Whenever I see a new and pricey skincare device hit the market, my inner skeptic perks up and offers her healthy dose of caution. The recent decade has proved, however, that skincare companies are increasingly in-tune with what clients are experiencing at the esthetician’s office and are better able to provide at-home devices that offer similar (though much milder) versions of in-office treatments. While no device can offer the strength and efficacy of the professional models (and they don’t come with the esthetician’s expertise), these devices can help skincare enthusiasts maintain their results between appointments—or even achieve subtle (but meaningful) results on their own.
Take, for example, the NuFACE, a handheld device created for home use that tones facial muscles using microcurrents, which trigger the production of ATP, a precursor to collagen and elastin. With regular use—and that is that key with any at-home treatment—it lends a lovely, subtle lift to the face that can make one look more well-rested and sculpted. It’s not a facelift, but subtle changes can have a big impact on confidence—speaking from personal experience. In fact, many of us are seeking only subtle changes and would prefer to look our best without invasive procedures.
Another type of device putting collagen-boosting treatment in the hands of the consumer is LED masks and wands. These follow the same principle as in-office LED treatments. Dr. Dendy Engelman, dermatologic surgeon, breaks down the process. “It works by emitting infrared lights (causing heat) in different wavelengths/spectrums, which have different skincare benefits,” says Engelman. “Amber light stimulates collagen and elastin. Red light is most commonly used to promote circulation. White light penetrates the deepest and works to tighten and reduce inflammation. Blue light kills bacteria.” So the benefits will depend on which light(s) your device emits.
Although the efficacy of LED therapy is a somewhat new field of study, research indicates that LED treatment for wrinkles has promise. In one study, participants experienced a range of skin benefits after being exposed to red LED treatment for the treatment of photo-aging: “A statistically significant improvement in wrinkles was seen … The majority of subjects reported improvements in softness, smoothness, and firmness at all time points. Electron microscopic analysis showed evidence of post-LED treatment of thicker collagen fibers.”
Facialist Vanessa Hernandez adds that LED treatments “finish off a treatment on a cellular level—you’re working from the inside out, stimulating the body to make collagen.” She uses her mask post-skincare regimen: “I believe LEDs help any topical product penetrate skin better, so I like to wash my face and apply a serum or two and my moisturizer before popping it on. I’ve also tried it after wiping down with a glycolic acid peel and even with a little Retin-A.”
There’s also good news concerning LED therapy in the acne department, too. Blue light kills bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes (a.k.a. the bacteria associated with breakouts). According to the American Academy of Dermatology, blue light may serve as a complementary treatment for mild to moderate acne. LED therapy, they explain, “show[s] great promise in treating acne.” A 2011 study demonstrated that self-administered blue light therapy improved facial acne in 90% of participants. The Academy notes, however, that light therapy should be performed in conjunction with proper topical skincare and that it isn’t necessarily a long-term solution—a point that brings us full circle: at-home devices can contribute to better skin overall, but we need to manage our expectations of their abilities and stay committed to their use.
Fortunately, with at-home light therapy devices, you can use them while you watch TV or chill in bed! Your housemates may look at you askance, but soon enough, they may even get on board. As Real Housewife Carole Radziwill says of using her LightStim while watching crime shows, “It’s kind of awkward if your boyfriend’s over, but really if he’s not into red light I’m not into him.”
Have you tried light therapy?
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