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Louise Gagnon is a medical writer and editor based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
One published study has found substantive change in wrinkles, particularly in the periorbital region, as well as increased smoothness and firmness, with the use of a combination of 633 nm and 830 nm LED treatments on photodamaged skin. One of the benefits of low-level energy light is that it does not produce side effects, because the impact is not thermal.
While therapies such as dermabrasion and chemical peels reverse the effects of aging on the skin, LED light therapy is prophylactic in its ability to promote collagen formation in the skin, says David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D., director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of NY/NJ and director of laser research in the department of dermatology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.
LED light therapy is unique in that its action is not thermal, but instead, LED light modulates cells, he says. With LED treatment, cell structures specific wavelengths of light. There is then a subsequent cascade of cellular responses that results in modulation of cell function, cell proliferation and potential repair of compromised cells.
Moreover, Dr. Goldberg notes the drawbacks of using ablative techniques, such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing, where the disruption to the epidermis leads to patient susceptibility of infection.
In addition, abnormal or delayed wound healing may result in scarring or altered pigmentation. There can also be considerable downtime and persistent erythema associated with ablative therapies.
A study that Dr. Goldberg published last year in Journal of Drugs and Dermatology examined the impact of nine LED treatments delivered over the course of five weeks to 36 subjects, with an average age of 46. Patients were assessed for final clinical change 12 weeks post-treatment.
"We, in essence, wanted to find out if you can produce new collagen and make healthier skin in younger women," says Dr. Goldberg, who described LED light therapy as technology that makes the skin healthy and stronger.
"We were looking for some change in the skin as documented by photography, profilometric evaluations and electron microscopic evidence of ultrastructural changes,"he says.
Specifically, Dr. Goldberg used a combination of 633 nm and 830 nm LED treatments on photodamaged skin. He notes that reports have indicated success with a shorter wavelength LED system that delivers yellow light, but points out that insufficient photo density may exist using this 595 nm LED system. Such an approach may fail to produce a clinically relevant response in fibroblasts at the upper and mid-recticular levels of the dermis.
There was a substantive change in wrinkles, particularly in the periorbital region, as well as improvements in smoothness and firmness.
In addition, the investigators conducted a profolimetric examination of the skin to detect any changes in the texture of the skin and biopsies, analyzed by electron microscopy. The light shining off the skin was a clue that collagen in the skin was thicker than at baseline, Dr. Goldberg tells Dermatology Times.
"We saw statistically significant changes with the profilometric evaluation in terms of seeing skin soften," Dr. Goldberg says. "The irrefutable part was the electron microscopy, which showed the formation of new collagen due to LED treatment."
Since assessing the findings from this study, Dr. Goldberg routinely offers LED light treatment to complement laser therapies in patients aged 35 to 50. In younger patients, aged 25 to 35, he offers LED treatment as a stand-alone therapy as a means to make the skin softer. He says as a stand-alone therapy for younger patients, LED is virtually harmless and painless, and a much more affordable cosmetic option than laser treatment.
"LED has an adjunctive effect to many treatments (dermabrasion, chemical peels and lasers)," he says.
An added bonus about low-level energy light is that it does not produce side effects, because the impact is not thermal. LED light has been used for decades in Europe and Asia, without effects such as scarring and loss of pigmentation.