The LED light therapy skincare trend is huge and growing. Here’s why
By Chere Di Boscio
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend on Instagram for celebrities to appear like a high-tech version of Jason from the Friday the 13th films: they’re sporting a kind of scary white hockey-mask type of thing with either a pink or blue glow coming from underneath.
These A-listers, who include the Kardashians, Jessica Alba and Katie Price haven’t become serial killers, of course. Rather, they’re indulging in one of the top dermatological facial treatments that’s meant to help with acne, skin surface quality and wrinkles. I’m talking about LED light therapy.
Blue light or red light?
There are various kinds of LED facials available on the market, but the two most common ones involve red or blue light. The basic premise of LED skin therapy is that different colours trigger different reactions beneath the epidermis, and penetrate the skin at varying depths. Blue light is used to kill the bacteria that causes acne, providing an effective treatment for blackheads and whiteheads, whereas red light speeds up healing and stimulates collagen production, thus shrinking enlarged pores, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and tightening the skin – making celebrities red-carpet ready.
LED treatments are painless and non-invasive with little to no downtime, and are great for targeting areas that are hard to hit with Botox and injectables, encouraging skin plumpness and reducing the appearance of crow’s feet and other wrinkles.
Image: Jessica Alba tries out the LED light therapy skincare trend on Instagram
Do LED light facials actually work?
Way back in the 90s, red light LEDs were used by scientists to help grow plants in space. The scientists found that the intense light from red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) helped promote growth and photosynthesis of plant cells – and then they learned they can also increase energy inside human cells to help things like muscle atrophy, slow wound healing, and bone density issues.
Further research indicated that red light could also assist in correcting cosmetic skin issues, like stretch marks and wrinkles. In a medical setting, this light can be used to treat more serious conditions, like psoriasis, slow-healing wounds, and even the side effects of chemotherapy.
In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest that red light LED therapy can do all of the following:
- promote wound healing and tissue repair
- improve hair growth in those with androgenic alopecia
- help for the short-term treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome
- reduce psoriasis lesions
- aid with short-term relief of pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis
- reduce some of the side effects of cancer treatments, including oral mucositis
- improve skin texture, build collagen and diminish wrinkles
- help mend sun damage
- prevents recurring cold sores from herpes simplex virus infections
- improves the health of joints in people with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee
- helps diminish scars
- relieve pain and inflammation in people with pain in the Achilles tendons
Specifically, a recently published study states that low level light therapy (LLLT) with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) demonstrates efficacy in increasing collagen production and blood flow, thus improving the condition of the skin – however, each treatment should be done for 9 to 20 minutes over the course of 4-6 treatments to see results.
The average cost per treatment is $50-$300, during which a warm, pleasant sensation can be felt over the entire area. After the treatment, the gel is removed and a moisturiser is applied along with an SPF to protect the skin from UV rays. The benefits are cumulative, and one treatment per year is normally sufficient to maintain the results afterwards.
No doctor or beautician needed
The good news is that LED treatments are safe enough to do at home with a pharmacy-bought LED skincare device. Studies conducted using LED for acne and anti-aging showed significant improvement in both. The biggest con is that you have to commit to using it every day – yep, this needs to become part of your daily skin care regimen.
You’ll also need to be careful with your eyes – these lights can do damage, so ensure you’re wearing protective goggles or that your eyes are shut and covered with protective stickers whilst you’re undergoing your home treatment, or you could risk your sight. If it’s too difficult to do because you want to treat the area around your eyes and can’t see properly, consider going to a dermatologist’s office for your facial instead.
Finally, remember to use a home device ONLY as directed, and to never use it on broken or unhealthy skin.
(Image below: scar on nose before LED, and 3 weeks after, using LightStim LED 4x/week)
Choosing an LED face mask
If you’re going to buy an LED face mask for home use, you’ll need to pick the right option for you. Ask yourself:
- Do you need several light options, or will is one enough?
- Do you want to treat your eyes, or your entire face?
- Are you trying to reduce acne breakouts or combat wrinkles (or both)?
- Are you aiming to speed up healing after a medical procedure?
- And finally, what’s your budget? Keep in mind that the pricier the device, the more effective it’s likely to be.
If you’ve decided to try out the LED light therapy skincare trend by trying out these masks at home, we’ve rounded up a selection of different products in various price brackets for you to choose from, below.
7 LED Face Masks To Use At Home
As the name suggests, the Project E Beauty 7 Color LED Mask offers a range of seven lights, each designed to treat a different skin issue:
- Red — stimulates skin cells to create collagen and achieve a firmer, smoother texture
- Blue — improves sensitive skin
- Green — anti-aging, smooths wrinkles and fine lines
- Purple — increases lymph metabolism
- Cyan — reduces skin inflammation
- Light green — decreases wrinkles and yellow undertones
- Light blue — soothes and calms sensitive skin
The kit comes with an LED mask and a remote control, as well as a USB cord and power cable for charging. The mask is portable and relatively easy to operate, although at two pounds it’s a bit on the heavier side, with some users reporting it uncomfortable to wear as a result. The manufacturer recommends wearing the mask 3 – 4 times a week on the desired setting for 10 – 15 minutes at a time. Once you start seeing results, you can cut it back to just 1 or 2 sessions a week.
Neutrogena may not be one of the cleanest beauty brands out there, but their light therapy mask for acne is FDA-approved and nasty- chemical free. A 12-week clinical study demonstrated that 98% of participants had fewer acne breakouts after using the mask while 94% reported smoother skin. The red and blue lights target the bacteria responsible for acne and inflammation, delivering a one-two punch.
This mask is designed to be used for 10 minutes a day over a period of 30 days. After the 30 day mark the activator (power source) is designed to run out of energy, so if you’ve yet to see the results you want and wish to continue treatment, you’ll need to purchase another activator (approximately $15).
The mask itself costs just $20 on Amazon, making it one of the cheapest on the market, but some consumers aren’t so thrilled about having to purchase an activator every month. Most important to remember, however, is that this mask is only designed to treat acne, so it won’t work for those hoping to reduce their wrinkles or address other skin issues.
This ‘magic’ wand has both red and green lights to turn back the signs of ageing. It’s extremely effective, especially if you apply a treatment before using the device, which helps your favourite skin care products penetrate the dermis even deeper. There’s also a blue light in case you get breakouts, and the massaging action of the machine further stimulates blood circulation and feels great, too!
A cult favourite, this is the beauty industry’s most advanced home light mask. Foreo’s UFO combines six leading skincare technologies with mini Korean-created sheet masks in one lovely, tiny package that’s easy to use, but which costs around $300. The ingenious device will run a series of effects from sonic pulsations and LED red light to blemish-battling blue light therapy to provide whatever your skin needs to improve at the moment.
Want a face and neck like Jessica Alba’s? This kind of mask is apparently her favourite!
A whopping 192 red and blue LED lights will help kill bacteria, prevent breakouts, and minimise scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles. The device offers three program selections: red/infrared, blue/infrared or red/blue/infrared.
The mask comes with a padded travel case, and due to the face and neck components, this mask is quite heavy at about 10 pounds, and so should only be used in a reclining position. It’s also a bit pricier due to its neck component, but it definitely works to protect you from a dreaded turkey-neck!
We’ve tried and tested this one ourselves and can attest to its ability to expedite wound healing and increase collagen production, and in clinical studies of the product, all participants said they saw significant improvement in their fine lines and wrinkles in just 8 weeks. No wonder this Lightstim device has been recommended by medical spas, aestheticians, dermatologists, plastic surgeons and their clients for over a decade. At $200, it’s not the cheapest device, but it does come with goggles to protect your eyes and a serum to make the treatment more effective.
Three light settings — red, blue, and green — treat various skin conditions. The red light stimulates the production of collagen, repairing damaged or replacing old tissue, whilst the blue light kills bacteria, decreasing acne breakouts, inflammation, and hypersensitivity, and the green one balances pigment, speeds up the healing process, and lightens any scarring that may be present.
There are protective gaskets around the eye holes so you don’t have to wear goggles with this mask, something many reviewers appreciate about the product. You can also make the lights as dim or bright as you please since there are 5 different illumination levels to choose from.
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