Who knew that light-emitting diodes commonly found in traffic lights prevent wrinkles, clear up acne and erase dark spots on your face?

The technology is most commonly known as light therapy and has been used in dermatology clinics and spas for about a decade. Valencia-based Ageless Beauty Corp. is now striving to cash in on the trend by making it accessible for consumers at home.

The company has harnessed a type of LED light strong enough to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin proteins, which keep the skin firm, while being soft enough for daily use without irritating the face or eyes.

Housed in a hand-held device the company calls the Marvel Mini, the device is sold in 58 Nordstrom stores and Bliss Spa catalogs, along with a handful of boutique salons. It retails for $225 and is in line to receive FDA approval next week.

Maha Sherif, the company's founder and chief executive, likens LED lights for the face to cardiovascular activities for the body.

"When you exercise, you're getting your heart to operate at its optimal level and you look more energized, healthier, stronger," Sherif said. "When the LED light penetrates to produce new collagen, it revs up its engine to work at its best capacity and the result is healthier skin that holds moisture better."

J. Creasy, who runs a medical-device consulting firm in Illinois, authored an independent study on Marvel Mini by surveying 24 patients who used it over a six-week period.

"I was very surprised to see that the device is just as effective, if not more than, some of the clinical ones out there," Creasy said.

However, it is lightly powered. Professional LED machines at dermatologist offices and spas have up to 1,000 units of the diodes used typically once a week on patients for 18-minute treatments. Marvel Mini contains 34 units of LEDs and should be used up to three times a week for 24 minutes.

"The only difference is that you can treat your whole face once a week with the professional larger size unit," said Steve Svehlak, plastic surgeon at Sunset Cosmetic Surgery, which offers clinical LED light therapy.

Why LED lights? It's the longest lasting, safest directional light that is not thermal. Fluorescent light, for example, delivers a fraction of light energy that LED rays do. Svehlak said while not burning or hurting the skin, the light stimulates the normal processes within the skin and removes surface dead tissue.

Sherif knew that the professional LEDs that come in big panels and requires patients to wear goggles were too cumbersome and too bright for consumer use.

Enter her husband Raed Sherif, who holds a Ph.D in theoretical and applied mechanics and is a Boeing engineer who converts light into electricity for semiconductors. He and a team of engineers set specific wavelengths of LEDs in three different versions of Marvel Mini.

Red light penetrates the tissue to a depth of 10 millimeters to promote increased blood flow and stimulate collagen production, minimizing wrinkles; green light hits the basal layer of the dermis to diminish the appearance of spots; and blue light kills acne-causing bacteria.

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