Light therapy is a specialized kind of treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light to help improve a person’s mood, boost energy levels, and reduce migraine pain. Cosmetically, light therapy devices have been approved by the FDA to stimulate hair growth and decrease fat deposits. They are also used to alleviate acne and reduce skin wrinkles from aging and sun damage.
While there are many different types of light-therapy products on the market, some of the most popular include light lamps, and portable devices.
Here, we break down which light therapy devices have been most highly recommended, or rated highest for skincare, migraines, and mood (in particular, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)).
Best Light Therapy Devices for Skincare
LED stands for light emitting diode, a light source that penetrates into your skin. The visible output from an LED can range from red (at a wavelength of approximately 700 nm) to blue-violet (about 400 nm). Blue LED light treats acne by killing acne-causing bacteria, green and yellow LED light treats sensitivity and uneven skin color, and red LED light stimulates collagen and elastin which can help with anti-aging. Vogue’s round-up of the best LED light therapy tools include:
Top Red LED Light Device for Anti-Aging
- SolaWave Red Therapy Skincare Wand: Proclaimed a game-changer by InStyle Magazine, and reportedly used by Megan Fox and Reese Witherspoon, the SolaWave Red Therapy Skincare Wand uses red light to reduce fine lines and dark spots.
Top Red and Blue LED Light Device for Anti-Aging and Acne
- SpectraLite™ FaceWare Pro from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare is an FDA-cleared device that reduces the appearance of wrinkles and acne. An impressive 162 LED lights (both red and blue) combine in this product to destroy acne-causing bacteria and boost collagen production. Optimal results occur after a 10-week course of treatment.
Top Red and Yellow LED Light Device for Hyperpigmentation
- Trophy Skin RejuvaliteMD High-Power Ageless LED Treatment targets the appearance of sun damage, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and age spots with Trophy Skin’s FDA-cleared device. This multitasker is powered by red, yellow, amber, and infrared light to improve skin conditions in as little as five minutes a day.
Green Light Therapy for Migraines
As a neuro-ophthalmologist and photosensitivity scientist at the world-renowned Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah Hospital, Bradley Katz, MD, PhD, has a unique perspective on how light affects the eyes and the brain.
“About 90 percent of people who get migraines are light sensitive, which is a condition called photophobia,” says Katz. “But only certain wavelengths, or colors of light, actually cause the problem. Other types of light are actually beneficial for easing, or even reducing, the number of migraines someone will get.”
Katz is also the CEO of Axon Optics, the first company that created the migraine glasses industry, which are also based on blocking and allowing certain types of light to reduce the impact of migraines in people who are light sensitive.
There is a documented neuronal connection between the retina and the spinal cord. This connection passes through the brain’s pain control centers which may explain the correlation between certain light wavelengths and pain.
Blue and amber light are the worst offenders for migraine and light sensitivity. Fluorescent lighting fixtures, for example, put out a ton of blue light. This is why so many people who get migraines complain about the light in office buildings or big-box stores, where fluorescent lights are usually used, explains Katz.
On the other hand, research from Harvard has shown that exposing migraine sufferers to a narrow band of green light can reduce headache severity.
In one study 20 percent of people exposed to that specific band of green light actually had reduced pain. In another, people’s headache days were reduced an average of 60 percent by this green light. Some study participants also reported better sleep, ability to focus on work, exercise, and more.
Best Green Light Therapy Device for Migraines
Developed by a Harvard scientist, Allay’s narrow band of green light generates smaller electrical signals in the eye and brain. Smaller signals mean a calmer brain, even during a migraine.
Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a form of depression that typically happens in the fall or winter. The lack of sunshine affects our circadian rhythms — our “internal body clock” — that regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in our bodies.
Reduced sunlight can also cause your serotonin levels to drop and melatonin levels to become unbalanced, which can play a role in your sleep patterns and mood.
For many, using light therapy can help treat SAD and other conditions like depression and sleep disorders, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Best Light Therapy Device for SAD
- Verilux HappyLight Luxe: Both CNET and VeryWellMind rank the Verilux HappyLight Luxe as the overall best light therapy lamp if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, where your mood drops when the days get shorter.
Light therapy is well tolerated by most people, but, as Dr. Katz notes: it’s always best to talk to a doctor who’s familiar with your history before trying it, especially if you have eye problems or disorders that might affect how your body reacts.