LED it shine: how NASA throws some light on your skin.

Move over sunshine. Our skin actually only needs a bit of colourful LED light to glow and NASA science from outer space proves it.

We know that soaking up too much sun wreaks havoc on our face and body. Think pigment spots. Wrinkles. Or worse: skin cancer. So, it’s only natural for uninitiated folks like us to get goosebumps over a new beauty ritual known as light therapy. This skin treatment promises to mimic the natural qualities of the sun, using infrared saunas and light-filled face masks worthy of spooking an Egyptian pharaoh.

There is logic behind it. Ask the NASA experts. They’ll tell you sunshine is a bundle of light. And beautiful skin is all about hitting it off at the right wavelength.

So what’s all the light therapy fuss about?

LED (or Light Emitting Diode) therapy has become a rescue remedy for A-listers, including Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sofia Coppola. They swear on the treatment as a non-invasive procedure that promises to give dull skin that flawless red-carpet look. And their selfies – all smiles while baking on infrared beds and wearing strange white visors – have sparked a social media craze.

No doubt, Hollywood stars can draw from an array of the latest and greatest new beauty tech, as well as an army of personal trainers and beauticians to enhance their youthful appearance. Yet light therapy has a proven wow effect. A myriad of scientific studies back it up. The results show that LED treatments, when used repeatedly, can make our skin look plump and pretty, erase fine lines and kill the bacteria that causes acne.

All this has boosted the appeal of light therapy among ordinary consumers. Anyone can now buy LED light masks for use at home – as a cosmetic treatment against wrinkles and breakouts. (Or visit a beauty spa for some celebrity-style pampering.)

LED light boosts NASA’s space veggies. And skin on earth.

The trend may seem new, but the science behind it has been around for decades. NASA astronauts were the first to use the technology in the 1980s. They experimented with LED lights to grow cabbage and green leafy vegetables in a space shuttle. To their surprise, they found plants are choosy when it comes to
light. They favour some colours on the wavelength spectrum more than others. In fact, plants grow fastest and healthiest when they bathe in red and blue – not just in outer space, but also down on earth.

It took some time for the cosmetic industry to catch on, but now their futuristic-looking light masks and infrared saunas follow the same logic. They filter the nasties out of the sunlight – most importantly the harmful UV rays that have given tanning beds their deservedly bad rep as killers – and keep only the good
light: single waves of red, blue or white light.

Sounds hot? The light waves used in LED therapy are actually too dim to heat anything.

Red or blue? How different colours give your skin a kick.

‘Different wavelengths have different effects,’ says Dr Paul Nola, a medical professional at the Ponsonby Cosmetic Medical Clinic in Auckland, New Zealand. Just don’t expect any visible skin improvement if you use light therapy only sporadically. ‘Once in a while won’t make much difference,’ says Dr Nola.

Excessive sunshine is poison for our skin. It makes us age faster. But a few rays of LED light, shone onto our face with precision machines, can rejuvenate us. Here’s what scientists say about each colour’s healing power:

  • Red. Red light therapy is the most common weapon against wrinkles. Think of it as the mother of all LED treatments that blesses Mums with the skin of their daughters. Red light boosts our body’s collagen, the protein that makes our skin elastic and that disappears as we get older. Red light waves can counter this effect. The result: firmer skin, fewer pigment spots and fewer fine lines.

  • Near infrared. You can see red light, but infrared light is invisible because it’s hitting us at longer wavelengths. The longer the wavelength, the deeper it penetrates our skin where it triggers the chemicals that cause our body cells to rejuvenate. Infrared light action happens at a deeper level. Deeper action = deeper healing.

  • Far infrared. This is what you get when you’re fumbling for the light switch in a dark hotel bathroom and accidentally flick on the sauna lamp. Big. Red. Heat. Good for the body, not the face.

  • Blue. Kills the bacterium that causes acne.

  • White. Reaches the deepest cell layers and soothes inflamed skin.

  • Green. Often marketed as a cure against the moonscape of dark spots on your skin. Careful, though: experts say there’s not enough trusted research to back up those claims.

No rocket science: love your skin before it wrinkles.

Okay, so we’ve had our fair share of sunburn and now we’re after some LED therapy to reverse the damage. But why let it get that far? Sunscreen and shade are still the best protection against wrinkles and dull, dehydrated skin. As well as protecting your skin from pollution, Arné film-forming gel may extend the life of your sunscreen. And no. That’s not rocket science. That’s proven in a lab right here on earth.

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