A sneak peek into the skin-care cabinets of the beauty-obsessed or a trip to a facialist will introduce you to a slew of skin-care devices—but the best LED light therapy tools are hard to forget. From the bright lights to the robotic-looking masks, it can feel like skin care of the future, and a bit perplexing if you aren’t familiar with the technology.
What is LED light therapy?
“LED stands for light emitting diode, a light source that shines on (and penetrates into) the skin,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer MacGregor tells Vogue. “Different wavelengths of light can be used—blue and red being the most common. The light penetrates into the skin and affects gene expression and cellular function leading to a variety of effects in the skin that are only partially understood.” She continues that certain wavelengths can kill microbes (like bacteria)—working in tandem with topical products to treat an array of skin conditions.
And so, the LED devices often offer an assortment of different light colors based on your skin’s needs. “Blue LED light treats acne by killing acne-causing bacteria. Green and yellow LED light treats sensitivity and uneven skin color. Red LED light stimulates collagen and elastin which can help with anti-aging,” explains esthetician, makeup, and beauty expert Tiara Willis, whose work is centered around treating skin of color.
Does LED light therapy really work?
According to MacGregor, light therapy truly does work for the skin. “How it works and how much it works is related to the target indication, the wavelength of light used (affects depth of penetration and action), how much power the light source has, and how long the light is used on the skin.” She says that you will find most beneficial effects with short pulses of higher powered light sources, like those used in a doctor’s office, though at-home treatments can still be effective.
What are the potential risks of using LED lights?
Willis explains that there is minimal risk when using an LED device on the skin. “With all light therapies, the most important thing is eye protection. When using LED light therapy, the device should be used away from the eyes using a handheld device or the eyes should be covered with protective goggles or patches.” Though the devices are suitable for all skin types, she advises those with melasma to be cautious “because thermal heat can make the condition worse.”
Similarly, MacGregor’s biggest piece of advice is to use the device according to its instructions. “The easiest rule for consumers to use is to only use an FDA or FDA-cleared LED device exactly for your specific skin concern and exactly according to the instructions”—forewarning that using a device more than instructed too could worsen skin conditions.
How do you incorporate LED light therapy into your routine?
Beyond those warnings though, an LED device can be seamlessly introduced to your current regimen. Willis says it “should be used on clean skin before any serums or prescriptions are applied.” Additionally, MacGregor recommends cleansing with a gentle formula, like CeraVe or Aveeno, then continuing your skin-care routine as usual.
And so, from face masks to portable wands, here are eight of the best LED light therapy tools that will work overtime to transform your skin.
For Those Concerned With Acne
Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro
“This mix is for breakouts and collagen. I’ve noticed a difference ever since I started using it and maybe you will too,” says actor Rachel Zegler as she holds the Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro mask to her face in her Beauty Secrets video for Vogue. This well-loved, FDA-cleared option utilizes an adjustable silicone strap for hands-free usage to treat acne and signs of aging through red, blue (or a combination of the two) lights in just three minutes.
LightStim for Wrinkles LED Light Therapy Device
Willis is a fan of LightStim, as it’s highly regarded among estheticians like herself. She continues: “I recommend using the LightStim LED device because it’s hand-held so you can use the device while protecting your eyes from damage.” The brand offers two FDA-cleared tools—one for wrinkles, the other for acne—that deliver targeted light therapy in the palm of your hand.
For Those Looking to De-Puff
SolaWave Advanced Skincare Wand With Red Light Therapy
Beloved by actor Debby Ryan, a SolaWave Wand would make for an excellent addition to your beauty arsenal. The star, who shares her struggles with skin congestion and breakouts in her installment of Vogue’s Beauty Secrets, looks to the device to de-puff followed by a gua sha. With the wand, expect a reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, and dark spots by incorporating this five-minute treatment several times per week.
For Those With Dull Skin
MZ Skin LightMAX Supercharged LED Mask 2.0
Designed to rejuvenate skin at home similar to an in-clinic treatment with Dr. Maryam Zamani’s, the MZ Skin LightMAX Supercharged LED Mask 2.0 works to stimulate collagen, boost luminosity, and calm inflammation. What’s more: the device is meant to be incredibly flexible, even contouring to the shape of your nose once in place.
For a Quick Treatment
Foreo UFO 2 Power Mask & Light Therapy Device
What we love most about the Foreo UFO 2 is its pairing of LED light therapy with heating, cooling, and sonic pulsations for your best skin yet. In just two minutes, the device works to surge the skin with powerful ingredients similar to beloved facial based on your needs—from lifting and firming to soothing and hydrating.
For Those Concerned With Wrinkles
NuFace Trinity Wrinkle Reducer Attachment
Those already privy to the transformative prowess of the NuFace Trinity should certainly consider adding its Wrinkle Reducer Attachment to cart. Designed to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, this FDA-cleared device will deliver a combination of red, amber, and infrared light for a more youthful, firm complexion.
For Those Concerned With Skin Healing
The Light Salon Boost LED Mask
Another stellar LED mask is this FDA-cleared option by The Light Salon. Crafted as an at-home version of the brand’s skin rejuvenation treatment, the soft silicone mask utilizes red and near-infrared light to encourage skin’s healing process and slow signs of aging through its 10-minute cycle.
For Those Concerned With Hyperpigmentation
Trophy Skin RejuvaliteMD High-Power Ageless LED Treatment
Perhaps an LED treatment that stands on your vanity is more your speed. Target the appearance of sun damage, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and age spots with Trophy Skin’s FDA-cleared device. This multitasker is powered by red, yellow, amber, and infrared light to improve skin conditions in as little as five minutes a day.
This article was originally published on Vogue US.