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    Home-based devices may ultimately impact cosmetic surgeons' business

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    A handful of companies are banking on light emitting diode (LED) technology as a solution to at-home skin rejuvenation and acne treatment. But it's too soon to tell whether these easy-to-use, affordable hand-held technologies will rival in-office LED and other services or it they'll fuel consumers' desires for more dramatic results and actually drive patients to cosmetic surgeons' offices. As with any new technology, however, experts warn that those who want to use them or recommend them should do their research.

    THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT

    David H. McDaniel, M.D., director, Institute of Anti-Aging Research and assistant professor of clinical dermatology and plastic surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Virginia Beach, believes the future is bright for home-use LED technologies. The concepts of using LED technology to rejuvenate skin and ward off acne have scientific merit, and the treatment is safe, he says. But there is a potential dark side to this trend of bringing these consumer devices to market.

    "...I have very serious concerns and reservations about many of the devices which are being offered for sale to consumers today. Many appear to have no FDA clearance for the claims they are making for skin (though a few may have FDA clearance for some application such as pain relief but then are marketed for a totally unrelated application such as skin rejuvenation)," Dr. McDaniel says. "Valid clinical studies and peer-reviewed publications are not available for many of these devices. So, there is simply no way for the consumer or the physician to know if many of these devices work — if they do have some clinical effect [and] what that effect might be."

    LED BASICS

    LED, or phototherapy, is nothing new, but the science behind it and the techniques for its application are just becoming more well understood and refined, says Marguerite Barnett, M.D., a plastic surgeon and owner of the Mandala Med-Spa, Sarasota, Fla.

    Basically, certain wavelengths of light are capable of inducing changes in the molecular level of cells.

    "We have known for years that laser light treatments can change the skin and that has been thought to be predominantly from the thermal effects, but light can also cause changes such as increase blood flow, decrease inflammation, stimulate collagen production and decrease production of sebum or growth of skin bacteria through mechanisms not yet well understood," Dr. Barnett says. "There is a growing body of scientific literature regarding these effects and, of course, the science lags behind the anecdotal reports."

    There is a lot the therapy can and can't do, according to Dr. Barnett. Today's at-home LED technology will not get rid of the deep wrinkles, as does ablative lasers technology; nor can it tighten skin like surgery. It can, however, reduce the appearance of fine lines, even out dyschromias, plump the skin and lessen erythema using wavelengths in the neighborhood of 600 nm to 1200 nm, according to Dr. Barnett.

    Steven Svehlak, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, who is a nonpaid consultant on the Evis M.D., Ageless Beauty Corporation's Platinum Red LED rejuvenating facial light, explains that scientists have specifically targeted red light to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and reverse sun-damage. Blue light therapies (which are also available as consumer-use devices), on the other hand, are said to target the sebaceous glands, killing the bacteria that causes acne.

    Using a device, like the Evis M.D., with a wavelength of 630 nm, is safe for consumers, he says.

    "It is low-intensity, natural light. It doesn't burn or peel. You do not feel it. It does not get warm. It is just the wavelength of light that's causing the stimulation of natural healing processes," Dr. Svehlak tells Cosmetic Surgery Times .

    According to Dr. Svehlak, patients generally see some changes in their skin after several weeks of using the at-home red light products once a week, for 30 minutes at a time.

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    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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