By Guest Editor Wendy Lewis
We may not be ready to inject our own BOTOX™ (yet), but DIY derm devices have taken the beauty world by storm. Thanks to an ever expanding selection of light based devices designed to get rid of hair, zap wrinkles and sun damage, cure pimples and even out skin tone, beauty devices are the new skin care. The crashing economy has also fueled our interest in taking our beauty into the home.
For laser and light based devices to be sold into the mass market, the technology has to be significantly downsized from what you can find in a doctor’s office. Translation: less powerful energy, and therefore less dramatic results. The main differences between doctor devices and at-home units are their size and the concentration of diodes. In a doctor’s office, your face, neck, and/or chest are exposed for less than a minute in front of a wide panel of low-level flashing lights. By contrast, home devices are hand held versions that are a fraction of the size. Some of these devices do work, but very slowly.
LED (light emitting diode) systems use specific wavelengths of light to treat different skin problems. LEDs are actually very low level light, about 25 watts, like tiny little light bulbs. Blue LEDs minimize acne breakouts by killing the bacteria that causes acne. Red LEDs treat the signs of sun damage and aging by providing energy to skin cells so they can heal themselves and produce collagen and elastin. The limiting factor as to how much you can get out of this treatment is how much time you are willing to put in. A doctor’s office device can treat the whole face at once, but at-home versions require a larger investment of time because they only cover a small surface area at a time.
There is a proliferation of these devices on the market now, ranging from around $200 up to $500 per unit. For example, Tanda™ Regenerate™ Anti-Aging Light Therapy Treatment requires placing the triangular head directly onto your skin for three minutes at a time in one spot, for up to 18 minutes. After 2 quick beeps, your three minutes are up. When it comes to LEDs, more is more. The device is safe to use daily, although twice a week is generally recommended. Don’t look for visible results until four to eight weeks, depending on how often you use it. The Tanda™ kit comes with a Light Optimized Cleanser and Serum. Tanda™ offers the benefits of interchangeable multiple color heads, which is good if you have both acne and sun damage. (http://www.tandaskincare.com)
Another device that falls between LED and IPL (intense pulsed light) is the Baby Quasar Photorejuvenation Device Wrinkles/Skin Rejuvenation (RED). The Baby Q resembles a mallet at first glance, with a round lighted head attached to a chrome handle. It uses four different wavelengths between 600 and 1200 nm and 24 diodes (12 red/amber and 12 infrared) to stimulate cellular activity from within your skin. 30 minute treatments done two to three times a week for six weeks is recommended. (http://www.babyquasar.com) Results with these units are cumulative, so you can keep going until you get where you want to be or get bored, whichever comes first.
According to David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D., Director, Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of NY/NJ, “Photomodulation using light-emitting diodes (LED) has been proven to improve the appearance of aging skin. It works by boosting collagen and elastin fibers which make up the structural support of the skin that breaks down over time. The process is thought to directly activate skin cells without causing heat injury to tissue. The frequency and duration of the LED photomodulation appears to regenerate living cells by making existing skin cells function more like younger cells.”
Due to increases collagen and elastin, you can see an improvement in skin texture, roughness, pore size, and redness after a series of ongoing treatments. There are none of the three D’s; discomfort, discoloration, or downtime. In fact, the treatments are gentle and warming. To enhance the results, you may also add other therapies to your routine, such as acne medications, glycolic peels and anti-aging creams. Another benefit is that the light energy supposedly strengthens the effects of other skin treatments.
“Home LED devices come in several different types. They are a safe and mild procedure for any age, skin color or skin type. Different LED devices can improve skin hydration, treat sunburn, lighten hyperpigmentation and may even reduce cellulite and stretch marks on non-facial areas,” says Dr. Goldberg.
Left to your own devices, these are useful complements to professional treatments, or for skin maintenance. You can also try them to calm redness after peels and microdermabrasions. You’re not going to get a ‘wow’ factor from these kinder, gentler waves, but you can get some improvement if you stick with the program.