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What in the heck are LEDs anyway? – Part 1 Understanding diodes and light energy

LED Light Bulb image

You may already know what LED stands for (Light Emitting Diode, in case you don’t), but do you REALLY know what an LED is, and how an LED array can assist you in your treatment room?

Let’s break it down….

First of all – let’s define what a diode is. A diode is the simplest form of a semiconductor that allows the flow of energy in one direction only. By definition, a Light Emitting Diode emits light. Basically, this diode allows energy from a power source (the plug in your wall) to be transformed into light energy. This light energy is what effects a change in the skin. More on that in a bit…

Secondly – It is important to understand that NOT ALL LIGHT IS BAD! The sun produces waves of electromagnetic radiation (aka light) that travel through space. This light ranges from short-waved gamma rays to long-waved radio rays, and many of those rays are filtered out in the atmosphere before they ever hit the earth. Within this wide spectrum exist rays that as skin therapists we need to have an understanding of – the ultraviolet (UV) rays, the visible rays and infrared rays (IR).

Our clients usually only have an understanding on how UV rays negatively affect their skin, but are completely clueless about how the visible spectrum and IR can actually have a very positive effect on their skin.

Let’s take a closer look at these electromagnetic rays… When we look at a diagram of the different rays produced by the sun, you can see that rays in the lower spectrum have a shorter wavelength, whereas the rays in the upper spectrum have a longer wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the more energy that particular ray can transport. Knowing this, it may seem strange to think that among UV, visible and IR, the rays with the longer wavelengths are actually able to permeate deeper into the skin than those with shorter wavelengths. (For simplicity sake, and because we don’t use them in the treatment room, I won’t mention x-rays which are able to completely penetrate human skin.)



Another way to better understand the difference between the possible effects of those short and long wavelength rays is this – When you are in the presence of x-rays you need to wear a lead apron to protect your body, but as the rays get longer (ultraviolet rays) your protection comes in the form of sunscreens & clothing. Once you move above the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum and into the visible spectrum, it is no longer necessary to protect your skin. In fact, these rays are instrumental in healing your skin and promoting collagen and elastin stimulation.

Next up – how do these visible and infrared rays affect the skin? Let’s take a look.

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