Boost your skincare routine with LEDs

February 22, 2022

The prevalence of skin care has been widespread since the early of mass consumerism in the mid 60s, with companies selling their creams, mousses, foams, and scrubs in their millions in the decades since. From charcoal formulas to the infamous micro-bead, our obsession with skin care has been largely topical and with varying success but as times and technology change, so too do the ways in which we look after ourselves.

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LEDs have been a revolutionary technology in their own right since their mainstream uptake in the past two decades, with mountains of evidence supporting their cost effectiveness compared to their traditional counterparts, on top of their environmental benefits.

For example, standard LED fixtures can be up to 80% more energy efficient than conventional lighting and waste far less energy than other styles of lighting. This is because they use a vast majority of their energy as light and only waste 5% as heat. The planet-loving light is non-toxic too, so fewer toxic chemicals like mercury leak out and contaminate the environment when they reach landfill. 

LEDs are also longer lasting – around 50x more than traditional lighting. They, therefore, require less production and don’t need to be replaced as often. Therefore, fewer resources and parts are required for manufacturing, transportation and packaging, a big win for the planet.

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But outside of their extensive advantages to us as superior lighting outlets, LEDs have also been widely evidenced as ways by which we can improve our wellbeing and health – from dynamic mood lighting that affects our circadian systems which in turn impact our alertness, to breakthroughs in medical science that point to LED therapy being used to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The latest scientific study, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), found that LEDs can actually be used in a process that could help the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers at MIT found that, during an early stage test on mice, LED lights blocked an enzyme called HDAC2 that suppresses the genes related to memory loss, something which had proved difficult in the past without damaging surrounding enzymes that impact some internal organs.

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Studies from the early noughties suggested that Alzheimer’s patients had particularly weak gamma waves compared to non-sufferers, and more recent studies show that so-called ‘plaques and tangles’ of toxic material damage the synapses and neurons inside the brain which then lead to the confusion and decline in cognitive ability.

The ground-breaking study is of particular scientific and societal interest since dementia (which Alzheimer’s is one form of) recently became a leading cause of death in the UK. In 2020 alone, one in ten deaths recorded in the UK were associated with complications from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are an estimated 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, a number set to more than double in the coming decades. There are also no known cures for the disease, so any progress towards treating it and its symptoms is a step forward for the thousands of people that die from it every year.

Well, as it turns out, LED lighting has a positive effect on our skin, too, something which is widely practiced in the cosmetic industry to help with physical imperfections that would otherwise be remedied from invasive surgery.

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For example, LEDs are seen to treat things like wrinkles, redness, and acne, to symptoms of ageing and even scarring and whilst it isn’t a rock solid case for it as of yet, small studies have shown promise as LED devices being used for cosmetic treatments.

Due to their similarities with the sun’s light spectrum which tend to penetrate the skin and LEDs are thought to similar physiological effects.

The popular wavelengths of LED lighting are red and blue, the red lights act on the fibroblasts in our skin which produce collagen, a protein which is involved in the skin’s recovery after damage. In this way, red light could promote the ‘healing’ of skin.

Blue light on the other hand reduces the activity of the sebaceous glands in our skin that produce oil and eventually leads to skin conditions like acne. On top of this, blue light also has the potential to kill acne-associated bacteria. In this way, blue and red light are used in cosmetic clinics to target acne-causing bacteria as well as inflammation and redness, though further proof is needed.

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Some LED therapies are combined with a photosensitive medicine that is applied to the skin to make it potentially more sensitive to light and the treatment.

Promisingly, some cases show that LED light therapy may even treat small and superficial basal cell carcinoma, a common type of skin that affects over 3 million Americans each year.

There are some small risks associated with LED light therapy, although it is a largely safe type of treatment. The main thing to consider isn’t even to do with your skin, but your eyes.

Eye protection such as sunglasses or goggles are best to wear alongside any light therapies. Outside of this, side effects from LED light therapy may include increased inflammation, rashes, redness, and pain. There’s also not much info on LED light therapy’s long term safety.

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Additionally, side effects of blue light therapy immediately following treatment include redness, tenderness, mild bruises and even blistering, especially when other medications are involved. The treated area may also crust over but this is normal after such treatment.

However, LEDs don’t contain UV rays, it is considered a safer form of light therapy that won’t cause long-term damage to your skin.

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