LED therapy (or light-emitting diode therapy to give it its official name) was first used by Nasa to speed up wound healing in astronauts. Skin clinics have since employed it to remedy a host of complexion concerns, and now this technology has made its way into our living rooms.
But how does light therapy benefit the skin? LED devices come studded with tiny bulbs, which emit light energy at different wavelengths to improve skin health. Red LED lights, for example, can minimise the signs of ageing by stimulating new collagen production. Meanwhile, blue LED light can kill acne-provoking bacteria, yellow can reduce redness, and green targets and diffuses pigmentation.
“The science behind LED technology is solid and the results are incredible, which is why we use these devices at our clinic for skin rejuvenation, pigmentation fading and for treating conditions like acne and rosacea,” says aesthetic doctor Dr Preema Vig.
“Masks used in clinics are more powerful than home-use devices, as they are made with more bulbs, which deliver more energy, so you get faster results. But home-use devices are convenient for those who don’t have time for regular clinic appointments, and some of them can prolong the effects of professional treatments while being cost-effective. Just be sure to pick one from a reputable brand.”
Each mask comes with its own specific guidelines, but as a general rule, the devices should be used on clean skin, and since results are cumulative, frequent use and commitment are key.
How we tested
We tested a variety of LED devices at different price points. We looked at how practical they were to use, how comfortable they were to wear and monitored their impact on different concerns on the face and body.
The best LED face masks are 2021:
- Best overall – MZ Skin light-therapy golden facial treatment device: £385, Currentbody.com
- Best for brightening skin – No 7 laboratories age-defying LED mask: £127.46, Boots.com
- Best for treating multiple concerns – Dermalux flex MD: £1,895, Currentbody.com
- Best for signs of ageing around the eyes – Dr Dennis Gross DRx spectralite eyecare pro LED: £175, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best for comfort – Swear By Skin LookLit LED mask: £75, Swearbyskin.com
- Best for speedy results – Foreo UFO 2 power mask: £199.20, Lookfantastic.com
- Best for the neck and chest – CurrentBody skin LED neck and dec perfector: £250, Currentbody.com
- Best for clinic-standard results – Déesse PRO LED mask: £1,680, Amazon.co.uk
MZ Skin light-therapy golden facial treatment device
This chic-looking, gold LED mask has been developed by the respected oculoplastic surgeon and aesthetic doctor Dr Maryam Zamani. The mask features 150 bulbs that emit five light wavelengths to target different skin concerns. First up, red LED light for skin firming, green to tackle discolouration, blue to fight spots and blemishes, yellow to soothe inflammation and green again to speed up healing.
It’s fairly easy to set up; you plug it in and use the remote control to pick the LED light colour and duration of treatment. We like how the intensity of the light can be adjusted to suit your comfort levels.
We tested the red light three times a week (as recommended), starting at 10 minutes and taking it up to 30 minutes for the final session at the end of the week.
We didn’t see a difference after the first 10-minute session, but there was a soft glow to the skin after three sessions, and it looked smoother. We also used the yellow light to soothe a reaction to a skincare product and it worked well to ease the redness.
The mask is pretty bulky, and although it comes with an adjustable head strap, we found it more comfortable to rest it on your face while lying flat.
No 7 laboratories age-defying LED mask
Best: For brightening skin
This mask features 66 red LED bulbs and near-infrared to boost skin elasticity and radiance. The mask is flexible and comfortable – it bends and wraps perfectly around the face, which also ensures that the LED light evenly targets all areas of the skin.
It isn’t wireless, but the cord length is a decent size for manoeuvrability. For best results, it needs to be used five times a week for 10 minutes. After five days of use, the complexion appeared more radiant and revitalised. It also helped prolong a glow from a salon facial. More frequent use is needed to notice a change in lines and age spots.
Dermalux flex MD
Best: For treating multiple concerns
Dermalux is known for its effective and award-winning in-clinic LED treatments for issues like acne, psoriasis, pigmentation and wrinkles. This FDA-approved device is the world’s most powerful, home-use LED available. And the large, bendy panel sits like a canopy over the face but can also be draped flat when used on areas like the back, legs or chest.
The panel is embedded with a whopping 360 LED bulbs of three clinically proven colours – red to stimulate collagen and elastin production; blue light to kill acne-causing bacteria; plus, deep penetrating, near-infrared light for treating sensitivity, inflammation and joint pain.
Conveniently, the light wavelengths can also be combined. We used a red and near-infrared light five times a week for three weeks for 30-minute periods to treat hands that have been neglected over the years and made to look worse with constant sanitising and washing.
Although sessions are time-consuming, the results were fantastic. After one treatment, skin looked brighter, and after weeks two and three, hands appeared considerably hydrated and youthful.
The deep penetrating infrared light is certified to treat sports injuries and joint pain. We gave it a go on a dodgy knee, exacerbated by lockdown running. After four weeks of daily 20-minute sessions, there was a marked improvement. Seriously impressive.
Dr Dennis Gross DRx spectralite eyecare pro LED
Best: For signs of ageing around the eyes
Developed by A-list dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross, this easy-to-use, hands-free device harnesses the power of 80 red and amber lights to help stimulate collagen production and lessen the depth of lines and wrinkles around the eyes as well as glabellar lines, commonly known as “elevens”.
The FDA-approved mask goes on like swimming goggles and sits comfortably over the eyes thanks to an adjustable strap. Designed for daily use, it gets to work for three minutes, after which it automatically turns off. You then follow with an eye cream.
In a daily-use, 10-week clinical study conducted by the brand, 97 per cent of users showed a visible improvement in fine lines, wrinkles and skin tone. We personally noticed that skin tone was smoother and more vibrant after three weeks of daily use. But perhaps an extended testing period was needed to see an improvement in fine lines.
Swear By Skin looklit LED mask
Best: For comfort
Resembling a protective face shield, this more affordable option is by far the lightest and most comfortable of all the masks we tested. Since it is wireless, it fits easily into our daily routine.
You can switch between red, blue and yellow light therapy, depending on the type of skin day you are having. The brand recommends using it on dry, cleansed skin, with a lightweight serum (such as hyaluronic acid) underneath. A thicker lotion or cream may prevent some of the light from penetrating the skin.
We used the red light setting for 10-minute stints across four days (as recommended by the manufacturer). Although we saw no significant skin improvement, the complexion appeared healthier overall. The light is also soothing, which induced a feeling of relaxation.
The makers say that most people see results after using the mask consistently for up to 12 weeks.
Foreo UFO 2 power mask
Best: For speedy results
This nifty, wireless device is a great choice for those who don’t have the time to fit in lengthy light therapy sessions. It boasts eight light spectrums (purple, white, green, orange, blue, cyan, yellow and red) to address different skin concerns. It also utilises cooling cryotherapy to tighten pores, warm thermotherapy to accelerate product penetration, and the brand’s T-sonic pulsations to speed up circulation.
You need to connect it to the Foreo for You app, which includes preprogrammed sessions that guide you through your treatment based on the mask you are using. The device can be used twice a day, ideally with the brand’s UFO activated mask range (one sachet is included in the box).
Lasting up to two minutes, the sessions are quick and soothing. They incorporate a tailored combination of temperature and pulsations – so it can switch from warm to cool and to different LED lights depending on the mask you are using. The guidance from the app is a neat feature since it takes the guesswork out of your regime. You can also use your own sheet mask with the manual setting.
While the device doesn’t cover the entire face like a conventional mask, it’s ideal for targeted treatment. After just one session, the skin looked radiant and make-up sat better. The UFO 2 is perfect for daily use – waking up the skin in the morning or perking up the complexion before a night out.
CurrentBody skin LED neck and dec perfector
Best: For the neck and chest
Our tester has the most robust skincare regime but is guilty of neglecting the neck and chest area, which is one of the first to show the signs of ageing, such as lines and uneven skin tone. This is precisely what this device is designed to target, with the help of red LEDs and colourless near-infrared, which work in harmony to renew the cells and increase skin-firming collagen.
The silicone mask can be secured around the neck with the included strap – it rests perfectly on the chest and feels comfortable on bare skin. It’s also hands-free and you can flip it over and use it on the shoulders and upper back too. Fitted with 54 bulbs, the makers say that the light can penetrate several layers of skin giving users 35 per cent fewer wrinkles in a month.
The recommended treatment time is 10 minutes, three to five times a week. We used it five times a week for a fortnight. The result? Skin looked glowy and much healthier.
Déesse PRO LED mask
Best: For clinic-standard results
Spotted on Kim Kardashian and Madonna, Déesse masks are used by dermatologists across the globe. The mask comes powered with an impressive 770 medical-grade LEDs. It features four wavelengths (red, blue, green and near-infrared) plus six treatment settings, so you can switch from “brightening” to “calming” to “anti-ageing” modes, which allows you to address different skin concerns.
We used it for 20 minutes a day across a week with a hyaluronic acid serum layered underneath. We alternated between the anti-ageing red light and brightening green light and immediately noticed a brighter and rejuvenated complexion. By the end of the week, skin was more supple with fewer open pores around the nose.
Although the mask feels light, it must be plugged in when in use and you need to wear the provided blackout goggles, so you can’t move around while it’s on.
The verdict: LED face masks
While LED masks do not offer immediate results, they can, over time, address a host of complexion concerns and supercharge your regular skincare regime. With the MZ Skin light-therapy golden facial treatment device, you get the benefit of five different light wavelengths. This allows you to treat almost every complexion issue – from breakouts and hyperpigmentation to wrinkles, plus the added infrared setting is great for skin healing.
It may be pricey, but Dermalux flex MD is also a solid investment piece and results were clearly visible and palpable. It uses precise and powerful, medical-grade LEDs and has been expertly designed by one of the leading authorities in the field of light therapy. It’s an impressive multi-tasker – the fact that it is medically CE certified to produce genuine results on a wide range of face and body concerns makes it all the more reassuring.
For the latest offers on skincare and other beauty buys, try the links below:
For more products for age-defying skin, read our roundup of the best retinols