I’m what you might call a beauty gadget super stan, using microcurrent every morning and a sound wave device before bed. Now an LED mask has replaced everything bar my skincare, and I’m genuinely surprised how much it has tuned up my complexion.
Put simply, an LED mask (that’s light emitting diode) looks a little like a futuristic sheet mask that wraps around your face. Except that it is typically made from silicone rather than biocellulose, and fitted with tiny bulbs that emit varying wavelengths of light to address different skin concerns. To be clear, this spectrum of light does not include UV, so there’s no risk of damage (and no, you won’t get a tan).
After two months of using an LED mask every night before bed, creams and serums no longer seem fit for purpose when used alone. That’s a pretty bold statement for a beauty editor to make, so what changed my mind?
What are the benefits of using an LED mask?
The fact that LED masks make you look like a Stormtrooper means they’re catnip for content creators. But despite TikTok’s bells and whistles, these devices are actually underpinned by credible science.
Light therapy was first used by Navy seals and athletes for wound healing and reducing inflammation. The reason it shows promise in the beauty space is because skin is photosensitive by design, so it easily absorbs light energy. “LED masks are great for supporting collagen production, reducing inflammation and improving breakouts,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite.
It is thought that light energy recharges the ‘battery’ inside skin cells that slows down and becomes less efficient the older we get. In fact, research by The Light Salon, which offers express lunchtime LED treatments, has found that a cell charged by light is able to perform 150-200% more efficiently.
As well as encouraging skin cells to speed up repair, LED face masks are also said to improve blood flow and tissue oxygenation. This boost in hydration and firmness is good news given skin begins to get drier after the age of 30 and gravity colludes with the natural breakdown of collagen, causing skin to start drooping.
The most proven of these LEDs is red and infrared light, which support your skin’s natural collagen and elastin-producing efforts like a high-tech cheerleader.
Of course, no at-home LED device is going to be as powerful as a professional treatment. But using an LED mask regularly has cumulative effects, notes Dr Granite: “LED masks are generally safe to use everyday; in fact consistency yields the best results. Some recommend use for as little as five minutes a day, others require up to 20 minutes.”
Here Dr Granite breaks down the benefits of each coloured light:
Boosts collagen and elastin production, improves microcirculation and has anti-inflammatory effects.
Penetrates deeper than any of the other lights, stimulating collagen and elastin production and improving cell turnover.
The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects help to improve breakouts.
Stimulates the production of red blood cells and improves circulation.
Helps to reduce the appearance of pigmentation and brightens skin.
My experience with an LED mask
For me, at least, the most satisfying part of any facial is the moment a pair of goggle-like protectors are placed over my eyes and I feel the relaxing warmth from the LED device hovering above my face. So yes, using an LED mask at home is going the extra mile but as I’ve discovered, it’s worth it.
I tried three different wireless LED masks over the two months, all of which have pros and cons. The first was The Light Salon Boost LED Mask, a good entry-level device and a best-seller at Selfridges. The only trouble is, because I have quite sensitive eyes, I found the light too bright and had to lie down with them shut for 10 minutes every time I strapped myself into the mask – something that required too much effort when all I really wanted to do was watch another episode of Hijack.
There was the Dennis Gross DRX Spectralite Eyecare Max Pro, too, which looks like light-emitting VR goggles. Pre-programmed for just three minutes, it was simple to use and I found it incredibly soothing after a day staring at a computer screen. But I couldn’t quieten the niggling voice telling me that the rest of my face was missing out.
I was then sent the Foreo FAQ 201 LED Mask, which boasts 8 different wavelengths and 600 light points, but also the highest price tag of the bunch at £449.
When I unpacked the mask, my first thought was that sticking my face in it would be the beauty equivalent of pouring jello into a mould. But it was actually deceptively comfortable on – an adjustable strap kept it secure at the back of my head, it was fairly lightweight and cupped my facial contours so I could sit upright on the sofa while it got to work.
Another big design draw was the liberally-sized cut-out for your eyes, meaning I could comfortably watch TV as the light was never too close or too bright.
The app allows you to create bespoke treatments according to your skin woes on any given day. I mostly programmed the mask to emit a combination of red and near-Infrared light to help soften wrinkles, and green light as I have some post-summer pigmentation on the tops of my cheeks. Just before my period, I switched to blue light, which is supposed to wither away spots. While I can’t attest to that, I’ve certainly noticed that my pre-menstrual skin isn’t as oily or reactive since adding this spectrum into my routine.
After the first month of using this LED mask, I really noticed a difference in how I approached my skincare routine. Rather than just slather on a perfunctory layer of serum and moisturiser before going to bed, I was actually asking myself how my skin felt that day and what I thought it needed.
I would programme the app to switch between the mask’s different colours, after which I would mix and match different skincare products accordingly. For the first time, I felt more in tune with my skin and was genuinely impressed with how well it started to look.
The biggest test was taking the Foreo LED Mask on a 23-hour flight to Mexico. No matter how much hyaluronic acid I slather on my face, the hostile environment of in-cabin air still saps it of every droplet of moisture. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, on went the mask – first on the skin-calming mode, then red light to encourage my skin’s hydrating efforts.
I rarely find solace in skincare after a flight so I was really surprised when the redness on my cheeks went down almost immediately after sliding off the mask and any tightness started to subside after the second session thanks to the healing properties of the LED.
But back to that not-so-small issue of price. LED masks typically cost upwards of £150, which is a lot of money, but just think what you spent on your last facial. If the LED mask delivers similar pro-level results as an in-clinic treatment, but with the convenience of using it at home and in between facials to boost the effects, then it may be worth considering.
I found that the convenience of an LED mask made it easy to slip into my skincare routine but also, more importantly, commit to using it regularly a couple of nights a week. I intend to do just that as I feel light energy actually improves the behaviour of skin cells rather than just target the surface of your face for more transformative results.
The lines on my forehead now look softer and the skincare I apply directly after using the mask absorbs better (here’s hoping that those re-energised cells are also putting the ingredients to better use, too). Even friends have asked me what I’ve had ‘done’, assuming my new-found glow is the result of pricey injectables. That’s probably all the proof I need that an LED mask works.
For more from Fiona Embleton, GLAMOUR’s Acting Associate Beauty Director, follow her on @fiembleton.
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