LED face masks - are they worth the hype?

These at-home LED gadgets are the latest in beauty tech - but they aren't cheap. We ask the experts whether they're worth the spend.

Hair & Beauty

Where we were once heading to the salon every other week, the pandemic has caused a rise in at-home beauty and wellness therapies, providing us with the tech to care for our skin on our own time. However, with each new evolution in skincare gadgetry, there comes a steep rise in the price point. LED face masks are one such product, which offer the benefits of light therapy while lounging on the sofa - rather than a clinical environment.

LED treatments are nothing new. The treatment has been favoured by beauty professionals and celebrities for years, and is now becoming far more accessible with the invention of at-home devices. But what exactly do they do?

What is LED light therapy and how does it work?

No needles or scalpels here! This no-pain treatment can be carried out while you're relaxing at home and listening to a podcast, and uses light emitted from LEDs to treat a myriad of skin issues, from signs of ageing to acne.

Celebrity facialist and natural skincare expert, Lisa Harris, says, ‘LED therapy was developed by NASA to improve wound healing. LED red light therapy treatments are non-invasive, painless and require no recovery time. They can also be used on all skin types.

'High intensity light emitting diodes (LEDs) utilise specific wavelengths of light to trigger a natural biostimulatory effect in human tissue.

'Research suggests that LED can increase circulation, speed up tissue repair, kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, improve acne-prone skin and generally improve skin texture and appearance. It can also help to reduce wrinkles and improve muscle and joint pain  and the pain associated with arthritis.

'Basically, LED face masks are a better alternative to more invasive skin treatments because they help to aid cell regeneration. They give compromised cells energy so that their performance is enhanced, increasing collagen and elastin production to improve the appearance of the skin and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. They also increase the rate at which wounds heal.'

LookLit Kit LED Mask, SwearBy Skin
SwearBy Skin LookLit LED Mask, £75

Can it be used to treat hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skincare complaints, plaguing 43% of UK women. This condition may seem like a summer issue but this isn't the case. Fluctuating weather, cold temperatures, and decreased humidity can cause dry patches on the skin and exacerbate skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, leaving behind persistent dark spots.

“Every skin can benefit from a bit of happy yellow light,” says SwearBy Skin founder Shenae Rae, “but darker skins will particularly love it as they tend to suffer more from pigmentation problems.”

Its benefits include:

  1. Diminishing stubborn discolouration
  2. Reducing redness and inflammation
  3. Encouraging cell production
  4. Boosting lymphatic flow to remove toxins

How long does it take to see results?

As with any new skincare regime, its unlikely that you'll see drastic results after just one day. LED therapy takes a little bit of time to make a difference to your skin, but once it does the results can be staggering.

Stephanie Taylor, Managing Director of health and beauty retailer StressNoMore, says, 'At-home facial light therapy isn’t as intensive as in the salon, but at a fraction of the cost with the bonus of convenience, investing in an LED device to use at home is a great way to maintain healthy glowing skin and go longer in between other beauty treatments you may get done professionally.'

Chris Luckham, Head of Education for FOREO UK and Ireland, states, 'As with all at home treatments, the more you commit to the therapy the better the reward and result. Many professionals and experts suggest using LED light therapy devices for upward of 5/10 minutes a time at least 2/3 times a week to really notice an improvement. I personally recommend to up this to 3 times a week at a minimum, and should you be using the FOREO UFO device my best tip is to utilise the pre-filled masks which is packed full of nourishing ingredients (for 2 minutes) but then follow this with your day to day skincare routine with the cryotherapy mode selected on the device, this naturally extends the time that your skin is exposed to the desired LED colour of your choice and consequently boosting your results without feeling like you are steering too far away from your usual routine.'

Foreo UFO 2
FOREO UFO 2, £249

Is it safe for use on dark skin?

Kevin Herbert, Medical Physicist at 28 Day Skin, says, 'red light and infrared light masks do not cause hyperpigmentation and so are safe to use on darker skin. It is very unlikely that you will have any issues, but it is always worth patch testing a device before diving in - test it on a part of your body no one will really see (i.e. not your face) and leave it 24 hours to see if you get any sort of reaction.

'Blue light LED masks are a different story however - blue light has been linked to hyperpigmentation that can lead to sunspots or dark spots (it affects the production of the skin pigment responsible for tanning your skin, called melanin, in your skin cells causing them to over produce). However, as always in skincare "the dose makes the poison" and often blue light LED devices are unlikely to emit a high enough dose to cause serious skin issues. Another issue with blue light devices is eye damage - for some people who have certain eye conditions the blue light can contribute to more damage. You might remember the Neutrogena Blue LED mask 2019 recall that was due to this.'

Are all LED face masks the same?

When they first arrived on the scene, LED face masks were priced way out of the average beauty addict's range. However, now that the technology has been refined and is more commercially available, the market offers a wide variety of devices in every price range. Even ALDI had their own light therapy mask! 

However, with increased affordability comes an inevitable dip in quality. Dr Sophie Shotter, aesthetics doctor and owner of Kent-based Illuminate Skin Clinics, says, 'many consumers look at the home use devices which are available and think the wavelengths of the device are the same as the device used in clinic and therefore they are actually equivalent. This is not the case however, as a large amount of the effectiveness of the device is to do with the power of the LEDs.

'My view, however, is that with consistent daily use alongside good skincare products, home use LED masks are a safe and effective way for all skin types and all skin concerns to have a self-care regime at home.'

The Light Salon Boost LED Face Mask
The Light Salon Boost LED Face Mask, £395

How does an at-home LED face mask treatment differ from professional LED light therapy at a salon?

Although masks are a convenient product for those with very busy lifestyles, the technology isn't quite the same as what is used in-salon due to safety risks. A professional dermatologist or aesthetician will be able to administer a stronger treatment within the safety of a salon or clinical environment, if necessary.

Alexandria Henderson, Skincare Expert & Founder of Ciao Bella Aesthetics, 'LED light therapy is an excellent adjunct to professional treatment plans in a salon. The depth LED light can travel into the dermis is usually much less in at-home devices, posing risk to not achieving results. It's also worth noting that some at home LED face masks may not include specific colours such as green or yellow, both effective in calming skin conditions including rosacea.  If a skin condition is being treated professionally using the correct treatment protocols, results will be seen quicker. '

What's the difference between red, blue, green and amber light?

Alexander Johnston at pharmacy John Bell & Croyden says, 'Red and infrared light is used for its healing, soothing and plumping results. Red and infrared light stimulate collagen production and improve blood circulation, which, in turn, helps with healing, hyperpigmentation and acne scarring – whilst also reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

'Blue light is used for the treatment of acne and oily skin, as the blue light actively reduces the production of sebum, which can contribute to breakouts.

'Green and amber light is used to soothe and calm the skin, as well as stimulating lymphatic flow to flush out toxins.'

CurrentBody Skin LED Light Therapy Mask
CurrentBody Skin LED Light Therapy Mask, £279

Which products should be used alongside LED light therapy?

Alexander Johnston says, 'Using a serum alongside LED light therapy will actually improve the efficacy of the products, as it can improve the penetration of the serum into the skin. You can use active products, such as retinol or glycolic acid, but this may not be appropriate for more sensitive skin.

'Using a calming and hydrating serum packed with hyaluronic acid, niacinamides and vitamin E would be the best choice when treating acne, inflammation or hyperpigmentation with LED light therapy. Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective is a calming and deeply hydrating serum that is especially good for sensitive or acne prone skin, while Skin Design London’s Hydrating Serum combines hyaluronic acid with plant extracts to improve skin elasticity and moisture levels.'

❤ Picked for you ❤

Go Up