Shedding Light on LED Facials: Do They Really Work?
If you follow any celebrities on Instagram, chances are you’ve come across a picture of an LED treatment before. You know, that strange-looking mask that retails for about $2,000? That’s it.
Perhaps you’ve thought of trying one of the many at-home handheld devices, such as the Quasar MD Plus that Kim Kardashian uses –apparently, she’s “really big on laser facials.”
Maybe you’ve seen someone wearing funky protective eyewear at a medispa or doctor’s office and all kinds of bright lights were involved? Yep, that would be it as well.
LED skin treatments are all the rage nowadays. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Emergency session w @shanidarden ? before work today A photo posted by Jessica Alba (@jessicaalba) on
Blue light or red light?
There are various kinds of LED facials available on the market today, and the technology is rapidly evolving. Some skin treatments involve the use of blue light, while some only use red light.
The basic premise of LED skin therapy is that different colors trigger different reactions beneath the epidermis, and penetrate the skin at varying depths.
Blue light is generally used to kill the bacteria that causes acne, providing an effective treatment for blackheads and whiteheads, whereas wavelengths of red light are normally used to speed up healing and stimulate collagen production, simultaneously shrinking enlarged pores and tightening the skin.
LED treatments are painless, non-invasive, and require no downtime. According to Sacha Bourdage, Director of Laser Services at the Victoria Park Medispa in Montreal, Canada, “people are looking for a lot of alternatives these days. An LED treatment is great for targeting areas that are hard to hit with Botox and injectables, bringing out the plumpness and reducing the appearance of crow’s feet and other wrinkles.”
Do LED light facials really work?
Dr. R. Glen Calderhead, one of the world’s leading experts in phototherapy and photosurgery, seems to think so. In a recently published study, he states that “low level light therapy (LLLT) with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is emerging from the mists of black magic as a solid medico-scientific modality, with a substantial buildup of corroborative bodies of evidence for its efficacy and elucidation of the modes of action.”
According to Caldernhead, reports are appearing from many different specialties that show the effectiveness of this treatment. “Of particular interest to plastic surgeons treating the aging face is the proven aid of LED-LLLT to skin cells and the treatment’s ability to enhance blood flow,” says Caldernhead. “This makes LED-LLLT a safe and effective stand-alone therapy for patients who are prepared to wait until the final effect is perceived.”
In short, the treatment works, but not overnight.
The treatment itself can last mere minutes, depending on the type of technology used. This makes it the a perfect lunch time treatment.
The price of each treatment is relatively low. Count on average $50-$300 per treatment. Although some customers who’ve undergone blue light therapy claim that most of their dimples disappeared after a single treatment, Bourdage advises caution: “It’s not a cure. It’s a treatment.”
Typically, you’ll need at least four treatments before you start noticing results. In order to rejuvenate the skin’s appearance, improve its texture, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, a few weeks will be required. The good news? The benefits are cumulative, and one treatment per year is normally sufficient to maintain the results afterwards.
You can do the procedure at home, too.
According to prominent New York City aesthetic medicine expert Dr Z. Paul Lorenc, using a pharmacy-bought LED skincare device can be a great alternative to clinical-grade treatments: “Probably the biggest pro is that it works. 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. This needs to become part of your daily skin care regimen. For some, this may be a burden.”
“Studies conducted using LED for acne and anti-aging showed significant improvement in both.”
-Dr. Z. Paul Lorenc
For patients that lack discipline, opting for a more powerful machine might be a better option: “Light is measured in nanometers, and LED lights have different depths. Devices like the one that we have here can only be used in medispas or on a medical level. It all comes down to the expectations you have,” says Dr. Lorenc.
Are light treatments just a crazy fad?
“LED light has demonstrated significant efficacy for various skin pathologies,” says Bourdage. “The LED light by itself can stimulate specific cell lines and improve certain aspects of the skin, and the technology can be further improved when combined with light-absorbing chromophore gel, which allows the LED light to penetrate deeper into the skin.”
Bourdage use a device known as a Lumibel. We use it to reduce the appearance of crow’s feet, marionette lines, forehead lines, and pore size. For patients with acne-prone skin, a Lumibel treatment can also be used,” says Bourdage.
Here’s how a typical LumiBel light-emitting diode session unfolds: the patient comes in after having their picture taken and lies down on an examination table, where the aesthetician uses a gentle cleanser to remove any makeup or impurities before applying a special gel onto the patient’s face.
The multi-LED LumiBel blue light system is then used to activate the gel, converting the light from the lamp into different color wavelengths. The light panels can also be used on other acne-prone body areas, such as the chest or back.
Although the machine never actually touches the skin, the patient must wear protective eye wear. At Victoria Park and other medispas, small stickers can be placed over the eye area in order to treat crow’s feet.
“How can you expect the LED light to treat your crow’s feet if you’re wearing these huge goggles?” exclaims Bourdage.
Make sure you keep this in mind when booking your next appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask the receptionist if stickers — not just goggles — are available at your local medical spa or dermatologist’s office.
This particular treatment lasts nine minutes, and most LED treatments are over in less than twenty minutes.
During the procedure, a warm pleasant sensation can be felt over the entire face. While you’re there you can listen to some background music, mediate, even take a power nap. “Most of our patients find it relaxing,” Bourdage points out.
After the treatment, once the gel is delicately removed, a moisturizer is applied along with an SPF to protect skin from UV rays. Redness very rarely occurs.
Based on comments from both experts and patients, as well as the technology’s commercial success, it certainly seems like it’s here to stay.
Discover the 6 Best LED Face Masks
The LED face mask trend has made the leap from the doctor’s office to your bathroom, and many manufacturers are now making devices that can be used in the comfort of your own home.
There are many factors to consider when choosing an at-home LED face mask, among them price, portability, and purpose. Certain face masks might only be designed to treat one skin condition (such as acne or wrinkles, but not both), or only target certain areas of the face, like the eyes.
We rounded up six of what we’ve come to believe are the best LED face masks currently available. Here are the pros and cons of each.
Project E Beauty 7 Color LED Mask
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 three or four times a week on the desired setting for ten to 15 minutes at a time. Once you start seeing results, you can cut it back to just one or two sessions a week.
NEUTROGENA Light Therapy Acne Mask
Neutrogena is one of the biggest names in the skincare industry, so it’s no wonder they decided to make their own LED face mask. The resulting product is FDA-approved and UV- and chemical-free.
In one recent 12-week clinical study, 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 ten 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).
Since the mask itself costs just $20 on Amazon, it’s relatively inexpensive, 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.
SpectraLite EyeCare Pro LED Device
Crow’s feet, meet your nemesis: part of the skincare line made famous by New York City dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, this mask is an FDA-cleared, anti-aging device that uses professional light therapy to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
It features 72 LEDs, offering a full spectrum of therapeutic light supporting natural collagen growth, visibly firm skin, and evened-out skin tone and texture. In addition to targeting crow’s feet, this eye mask also helps reduce the appearance of those universally dreaded dark under-eye circles some of us are burdened with.
The SpectraLite EyeCare Pro is hands-free and automatically shuts itself off after three minutes of use. The eye mask is made with a flexible silicone head strap so it can be adjusted for a comfortable fit.
Since it only treats the eye area, the mask is lighter to wear than other full-face masks, which can easily weigh a couple pounds or more.
Missammy Face and Neck Mask
There are so many anonymous white LED face masks on the market that they run the risk of beginning to look alike. However, this Missammy model is one of the few face masks out there to include a neck mask attachment, similar to the one Jessica Alba featured in her now-famous Instagram post.
Taken together, the components offer 192 red and blue LED lights that help kill bacteria, prevent breakouts, and minimize 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, but doesn’t include a stand. The face and neck components make this mask quite heavy — about 10 pounds. It should only be used in a reclining position.
The Missammy Face and Neck Mask costs more than the other options because of the addition of the neck mask, so you’ll need to consider if that’s worth the extra cash to you.
NORLANYA Photon Therapy Mask
This mask uses three light settings — red, blue, and green — to treat various skin conditions. The red light stimulates the production of collagen, repairing damaged or replacing old tissue. This results in the mask reducing fine lines and large pores.
The blue light kills bacteria, decreasing acne breakouts, inflammation, and hypersensitivity. The green light balances color pigment, speeds up the healing process, and lightens any scarring that may be present.
There are protective gaskets around the eye holes so that 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 five different illumination levels to choose from. You can also set the treatment time to anywhere from zero to 60 minutes.
Rika LED Facial Massager
While not technically a face mask itself, the RIKA Facial Massager employs the same LED technology that face masks use. This massager is great if you want to spot treat certain areas of your face — say, for example, if you want to target the wrinkles on your cheeks or the acne on your chin.
Like the masks shown here, this facial massager uses the three classic shades of light (red, blue, and green) to treat everything from acne to wrinkles. To use the device on your face, you just need to apply a serum (like a moisturizer or clarifying toner), choose your intensity level and treatment type, and slowly massage the treated area for three to five minutes.
This device can be used with a lower intensity on the face, or you can take it up a notch if you’d like to use it on thicker skin elsewhere on your body, like your thighs or stomach.
The massager isn’t battery powered, so it has to be plugged in for you to use it. That issue aside, at only 1.5 pounds it’s quite a portable unit.
Rika recommends using the device two or three times a week on the areas you want to treat, up to five minutes at a time on your face or ten to 15 minutes on your body.
Choosing an LED Face Mask
Everyone’s skin is different, and so are the LED face mask options available.
Do you really need seven light options, or will three be enough? Do you only need to treat your eyes, or your entire face? Are you trying to reduce acne breakouts, combat wrinkles, or both?
Rather than rush out and buy the newest technology, take some time to think about your skin and why you’d like to purchase an LED face mask in the first place. Not all options are necessarily worth your time or money.
Many people weighing in on the product, especially those who struggle with persistent acne, bad wrinkles, or scars, report that the better quality LED face masks made a difference to their skin in just a few minutes. That said, it’s not a cure-all for everyone, and people have reported that they ultimately needed to seek alternative treatments.
Updated, March 2018
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