I’ve always associated taking care of my skin with slathering a moisturizer and smattering of serums on my face. From the early days of ordering ProActiv via infomercials to my more recent approach of trying all the things the drugstore has to offer, I’m what you’d label a “skin-care junkie”. And while that’s great and all, my eyes have recentlybeen opened to an entirely different way to nix fine lines and obliterate acne.
Enter: LED light masks. The technology, which uses light therapy to squelch pimples and reduce signs of aging, used to only be available at dermatologists’ offices. Now, though, innovations (and some seriously cool innovations) have made it accessible to those of us who prefer to treat our zits while watching The Great British Baking Show instead of hauling it to the doctor.
And, bonus, they make for hilariously terrifying selfies.
So how exactly do these masks—which look like a cross between the Lite Brights you played with as a kid and Ghostface from Scream—actually work? “LED light therapy can stimulate collagen production, which reduces fine lines and wrinkles, as well as eliminate acne-causing bacteria, which improves skin clarity. There’s no pain or downtime, which is an added benefit,” says Dennis Gross, MD, a New York City dermatologist who launched a light therapy mask of his own earlier this year.
Depending on what your skin actually needs, there are two different types of light that can be used to up your glow. “Red light therapy activates collagen production to reduce visible signs of aging and to restore healthy, glowing skin,” says Dr. Gross, noting that it can also be used to reduce age spots, sun damage, and redness, and to promote skin healing. “In contrary, blue light is used to kill acne-causing bacteria to improve the skin’s clarity and prevent future breakouts.”
While the light therapy you’ll get at the hands of an MD will be slightly more intense than the DIY version, Dr. Gross admits that the results are definitely comparable. “The main differentiation is the strength and frequency of treatments: In-office treatments are far stronger, so you’ll have one once a month, rather than using the at-home mask daily,” he says. “While it will take more usage and more time to see the results you would get with in-office treatments, it is more accessible and less expensive.”
To get the true benefits of an at-home mask, use it every day on top of a clean face (makeup will prevent the lights from penetrating the skin). Peep some of our favorites—worth trying on for size, then scaring everyone on your Instagram feed with. You’re welcome.
This mask includes both those red and blue lights we were talking about, so works to target acne and signs of aging at the same time. As someone who regularly uses this mask at her desk (life as a beauty editor is wonderful and weird sometimes), I can attest to the fact that it is amazing, and—no joke—can make skin look brighter with repeated use.
This clinically-tested (and notably effective) acne mask is more-or-less the drugstore version of exactly what you’d get at a derm’s office. Plus, it’s only $30 and available at Target, which is truly a win/win on all fronts.
This K-beauty fave allows you to swap different light frequencies to target varying skin concerns. You know by now what the red and blue lights do, but the green light is said to improve pigmentation, yellow light to smooth skin and reduce redness, and purple light to improve lymph metabolism. There’s also a light blue light (for “soothing” skin) and a white light (for accelerating tissue metabolism), so you can try a different version of the therapy every day of the week.
If you’re still hesitant about this whole “LED light therapy thing,” check out one editor’s adventure in trying it for herself. And your face isn’t the only thing that could benefit from the addition of some colorful bulbs: You may want to be lighting up your shower, too.
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