, experts believe:
During treatment, skin specialists may use a combination of lights to treat your specific issue. At-home devices may also combine colors.
Research suggests that LED light therapy can help reduce and improve some skin conditions and issues. To see improvement in your skin, though, you need to have regular treatments.
In-office LED light therapy uses more powerful strengths than at-home devices, which makes it more effective. With LED masks and other portable devices, you likely won’t see dramatic anti-aging or acne-reducing results. You might experience subtle improvements in your skin’s appearance, though.
LED light therapy doesn’t help with:
Also, some research has found that blue light therapy may contribute to aging by causing free radical damage to the skin.
To see significant benefits, you typically need to have a series of in-office treatments. You may need a treatment each week for about a month. Then you might need maintenance treatments every month or every few months.
Some at-home devices may also require a substantial time commitment. You might need to use your device twice a day for 30 to 60 minutes for four to five weeks. Other devices take just a few minutes a day.
LED light therapy isn’t appropriate for everyone, including people who:
Before an in-office or at-home treatment, you need to have a clean, makeup-free face. At a spa or dermatologist’s office, you might receive additional treatments before LED light therapy, such as a facial. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from the bright lights.
After putting on your goggles, lie on your back as your healthcare provider places the LED light therapy device above your face. Lie still during the entire treatment as the device works. The treatment usually lasts about 20 minutes.
LED light therapy is a non-invasive, painless treatment. During treatment, you might feel some warmth but no discomfort.
There are several at-home devices — from masks to wands to other hand-held products. Instructions vary based on the device you buy.
For example, you might wear some LED masks on your face for a few minutes each day. You can sit upright or lie down with these. With hand-held devices, you might hold the tool 6 to 12 inches from your face for 10 minutes.
Whatever device you choose, be sure to follow the directions carefully.
After in-office or at-home LED light therapy, you can return to your regular activities with one exception: Stay out of the sun for several days and apply extra sunscreen.
LED light therapy might:
People with any skin type and color can use LED light therapy. LED light therapy doesn’t use ultraviolet (UV) light, so it doesn’t cause damage or burns to your skin.
LED light therapy is a safe, relatively risk-free treatment. If you’re thinking about buying an at-home mask or device, be sure it’s marked “FDA cleared” or “FDA approved.” Also, wear eye protection, such as sunglasses or goggles, and carefully follow instructions to confirm you’re using the device correctly.
It’s rare to experience side effects from LED light therapy. If side effects do occur, they may include:
Experts do caution that while LED light therapy seems to be safe in the short term, there’s less information about its long-term safety.
Before going to a spa for LED light therapy or buying an at-home device, consider consulting a dermatologist. This way, you can receive the correct diagnosis and treatment for your skin issue. What looks like aging, blemished skin, for example, may really be skin cancer.
Consulting a dermatologist can also confirm whether in-office or at-home LED light therapy is a good treatment option for your needs.
There isn’t a recovery time for LED light therapy. Besides being careful about sun exposure in the 48 hours after treatment, you can return to your normal routine. Unlike other skin treatments, such as a chemical peel, there isn’t any damage to the skin.
If you notice these signs after LED light therapy, contact your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
LED light therapy is a non-invasive, pain-free treatment for multiple skin concerns and conditions. You can have this treatment at a spa, your dermatologist’s office or buy an at-home device. While LED light therapy is generally safe, consult your dermatologist before trying this treatment. LED light therapy isn’t appropriate for everyone, and experts don’t know much about its long-term effects. A healthcare provider can help determine if it’s the right treatment for you, though.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/02/2021.
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