16 July 2021
LED light therapy- you’ve seen it in clinics, spas and home devices. What is LED light and should you be getting your own LED light device. Shining a light on the science of LED therapy and my review of FOREO’s UFO Smart Mask Device in this blogpost. Enjoy!
LED stands for light emitting diode. In LED light therapy, light of specific wavelengths is shone on the skin for different therapeutic benefits- acne, wound healing, skin rejuvenation… etc. The light energy gets absorbed by the skin to alter cellular activity such as cell growth and collagen production.
In dermatology, LED light therapy has been used to address conditions such as acne vulgaris, infections, wound healing and aging.
Similar to lasers, LED light energy is absorbed by chromophores (e.g. mitochondria) in the skin. LED light energy leads to changes such as cell growth, differentiation, migration, inflammation and collagen formation. These changes are affected by LED light parameters such as the wavelength, fluence (‘intensity’), surface area and treatment length. For example, each wavelength has unique properties due to differences in chromophore targets and how deeply each wavelength penetrates the skin.
Some of the benefits of LED light therapy for the skin are:
● Improved fine lines and wrinkles
● Reduced acne
● Reduced inflammation and redness (e.g. psoriasis or post laser erythema)
● Improved wound healing
● Decreased sun damage
● Increased skin renewal
What do the studies say about the effectiveness of LED light therapy? Here’s a review and summary about the efficacy of LED light therapy for different skin conditions and treatments:
Acne and LED light therapy
There’s a strong amount of evidence that shows that LED light therapy, specifically blue light therapy is safe and effective in treating acne vulgaris. Blue LED light destroys C. acnes, the primary bacteria in the formation of acne and reduces inflammation. I also incorporate blue LED light therapy in my clinic in Singapore for treating acne, in combination with the Q-switch laser and chemical peels. I personally find that adding blue LED light therapy has made an improvement to the results of my patients who are receiving treatments for their acne vulgaris.
Studies also show that LED light therapy improves signs of aging. LED light therapy induces collagen synthesis, fibroblast proliferation, growth factor and extracellular matrix production by photobiomodulation. Subjects who underwent LED light therapy had a reduction in their fine lines and increased skin firmness.
Since the discovery of LED light’s effect on improving wound healing, LED light therapy has been studied in various surgical aesthetic and skin resurfacing treatments. Small studies suggest that red LED light therapy reduced downtime- redness, bruising and swelling- for treatments or wound healing of different causes.
One common use of LED light therapy for wound healing is fractional CO2 laser for acne scarring, pores and skin rejuvenation. Typically, the skin experiences warmth, redness, hypersensitivity and scabbing for approximately one week after fractional CO2 laser. Some studies show that LED light therapy reduces healing time and risk of scarring.
LED light treatments are generally safe with no side effects of redness, peeling, burns or pain when used alone. However there are two safety issues that come to my mind with LED light therapy. There is insufficient data to conclude that LED light can cause serious eye damage. In my clinic in Singapore, my patients’ eyes are protected with eye goggles during LED light therapy out of caution.
LED devices for home use have been available for many years. These handheld or fitted masks aim to replicate in clinic LED light therapy. However, there are key differences between home LED devices and in-clinic LED light machines that are designed specifically for use by doctors.
One advantage of home LED devices versus in-clinic LED machines is the portability of these handheld devices. Home LED devices are usually small and compact, allowing users to use it anywhere at their convenience. If you are not able to get to your doctor’s for an in-clinic LED light therapy, home hand held LED devices are a safe and convenient alternative.
However, the disadvantage of these compact home LED devices is that they generally deliver less power than in-clinic devices. The light panel arrays are smaller in size and number, which affects the efficacy of home based LED light therapy. While medical (in-clinic) LED devices have established protocols validated by studies, most home LED devices lack the studies to validate their protocols and efficacies. This means that home based LED devices may be useful; but we cannot be certain about the effectiveness or most appropriate “settings” for these devices. My take is to think of home LED devices as complementary to medical grade LED light treatments; especially for acne and skin rejuvenation.
*Disclaimer: This product was gifted to me by FOREO. However, my review and opinions about FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device are my own .
FOREO is one of the leading beauty tech brands in the world. Founded in Sweden in 2013, FOREO has carved a niche for AI- powered and personalised skincare devices. Two of FOREO’s best selling products are its handheld LED light devices (FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device) and sonic cleansers (FOREO Luna devices)
About FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device
FOREO UFO Smart Device is a handheld LED light device for home use. It combines LED light therapy, transdermal sonic pulsations and thermo- and cryotherapy in 90 seconds. There are three wavelengths/ colors of LED light in FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device- blue (463nm), red (629nm) and green (519nm).
The benefits of the respective wavelengths/ colours are:
● Blue LED light: Anti-acne
● Red LED light: Skin rejuvenation (reduce fine lines, texture, brightness) and reduced inflammation
● Green LED light: Brighter skin, reduced inflammation
The transdermal sonic (T-sonic) pulsations and thermo- and cryotherapy increase the skin’s uptake of the ingredients in the accompanying face mask.
To use FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device, first you’ll have to download the FOREO app on your smartphone. Next, sync the device to the FOREO app.
FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device requires one of FOREO’s UFO face masks to be used with the device. The UFO face masks I had were FOREO’s Make My Day and Call It Night. Scan the QR code on the packaging of the face mask and attach the face mask to the UFO Smart Mask Device. Get started!
A treatment consists of 30 seconds each of red light + thermo therapy; green light + T-sonic; and cryotherapy. You just need to move the device around your face gently for the entire duration of 90 seconds. FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device also gives the option of customising your own LED facial- you can choose your LED light colour, frequency of T-sonic pulsations and temperature.
The mask that I used was FOREO’s Make My Day Mask. This product contains humectants (e.g. panthenol and hyaluronic acid) and red algae extract. Red algae has antioxidant and moisturising benefits in skincare. I chose FOREO’s Make My Day Mask as it was a safe choice that is very unlikely to cause issues like acne outbreaks or skin irritation.
I’ve used LED light therapy multiple times (in my clinic in Singapore) prior to getting my own home handheld LED light device. I personally find that LED light therapy lends synergy to results when used in combination with treatments like chemical peels and Q-switched lasers.
FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device is my first home LED light device. This was gifted to me in the midst of Singapore’s circuit breaker (June 2020). Being away from the clinic during movement restrictions meant that I could not get my own Q-switched laser, Botox and chemical peels. I started using FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device twice a week to help with comedones, acne, dull skin and overall skin rejuvenation.
The whole process of using FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device is seamless and easy. The app syncs almost instantly with the device and is very user friendly. I could also personalize my choice of settings for LED therapy (wavelength, frequency of T-sonic pulsations and temperature control), in addition to recommended settings from FOREO. Using FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device was also very convenient as all it required was for me to pop a mask and glide it around my face for 90 seconds.
Results kicked in for me after using it on alternate days for about 2.5 weeks- skin tone was more even, a little brighter and reduced maskne.
This device is a little too smart. FOREO UFO Smart Mask Device is powered by its accompanying smart phone app, so I found myself fumbling with my smartphone while my hands were wet from washing my face before and attaching the face mask. However, it is a minor inconvenience. As with all LED light devices, results are not instant. You’ll need consistent use to see results in a few weeks.
LED light therapy is a safe and effective therapy for acne, skin rejuvenation and reducing inflammation. The benefits and results of your LED light therapy will depend on the wavelength and intensity of light emitted from the device. You can get LED light therapy in clinics and smart gadgets at home. Read about my other beauty tech reviews on the blog!
Do you use a home LED light device? Please feel to leave a comment to share your thoughts and experience.