If you’ve ever seen a celebrity wearing a Phantom of the Opera style facial device on Instagram (we see you, Kristen Bell!), you’re at least familiar with the look of a light emitting diode (LED) light therapy mask. These foreign-looking tools are actually scientifically-proven skincare treatments that work to fight the effects of aging and kick acne to the curb. Read on to find out more about them and where you can find your own personal fountain of youth mask.
What is a LED light therapy mask?
Developed by NASA (yes!) as a method for stimulating plant growth and treating astronaut wounds, LED light therapy has since been adopted by beauty care professionals for skincare treatments. It works by using different wavelengths of light — most commonly red and blue — to target different ailments of the skin. “LED light is essentially acting like the sun to a plant,” dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, MD, told Vogue in 2016. “It is penetrating the skin to a cellular level and subsequently causing different intra- and intercellular reactions.”
Research shows that red light therapy can be an effective anti-aging tool. According to a 2013 study, red light, which is known to penetrate deeper than blue light, can be useful in reducing inflammation. A separate study the following year also showed that red light therapy subjects saw “significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling” as far as roughness and collagen density went.
Blue light therapy, meanwhile, can be effective in the treatment of acne. A 2009 study published by The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that daily blue light therapy home treatment for mild to moderate acne “reduced the number of acne lesions significantly.” It also showed “a significant improvement” in overall skin conditions.
How to Use LED Light Therapy Masks
Though LED light therapy masks do not contain ultraviolet rays and are largely considered to be safe for general use, they do come with some warnings about how best to use them. A 2016 recall of a popular Neutrogena model sparked some concerns over vision safety, as prolonged exposure to blue or red light can cause damage without proper eye protection. To avoid this, experts recommend using blackout or opaque goggles with these devices.
Masks will vary, but most range from three to 20 minutes per treatment, while the more focused devices call for around 30 seconds per problem area. Some recommend daily use, while others suggest three to four times per week.
Where to Buy LED Light Therapy Masks
Unlike your typical beauty products, these skin-changing devices won’t typically be found on the shelves of your local Sephora, so Woman’s World rounded up a list of the best LED light therapy masks on the market — and the places you can scoop them up. Keep scrolling for our top picks!
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Project E Beauty 7-Color LED Mask
Where to buy: $198.99, Amazon
One of the most popular masks on the market comes in the form of this seven-color model from Project E Beauty. Promising to do everything from shrink pore appearance, smooth skin, lessen oil, tighten, and even reduce the appearance of freckles, this wireless device requires just 10 to 15 minutes of use three to four times a week in conjunction with its included hyaluronic acid serum.
“It's easy to use and I feel like it is already helping my skin," wrote one happy buyer. "After I use it, my skin feels tighter and I love it.”
LightStim for Wrinkles
Where to buy: $249 (Valued at $349), Dermstore
If you’re concerned about potential damage to your peepers, this handheld, dermatologist-recommended device offers up an eye-friendly solution with its included goggles. It also allows you to focus its 72 LED lights on the areas of concentration where you need it most to stimulate collagen and elastin production. In addition, you'll get an adapter, an accompanying serum, and a carrying case. This device also comes in white or in a blue LED light version ($169) for treatment of acne.
RAIPOSA 3-Color Mask
Where to buy: $17.98 (Originally $26.98), Amazon
If you want to reap the benefits of LED light therapy but don’t have upwards of $200 to shell out, try this three-color facial mask from RAIPOSA. It combines the power of red, blue, and yellow wavelengths, which you can change with a button, to smooth skin and increase elasticity and firmness, all for less than $30. Treatment sessions of 15 to 20 minutes are recommended daily after cleansing for optimal results. “I used the blue light for 20 min daily for four days. Then just once a week. My acne is almost gone,” one happy purchaser wrote, noting, “It also makes me feel better.”
NORYLANYA Photon Therapy Machine
Where to buy: $339, Amazon
Although it’s not exactly a mask, this photon therapy machine from NORYLANYA works much in the same way, emitting a total of 420 red, blue, and yellow wavelengths of light to stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of pores, scars, hyperpigmentation, and age spots. It also increases skin elasticity and improves circulation. A foldable design makes it easy to extend your treatment beyond your face to your neck, and it can be programmed to your liking: Choose a specific light hue for five to 20 minutes of treatment or run the gamut with a pre-set "program" that will combine optimal light choices for spring and summer or fall and winter seasons.
NUFACE Trinity Wrinkle Reducer Attachment
Where to buy: $149, Nordstrom
Fans of the NuFace Trinity toning facial device ($325) — an FDA-cleared machine which works to rejuvenate skin with interchangeable attachments — can get in on the LED game with this wrinkle reducer attachment, which offers up red light therapy to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare SpotLite Acne Treatment Device
Where to buy: $52, Nordstrom
This FDA-cleared LED light therapy option pairs bacteria-fighting blue LED light with inflammation-reducing red LED light to hone in on acne, blemishes, and redness at the source when used in increments of three minutes per spot. It features an automatic shut-off to save on its required AAA battery (sold separately, $15.99 for a pack of 20) and a one-year warranty to protect your purchase.
OPERA Lebody LED Home Therapy Mask
Where to buy: $732.99, Amazon
Younger skin after just 10 minutes of treatment per day? Yes, please! The OPERA Lebody has been clinically-tested when it comes to improving skin’s dull, dry texture and roughness, reducing wrinkles and fine lines, and boosting skin elasticity and moisture. Its secret lies in its extra-wide angle of irradiation, which works to spread its 228 LED lights more evenly across skin. There’s a neck piece for the skin beyond your face and eyewear to protect your peepers from any would-be harm. It’s also got a charging port so you won’t have to keep it continuously plugged in.
Foreo ESPADA Blue Light Acne Treatment Pen
Where to buy: $149, Sephora
Acne takes a serious beating from this Foreo blue light treatment pen when it's pressed against the skin in 30-second increments. In addition to its bacteria-killing blue light, it’s got “T-sonic pulsations” to boost your blood’s natural microcirculation, which in turn helps skin cell turnover. It’s FDA-approved and works on all skin tones.
Customers say it definitely works right when properly cared for: “It’s super important to WASH the part if the device that comes into contact with your blemish to get rid of bacteria!” wrote one buyer. “At first I only washed the lens every few uses, but then I didn’t see results. When I did wash it every single use, the results are more obvious. … I used to get a blemish every single time i ate or drank sweets or spicy food, even coffee, but now I eat anything and I haven’t been getting any new blemish. i really think this thing is containing the bacteria growth underneath my skin!”
Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro
Where to buy: $435, Nordstrom
Goofy though this FDA-cleared light mask might look, you won’t have to wear it for long — it works to smooth wrinkles and zap zits for all skin types in three minutes or less! Using a combination of 162 lights that can be used separately or together for your specific needs, it claims to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, firm skin, reduce the appearance of sun spots, age spots, and discoloration, even skin tone and texture, clear mild to moderate acne, prevent acne flare-ups, calm redness, reduce inflammation, and increase skin density — phew! This piece also comes with a one year limited warranty.
Déesse LED Face Mask
Where to buy: $2,500, Amazon
There was one mask that came up time and time again in our search for the best of the best — the Déese LED face mask. A celebrity favorite since at least 2015, this 700-bulb gem comes recommended by aesthetician to the stars, Shani Darden, who uses it on her clients like Jessica Alba and Kelly Rowland. Pricey though it may be, Darden says it's worth shelling out for. “The more affordable LED masks on the market do not contain this many lights,” she told Refinery 29 earlier this year. “The strength of the lights, as well as the quantity, has a huge impact on how effective the mask is.”