I'm only afraid of a couple of things (the ocean, generally; the impending Donald Trump presidency, specifically), and so when a colleague asked me if I wanted to try an LED facial and full body treatment in lieu of her, because she was a little freaked out, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, sure, I could have attempted to reassure her that there was absolutely nothing dangerous about LED therapy, but then I wouldn't have gotten to try it in her place, now would I? (Why, yes, I am the worst.)
But anyway, I'd been wanting to try an LED treatment for some time, and this was clearly the perfect opportunity. I'm pretty interested in any off-beat beauty and wellness treatments, in general, but when they involve methods that feel vaguely sci-fi, then I get even more interested. And LED light therapy isn't just vaguely sci-fi: It actually feels super futuristic and employs technology used by NASA. This is the real deal.
But first, if you're wondering what LED actually is, don't worry, you are not alone. Prior to going to Manhattan's Dangene Institute for a turn in the LightStim Professional LED Bed, I went around telling everyone that I was getting a laser facial. "Lasers are going to be resurfacing MY FACE," I said, with barely restrained glee. But the more I said it, the more I had to ask myself if LEDs even are lasers. Because maybe they're not? I had no idea. I just liked talking about lasers.
As it turns out, I was not entirely wrong when crowing about my upcoming "laser facial," but I wasn't entirely right either. (This is often the case with me.) LEDs (short for light-emitting diodes) are a source of light that works by giving off multiple therapeutic color-based wavelengths to energize cells and help the body fight things like inflammation and promote things like cell regeneration. It's totally UV-free, so there's no risk of cancer. And while LED lights are not technically lasers, they do exist in a weird amorphous place between regular lights and actual lasers, and they do emit a very otherworldly red glow, so, you know, going around telling everyone you're getting a laser facial is understandable if not precisely correct.
Much like lasers, LED treatments have become very fashionable when it comes to treating skin problems over the last few years because of how wildly effective they are and all the benefits they offer—many of which go beyond what's skin-deep. The LightStim Professional LED Bed, for example, is not only FDA-approved, but it also treats your skin and body in a holistic way, not just in combatting surface problems like wrinkles and redness, but also helping with things like increasing cerebral blood flow, assisting in post-exercise muscle recovery, and naturally encouraging the release of endorphins. In other words, it's no accident that I walked out of my treatment with a huge smile on my face and a bounce to my step, both of which lasted for hours after (this was pre-Election Day, though, so). In fact, that's all part of the known benefits of this treatment. You feel kind of high. Or like you just had really good sex. Or both.
But enough about how I felt after the treatment; here's what it was like to actually experience the LED bed. First, I should say that my main complaint about my skin is that it's too sensitive. I flush easily, I'm sensitive, and I'm very dry—and when my skin is dry, it gets peely and itchy. Walking into Dangene, I was a little nervous that being exposed to so much heat would leave me red and itchy, but I started to feel better as soon as I got there. Dangene itself is an incredibly serene place, lined with beautiful white marble walls and filled with low-slung white furniture that just begs to be Instagrammed or, at least, relaxed in. I was quickly met by Samantha, an esthetician, who explained to me the whole Dangene philosophy, namely that they utilize techniques to make every person happy in their own skin so that makeup—specifically foundation—will become an afterthought.
Samantha brought me into the glowing red room that held the Lightstim LED bed and left me alone for a moment so that I could undress and prep my skin with the serums provided. The bed itself does not look like a tanning bed—for the claustrophobics out there, no need to worry about being enclosed in anything; this bed is more like a masseuse's table than a coffin. I spent 40 minutes total on the LED bed; 20 minutes lying on my stomach, with as much of my body as possible pressed onto the lit bed, with my face comfortably resting in a cushioned doughnut-like thing, not exposed to the lights; and then 20 minutes on my back with a lowered panel full of LEDs positioned directly over my face for the facial part of the procedure.
Samantha told me that lots of people fall asleep on the bed, and I can understand why. Once I adjusted to the bright lights (when I had the facial component over my face, I had eye protectors put on AND kept my eyes closed, but still saw the brightest of yellows behind my eyelids), it was actually a very soothing experience. The LEDs are warm, to be sure, but I never felt like I was overheating. I felt more like I was being cradled by light and floating than anything else. All the sounds from outside my room were muffled, my senses were simultaneously overloaded and muted, and my thoughts drifted to the furthest corners of my mind. I've never formally meditated, but, as I lay there, I felt a sense of peace and expansiveness that was overwhelming. I felt suspended in a state of being that I didn't even think existed for stressed-out New Yorkers like myself—I felt like I was in utero again.
The only question then is: Would I emerge with baby soft skin? It turns out, yes. The incredible thing about this treatment is that, as much as I loved experiencing laying motionless on the lit-up bed for 40 minutes with nothing to do but be with my thoughts, I didn't know how different my skin would actually look or feel afterward. After all, LED is non-invasive—this isn't the type of thing that involves extractions or scrubs, so how major could the change be? In fact, it was pretty major. My skin immediately felt softer than it ever had before; I couldn't stop running my fingers lightly over it for days after. And while I had a rosy flush in the hours that followed the treatment, that settled down pretty quickly and I was left with incredibly clear, redness-free skin for days after. Not only that but my right ankle, which had been slowly recovering from a bad sprain six weeks prior, finally stopped aching when I did things like sit cross-legged or walk down stairs. This was huge and wasn't even something I'd thought would be addressed. But because LED is a common treatment for athletes in recovery, it made perfect sense that my ankle would benefit as much as my face would—and benefit my face did. I'm now a total believer in the power of LEDs for how they treat the body from the inside out; this type of sci-fi-esque approach may feel like it's coming from the future, but it will very much treat whatever problems you might have right now, and do it in a holistic, non-invasive way that I absolutely loved.
You can try the LightStim Professional LED Bed at Dangene: The Institute of Skinnovation, 66 E. 55th Street 6th Floor, New York, NY.