Today I visited my esthetician, Ildi Pekar, for my usual microdermabrasion and microcurrent session. Only this time, I followed it up with a 30-minute treatment for wrinkles and hyperpigmentation using LED light therapy. It was a great experience: completely safe and comfortable with immediate visible results. I'll come back to the results after explaining how it works.

LED is light emitting diode with a low-level power output that uses red light (visible) and infra-red light (invisible). LED is much gentler than intense pulse light (IPL) or laser resurfacing. It works by stimulating the body's tissues to convert the light energy into cellular energy. It boosts collagen production and scavenger cells that remove excess pigmentation or scar tissue.

In Europe, LED has been used for about 50 years to treat muscular pain, scars and wounds. It came to be used in the US relatively recently in the 1980s.

The machine Ildi uses is called Lightwave. It seems to be very flexible, with multiple settings depending on whether the therapy is, for example, for wrinkles or age spots. I had simultaneous treatments on my face, decollete and hands. The red light is extremely bright (you wear goggles) and lasts for four minutes, followed by the infra-red light, which is just blackness. This is repeated four times. It feels slightly, agreeably warm.

The effects are interesting. The first thing I did was look in the mirror. I looked as if I'd been on a spa vacation - all luminous and rested. I then noticed that I was extremely thirsty; lymphatic drainage is increased by the treatment. About an hour later, it occurred to me that my mood was noticeably improved; one of the other (good) side-effects is that the endorphins are stimulated.

Two and half hours after the treatment, I still look rested and my skin feels incredibly firm. My freckles are notably darker (I've been told that IPL makes dark spots darker before they disappear, so this may be a similar process) and I am a bit pink at the neck. It will be interesting to see what I look like in a couple of days and, of course, after the full six to eight treatments recommended.

UPDATE: In October 2008, German researchers identified how the visible light works — by changing the molecular structure of a glue-like layer of water on elastin, the protein that provides elasticity in skin, blood vessels, heart and other body structures. The light strips away those water molecules that are involved in the immobilization of elastin, gradually restoring its elastic function and thus reducing facial wrinkles. "We are justified in believing that our approach can be easily converted to deep body rejuvenation programs," the researchers state.