Supporting Cells with Light Therapy

Written by Amy Gardner

There is much research supporting the use of light as a source of therapy for various skin conditions. But, it can even be beneficial on a cellular level!


gardner2All living things, regardless of their size and structure, require some type of support to sustain them. Although cells require support, when it comes to a long-term or cumulative lack of it, the cells’ response can be quite subtle. Therefore, maintaining adequate skin cell support may require assistance as it is imperative to ensure good health and vibrant skin. Light Emitting Diode (LED) light therapy can help provide cells with this assistance.



Overall health, or freedom from illness, is dependent upon the efficient function of a number of systems throughout the body, such as the cardiovascular, lymphatic, immune, and integumentary systems. These systems are groups of organs and tissues that are composed of various types of cells. Much like a solid building or structure that is comprised of strong, reliable building materials to keep it from collapsing, the human body depends upon cells to maintain health and homeostasis. If cells do not receive adequate support to perform efficiently, the body can easily lapse into system failure and a state of declining health.


Water is the most vital and abundant chemical to all living things. Depending upon gender and age, the weight of a human body is thought to be roughly 55 to 75 percent water. Approximately two-thirds of the water is found inside cells while the remaining amount is outside cells in blood plasma and other body fluids. While it is well-known that water plays critical roles in thermoregulation and lubrication, it has many additional functions that are not as widely known. With the help of enzymes, water molecules can be added or “pushed” into certain molecules to split them into smaller subunits. As an example, lipids can be split into glycerol and other molecules, like fatty acids. Conversely, enzymes can assist with the removal of water molecules, enabling such processes as the joining of amino acids to form a protein.


In addition to drinking the recommended eight glasses of water daily, clients can also introduce water to the body by consuming water-rich foods. Water is absorbed more slowly this way and, theoretically, remains in the body for longer periods of time. Many raw fruits and vegetables have a high water content and offer the bonus of providing various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.


gardner3Vitamins, some of which are discussed below, are essential to cellular growth and maintenance. Vitamin C helps build healthy tissue by promoting the production of collagen – a protein that is the primary support structure for the skin and other connective tissues, such as cartilage, tendons, bones, and ligaments. It is also a potent antioxidant that helps to defend against free radical damage to cell structures. B-complex vitamins help support tissue growth, and DNA and RNA synthesis and repair; they also play an important role in the conversion of food to energy that cells can use. B vitamins are not stored well in the body, so it is important to replenish them regularly through dietary sources. Vitamin A, from the retinoid family, is useful for increasing cell turnover and generating cell growth by modulating genetic activity. It also plays an important role in immune system health. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is also important in the formation of red blood cells. Minerals, carbohydrates, and fats are important to energy support, tissue growth, and overall cellular health. Fatty acids help maintain healthy cell membranes, which protect the cell and its organelles while controlling the transport of various molecules in and out of the cells.


Oxygen is critical to cells, tissues, and organ systems and is necessary for cellular respiration and energy production. Cellular respiration differs from external respiration, otherwise known as breathing. Cellular respiration involves a series of chemical reactions within cells that combine the air people breathe with the food they eat to produce cellular energy. When people breathe, air enters the lungs and is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it is then transported to the cells. Given this system of transport, it is easy to see how important proper blood circulation is to healthy tissue, organs, and disease prevention.


In order for cells to execute and maintain a host of biochemical processes that keep the body in working order, they must have an adequate supply of energy. This energy is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Studies have shown that in humans, ATP producing capacity decreases by approximately eight percent every decade the body ages. LED light therapy is believed to stimulate the production of ATP, thereby providing cells with the fuel that is essential to their performance.


Providing cells with the fundamentals they require for survival is vitally important, but there are many other factors that influence optimal cellular function. Although clients cannot prevent all damage by simply “feeding” their cells as described above, they can give them a leg up. Clients can further support their cells with certain lifestyle choices and treatments, including LED light therapy, that help strengthen cell structures and provide the best defense against the potentially damaging forces that exist in the environment.
There are many theories on aging, most of which involve cellular failure resulting from a number of endogenous or exogenous factors. There are endogenous theories that center around the cell’s inability to divide indefinitely. The Hayflick limit, named for the concept advanced by Leonard Hayflick in 1961, demonstrated that cells eventually reach a period of senescence (process by which cells stop dividing) after dividing roughly 40 to 60 times. Habits and lifestyle choices may have a direct effect on the lengthening or shortening of telomeres – caps at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division – and, consequently, the cell’s ability to divide.


In terms of exogenous theories, the free radical theory of aging is probably the most discussed. Free radicals are atoms, molecules or ions with unpaired electrons. When balanced, free radicals can have positive effects, like defending against infection, viruses, and harmful bacteria. Free radicals are generated by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors, including pollution, poor diet, stress, and even the natural and necessary process of cellular respiration. When the body’s antioxidant defenses cannot compensate for this overexposure, the body finds itself in a state of imbalance known as oxidative stress. This condition promotes chronic inflammation and can cause damage to cell structures, proteins, membranes, lipids, and DNA. This damage is cumulative and contributes not only to the appearance of aged skin, but to a number of age-related diseases.


gardner5Decades of research and a substantial body of clinical evidence have shown that specific wavelengths of light are absorbed by certain organic molecules in the body. These molecules are called chromophores. The primary chromophore for wavelengths in the red and infrared ranges that is commonly used for therapeutic purposes is known as cytochrome c oxidase. This enzyme exists in the mitochondria of the cells and is part of the electron-transport chain and cellular respiration process. When light is absorbed, the quantum of energy delivered by the photon excites electrons. This energy leads to an acceleration of electron-transfer reactions, which results in increased ATP synthesis. Adenosine triphosphate, the body’s fuel source, is essential to the efficiency of cells; the body’s capacity to produce it diminishes with age. Light therapy is considered to be supportive of cells and their productive activity.


Light therapy has also been shown to demonstrate specific downstream effects, including the induction of certain transcription factors, which ultimately result in increased cell proliferation, modulation of inflammatory mediators, and increased tissue oxygenation. When considering how LED light therapy works, it is almost difficult to imagine circumstances under which it would not be beneficial. Any structure or organ, including the skin, is only as strong as its fundamental building blocks. Part of LED’s wide appeal is that it is non-invasive, works synergistically with the body’s own resources, and is appropriate for all skin types and most conditions. Because most other skin care treatments can only be improved upon by stimulating the cells to perform at peak efficiency, LED is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into a number of treatments and protocols to assist the body (and the professional) in the delivery of better results. LED is often used in conjunction with basic facials, enzyme treatments, peels, microdermabrasion, and microcurrent. Many professionals use LED for back and hand treatments, waxing, wraps, and other full-body treatments. Well-known for its ability to reduce inflammation, diminish bruising, and speed healing, LED is also widely used in medical settings to improve results and diminish downtime from injectables, microneedling, acupuncture, laser treatments,
and surgery.


Although there are certain wavelengths that are clinically proven to be effective in terms of absorption and their ability to achieve the desired effects, the quality of devices available on the market varies dramatically. When choosing a device, it is important to make sure it is FDA cleared and has an established reputation for results among industry experts.



Contributors Gardner March 2018Amy Gardner is a licensed aesthetician and LightStim’s director of education. Amy is a sought after speaker among skin care professionals, and has contributed to numerous industry publications throughout her career. Gardner has spearheaded the education division at LightStim for over eight years. She has applied her 25 years of experience in corporate education and program development, crafting the curriculum for LightStim instructional platforms.

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