Are LED masks the secret to flawless skin?

LED masks are lighting up social media feeds as everyone from beauty influencers to skin therapists spruik them. We ask the experts just how effective they are.

LED light therapy is an increasingly popular skin treatment, but how exactly do they work and are these at-home devices just as good as professional services?

Here we demystify the technology and explain its benefits.

What is LED and how does it work?

Originally known as photo therapy, light emitting diodes (LEDs) were developed by NASA to help grow plants in space before developing more mainstream uses from the ’80s onwards.

The technology uses varying wavelengths of light, including red, blue and infrared to help treat a number of skin issues, such as wound healing, psoriasis and helping to reduce acne.

“Technically it is a type of laser treatment, but we refer to it as a cold laser as opposed to something which emits more energy and heat,” dermatologist Dr Hope Dinh says.

“LED emits various wavelengths of light to make certain changes in the skin.

“Overall, regardless of the wavelength used, any LED treatment stimulates cellular ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which gives your cells more energy to function better.”

What is the difference between red and blue light therapy?

Different wavelengths of light have different effects on the skin.

Red light improves circulation, boosting blood flow, improving collagen production, skin tone and texture while reducing inflammation, discolouration, hyperpigmentation, sunspots and the appearance of fine lines.

Blue light helps reduce acne by directly targeting the bacteria that causes blemishes and oil production.

It can also treat complex skin concerns such as psoriasis.

Depending on the LED treatment you’re using and what skin concerns you want to target, you can use either blue or red-light therapy or you can combine them.

Why has LED treatment gained popularity?

The use of LED to treat the skin emerged in the 2000s, but only became mainstream in the past decade, according to dermal clinician Hanna Gifford.

“There are now many variations and wavelengths utilised, which vary for every different device,” Hanna says.

In addition to gaining popularity, the technology has also become more accessible and cost-effective thanks to at-home LED masks, which range from about $50 to more than $1000.

Are LED treatments suitable for everyone?

“This treatment is so gentle and can be utilised by anyone with any skin type,” Dr Hope says.

“There are certain things such as some photosensitising medications and pregnancy which may be a barrier to LED, but patients can have a chat with their doctor to see if it’s appropriate.

“It is especially great for those with acne and lots of inflammation in their skin.”

Are at-home and professional devices equally effective?

While it’s true that at-home devices can help with skin concerns, there is a large discrepancy in terms of pricing and effectiveness.

For this reason, professional devices are advised for quicker and consistent results.

“Most at-home LED masks out there are not comparable to the professional devices,” Dr Dinh says. “They generally don’t have enough energy output (wattage) to make significant changes within the skin.”

How many LED sessions are needed to see results?

According to Dr Dinh, you shouldn’t expect overnight results.

“Because it’s such a gentle treatment, many sessions are required to see a significant improvement,” Dr Dinh says.

“Sometimes it can be 10 or more, but the process can be sped up by doing multiple sessions per week.

“LED for these concerns works really well in combination with other treatments to speed up the process and see results sooner.”

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.