From the flashbulbs on the red carpet to the spotlight of the stage, Hollywood's biggest stars are no strangers to the transformative power of light. Their love affair with illumination is growing thanks to the latest light-based skin treatment that is brightening A-list complexions – and their Instagram feeds. Stars from Kate Hudson and Emma Stone to Jessica Alba and Lena Dunham have been snapping and sharing selfies that show them wearing LED (light-emitting diode) masks designed to boost collagen, reduce inflammation and banish acne-related bumps and scars.
HOW IT WORKS
The white shield-like masks on their famous faces may look like props from the set of Star Wars, but in real life the futuristic-looking tools are used and recommended by dermatologists and estheticians who credit the masks' multi-coloured UV-free wavelengths with improving clients' complexions. "Tiny particles of light are called photons, which cells absorb and transform into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the form of energy that cells use to carry out normal functions," says L.A.-based celebrity facialist Shani Darden, whose clients include Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen and January Jones. "ATP is then used to power the metabolic process and repair and regenerate cells." In short, just like LEDs have been proven to encourage plant growth (what's a greenhouse without a good grow light?), LEDs can have a similar stimulating effect on skin cells by jump-starting the rejuvenation process.
But not all lights are created equal. Different wavelengths of light have different benefits. "Blue-light wavelengths destroy bacteria in the skin to improve acne," says Toronto-based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Martie S. Gidon of Gidon Aesthetics and MediSpa. It's worth noting that LED therapy is not effective at treating hormonal acne and is only recommended for inflammatory acne – in other words, pimples caused by bacteria – and works best when paired with topical acne medication.
For those looking for anti-aging results, red light is for you. "Red-light wavelengths penetrate more deeply than blue light and stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen, resulting in tighter skin and smoother fine lines," says Dr. Gidon, who also praises the red light's anti-inflammatory effect for use post-facials and peels. Another light used in combination with the other two is infrared. “It accelerates healing and encourages greater product absorption," says Shani who recommends clients use a combination of both blue/red light therapy and infrared.
You don't need to make an appointment at your favourite medi-spa to test out the technology. At-home LED masks have been growing in popularity and are available in a wide variety of price ranges. The frequency of use depends on the mask, with some requiring 20 minutes of daily use to a minimum of three times a week for 10 minutes. And always remember to protect your eyes from the lights with a pair of goggles, stresses Dr. Gidon.
As with most professional-grade devices that are redesigned to be sold as a consumer tool, the strength of at-home masks is not at the same level as those found at your dermatologist's office. Portable masks don’t pack as much punch in terms of the number of lights, but that doesn’t mean they're not effective. "While at-home options will not be as strong as a professional device, you can still see amazing results by incorporating them into your regular skin-care routine," says Shani.
The non-invasive nature of the at-home mask means side-effects are almost non-existent except perhaps a few minutes of pinkness immediately following the treatment. And with virtually no downtime, you can mask between meetings and no one will be the wiser. However, if you opt for a treatment from the experts, a bit of post-treatment patience is required. Both experts use LED therapy as a complement to other in-office services – including facials, chemical peels and microdermabrasion – in order to maximize results. "For acne, the blue light is more effective when used with a specific gel to enhance penetration of the light and it involves two treatments per week for six weeks," says Dr. Gidon. In some cases when topical medication is involved in treating acne or sun damage, the lights actually help to activate the medication, making it more aggressive and effective than LED lights on their own.
With results this effective, it's no wonder stars like Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz are opting to lay down inside LED beds in order to treat their entire bodies to the rejuvenating powers of the lights. "I have the LightStim LED Bed, which helps build collagen and elastin to help reduce wrinkles and tighten the skin," says Shani. Composed of 18,240 LEDs, the full-body machine isn’t just used for cosmetic purposes. It also is designed to treat bodily ailments – such as temporary relief of muscle soreness, joint and arthritic pain – and increase blood flow, which is the body's natural way of aiding in the healing process. If spring is the season of rejuvenation, we can’t think of a better time to light up with LEDs.