Take a peek inside a beauty-lover’s skincare cabinet and you’ll see a whole slew of gadgets. The latest and greatest in skincare tech are LED light therapy devices. Sure, some of them look like laser guns and others resemble futuristic robot masks, but there’s some method to the madness.
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are essentially light sources that penetrate the skin through different wavelengths (aka colors). These LED lights have been proven to treat mild-to-moderate acne, promote wound healing, and even calm rosacea and psoriasis.1 There are plenty of LED light therapy devices available in a variety of forms and colors, so it’s best to pick one based on your skin’s needs. The most popular options are blue (which is ideal for breakouts since it kills acne-causing bacteria) and red, which stimulates collagen and can be helpful with anti-aging.
It’s important to keep in mind that LED masks, devices, and lamps won’t give you the same results that you might see from an in-office treatment with your dermatologist, but they’re a great option for home use in between appointments to maximize your results. According to double board-certified dermatologist and plastic surgeon Tanuj Nakra, M.D., LED light therapy works cumulatively over time, so the more often you use the treatment, the more likely you’ll see results.
Ready to add an LED light therapy device to your skincare lineup? We tapped four experts for their recommendations and tried a few top-rated products for ourselves to compile this list of devices that actually work, based on their light settings (blue, red, and others), or type of tool. We also took into consideration each device’s ease of use, treatment session length, and whether or not it would seamlessly fit into an existing routine. We then cross referenced our expert-recommended picks with top-rated products, (aka those that have garnered five-star reviews) and options our staff actually uses.
Hands-free masks are a great way to experience LED light therapy at home without changing up your routine too much. This mask is a favorite among beauty-lovers, Byrdie editors, and dermatologists alike. Designed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross for his eponymous brand, the FDA-cleared light therapy device emits red and blue light that work to boost collagen, diminish discoloration, and help clear acne. It’s equipped with an adjustable silicone strap (so people with all head sizes can comfortably wear it) and a timer that automatically shuts off after 3 minutes.
The only caveats are that the strap can be finicky if it’s not wrapped firmly around your head and that it costs a pretty penny. However, with this level of innovation and technology, we say it’s totally worth it.
Price at time of publish: $455
Target Areas: Entire face | LED Lights: Blue, red, combination | Skin Concerns: Acne, anti-aging | Session Duration: 3 minutes
We also really like this face mask from OmniLux. Not only is it FDA-cleared, studies show the brand’s technology is effective in reduce fine lines and wrinkles and promote healthier, younger-looking skin. This face mask looks pretty intimidating, especially when it’s all lit up. The mask is silicone (instead of plastic), which is why it’s able to contour to the face unlike many other masks with a plastic exterior. It’s easy to incorporate into your routine, too. All you have to do is cleanse and secure the device to your head with the velcro straps. Then, sit tight for 10 minutes and let the red lights do their thing. Once the session is over, feel free to go about your day—it’s that simple. The only thing we wish we could change is the fact that it only offers red light therapy. Unfortunately, this device doesn’t feature blue light or mixed light therapy.
Price at time of publish: $395
Target Areas: Entire face (except lips and eyes) | LED Lights: Red | Skin Concerns: Discoloration, hyperpigmentation, anti-aging | Session Duration: 10 minutes
A personal favorite of board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali M.D., the Theraface Pro tool is an all-in-one facial tool. Equipped with three LED lights (blue, red, and infrared + red), a percussive option, cryotherapy attachments, and a facial cleansing brush head, this tool offers a full-fledged facial in the palm of your hand. Like the other tools on this list, the blue and red LED lights help treat acne, inflammation, and more, while the infrared + red light option is designed to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles around the eyes.
There’s so much to love about this tool, minus the beeping sound. Though it’s intended to keep track of time and let you know when to move the device, it can be annoying for some. Some may not be bothered by the noise; others might think R2D2 from Star Wars may have entered the bathroom.
Price at time of publish: $350
Target Areas: Entire face | LED Lights: Red, blue, red + infrared | Skin Concerns: Acne, hyperpigmentation, Anti-aging | Session Duration: 8 minutes
This four-in-one wand from Solawave is small but mighty. With capabilities spanning red light therapy, microcurrent therapy, facial massage, and therapeutic warmth, this tiny tool has a lot to offer. Like the other devices on this list, the red light penetrates into the skin on a cellular level while the microcurrents stimulate and tone facial muscles, decrease puffiness, and boost radiance. Plus, the therapeutic warmth feature increases the absorption of serums and moisturizers so you get even more out of them.
The only downside of this tool is that it’s small. In order to target every inch of your face, you’ll have to use it for a longer amount of time and work slowly.
Price at time of publish: $149
Target Areas: Entire face | LED Lights: Red | Skin Concerns: Acne, hyperpigmentation, anti-aging | Session Duration: 5 minutes
Similar to the lamps in dermatologists’ offices, this light from TrophySkin is hands-free and stands upright on its own—all you have to do is sit in front of it. Double board-certified dermatologist and plastic surgeon Tanuj Nakra M.D. recommends this device to his patients because of how similar it is to professional options. It utilizes four UV-free wavelengths (including red, yellow, amber, and invisible infrared lights) to safely and effectively stimulate skin healing and collagen production. While the results vary depending on the person, the brand says that results are likely within the first three to four weeks when used consistently. How long your session lasts ultimately depends on you, but a minimum of five times per week for five minutes is recommended.
We love that this high-powered device has multiple settings, but some of them (namely, the infrared light) can be bad for the eyes. Thankfully, the lamp comes with protective goggles to prevent any damage or pain. Some say the goggles can be uncomfortable, but know it’s in your best interest to wear them during your session.
Price at time of publish: $250
Target Areas: Entire face | LED Lights: Red, yellow, amber, invisible | Skin Concerns: Anti-aging, uneven skin tone | Session Duration: 5 minutes
If prices are deterring you from trying LED light therapy, you’ll like this tool from SkinGym. At $80, this handheld device, which features blue, red, and green LED lights, is a steal. It’s lightweight, fits nicely in the palm of your hand, and targets acne, redness, hyperpigmentation, and more. It has to be charged via USB, but once it’s at full battery, it can be used wirelessly for long periods of time and used on the go.
The only downside (if you can call it that) is that the tool has a time limit of 15 minutes. After the allotted time, the device will turn off completely. I’ve personally used this one and find that 15 minutes is more than enough. The only time I ever go for another round is when I’ve spent too much time on one half of my face and not enough time on the other.
Price at time of publish: $80
Target Areas: Entire face | LED Lights: Red, blue, green | Skin Concerns: Anti-aging, uneven skin tone, acne, inflammation, hyperpigmentation | Session Duration: 15 minutes
Vital Red Light
Another option similar to the one you’ll find in a professional’s office, the Vital PRO Red Light Therapy Panel means business. It has a higher price tag, but that’s because you’re paying for a medical-grade, high-quality panel that targets your entire face, neck, and chest. The red light helps with skin healing on a cellular level, while the infrared light penetrates deep into tissues and muscles for inflammation support—resulting in benefits that extend further than just skincare (think: recovery, improved sleep, circulation, etc.)2
We love pretty much everything about this panel, but we wish that it had other light options like blue, green, or mixed for more variety.
Price at time of publish: $479
Target Areas: Entire face, neck, chest | LED Lights: Red, infrared red | Skin Concerns: Anti-aging, uneven skin tone, inflammation | Session Duration: 10 minutes
When it comes to facial therapy devices, our best handheld pick, the TheraFace Pro is as innovative as it gets. Equipped with three LED lights, a percussive option, cryotherapy attachments, and a facial cleansing brush head, this tool offers a full-fledged facial in the palm of your hand. If you don’t want to spend a ton, the Skin Gym Revilit LED Light Therapy is a great budget option. It has three light settings (blue, red, and mixed), and is lightweight and easy to hold for long periods of time—though you only need a few minutes.
What to Look for in LED Light Therapy Devices
When shopping for an LED light therapy tool, consider the type of device that best suits your lifestyle, as this will help you stick with it. If you plan on integrating it into your bedtime routine, a mask (like the OmniLux LED Contour Face Mask or Dr. Dennis Gross Spectralite FaceWare Pro) might be your best bet, since all you have to do is strap it on and sit (or lie) down. If you want a more immersive experience, a lamp (like the TrophySkin RejuvaliteMD Light) or a panel (like the Vital PRO Red Light Therapy Panel) are ideal.
Light features also matter, especially when you’re trying to target a specific skincare concern. For example, blue lights are great for acne (the wavelengths actually kill the bacteria that causes breakouts), but not all devices have blue light. Look for a device with a blue light feature (like the TheraFace Pro tool) to help treat pimples and prevent new ones from popping up. Red light, on the other hand, works to treat signs of aging and help balance out uneven skin tone. Some devices on this list have a red light feature, while others, like the Solawave Light Therapy Wand, feature solely red light. Other tools (like the SkinGym Revilit LED Light Therapy Tool) have light options in other colors like green, for example, which helps treat dark circles and sun spots.
You should also consider each device’s setting options. Most tools have timers that will shut the device off when the session is complete, and some even have notification sounds that let you know how much time has passed. Some tools also have features that enhance the experience beyond LED light therapy. The TheraFace Pro, for one, has percussive heads that massage facial muscles, cryotherapy heads for cooling and sculpting, plus a cleansing brush head for a deep clean. The Solawave Light Therapy Wand, on the other hand, features therapeutic warmth that can help topicals penetrate better and a microcurrent option that helps tone facial muscles.
What is LED light therapy?
LED stands for “light emitting diodes” and are basically different wavelengths of visible light. According to Engelman, this non-invasive treatment stimulates biochemical effects in the cells, causing them to generate more energy and work more efficiently. “In turn, these low-level wavelengths activate the body’s repair system, allowing it to heal itself more quickly and produce more collagen to reduce signs of aging,” she explains.”
Who should use LED light therapy?
LED light therapy is gentle and non-invasive, so most people (even those with sensitive skin, says Engelman) can benefit from the treatment. “This can be a great option for someone with stubborn acne who hasn’t succeeded with other forms of acne treatment and needs a little extra help addressing the concern,” she adds. Bhanusali agrees, sharing that blue light specifically is great at treating acne. “This wavelength reduces oil production and is known to kill the bacteria that causes acne,” he says.
There are a few exceptions as to who should use LED light therapy, though. “I don’t recommend using an LED light therapy tool if you have a cut or sore on your skin,” Madfes says. “If you have a photosensitizing medical condition such as Lupus or take a photosensitizing drug like tetracycline, doxycycline, hydrochlorothiazide, or naproxen, it’s best to steer clear of LED light therapy.”
Are at-home LED light therapy tools as effective as in-office ones?
In-office LED light therapy treatments are better than at-home ones because they tend to be stronger. “In-office treatments allow for better, stronger results in less time,” Engelman says. However, Bhanusali says that at-home treatments shouldn’t be ignored. “Look at them as a supplement to other therapies—there is really no downside to using them.”
How often should you use LED light therapy devices?
Bhanusali says that for most people, using an LED device two to three times a week is enough. But be sure to check out the recommendation on the product packaging to ensure you’re using your device correctly.
What’s the difference between blue and red LED light?
There’s a subtle difference between blue and red LED lights. “Blue light therapy has an antimicrobial effect and mostly works to kill the acne-causing bacteria within the pores and oil glands on the uppermost layer of the skin,” Engelman explains. “Because of this, blue light is the best treatment for reducing acne and preventing future breakouts.” Red light therapy, on the other hand, penetrates deeper into the skin barrier and offers anti-inflammatory benefits and helps boost the body’s repair system. “Red light therapy is the most beneficial for targeting anti-aging,” she adds.