Lights that combat aging?

10:36 PM, Mar 1, 2011   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida --  It may sound too good to be true, but there are at-home, handheld devices you can buy that promise to help clear up acne and plump up those fine lines.

Whether it's fact of fiction depends upon who you talk to.

Quasar Light Therapy, a Sarasota based company, markets its version of the lights called Quasar MD, Baby Quasar and Baby Blue.

But, there are other companies marketing their own devices, like Tanda, LightStim and Ansr.

"You kind of see an overall glow," explained Quasar Light Therapy's Amanda Thompson.  "Over a few months, you'll actually truly see the size of your pores reduced, the fine lines and wrinkles that you see around your eyes will start to diminish."

The technology behind the devices was actually developed by NASA a couple of decades ago to stimulate plant growth in space, but it wasn't until the last ten years or so that companies started marketing the lights for cosmetic purposes.

Thompson explained, "The way it works is by increasing circulation and blood flow underneath your skin and the light penetrates all the way deep into your tissue."

She pointed to several studies that show that by exposing the skin to the lights, skin texture will improve.

One study, which was funded by Light BioScience that manufactured a device used in medical offices, shows after four months post treatment, 85 percent of study participants showed at least a 25 percent improvement in elasticity and redness.  The same study shows after a series of eight treatments, 84 percent of the patients noticed a significant improvement in their skin texture.

Another study provided to us by Quasar Light Therapy shows exposure to LED lights helped reduce wrinkles by a maximum of 36 percent and increased elasticity by a maximum of 19 percent.

Dr. Neil Alan Fenske, Chair of the University of South Florida's Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery is very skeptical of the claims.

"LED lights, in my opinion, don't do a lot from a cosmetic perspective," said Dr. Fenske.

He offers both the blue and red light therapies at his offices on Davis Islands and North Tampa, but does not promote them unless it's in conjunction with other therapies.

"We mainly use them for treating acne patients as an adjunct to their oral and topical care," he said.

He doubts a handheld device can offer comparable benefits.

"The devices we have in doctors offices cost $10,000 to $15,000.  It's hard to imagine that a $340 device could give you the same benefits," he said.

Even with his own devices in his office, he says don't get your hopes up that LED therapy will cure you of your wrinkles.

"I think, bang for your buck, you pretty much get what you pay for in this world," he said.

Peter A. D. Rubin, a south Florida doctor who directed Harvard's Oculoplastic and Orbital Surgery for more than 13 years conducted a study on LED therapy in 2009 with hopes the results would show the therapy works.

It did not.  "The treatment is similar to standing in front of a traffic light," the study states.

The study concluded that even though 53 percent of study participants said they had seen an improvement, the doctors saw "essentially no change."

Fewer participants, 17 percent, said they would be willing to pay for the treatments.

Doctors like Dr. Fenske and Dr. Rubin say you're better off spending your money on more widely accepted wrinkle fighters like laser, peels and Botox.

The LED therapy devices are FDA cleared, but that only means they've proven they're not harmful.  It does not mean they are effective.

Even though there's doubt, the companies that sell the products all say they're seeing growth.

Baby Quasar can be found at Niemen Marcus and on beauty websites and, last month, launched at London's Harrod's.

The devices, depending on the company that sells them, will run you anywhere from about $100 to about $850.

"These are not inexpensive devices, yet people are willing to pay for a quality product that provides a great result," said Peter Nesbitt, president of Quasar Light Therapy.

Nesbitt says the devices can also be used to promote healing and alleviate pain.

Dr. Fenske has other ideas.  While he doesn't believe the devices will cause harm to anyone using them, he said, "The only risk is to your pocketbook in terms of how much upside you think you're going to get for what you're spending."

While there's doubt, there are a lot of believers.

"At some point, you have to stop being a skeptic," said Thompson.

Laura Kadechka, 10 News

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