With all the premium skin care treatments currently available to use at our local spas and clinics, it can be hard to keep track of what is what, especially when two different treatments sound like nearly the same thing. This type of confusion is common when it comes to light therapy versus laser facials. But if you are thinking about pursuing either of these options it is important to be aware that they are, in fact, two distinctly different treatments which provide varying benefits and are suitable for different people or skin concerns. So to help us break it down and thoroughly understand the difference between them, we checked in with one of our skin care clinic experts, Michelle Freese, for her advice and insight on these two types of facials.
What is Light Therapy?
To put it simply, light therapy uses varying color wavelengths of visible LED (light emitting diode) light to provide specific benefits to your skin 1 . Your skin uses this light as a source of light energy to aid in the killing of bacteria. As the light triggers these natural responses in your body it can help promote improvements in the skin as a result of sun damage, acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, sensitive and inflammatory conditions, wound healing and scarring to restore the skin’s radiance 2 . During treatment, you simply lie underneath a light screen and let the device do its work.
Types of Light Therapy
The benefits of light therapy are actually tied to the color of light used on your skin. As each color of light has different wavelengths, they affect the skin differently and provide varying results.
Blue Light Known for its powerful antibacterial properties, blue light is the treatment for acne. The light effectively treats active breakouts without irritation while reducing oil production and helping prevent future acne. Blue light is also a UV-free alternative for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis as it reduces itch and calms inflammation 3 . Don’t forget to check out our top acne tips to follow in conjunction!
Red Light Most often used for its anti-aging effects as it is especially effective in helping to combat wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, discoloration, and other visible signs of maturing skin. Specifically, the low wavelengths of red light can help to increase natural hydration levels 4 , reduce redness and inflammation, regulate oil production, and even improve circulation.
Near Infra-Red Light Very similar to red light, near infra-red light is the most deeply absorbed wavelength, this treatment helps smooth lines and wrinkles, improve skin resiliency, reduce pain and inflammation, and accelerate the wound healing process, including cystic acne. This type of light simply works at a deeper level than red light alone which fights the signs of aging that occur closer to the skin’s surface.
What is a Laser Facial?
Stereotypes resulting from older methods of skin resurfacing like dermabrasion, deep chemical peels, and even outdated laser technologies have left many believing that all modern laser treatments remove the top layers of your skin as was done when using these techniques in the past. Before modern technology, those who sought out resurfacing were left with skin that was shiny, white, and thin with the risk of removing the normal coloration your skin has naturally.
Fortunately, that is not the case and the rejuvenating lasers of today are able to penetrate the skin’s surface and generate deeper results. Modern skincare lasers are fractional, meaning that a laser beam is delivered in a concentrated and pixelated manner, touching the skin in tiny dots which are separated by areas of untreated skin. Treating the skin in this way leaves behind healthy pigment-producing cells, known as melanocytes, and other normal skin cells unaffected by the treatment. As a result, the remaining healthy cells help to rapidly heal the treated skin, significantly diminishing the risk of developing any abnormal discoloration.
Kate Somerville Laser Facials
At the Kate Somerville Skin Expert Clinic, we have a variety of laser facial options, each designed to provide specific benefits to your skin and align with your skin goals. First, our Laser Genesis® facial is non-invasive and safe for all skin types. It utilizes a gentle laser that warms the skin and painlessly helps to treat the signs of aging, rosacea, acne, and scarring. Similarly, our Limelight® IPL Therapy uses an intense pulsed light (IPL) laser to treat skin redness, tiny veins, brown spots, and sun damage to improve your overall skin texture and tone while helping to minimize the signs of sun damage and aging.
As with most clinics, Kate Somerville also has more advanced therapies, which show even more dramatic results. The Titan® treatment has been deemed as our “non-surgical facelift” using infrared light to tighten and add volume to the skin treatment area. This treatment is especially effective in helping to reduce smile lines and lift the brows and eyelids while helping tighten the neck and jawline. We have seen dramatic results in our clients after this treatment, and the effect continues to improve for up to six months afterward.
We also have our Pearl® treatment available which utilizes cutting-edge laser technology to resurface the top layers of your skin while a dose of rejuvenating light boosts and promotes tissue health to ensure a total texture overhaul. It helps to reduce eye wrinkles, surface lines, scarring, and solar damage, plus it can help minimize the visibility of your pores.
As you can see, the type of laser used and the other techniques it is combined with can have drastically different effects on your skin. As you begin to consider which treatment may be best for you, think carefully about the goals you are trying to achieve and how quickly you would like to see results. Then discuss your options with your esthetician who can help guide you through your options and lay out all the potential side effects in detail so you can make the most informed decision possible.
Which Treatment is Right for Me?
Choosing between a light and laser facial can be difficult given that there are so many nuances and complexities to what is available at each individual spa or clinic. That is why it is important to consult your esthetician as she will be more familiar with your skin concerns and type paired with the results you are trying to achieve. That kind of comprehensive and holistic view of you as a client cannot be beaten when trying to provide skin care advice. That said, Michelle generally recommends starting with light therapy if you are new to these types of facials, “I like to start clients off with light therapy because it is less expensive and essentially does the same thing as a laser facial but not as deep into the layer of the skin. Lasers are just a little stronger and treat skin conditions a little deeper.”
Light therapy is painless and is generally safe for most skin types with little to no side effects. When you get a treatment, you will experience no downtime and can return to regular activities immediately. And, despite common misconceptions, light therapies do not contain any UV light so there is no risk of tanning or sun damage as a result. A laser facial, on the other hand, while still a non-invasive treatment is more intense and could result in some undesired side effects such as mild swelling and redness that may last up to a few days. In rare and severe cases, some lasers may cause blistering or scarring and hyperpigmentation in those with darker or tanned skin.
While results will be most noticeable with consistent treatment, do not feel like once you make a choice you are married to it for all eternity. Michelle shared that some clients choose to alternate between treatments, getting laser facials less frequently and using light therapy in between to help maintain their results. “A lot of the time we even combine the two treatments in order to see results more quickly,” she says. The two treatments are not exclusive of one another and can be used in conjunction to enhance the benefits of each.
Wrapping It Up
Though light therapy and laser facials are similar in the nature of what they can offer you, the differences between them are important ones and should be considered as you decide which treatment to book with your esthetician. Light therapies provide a relaxing, non-invasive, and completely painless experience but they only treat problems closer to the surface of the skin. Laser resurfacing, on the other hand, works much deeper in your skin to improve a number of conditions at their root cause. However, both will require multiple follow-up treatments in order to achieve the best results. You should work with your esthetician to establish a treatment plan that will get you the glowing skin results you desire using the right techniques for your unique skin and in a timeframe that works for you.