An at-home product isn’t going to be as effective as light therapies you might receive from a physician, said dermatologist Rebecca Baxt.
Baxt is a board certified dermatologist at Baxt Cosmedical in New Jersey.
Dr. Tina Alster, an LED expert and dermatologist, thinks some at-home masks work pretty well.
Alster is also director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and clinical professor of Dermatology at Georgetown University. She added she recommends them to patients with skin issues like acne and dermatitis between in-office treatments.
There is a lack of research on whether LED masks work the same on all skin types, Baxt said. Alster thought there is a small chance the LED light might not penetrate darker-pigmented skin as well, “but I haven’t seen that to be the case,” she said.
Discrimination against people with darker skin is pretty prevalent in dermatology, from textbooks to insurance coverage to treatment disparities, according to Stat News.
So, with the information available and non-celebrity budget in hand, I set out to test whether I would see an impact in a relatively short period of time with a lower-cost face mask: this $109.95 model from Beautimate.
You can also get a slightly cheaper version from Walmart’s website: Beautimate, Walmart.
Disclaimer: While LED face masks can get FDA clearance, the Beautimate mask I tried does not have it. “Very few” do, because it’s time-consuming and can be expensive, Alster said. She thinks the masks are pretty safe.
FDA clearance allows companies to make therapeutic claims in marketing, and it can provide safety reassurance, Alster noted.
Still, LED light is pretty low-risk. “It’s more harmful to go into the sunlight for an hour,” for your skin, Alster added.
Beautimate told Insider it’s “considering” getting FDA clearance but pointed out, generally speaking, UV light, not LED light, hurts the skin.
Disclaimer two: You should protect your eyes while using an LED face mask, both doctors, and the company, advised.
One of Neutrogena’s face masks was recalled in 2019 for eye damage concerns, for example.
Source: Refinery 29.
Beautimate’s mask arrived a few months ago to my apartment.
It’s kind of scary-looking!
The back looks a bit like a circuit board, and you use soft velcro straps to attach it to your face.
The instruction manual had a bunch of typos but was still readable.
The manual also referenced closing your eyes while using the mask because the lights can hurt your eyes, the company confirmed to Insider.
So, even though I have my eyes open in the following photos, make sure to keep yours closed!
The mask has different color modes that purport to have different effects on your skin.
Red light helps with collagen production, Baxt noted. Blue light is often used in the treatment of acne.
The company claims additional colors, like purple, have effects like helping “lymphatic drainage.”
Beautimate says the green “brightens complexion.”
Alster said the strongest evidence, research-wise, is that in various types of light therapy treatments, red, blue, and amber light have specific effects on the skin.
Beautimate pointed out that other doctors have supported the idea that green has specific effects on the skin. However, doctors and others have noted a lack of research on this. There is also some evidence for the therapeutic effects of violet light.
Sources: Vogue, The New York Times, JDEAV
Either way, I decided to test it on the red light, because the idea of a mask zapping bacteria in my face made me nervous.
I initially thought I was too young to worry about collagen repair, but I was wrong. “Anybody who has ever been in the sun needs collagen repair,” Alster said.
I had two false starts while trying to test this product. One time, I set out to do it for a month, which was too ambitious for me, and the next time, I got food poisoning.
As a result, I used the mask intermittently in March, April, and May.
Alster said you should probably give most at-home products a month of consistent use.
Still, “even doing something, even for a little bit of time is better than nothing,” Alster added.
The company said some people use it three times a week and see a difference in a few weeks, some who used it less often in a few weeks.
That speaks to my big critique with the product. It’s kind of hard to remember to use every day. I often had to remind myself:
So, because of general ADHD and food poisoning, I began my first successful, continuous week of testing on Thursday, May 5. Here’s a picture of me before the official week of testing in May.
Right away on day one, I remembered a favorite feature of the product. After about 10 minutes in, the red light setting gets really warm. It’s like when you pull clothes from the dryer, but on your face.
I also felt really relaxed after using the mask for about 10 minutes, which surprised me.
The company said that’s not uncommon.
“A few customers mentioned they felt really relaxed after using it… and they love the mask for that. They use it more for relaxation than anything else,” Beautimate said via email.
Studies have indicated that red light therapy in general can help with melatonin production.
Alster said the relaxing effect is a little difficult to “tease out” in a research setting for LED face masks specifically, since it’s also nice to take some time out of your day to do self-care with the masks.
Source: Healthline, Med Hypotheses.
On a less fun note, the day before I began testing this product for the official week, I hurt my nose playing sports. I’ve broken it a few times, so I ended up testing it while mostly holding it rather than strapping firmly to my head.
It hurt sometimes on my face. However, red light LED therapy, could actually help with this sort of face pain, Alster advised. Beautimate said they haven’t heard of this type of issue before from a customer.
My phone’s 30 minute timer is up for day one. I feel like my skin looks redder because of the pressure and blood flow but it does feel dewier (not from sweat) and brighter after the treatment. It’s nice, like a tiny spa treatment.
The redness also seemed to fade quickly. I can see why people might use this before the red carpet. It just makes you feel a little shiny!
I didn’t love it. It’s kind of distracting, and I’m not sure how effective it is to rotate through all the colors.
The mask also beeps really loudly when you press the button to get to the color change setting. It’s easy to press it again accidentally then have to go through the button-tapping cycle all over again.
Timer’s up, and I feel DEWY! Okay! Good night until day 3!
Bonus: Use this while sitting on your cat’s heating pad.
Days three and four: I forgot to use the mask on Saturday, so I used it twice on Sunday.
A few hours after use on Monday, I feel like my skin looks nice still. Or maybe that’s just the post-work glow?
The difference is subtle, but I also felt more relaxed!