Does Light Therapy for Skin Really Work?

Adding an LED session to your routine can boost your skin-care results.

led light therapy for skin
Photo: Cristóbal Alvarado Minic/Getty Images

Doctors believe getting lit is the future of skin care. Here, how LED light therapy can give you a youthful-looking complexion with zero drawbacks.

LED therapy for issues like wrinkles and acne is making dermatologists very excited. The light-emitting-diode treatments are nonaggressive, so you can see improvement without any downtime. Plus, the emergence of high-tech, at-home devices that are effective makes the power of light accessible to anyone. "We are beginning to realize that skin treatments don't need to be harsh to achieve real, lasting results," says Shape Brain Trust member Ellen Marmur, M.D., a dermatologist in New York who is at the forefront of LED therapy. "In addition, LEDs don't trigger inflammation. In fact, some LED lights to quell it. And we now know inflammation can accelerate skin aging." (

The benefits don't stop there. "LED is a game-changer because it communicates with the skin in a way that's different from typical skin-care serums and creams," says Dennis Gross, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. "Our skin cells contain receptors for red LED light, so they recognize and respond to it." Double up on the two methods, and that multifaceted approach is the most effective strategy for achieving significant improvement in increasing collagen production or diminishing acne flare-ups. (

In fact, LED light may soon become one of the most important steps in your routine. At a doctor's office, a medical spa, or home, you will either sit in front of a lit screen (think Lite-Brite for grown-ups) for several painless minutes or strap a light-up mask to your face. Read on to learn about the benefits of LEDs in different colors.

Red Light for Anti-Aging

Red LED light penetrates the skin deeper than most other colors, stimulating fibroblasts to produce more collagen, which results in tighter, firmer, smoother skin in 10 weeks to six months. Red light has also been shown to help dial down inflammation, making it effective for reducing redness associated with acne and rosacea. You can receive red-light therapy at a doctor's office or a medical spa (it can be added on to a Hydra Facial) and by using tools like Dr. Marmur MMSphere (Buy It, $495, at home. (

Red LED light can also help stimulate hair growth, "most likely because it increases circulation to the treated area, providing extra nourishment to hair follicles," says Thomas Rohrer, M.D., a dermatologist in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Treatments can be done in a doctor's office or with an at-home cap like iRestore Laser Hair Growth System (Buy It, $695, that you wear for 25 minutes every other day. (

Blue Light for Acne

Blue LED light kills Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria on the skin's surface that can cause pimples. Doctors can administer blue-light therapy in the office and combine it with acne-fighting topicals like retinoids and oral antibiotics. "I don't like to keep patients on oral antibiotics indefinitely," says Neal Schultz, M.D., a dermatologist in New York and a Shape Brain Trust member. "So if we're not seeing results, I often stop them and switch to blue LED therapy." At home, try Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask (Buy It, $35, (Try these dermatologist-recommended spot treatments at home too.)

Purple Light for a Double Whammy

Purple LED light is a combination of red and blue light for patients who want a treatment that's both antiaging and antiacne. Doctors may also use it on young patients with acne that's especially red and inflamed. Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro (Buy It, $435, is an FDA-approved LED mask with both red- and blue-light settings that can be used separately or together. Each treatment takes three minutes

Yellow Light for Mood

This is sometimes used as a mood elevator, especially during the winter, when people are at risk for seasonal affective disorder. "While yellow light isn't strictly for skin, it can help you feel happier and less stressed, which lowers levels of cortisol, known unfavorably as the aging hormone," says Dr. Marmur. (

Her MMSphere device emits yellow LED light as well as red, blue, purple, and green (red and green light boost collagen production). You sit in front of the halolike screen (checking email, meditating) for 20 minutes twice a week.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles