It's often said that 80% of skin aging is a result of exposure to UV rays
If you've ever wondered why that is, here's a factoid that might help explain it. Collagen formation was 56% less in the dermis of photodamaged skin than in skin protected from the sun (P<0.001) and was correlated with the clinical severity of photodamage (r = -0.58, P = 0.002).
So what does that mean for us?
The ability of skin cells in the dermis (also called fibroblasts) to produce collagen declines as we age. Unfortunately, one driver of this is ingredient based skincare products.
Yes, most ingredient based anti-acne products cause aging and retinol serums cause acne.
Our skin cells accumulate damage over time from UV rays and the constant battle between retinol serums and acne products.
If we can target these skin cells safely without any ingredients, we should be able to boost collagen production to reverse and slow the aging process. That's the science behind LED Light Therapy which uses no UV rays.
When people talk about "the future of skincare," I don't think any of us predicted something quite so futuristic. Yet here we are with these "killer looks." Whether you're a serial Instagram and tiktok-scroller or just have your thumb on the pulse of the newest, coolest skincare innovations, it's likely that you've heard a little something about LED skin therapy. In the past, these fancy treatments were only available under the practiced hand of your aesthetician for in-office treatments. Now, this luxury is available for you to use at your leisure while avoiding anti aging creams.
LED light therapy is actually a NASA technology that was adopted by the skincare community when its ability to heal wounds and tame inflammation was noticed. Blue light frequencies are typically used to treat acne, while red light is used for anti-aging concerns. If shooting lights at your face sounds scary, you should know that there are no ultraviolet rays in these devices. The only frightening thing about these masks are the look of them.
Most LED face masks have pretty hefty price tags, and nearly all of them claim transformative results. So what’s the deal? Do they work?How do they work? Are they worth the money? And, um… What is light therapy? We’re here to dish the dirt.
What is light therapy?
In short, light therapy is a treatment which has been around for about 30 years. It's the process of exposing skin to red, blue, green, cyan, yellow, orange/amber, purple, white, and near-infrared LED light which each have various skincare benefits.
What does light therapy do?
When used regularly, LED light therapy can be used to reduce breakouts, pigmentation, rosacea symptoms, bags under eyes, psoriasis and other side-effects of inflammation. If you don't suffer from the above complaints, LED light therapy can simply help to improve the appearance of your face and neck (the first to show signs of aging).
LED LIGHT THERAPY COLOR CHART
RED LIGHT THERAPY
RED: Is the anti-ager color of choice. Studies have shown it reduces fine lines and wrinkles. In addition to this, the body produces more collagen and elastin equating to healthier and younger looking skin. It can also improve overall facial texture and reduce scarring. This is the most common color users select.
BLUE LIGHT THERAPY
BLUE: Is for anti-acne primarily. It kills the bacteria that causes acne in the first place. It's also been shown to help with those who have psoriasis and reduce damage caused by the sun. This is the favorite for those who have been struggling with Acne and have a hard time with ingredient based solutions.
ORANGE/AMBER LIGHT THERAPY
ORANGE/AMBER: Is used for firming up the skin, reducing dullness and dark spots. Users will often report their skin "glowing" when used regularly and is one of the favorites used leading up to a special occasion.
GREEN LIGHT THERAPY
GREEN: Is for reducing dark spots as well as balancing out skin levels for those with oily skin. Studies have also shown it aids with hyperpigmentation and reducing inflammation. However, the it's most commonly known for reducing bags under eyes by users.
YELLOW LIGHT THERAPY
YELLOW: Is used for calming inflammation and reducing redness. Studies have shown it's a great option for users specifically looking to reduce the redness caused from the sun. It also boosts lymphatic flow which helps remove toxins and increases skin hydration/circulation.
CYAN LIGHT THERAPY
CYAN: Is used for reducing swollen capillaries as well as inflammation. Studies have shown it has also been used to treat mild forms of acne.
WHITE LIGHT THERAPY
WHITE: Is used for accelerating skin metabolism and firming up the skin. It also has many of the same benefits of red such as reducing fine lines, reducing wrinkles and inflammation.
PURPLE LIGHT THERAPY
Not on our chart but...
PURPLE: Is simply a combination of red and blue light therapy together. It shares both benefits of each at the same time.
And the benefits go well beneath the skin’s surface. In fact, LED light treatments have been applauded for their mental health benefits, too. Client feedback suggests that a short period of time spent under in-clinic LED lamps could dramatically improve mood, lifting spirits and reducing stress levels. Need proof? LED light therapy boosts our ATP so that it can fuel other cells with energy and boost our serotonin count. Needed.
Since the results for your skin and mind are cumulative, you need to have regular treatments to see an effect. If you can’t afford regular LED treatments at your local clinic, spa, or salon, at-home light therapy could be the answer. And that’s where the best LED face masks come in.
If you're curious about the LED face masks that will up your skincare game, read on for some of the best on the market that we have tested..
"Red light stimulates collagen and elastin. Yellow light is used to promote circulation. White light penetrates the deepest and works to tighten and reduce inflammation. Blue light kills bacteria."
- Dendy Engelman, MD. Board-certified dermatologic surgeon.
"These devices have been around for decades and are generally used by dermatologists or aestheticians in an office setting to treat inflammation after facials, minimize breakouts, and give skin an overall boost"
- Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, MD. Board-certified dermatologic surgeon.
"Light therapy helps boost the appearance of collagen and leaves the skin looking much brighter. It has also been found to repair cell damage, kill bacteria, improve facial texture and reduce fine lines."
- Dr. Simon Ourian, MD. Celebrity dermatologist & cosmetic surgeon.
BEST IN TECH: ARTEMIS
This goddess esque mask and neck plate are forged in the beauty capital of the world Seoul. It has a vast array of 1080 high density powered LEDS which utilizes 7 colors which already puts the Artemis in an entire class of it's own.
The tech does not stop there though. It features the best in class app with complete customizable settings for all your trouble spots. Plus an available case that does sterilization and charging simultaneously.
In addition to this, there are automatic settings for those who prefer a fast treatment as well as a setting that automtically caters to you based on your local weather. If you're keen on living in the year 3022 this is your wireless friend.
Pros: App is next level for custom and automatic treatments, easy to use, neck coverage, wireless, straps were not an afterthought.
Cons: Extra Pricey
BEST IN TECH RUNNER UP: AVINA
Another Dr. made brand. This space age looking mask also hails from the beauty capital of the world Seoul. It has an incredible array of 300 high powered LEDS. It's truly a remarkable anti-ager and acne fighter that keeps on giving with each use. It's no wonder why users of this tech have glass skin. It features a smart chip that takes you through 2 different modes for a picture perfect session.
Pros: Easy to use, straps were not an afterthought, nice cradle, automatic sensor for when it's in use and not in use.
Cons: Pricey, has a remote but at least it's not cumbersome.
BEST ALL AROUND: CLEOPATRA LED LIGHT THERAPY MASK
This ironman-looking mask not only treats your face with LED light therapy, but includes neck coverage so you can look forward to no longer having neck wrinkles. It has 192 LEDS and 7 different light modes to treat every ailment from acne, aging, scars, dullness and more. These spa-esque light treatments with 4 different power levels are completely wireless which means it's time to indulge in some me time from anywhere.
Pros: Easy to use, neck coverage, wireless, 7 colors, 4 power levels, comes with an app and a nice case.
Cons: Finding where to tap exactly, easy once you know after 1st use, optional adjustable strap could be improved but at least it's sturdy.
BEST KNOWN: DR. DENNIS GROSS SPECTRALITE FACEWARE PRO
This Dr. Dennis Gross creation mimics the kind of light therapy treatments you can get in your aesthetician's office. It features red and blue light, so you can either choose your area of concern or use both at the same time. Red light diminishes signs of aging, while blue light kills off acne-causing bacteria. It's easy to use, and will make you look like a gorgeous, clear-skinned robot while it's on.
Pros: Easy to use, short treatments, wireless.
Cons: Pricey, doesn't always cover the whole face depending on your face size, feels like it could break easily, the strap is always too loose.
BEST BUDGET OPTION: REGENALIGHT LED MASK
This Jason esque looking mask will spook your skin into better condition. With 7 colors and it's wireless portability, it's hard to go wrong with this one especially for those new to light therapy or those testing the waters.
Pros: Wallet friendly, easy to use, literal tap here button, wireless, 7 colors.
Cons: The optional adjustable strap could be improved but it is secure at least.
BEST IN NUMBERS: CELESTALIGHT
This masquerade esque looking mask that also shines from Korea will have you glowing like a celestial goddess. It's equipped with an out of this world one thousand two hundred high density LEDS to make sure every single cell is covered. Yes, you read that right. This one also comes with a automatic 3 color cycle that will transcend your skin through light and time.
Pros: Easy to use, wireless, nice cradle, straps are efficient.
Cons: Pricey, has a remote but its very simple.
BEST ACCESSORY: SOLAWAVE
These may look like razors but they are actually spot treatment LED wands that can be used for anti-aging or anti-acne. Both sold separately.
Pros: Easy to use, wireless, lightweight
Cons: Arms can get tired easily in the recommended 5 minute treatment. Built to turn on when it touches your skin but it should really have an on/off switch.
BEST FOR TEETH: SNOW TEETH WHITENING KIT
This glowing teeth whitening kit utilizes light therapy to brighten up those pearls of yours. Whether we like to admit it or not, our teeth's color has a large impact on what we consider beautiful. It should go hand in hand with your day and nighttime routine.
Pros: Easy to use, Original or wireless kit options.
Cons: Wired kit is a bit awkward with the three ends for different devices.
STAY CLEAR OF THESE
Masks with microcurrents can be dangerous and definitely aren't for everyone. They are also uncomfortable and should be avoided when possible. Masks that look like face shields from our tests virtually do nothing and don't protect the eyes. The Zoidberg looking masks that are made from silicone. While these are comfortable, they often lack full face coverage and we've also found them to be weak with typically only 66 bulbs. Not to mention a bit cumbersome with the remotes.
WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?
Like many things in this world, it's situational. In fact it's NONE industry wide if you are sensitive to light or take any medications that increase light sensitivity.
That aside, if you can afford the best in class technology then go for the Artemis or Avina X1 They don't disappoint. If you can't quite justify splurging on the apple of beauty you can opt for the a well rounded Cleopatra Mask. We really do like having the ability to take care of our neck at the same time which is where the Artemis and Cleopatra really shine.
Then you have your budget option the Regenalight which works well especially for the price. Feeling a Korean mask but not wanting to quite go as high as the Artemis and Avina? Then give the Celestalight a whirl with it's power in numbers. While we do like the Spectralite, we feel like it's too much of a hit and miss depending on your face size. This is something we don't have to worry about with the other masks mentioned and you're better off making your own strap (the thing is cursed for real) or simply lying down with it only. It's hard to ignore the reviews on Sephora outside of our own tests. If they ever come out with a second version and listen to the complaints it will surely be a hit.
Oh and sure, some retinol serums have their place and time. But we want you to know it's not the only option you have available to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Outside of my practice, there's nothing more that I enjoy than Yoga and a glass of wine. Sometimes together.
- Kathryn Shaffer