LED face masks | Experts explain everything you need to know

Previously restricted to the four walls of a facialist’s clinic, LED masks have now fully broken into the mainstream, with an increasing array of skin-tech brands offering at-home light therapy devices that promise transformative results with consistent use.

If you haven’t experienced an LED mask before, you’ve probably at-least seen one in action. A quick scroll on Instagram confirms the A-list appeal of these smart devices: in fact, pretty much everyone has been spotted posing in an illuminated mask, from Victoria Beckham to Kate Hudson. But are the latest LED devices really efficacious, and, more importantly, safe in untrained hands? Here, the experts reveal everything you need to know about LED light therapy.

Do LED face masks work?

Firstly, are LED masks simply celeb catnip, or is there solid science underpinning their appeal? Actually, a hefty amount of clinical research has shown that certain light devices can effectively treat a multitude of skin concerns, with particular success when it comes to increasing collagen production and management of (mild to moderate) acne. One small study has even found green light therapy to show promise when it comes to fading melasma and hyperpigmentation: conditions that are famously tricky to tackle with topical products alone.

However, it’s important to know that the results of light-therapy treatments are cumulative, meaning you won’t see long-term benefits from that single salon facial you treat yourself to once a year. If regular appointments aren’t an option, investing in an at-home LED mask could be the answer.

“At-home LED masks are an excellent way to bring a normally in-office treatment to the comfort of your home,” says Dr. Maryam Zamani, oculoplastic surgeon and founder of MZ Skin. “These at-home devices will not be as strong as the LED used in a clinic setting, but they do have similar benefits.”

Crystal LED Face Mask
Angela Caglia Crystal LED Face Mask
Credit: Net a Porter

Angela Caglia’s latest LED mask combines performance with pampering. The former comes via the 180 red LEDs – the highest number in any flexible silicone device on the market – while the latter is courtesy of the genuine rose-quartz crystals which are embedded between the lights to promote a sense of calm. Supremely light and comfortable, it’s one you’ll look forward to using each evening.

UnicLED Mask
Credit: Net-a-porter

With seven different colour settings, this smart LED mask from Korean innovators Unicskin boasts the most varied treatment options. The single-shade blue light is especially useful for those with acne, while the yellow setting is a helpful option for calming inflammation.

TheraFace PRO
Therabody TheraFace PRO
Credit: Therabody

Therabody’s maximalist Theraface device offers the brand’s famed percussive therapy benefits for the face. This multi-functional device combines massage with microcurrent, heat and cryotherapy, and both red and blue LED light to treat all manner of skin concerns.

Drx Spectralite Faceware Pro
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Drx Spectralite Faceware Pro
Credit: Net a porter

The one that started it all, Dr. Dennis Gross’ FDA-cleared SpectraLite device has both blue and red light settings. Sleek and practical, it comes with a USB charging port and rests comfortably on your face thanks to the adjustable straps.

What is LED light therapy?

As aesthetician Angela Caglia explains, the benefits of LED for skin were discovered by happy accident. “Light therapy was originally developed by NASA for healing wounds in space. US Navy Seals in the 1990s began using it, and shortly thereafter aestheticians brought it to their treatment rooms, inspired by the clinical data that proved LED to help with not just skin repair, but to stimulate collagen, fade age spots, and decrease inflammation and acne too.”

According to dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, the benefits of LED light therapy are manifold. They include treating acne, regulating natural oil production, stimulating collagen and elastin and minimising redness and wrinkles. Certain wavelengths have even been shown to reduce dark spots and uneven skin tone.

As the spectrum of light used does not include UV, there’s no risk of damage (and no, you won’t get a tan).

How do LED face masks work?

“LED therapy uses light in the visible spectrum – including blue, yellow, amber and red – as well as light beyond the visible spectrum to penetrate different depths of skin. As the light wavelength increases, so does the depth of penetration,” explains Dr. Gross. This light is absorbed by receptors in the skin, just like topical skincare, and each colour of light stimulates a different response within the cells.

Boost LED mask
The Light Salon Boost LED mask
Credit: Selfridges

Made of lightweight, flexible silicone, The Light Salon’s LED mask is one of the most comfortable to wear. It boasts almost 100 individual LEDs and emits both red and near-infrared light.

LED Precision
CurrentBody LED Precision
Credit: Currentbody

Incredibly easy to use, this accessible LED device is a great entry route into light therapy. Simply place the torch-style tool over cleansed skin to deliver a timed three-minute dose of red and near-infrared light. Not just perfect for the face, it’s ideal for treating the neck, chest and hands, too.

Lightmax Supercharged LED Mask 2.0
MZ Skin Lightmax Supercharged LED Mask 2.0
Credit: MZ SKIN

This flexible and portable LED mask is the new, high-power version of Dr. Maryam Zamani’s cult original design. It’s made from silicone that moulds closely around the face, ensuring optimal light absorption, and boasts two settings: the red and blue Acne mode, and the red with infrared Anti-Ageing mode.

Light Therapy Spot Treatment
Solawave Light Therapy Spot Treatment

Now 10% Off

Credit: Beauty Bay

We’re so impressed with Solawave’s small but mighty LED wands. This blue-light option is designed to treat breakouts and acne, working to kill the bacteria that leads to spots.

Dr. Zamani adds that one of the primary benefits of LED therapy is the absence of downtime and discomfort – in fact, skin often looks positively glowing as soon as you slip out from behind the mask. What’s more, the healing properties of LED also make it ideal for use after in-office procedures, such as peels, lasers and microneedling. It’s also suitable for all skin types and tones.

How to use an LED face mask at home

There’s now a small but growing list of options when it comes to at-home light therapy devices. For a complete facial treatment, an LED mask is the most obvious investment, but the emergence of targeted ‘wands’ and smaller (more portable) treatment lights is especially interesting for combatting areas of acne-prone skin (not to mention how effortless they are to use).

As LED treatments deliver cumulative results, commitment is key. As Debbie Thomas, laser aesthetician and celebrity facialist says, “just owning a device won’t give you any results.”

While instructions will vary depending on the device you choose, LED treatments are usually light on labour. “The good thing about LED masks is they are pretty simple to use and generally only need around 10 minutes of dedicated time,” explains Thomas. While a mask offers more ‘slip on and relax’ appeal, “wand devices are designed to be held over your skin for 20-30 mins, so it’s normally a toss-up between an aching arm or boredom that leads a dedicated skin warrior to fall out of love with their new skin gadget.”

Cellreturn Platinum LED Mask
Angela Caglia Cellreturn Platinum LED Mask
Credit: Net a porter

The ultimate investment, the Cellreturn LED mask features almost 700 lights and offers maximum strength outside of a clinic setting. There are settings for acne, dullness and fine lines, and the surprisingly comfortable helmet silhouette also treats your neck.

Light-Therapy Golden Facial Treatment Device
MZ Skin Light-Therapy Golden Facial Treatment Device

MZ Skin’s LED face mask emits all five colours of light, so you can use it to treat everything from acne to wrinkles and even hyperpigmentation. (The infra-red setting is an especially impressive addition for a mask in this price range.)

Dr. Zamani recommends using it 2-3 times a week, starting with 10 minutes and building up to 30.

Pro Express LED Mask
Déesse Pro Pro Express LED Mask
Credit: Cult Beauty

Compact and comfortable, this device is a great introduction to the benefits of LED light therapy. The flexible silicone mask emits both red and infra-red light. Use it twice a week for the first month, before building up to more regular use.

Solawave Radiant Renewal Wand
Solawave Radiant Renewal Wand
Credit: Solawave

This powerhouse Solawave ‘skincare wand’ masterfully combines galvanic current (to enhance serum absorption) with relaxing thermal massage and red LED lights to gradually treat slackened skin and a dull complexion in one fell swoop.

What colour LED do I need?

For calming and plumping: Red

The majority of at-home LED masks offer a red light setting. At the lighter end of the spectrum, red light works to soothe inflammation and redness, while deeper shades penetrate the skin further to prompt cellular repair and circulation, resulting in a plumper, more vibrant complexion.

For acne and breakouts: Blue

This antibacterial light is used to kill the bacteria that leads to breakouts, making it ideal for treating acne-prone skin. Blue light also helps purify the pores and regulate oil glands. It’s commonly combined with red light in at-home devices, but can also be found in single-spectrum targeted pens, which are ideal for bringing down specific breakouts.

For bringing down swelling: Amber

Less common in at-home devices, this colour works to revitalise the skin, reducing any swelling and increasing radiance.

For a collagen and elastin boost: Infrared

Invisible to the naked eye, this light penetrates deeper than any other colour in the spectrum. It combats the signs of ageing by replenishing dermal and epidermal cells, stimulates the natural production of collagen and elastin, and speeds up the recovery process. You’ll find near-infrared light in the most advanced at-home LED masks.

Dermalux Flex MD LED Light Therapy Device
Dermalux Flex MD LED Light Therapy Device
Credit: Currentbody

The most powerful LED device on the market for at-home use, the clinic-grade Dermalux Flex comprises 260 lights and offers a whole range of treatment protocols, from acne-zapping blue light to firming near-infrared. Use it as a canopy over your face, or position it over sore muscles from head to toe.

LED Neck and Dec Perfector
CurrentBody Skin LED Neck and Dec Perfector
Credit: Currentbody

This twist on the classic red-LED facial mask is designed to work around the neck and across the chest.

Spectralite Bodyware Pro
Dr. Dennis Gross Spectralite Bodyware Pro
Credit: Space NK

The latest member of the Spectralite family is designed to be used on the body, and contains red and blue lights to target lines, acne, and even muscle aches and pains. Simply bend it to sit snugly over your neck, shoulders, chest or limbs.

DRx Spectralite EyeCare Pro
Dr Dennis Gross DRx Spectralite EyeCare Pro
Credit: Lookfantastic

There’s now an LED device to target pretty much any area. These futuristic goggles tackle fine lines and crow’s feet around the eyes.

Are LED face masks safe?

Like many beauty innovations, at-home LED masks have been subject to controversy, sparked by concerns over their potential impact on eye health. However, a 2018 study found “no adverse events associated with the use of these devices and little to no downtime for the patient.” While most experts agree that a correctly used LED mask is a safe and efficacious tool, it’s vital to invest in one that has been FDA-approved and purchased from a reputable brand.

“At-home LED devices are a fraction of the strength of devices that are used in professional settings,” says Dr. Gross. “The testing for at-home devices is actually more rigorous than professional ones because the device is being cleared to use without the presence of a professional – there’s a higher-level burden of proof to show efficacy and safety because a consumer is in charge of their treatment. For this reason, we focus on specifics like safe optical output and recommended treatment times.” The best at-home LED masks will also be developed with in-build safety mechanisms: look for auto shut-offs, heat regulators and timers.

Led face masks: the contraindications

According to Thomas, the most important consideration to make is that, when wearing a mask that covers your entire face, your eyes should be kept closed – so no slumping in-front of the TV. “The lights are not strictly dangerous, but as they can be very bright you could get irritation. I would say using them for a few minutes daily would be fine as long as you do not have a pre-existing medical condition that sensitises you to light.”

Indeed, Dr. Zamani recommends avoiding light therapy if you suffer from seizures or epilepsy. She also does not recommend LED for anyone with migraines, eye conditions, or taking certain types of antibiotics. Of course, a professional should be your first port of call if you are at all unsure.

LED face masks: the supporting skincare routine

As with most things in skincare, your LED mask will work best when used in conjunction with the right topical products. Before you fire up your device, cleanse your skin thoroughly to remove make-up and oil. It’s fine to apply skincare before using your mask, but most experts advise to apply products after your treatment, as the boost in circulation will enhance absorption.

Caglia strongly recommends using your LED mask over bare skin, as “the shine from skincare (especially sheet masks) will cause a reflection, meaning the wavelengths of the light won’t penetrate as deeply.”

When it comes to specific skincare formulas, you have plenty of options: most things play well with LED. Perhaps you’re trialling a vitamin C serum for brightening, or maybe a hydrating hyaluronic acid is your booster of choice. If you’re aiming to tackle breakouts, salicylic acid is ideal. As always, seal with a moisturiser and don’t forget the SPF by day.

preview for Hailey Bieber: Inside my beauty bag


Next Post

The 'Eat Like a Bear' Diet Drives Weight Loss

Tue Jul 11 , 2023
“Eat like a bear” is probably just about the last piece of advice you’re expecting if you want to lose weight, but it’s a revolutionary strategy that gaining more and more devotees — especially women over 50 — and helping them to drop an astonishing amount of weight in very […]
The ‘Eat Like a Bear’ Diet Drives Weight Loss

You May Like