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Is LED Light Really a Solution for Acne and Wrinkles?

Foreo UFO Sheet Mask

The beauty industry is really good at coming up with new things to sell us. And honestly, it’s easy to get caught up in their promises when skin is often the source of so many frustrating problems.

Whether you’re dealing with acne, rosacea, or coming to terms with the inevitable onset of wrinkles, “I’ll try anything” often feels like the best approach there is.

Right now, the current of-the-moment cure-all is pretty futuristic. Instead of an ingredient that’s showing up on the ingredient lists of every face moisturizer, it’s a tool—LED light—that is emitted from all kinds of at-home skin-care devices.

Celebs like Chrissy Teigen are among the many, many Instagram users posting selfies of themselves using (creepy looking?) LED light masks for better skin. The masks are super popular and are sold by top dermatologists like Dr. Dennis Gross as well as drugstore beauty brands like Neutrogena. I’ve also tried a few handheld tools that emit LED light, like the Foreo UFO and Lightstim wands.

So, why all the beauty buzz around light therapy, and could the treatment transform your complexion?

What is LED Light Therapy?

Okay, the first important thing to know is LED light is not actually new to the skin-care space. In fact, it’s a favorite tool of dermatologists and medi-spas, who often use it in conjunction with lasers during expensive facials and other treatments.

The difference is that their equipment is medical grade, and these new devices are for consumers.

Here’s how it works: Basically, devices emit varying wavelengths of light, and those wavelengths penetrate the skin and get to work. Most beauty gadgets use either blue or red light or a combination of the two. Blue is good at killing bacteria, so it’s commonly used to tackle acne. Red is said to be more anti-inflammatory and to stimulate collagen production, to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Foreo UFO ($279)
Foreo UFO Sheet Mask: LED Light Therapy
Lighstim: LED Light Therapy
Lighstim: LED Light Therapy

Does it Work?

Here’s the thing: Dermatologists use LED light in their offices because they almost universally agree that it works to clear up acne and tame inflammation, AKA reduce redness. (One caveat on the acne front: It’s generally not recommended for severe acne, especially if you’re doing it yourself, just annoying breakouts.)

In terms of reducing fine lines and wrinkles, there are some studies that have demonstrated results, but the research is less clear on whether it’ll really make a big, noticeable difference.

Also, the at-home devices like a Neutrogena mask or a Lightstim mask are less powerful than their doctor-office counterparts, so you’re likely going to have to use them pretty often and for a decent stretch of time before you see results.

But plenty of women swear by light therapy, and when I used the Lightstim, I definitely noticed a slight difference in the overall appearance of some of my eye crinkles. It wasn’t a miracle cure (nothing ever is, right? WHYYYYY?!), but it’s a therapy that’s legitimately recommended by experts, so you know you’re not spending money on a scam. I’d say it’s worth trying, either at home before bed (remember to warn your significant other if you’re going to be wearing a mask or they might freak out) or as part of a more serious facial.

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