Real Talk: What Do Light Facials Actually Do?

light laser treatment: model with glowing skin

PHOTO:Free People UK

More and more women are seeing the light. When it comes to facials, that is. Light and laser treatments are becoming ever more popular. Harvey Nichols launched The Light Salon, which offers pop-in light facials, back in December 2015. It started life on the 4th floor but has since been moved to prime position on the ground floor in the Beauty Lounge.

Across town at Liberty, Skin Laundry, a 15-minute express laser treatment launched last year, after making waves in L.A. Back in Harvey Nichols and Debbie Thomas, London’s go-to woman for lasers, has recently opened D.Thomas Illuminate offering a menu of speed, laser-based, facials. This new wave of high-tech treatment is down to the consumer, suggests global market insights company Mintel. “[The] trend toward at-home devices, coupled with the rise in botox and fillers, has challenged the salon facial treatments market, and as a result facials have become increasingly high-tech in a move to offer consumers something they cannot replicate at home,” writes Charlotte Libby.

Of course, there are light and laser devices for at-home use but in salons the devices are more powerful, and with an expert at the helm you’re set to see impressive results from a glowing complexion to a reduction in acne. But what should you book in for? A light facial or a laser?

“Light and laser facials can actually complement each other very well,” says Debbie Thomas. “LED works more like a shining lamp triggering chemical reactions within the skin, whereas most lasers use heat to trigger more specific reactions within the skin. Lasers are more powerful so results will be quicker with less treatments however LED has very little risk associated with it.”

To help further understand the intricate differences between light and laser we called on Laura Ferguson, co-founder of The Light Salon and asked Debbie Thomas to shed more light on the subject.


Having been for a few facials at The Light Salon I can say that not only does sitting under a warm glow of light make you feel happier, (“lots of our clients call it the ‘happy light’,” Ferguson tells me) it also leaves you with an undeniable glow, making it ideal pre-party. And I’m not just imagining it, “clients will notice a lovely glow to the skin, which will last 2-3 days,” says Ferguson. “The treatment evokes the feeling of summer. The warmth travels into your body, warming you from inside, whilst the light mimics a dose of sunlight our bodies and minds crave. The combination of the warmth and movement of the light throughout the treatment, lowers your stress hormones, boosts your feel-good hormones and boosts your immune system.”

LED is effectively a ‘first aid kit’, healing wounds, reducing bruising and swelling and calming skin disorders (rosacea, psoriasis, eczema). It can be used to treat the most vulnerable and sensitive skin types and acts as an anti-inflammatory, whilst also strengthening the skin to help alleviate further symptoms,” explains Ferguson.

“It is hugely beneficial in supporting the ageing process and forming a necessary structure for the skin. It emits specific therapeutic wavelengths of light (energy) into the skin that switches your system on to create healthy cells, renewing the lining of blood vessels and forming new blood vessels to improve skin’s appearance.”

But the LEDs used at The Light Salon are not your average bulbs. “Those found in household lighting or in televisions do not deliver the same wavelength, energy or intensity and therefore the body is unable to process the light in the same way.

“If the light is the correct wavelength, energy and intensity, the cells in the dermis layer of skin will convert the delivered light (energy) into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the fuel the cell uses to do its job. The increased energy in the cells leads to a boost in productivity, improving the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid,” says Ferguson.

Essentially LED light is incoherent light (light that is spread out) until it passes through a fluid (like the fluid in and around our skin cells) when it turns to a concentrated or ‘coherent’ light, just like a laser.


Yellow Light is used for a minute to kick-start a treatment at The Light Salon. “It switches on the communication between cells, ensuring the dermal cells are ready for the delivery of the more powerful LED light to come,” says Ferguson.

Ferguson explains that Red LED therapy, which penetrates 8cm into the body, is used for the prevention and repair of ageing skins because of its ability to stimulate collagen and elastin production. “It’s particularly beneficial for improving overall skin tone, reducing pigmentation and improving the potential of scarring.”

Near-infrared, penetrates up to 15cm, and can provide longer-lasting benefits which is why this is the light used in The Light Salon facials after the minute of yellow light is administered. “It energises and restores damaged and compromised cells and creates new cells, encouraging our bodies to produce collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid more efficiently and effectively.

“It accelerates the healing process of wounds and can help improve the appearance of existing scars and prevent the formation of new scars. It can also reduce pain, bruising and inflammation post-laser treatment. It helps to stabilise abnormal conditions in the skin such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis, increases bloodflow and lymph drainage, speeds the removal of toxins, and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the skin which benefits cell growth.

“Due to its longer wavelength, it can penetrate bone and muscle, and is therefore highly beneficial in improving the structure of the face, increasing bone density, strength and thickness, particularly around the eye sockets which naturally get larger with age, causing sunken eyes and sagging skin,” explains Ferguson.

Blue LED light therapy is fantastic when used in conjunction with red or near-infrared for the treatment of mild to severe acne in adolescents and adults, acne scarring, and skin maintenance to prevent further acne outbreaks.

Blue light treatment is a natural and powerful technique, that targets the follicle to kill p.acnes, the bacteria that grows deep inside the pores, where it feeds off sebum. The near-infrared rejuvenation facial then reduces inflammation in the blemish, speeds up the healing process and improves overall condition of the skin.”


The Light Salon recommend you book in for a course of 10 treatments. “At the end of 4-5 weeks of two treatments per week, a 50% improvement in skin condition is possible, with improvement continuing and building for up to 12 weeks afterwards,” says Ferguson.

You can book in up to 3 times in a week, and if you’re trying to treat rosacea, eczema or psoriasis then results will be achieved quicker if you have the facials closer together.

After the initial 10 treatments, you can “top-up” once per month or just book in for ad-hoc treatments.

Unlike laser, you don’t need to take any special precautions such as wearing sunscreen before or after and makeup can be applied right after the treatment. In fact, “near-Infrared 830nm and Red 633nm, actually prepares the skin beautifully for make-up application,” says Ferguson.

If you don’t live in London, do your research advises Ferguson. “Whilst LED is a very safe option, it can be used alongside almost every other skincare modality. It’s therefore important you are treated by someone who is reputable and knowledgeable about skin, so you know the combination of treatments are being delivered with expertise.”