LED Mask Comparison and a Deep Dive into Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT)

Note: This post was originally published in Jan 2021, but I frequently update it with new masks, updated research and new discount codes. The latest update was 1/3/2023. 

Hi! This is a super deep dive all about the science behind LED light therapy AND a comparison and information about various LED masks. 

Although this is a LED mask comparison post, I will never be able to cover all of the masks that are out there. So the masks included are not the only ones available. But I hope that with the information in this post will empower everyone to use what you know to do your own research. I can’t tell you if a mask is “worth it”. But I can help you understand how to evaluate masks and to better understand what kind of results you might expect based on what has been found. But it is important to remember that science is a process not a conclusion. So just because there isn’t evidence to support something, doesn’t mean new evidence won’t emerge. But this post will summarize most of what the evidence suggests so far.

To help you navigate this post, here is a table of contents.

Table of Contents

My Experience with LED Devices

Before jumping into this super long post, I thought it might be helpful to give you some background about myself. I am a doctorally trained social scientist. I work for a non-profit research institute and I design and conduct studies for government agencies–usually focused on the development and testing of risk and health communication messages and designing and evaluating behavior change intervention. My training and love of experimental studies is why I love doing split-face comparisons and before and after testing of skincare products. At my core, I am a researcher who is always curious to dig deeper and investigate things. I love reading journal articles and digging into data to better understand something. So when I started to see people use LED masks a couple years ago I slowly started to look into what they really do. Then, in 2020 I was sent the Light Salon Boost Mask by the brand and used it consistently (usually about 3-4 days a week) for the past year. (As someone who has NEVER been able to stick with a device consistently, I was very impressed with how convenient and effortless this is to use). So that’s enough about me 🙂

Results I've seen from using LED masks for over a year

Before getting into the science of it all, I wanted to share what improvements I saw after using the Light Salon LED for a year. I saw great improvements in my skin, like reduction in redness, quicker healing after breakouts (and one accidental sunburn), and after about 6 months it even seemed like my skin was firmer and wrinkles weren’t as noticeable or as crepey. Even the parentheses around my mouth don’t bug me as much anymore. But this is just anecdotal evidence. Since I couldn’t do a controlled before and after because I use various products to help with my skin, I can’t say those results were just because of the mask (Certainly they aren’t JUST from the mask, but I wanted to feel more confident in saying that I think the mask contributed to those results). To do that I wanted to research the specs of the mask I used, how it compared to other masks on the market, and to research the science behind low level light therapy with LED lights to find out what the research REALLY says.

I noticed that various companies were making some pretty big claims and it seemed like they were claiming that different wavelengths and lights could do a ton of different things–it seemed too good to be true (Spoiler: A lot of the claims aren’t supported) so I wanted to see for myself what evidence was out there. And that brings us to this post.

 

The Science Behind Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT)

Low-level laser (or light) therapy (LLLT), also called phototherapy or photobiomodulation (PBM), refers to the use of photons to alter biological activity (Sawhney & Hamblin, 2016). PBM research dates back to the 1960s and has now developed into a therapeutic procedure that is used in three main ways: to reduce inflammation; to promote healing; and to treat pain. Newer LED devices also support a role for photorejuvenation and even hair growth (Lloyd et al. 2018). (Note: It was too much to cover hair growth research for this post. But I hope to write a separate post on that later).

 

I use it to reduce inflammationpromote healing, and promote photo-rejuvenation (think of that as a catch-all phrase that captures all the signs and symptoms of skin aging, like skin wrinkling, rougher skin, thin/crepey skin, reduced elasticity [when skin looks saggy], and uneven skin tone.)

At the end of the post I will get into how LLLT works for those that are interested, but the 10,000 foot view is that LEDs emit photons, those light photons are delivered into our skin where it’s absorbed by our cells. When it is absorbed, the cells are photoactivated. Think of it as being energized. With increased energy, every cell, organ and tissue in the body performs better, including your skin. It is like it helps our cells function as if they have had a full night’s sleep and a well-balanced breakfast.

When cells are in a photoactivated state one or more of three things can happen:

  1. If the cell is damaged or compromised, it will repair itself, or be repaired.
  2. If the cell has a function, e.g., collagen and elastin synthesis by fibroblasts, it will perform that function more efficiently.
  3. if proliferation is required, the cell will proliferate.

LLLT is referred to as “low level” because it uses light at lower power densities (<500 mW/cm2)—more on those terms next. 

LLLT is different from Intense pulsed light (IPL) or KTP lasers which use MUCH higher power densities. Those lasers also use various wavelengths, but that research shouldn't be confused with this research because although it may use the same colors they are delivered at very different strengths.

If you want a Deep Dive Into the Empirical Evidence, click here to go to the end of the blog post where I get into even more nerdy details.

Key Parameters: What you really want to look for when assessing masks

In LLLT, the following parameters are important (in order of importance):

 

  • the wavelength must be correct for the target, with the LEDs emitting a very narrow band around the rated wavelength (e.g., within ±10 nm or so)
  • The irradiance (power density) must be adequate
  • The dose (energy density) must be sufficient.

Despite almost 5,000 peer reviewed publications, both in vitro and clinical, LLLT still faces skepticism and has varied findings. The wide range of parameters that can be applied (wavelength, irradiance, treatment duration, and repetition) in some cases has led to contradictory results.

Wavelengths Used

The wavelength is the most important single factor when attempting to achieve a photoreaction, because without absorption, you can't achieve a reaction.

Calderhead, 2018
  • From the data of over 30 years of LLLT, two wavelengths have been highlighted as having the greatest effect on the action mechanism of skin cells: 633 nm in the visible red, and 830 nm in the NIR (Calderhead & Omi, 2014).
  • Red and near-infrared (NIR) lights in particular, are reported to have additional effects in promoting dermal restructuring due to their deeper penetration (Avici et al., 2013; Calderhead & Vasily, 2016).
  • In a review on the efficacy of LED-LLLT, Kim and Calderhead (2011) firmly favor the 830 nm wavelength. Stating “at present, the published literature strongly suggests 830nm for all aspects of wound healing, pain, inti-inflammatory treatment and skin rejuvenation, with a combination of 415nm and 633nm for light-only treatment of active inflammatory acne vulgaris. If the wavelength is not correct, optimum absorption will not occur” (and without absorption there will be no reaction).
  • Three wavelengths of light that have demonstrated several therapeutic applications are blue (e.g., 415nm), red (e.g., 633nm), and near-infrared (e.g., 830nm) (Ablon, 2018; Kim & Calderhead, 2011; Zheng et al., 2020). (see the end of the post of more information about cautionary information about blue light)

For the most part, you want to look for red (typically 633nm, but somewhere between 630-660nm) and NIR (look for 820-840nm, with 830nm being the gold standard).

Questions to ask a Company: Wavelengths

  1. Does the mask manufacturer provide the specific wavelengths (i.e., doesn’t just say the color of the wavelengths)?
    • If no, I would pass. This should be the bare minimum requirement
    • I would ask a company like this: “What are the specific wavelengths used (in nm)? And what is the deviation on either side (i.e., how precise is the wavelength)?
  2. Does the device use precise wavelengths (e.g., 633nm) versus wide ranges of wavelengths (e.g., 620-750nm)? Ask what the nominal wavelength of the system is, and what is the deviation either side.
    • If the device has an imprecise wavelength, then that means you aren’t getting as pure or high quality a light.
    • The higher the grade of the LED, the narrower the bandwidth of the emitted photons, allowing LEDs to emit the rated wavelength plus or minus a very few nanometers.” (Calderhead & Vasily, 2016). For example, the FaceLITE LED mask has LED arrays with a wavelength of 633nm within the range of +- 10. That means that 90% of the photons are at the rated wavelength and will therefore optimally target wavelength-specific chromophores at that wavelength.
    • A difference of even 5nm from the peak can in some cases dramatically lower the action potential” (Calderhead, 2018)
  3. Does the mask use wavelengths with published scientific evidence showing it’s effectiveness?
    • Some companies like to highlight the number of wavelengths used, but often those additional wavelengths have very little or no published work to back up the claims of the manufacturer (and they seem more like a marketing gimmick than anything), and a careful consideration of the wavelength/penetration ratio will rule out many of the shorter visible light wavelengths (Calderhead, 2018).
    • If the goal is overall skin rejuvenation (including reducing inflammation and speeding up healing), choose a mask with NIR (ideally 830) as the literature has consistently found that this wavelength targets a larger number of the necessary cell types and has a better effect on the overall skin rejuvenation process than other wavelengths (Kim & Calderhead, 2011).
    • Keep to well-proven wavelengths, applied singly unless they are the well-tested combinations. Karu and Kolyakov (2005) have pointed out that there are many pairs of wavelengths which actually inhibit cellular activity when used together, yet enhance activity when applied separately. So unless it is Red and NIR, Red and Blue, or NIR and Blue, you may want to just use different colors separately.
    • If it uses Blue light, the best choice is 415nm. And 415nm appears to be best and many recommend using it in combination with red or NIR (but blue +red has more evidence).

Science behind why the wavelengths matter

The photobiological response (i.e., how your body responds) is determined by the energy absorption by certain photoacceptors, or chromophores. (Chromophore is the term given to tissue, cellular or subcellular targets for incident light energy at specific wavelengths.). The absorption of photons converts light into signals that stimulate specific biological processes. The most important factor that determines absorption in a biological target (as well as the depth to which the light energy will penetrate) is the wavelength (Calderhead & Tanaka, 2017).

Because LLLT works by delivering wavelengths of light into our skin where it’s absorbed by our cells, its effectiveness is closely connected with the amount of light reaching the target tissue (Calderhead, 2016). The right wavelength will ensure absorption of the light by the target chromophore, and to be able to do so at the depths at which these chromophores exist. That is because all tissue targets have an optimum wavelength at which they absorb light (Calderhead & Vasily, 2016). 

 

For best effects, the wavelength used should allow for optimal penetration of light in the targeted cells or tissue. Some targets can respond to a fairly broad waveband of 30–100 nm or so, but most of the targets in LED phototherapy are much more specific (Calderhead, 2018).

 

Wavelengths are often referred to using their associated color and typically include purple/blue (400-495nm), green (495-570 nm), yellow (570-590), orange (590-620), red (620-750 nm) and near infrared (NIR) (750-1200) lights. 

 

Different wavelengths behave differently in the body because they have different chromophore targets and penetration depths (Calderhead, 2007). By targeting the LEDs towards a few very therapeutic wavelengths, maximal absorption is accomplished.

From Barolet, D. (2008, December). Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in dermatology. In Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery (Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 227-238). No longer published by Elsevier.
From Lima, A. M. C. T., da Silva Sergio, L. P., & da Fonseca, A. D. S. (2020). Photobiomodulation via multiple-wavelength radiations. Lasers in medical science, 35(2), 307-316.

Dr. Tiina Karu (2005) identified peak areas of wavelengths (see figure below) in the 600-900 nm range. This helps to illustrate why wavelengths under 633 will have poor absorption in the skin. Karu and Kolyakov (2005) has clearly shown that there is a “tissue window” for phototherapy between us around 610 nm visible red and 860 nm near-infrared. These long-wavelength lights offer much better tissue penetration and absorption than blue or green light, which are mainly absorbed by hemoglobin.

From Calderhead, R. G. (2017). Photobiological Basics of Photomedicine: A Work of Art Still in Progress. Medical Lasers; Engineering, Basic Research, and Clinical Application, 6(2), 45-57.

Visible light does not penetrate well in the blue, green, and yellow range (400 nm to 600 nm), and are heavily absorbed in melanin in the outer layers of skin (epidermis).

  • “The use of wavelengths in LLLT at 400nm or lower should be utilized in practice with extreme caution.” (Serrage et al., 2020)

Calderhead (2017) notes  “Red light at 633 nm, only 43 nm longer than 590 nm yellow, is less absorbed in melanin and considerably less absorbed in oxyhemoglobin, so penetration is several order of magnitude higher than the 590 nm yellow wavelength illustrated in the photospectrogram, bearing in mind that OD units have a logarithmic value”.

  • Wavelengths shorter than 600nm tend to scatter, rather than to penetrate deeply into the body tissues. As such, Green and yellow light have very poor penetration into living tissue and have rarely been studied.
  • Some of the limited studies using yellow light were not able to be replicated by different researchers. So take claims about the benefits of green, orange and yellow light with a grain of salt.
  • ~590 nm (yellow): “it has effect only in the epidermis with poor penetration into the dermis. Therefore, it offers very little to dermal renewal and repair. However, it has high absorption in blood for which it could potentially be useful for some very superficial vascular conditions like rosacea” (De Cordova, 2021). Although a more recent in vitro study by Chen at el (2018) offers very preliminary evidence that LLLT with yellow light at 585nm can help reduce pigmentation. So I would be more likely to take a chance on yellow light than green at the moment (though I would still look for a mask that offers red and NIR and has a yellow setting that can be used by itself because combinations of yellow and red or NIR have not been tested and the combinations may inhibit cellular activity (more on this below).
  • ~530 nm (green): “it might have some benefit for pigmented epidermal conditions and superficial skin conditions like stretch marks but its use for these conditions has not been proven yet” (De Cordova, 2021).
  • The term “blue light” can refer to a relatively wide range of wavelengths from violet (390–425 nm), indigo (425–450 nm), royal blue (450–475 nm), blue green (475–500 nm)–and they have had very different results.
  • If you go with blue light, 415nm is the ideal wavelength. Blue light has poor penetration into living tissue, but the 415nm wavelength is beneficial for the treatment of acne.
    • If you are using blue light to treat acne, it may be best to use a handheld device to just target spots as there is some evidence that it could increase hyperpigmentation.
    • Some studies of using a wavelength of 420-443nm found that unintentional increases in hyperpigmentation (as reported in Jagdeo et al., 2018: Weinstabl et al 2011; Kleinpenning et al 2010).
    • “It is usually used with red and/or NIR as otherwise it can cause skin darkening” (Calderhead, 2020)
    • Wearing eye protection with blue light is strongly recommended.
    • In an animal study, Blue light (430–510 nm) delayed the barrier recovery, whereas red light (550–670 nm) accelerated it. Green light (490–560 nm) and white light (400–670 nm) did not affect the barrier recovery rate (Denda & Fuziwara, 2008).
    • Inflammatory acne lesions contain bacterium, P. Acne, which has porphyrins–415nm is the optimal wavelength for porphyrin absorption. Irradiation with a wavelength of 415nm can destroy the P.acnes but it doesn’t address the associated inflammatory problem. The combo of 633nm red light and 415nm blue light is recommended because the red light also tackles inflammation and appears to improve the efficacy on noninflammatory lesions (Greaves et al 2015).
    • 415nm has been found to be beneficial for the treatment of acne (inflammatory lesions respond better to blue light than noninflamatory lesions like whiteheads and blackheads).
    • I don’t like to use blue light all over my face because it has the potential to cause hyperpigmentation with continued use, so I prefer to spot treat particularly bad pimples with a handheld device that has the ideal, and evidence-based, wavelengths for acne.  Also, using a face mask with red and NIR wavelengths can also reduce acne and the associated redness and inflammation–and those wavelengths don’t hold the potential for hyperpigmentation. If you do go for full mask with red and blue wavelengths, keep in mind that those wavelengths are not intended to prevent acne–only to treat mild to moderate acne (and it isn’t intended for whiteheads and blackheads). AND they are only intended to treat it for a short period of time. For example, for their Clear mask Omnilux recommends 4, 10-minute treatments per week for 6 weeks and once the 6 weeks are up you are supposed to stop using it. (In the peer reviewed literature most studies just did 2 treatments a week for 4 weeks max).
  • May be best to avoid wavelengths between 700 and 780 nm as they have been found to be rather ineffective as it coincides with a trough in the absorption spectrum of cytochrome c oxidase. In studies involving mice, wavelengths between 700-770 have been reported to not have any significant activity (Gupta et al., 2014; Karu, 2010; Wu et al 2012)
  • Evidence has been also reported indicating the higher efficacy of the combination of different wavelengths in LED therapy than monotherapy (Opel et al., 2015; Jagdeo et al 2018). But Karu and Kolyakov (2005) have pointed out that there are many pairs of wavelengths which actually inhibit cellular activity when used together, yet enhance activity when applied separately. “Light energy represents information for cells, and then they act on that information. Imagine a cell receives receiving conflicting information from two different wavelengths: one tells the cell to “turn right” and the other to “turn left”. At best the cell will be confused and do nothing. At worst, it will shut down partially or completely. Unless there is a specific reason based on photobiological knowledge, one wavelength at a time should be the order of the day in LED phototherapy.” (Calderhead, 2018). At this point, Red + NIR is recommended or Blue (415) + RED or Blue (415) + NIR.

Irradiance (aka Power)

Irradiance = power (in W or mW, usually mW) ÷ beam area (cm2) at the tissue surface (not the size of the aperture).

“It is the power density of a beam that will determine more than anything else (apart from wavelength) the magnitude of the bioeffect in the target tissue”

Calderhead, 2018

The optimal clinical irradiance is considered to be around 40–150 mW/cm2 (Calderhead, 2018; Sorbellini et al., 2018). Keep in mind that lower irradiance (< 50 mW/cm2) is less likely to induce skin hyperthermia (heat) leading to potential unwanted effects (Barolet et al 2016). For example, people that are concerned with heat-induced melasma would likely want to stay under 50 mW/cm2. 

 

Among clinical studies focused on skin rejuvenation, irradiance values ranges from 6 mW/cm2 to 150 mW/cm2, with the median being 55 mW/cm2. A systematic review of at home devices used for nonesthetic purposes (e.g., wound healing, scars, pain, and cognitive function) found that devices finding significant results had irradiances ranging from 8-50 mW/cm2 (Gavish & Houreld, 2019).

Based on the literature, I set 50 mW/cm2 as the upper threshold for what the irradiance should be because any higher and the mask could be uncomfortable (hot) to wear. I think a mask between 30-50 mW/cm2 is ideal because those would require shorter treatment times and because the majority of the studies used 55mW/cm2. Usually masks around 30 mW/cm2 only recommend wearing the mask for 10 min about 3 times a week. On the lower threshold, I think 5 mW/cm2 is the lowest I would go (but keep in mind that the lower the irradiance, the longer and more frequently you will need to wear it to make sure it has a sufficient dose. Often with masks with this low of an irradiance you need to wear it 30 minutes 5 days a week to see results.)

Questions to Ask a Company: Irradiance

  1. Does the company report the irradiance (or will they tell you if asked)?
    • Devices with extremely low irradiance probably won’t have any determinantal effects, but they can be a waste of money and time.
    • You can email companies and ask them to tell you the irradiance (or power density) reported in mW/cm2. If they only report the J/cm2 you can calculate the mW/cm2 using the recommended treatment time (in seconds).
    • Here’s what I would ask: “Could you tell me the irradiance (i.e., power density) of the mask (reported in mW/cm2 or W/cm2)?
      • If you ask for the power density and the company tells you the energy density (i.e., a number followed by J/cm2) instead, you can calculate the power density by using the suggested treatment time (and converting it so seconds).
        For example, Light Salon recommends 10 min sessions. Their fluence is 18 J/cm2. They report their power density, but if they didn’t we could find it by first converting the treatment time to seconds (10*60=600). Then taking 18/600 = 0.03 W/cm2 and multiply that times 1,000 to get 30 mW/cm2.

    • Any manufacturer of an LED device should understand how power density (irradiance) is important when making and use LED devices. Therefore, if they don’t share the data it would make me suspicious as to whether they know the irradiance or if there is some reason they don’t want to share it. It is not that the device won’t be effective, it is just that you really won’t be able to gauge whether it is comparable to masks that have been found to be effective. Also, you won’t know what you are working with and you may be wasting your time and money using the device.

The Science Behind Irradiance

In LLLT, the irradiance and wavelength is analogous with the medicine, and the energy density is the dose. If the medicine is incorrect, i.e., an irradiance which is too low (resulting in no effect) or too high (resulting in photothermal damage), no amount of playing around with the dose will achieve the optimum result (Calderhead & Vasily 2016).

The beneficial effects of LLLT are governed by the Arndt–Schultz law, which says that cells will respond differently to varying levels of irradiance (mW/cm2) or radiant exposure (J/cm2).

Light stimulus will be insufficient to trigger a cellular function if it is delivered below the recommended dose and will inhibit activation of these responses if a dose higher than indicated is delivered.

A higher irradiance often means a shorter treatment time. But a higher irradiance isn’t always better. If the irradiance is too high, the photon energy will be transformed to excessive heat in the target tissue; the mask may get hot and can inhibit the treatment or even create undesired outcomes.

 

  • It has been shown many times that there is a “dose-rate effect” and if the dose is delivered too quickly the beneficial effects are diminished. (Think of it as cooking at turkey at 800 degrees for 10 min rather than 300 degrees for 6 hours. The internal temperature may be the same, but the skin of the turkey will be charred in the 800 degree oven).
  • Alternatively, using too low of an irradiance and the photons absorption will be insufficient to achieve the goal. However, the appropriate range of values of irradiance and fluence are not widely agreed upon. One thing to keep in mind is that the irradiance and fluence used in vitro studies are often different from those used in clinical studies. So it is best to draw guidance from clinical studies only (later I provide an overview of some clinical studies focused on skin rejuvenation).
  • Many LLLT devices have been commercialized without FDA or other medical regulatory approval because the light output is below a nominal hazard level. 

Fluence or Energy Density (aka the recommended dose)

FLUENCE = (IRRADIANCE x .001) x TREATMENT TIME IN SECONDS

Energy density is measured in joules per square centimeter (J/cm2) and is the amount of energy delivered into the tissue. 

 

There is no fixed value of fluence that always produces a positive LLLT effect. Even within different studies on the same animal models, there can be contradictory findings. In a meta-analysis of LLLT in wound repair, energy densities from 19 to 24 J/cm2 were found to be more effective than energy densities at or below 8.25 J/cm2 (Woodruff et al., 2004).

Among clinical studies focused on skin rejuvenation, fluence values ranges from 1.2 J/cm2 to 126 J/cm2, with the median being 66 J/cm2.

However, the energy density is not the key determinant of the device’s efficacy. That is the role of irradiance (Barolet et al., 2016). That is because the same dose (fluence) can be associated with different results based on the irradiance and treatment time (Almeida-Lopes et a., 2001; Barolet et al., 2016). But it is helpful to know what it is to either calculate the power density or to identify the ideal treatment time.

  • It has been reported for a continuous wave system that shorter irradiation times with a higher intensity (irradiance) got significantly better results in first passage human gingival fibroblast proliferation in vitro compared with longer irradiation times at a lower intensity, even though the dose (in J/cm2) was the same (Almeida-Lopes et a., 2001).
  • Note: You don’t want to know the joule (J), you want to know the J/cm2.

Tips When Buying an LED Mask

When picked out an LED mask, the goal is to avoid a mask that fails to deliver the power, penetration, and clinical benefits claimed by the manufacturers.

How can you avoid wasting your money? Aim to purchase products that use evidence-based wavelengths and that report all key parameters.

Also, this isn’t mentioned below but take into consideration convenience. Because these products only work if you use them.

Highlighting the Number of Lights is Often Just a Marketing Ploy

If you come across a mask that you are curious about, I recommend identifying the wavelengths used, the irradiance and the treatment time. Then you can compare those specs with this list to see how it stacks up.

Features of the Ideal Mask (in my opinion)

  • It contains the two most evidence-based wavelengths (red at about 633nm; NIR at about 830nm) with precise values (instead of wide ranges). This includes NOT having unnecessary or potentially detrimental wavelengths.
  • Transparency from the company as to what the irradiance is (and the irradiance is closer to 50mW/cm2 than it is 5mW/cm2).
  • Factors that will make you more likely to use it consistently. This will vary for everyone. But things that I find increase the likelihood of me using a mask include:
    • Having a comfortable fit
    • Flexible/flat design (this is totally personal preference, but I like flexible masks because you can lay on other parts of your body (neck, hands, hairline). I even lay mine on my abdomen to help fade an appendectomy scar. I also love how silicone masks lay flat are easier to store (and take up less space). Plus it’s easier to take it with you when you travel.
    • Doesn’t require being plugged in (because let’s be honest, if it isn’t comfortable and convenient you won’t use it as often!)
    • High enough irradiance so that the recommended usage isn’t 7 days a week and ideally less than 10 minutes.
  • Ideally it has a 2 year warranty. A couple lights went out on my Light Salon LED mask right after the 1 year mark and that is totally covered by the warranty. Similarly, my Omnilux mask had to be replaced at the 1 year mark. LED is fragile technology so having that warranty can protect your investment. In my mind, the warranty helps to justify some of the price because some masks may be cheaper but they may stop working after a year and you would have to repurchase!

My Top Picks For LED Masks

  • My top pick is the Omnilux Contour or Clear Mask (see below for more info). There are multiple flexible LED masks made by the same manufacturer & have the same key parameters but they have some small differences in design elements (& variations in price). So really, my TOP picks are Omnilux, Current Body, Light Salon, FaceLite, and Priori. (Note that if any new mask comes out that happens to look like these, you can’t judge equivalence just by how it looks! The key parameters are what matter most!)
  • Wavelengths (tie because all of the masks by the same manufacturer have the same wavelengths)
  • Irradiance (tie… but slight edge goes to Omnilux for independently testing the irradiance)
    • Here is where it gets complicated and super nuanced…Of the 5 masks that are all made by the same manufacturer, the manufacturer told me that all have the exact same wavelengths and irradiance. However, my contact at Omnilux provided evidence of a higher irradiance via independent tests (specifically, they found 41 mW/cm2 to be exact, but they officially state 5-30 mW/cm2 if asked… I think they might be required to as that is the irradiance reported by the manufacturer??). Knowing the Omnilux was tested at 41 mW/cm2 gave it a slight edge in my mind. BUT since the seven masks are all manufactured by the same company, I am very confused as to what the means for the other masks. For example, I wonder if the other companies using the masks conducted independent tests would they also find ratings of ~40 mW/cm2? I honestly don’t know but my best guess is that they might. So in that sense this really is a tie. Even if all of the masks have the 30 mW/cm2 irradiance, I am happy with that!
  • Fit (Omnilux is the winner by narrow margin)
    • I find that Omnilux has a slightly better fit on my face. After using Light Salon for a year and then trying the Priori and Current Body that have almost identical designs except for one extra strap, I am happy I got to try the Omnilux mask because it enabled me to see how the slightly different shape impacts fit. The Omnilux shape is designed to be a better fit for healing post cosmetic procedures but there isn’t a huge difference in coverage (just a couple centimeters — I took some photos that I included below). I like how this one gets a little closer to the jaw line because of the strap arrangement, but it is super minor difference.
    • There are other brands that have the same shape, wavelengths and irradiance as Omnilux but two of those are unnecessarily overpriced )(SkinLite and Dessee). No need to spend the extra money if there are nearly identical options for less! Omnilux and FaceLite are almost identical except they differ in terms of the straps used. I like that Omnilux has 2 separate straps to adjust the fit differently on the top & bottom because I think it lends itself to greater fit customization.
  • Treatment duration and frequency of use (tie because all of the masks by the same manufacturer have the same wavelengths and irradiance and therefore the same recommended frequency [3-5 days a week] and duration [10 min])
  • Warranty (I think Omnilux has the best customer service and easiest return policy followed closely by Light Salon. For example, to get your mask replaced if something goes wrong you don’t need to jump through any hoops. You just send a photo or video and they will send you a new mask. I love knowing that they have really incredible customer service!)
  • Bonus categories: Clinical Trials (Omnilux is the winner)
    • Omnilux has been a leader in LED research and has conducted the most clinical trials out of all of the companies (granted, they weren’t using this specific mask, but I appreciate that they conduct those trials) and they publish research that has to go through the peer-review process (in other words, it is more rigorous and it has been vetted).
  • Price
    • Current Body tends to be the lowest price at $296 (after my discount code), followed by Omnilux and then Light Salon. But the prices and deals are constantly changing but I always try to update this blog post to reflect the best deals I can find.

LED Mask Comparison

Note: some of the links below are affiliate links where I will earn a commission from your purchase. This does not impact your cost. Posts like this take me a ton of time (for example, I took PTO from my full time job to work on this), so I appreciate your support if you do choose to shop through my links.

Here is a condensed list of updated deals on my favorite LED devices

The masks in my comparison represent only a small selection of the LED masks available. I tried to include the most popular masks and any masks that I could find information on in the FDA 510(k) database. I also only focused on face masks, versus hand held devices or panels because I had to narrow it down somehow and since I enjoy using the mask bc of its convenience that is what I focused on. But the same research that applies to face masks applies to handheld devices, so you are able to assess their potential efficacy using the parameters above. The one difference with panels is that you also need to consider how far away you will be from the panel.

My goal with this post was never to tell you what MY favorite mask was. It was to arm you with information to decide which is best for you.

  • TIP: when it comes to skincare devices I highly recommend the following google search “accessdata.fda.gov [name of device]” – if you are lucky you will be able to find the 510(k) document that often contains specs that the company doesn’t always openly reveal. For masks sold in the United States, very few manufacturers have received FDA approval and have gone through this process (I have linked the ones that I found below). 

"Some less than truthful manufacturers will claim FDA approval, when in fact all they hold is a letter from FDA recognizing that their LED system is a nonsignificant risk device, or NSRD. This is NOT the same as a system's having gone through the due regulatory process to obtain what is known as a 510(k) approval showing significant equivalence to another system with prior approval based on which, and only on which, can that device be legally sold in the USA for clinical use" (p.326).

Calderhead, 2018
  • On that note, “I-smart marketing LTD” submitted a 510(k) premarket notification of intent to market the FaceLITE device using “Shape B” (the same shape that Light Salon and CurrentBody use) and received approval. That approval was then applied to the 6 other masks all made by the same manufacturer. At some point FaceLITE updated the design of the mask (which I have labeled “Shape A” in my graphics). It has more lights but FaceLITE (the manufacturer) emphasized that it still had the same irradiance. Here is where you can see all of the devices approved under that 510(k) approval and made by the same manufacturer: link

Omnilux Contour

10% off with code GOALS10
$395
$ 355
55
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
Top Pick
    • 2 year warranty (I have heard really great feedback from some people that needed to use the warranty. You don’t need to jump through any hoops. Just send a photo or video and they will send you a new mask. I love knowing that they have really incredible customer service!)

    • Since I talked about this at length above, I won’t say much more. But one thing I didn’t note was that I get 15, 10 minute sessions before having to charge it again. Out of the flexible LED mask options I would pick Omnilux because it is the most affordable (after coupon code) out of the “Shape A” masks and for all the other reasons I outlined above. The company is leaders in LED research (and for what it’s worth they are nice and always helpful).

    • Available at omnilux.com and the code GOALS10 saves 10% making it $355 (free shipping). This code works on ALL Omnilux products (including the glove, the Neck & Dec, and their hydrogel masks). It is not a commissionable code, so if you find this post helpful and plan to use the discount code, I would appreciate if you shopped through my link (which I do make a commission off of)!
    • I started using this mask in Jan pf 2021 and I also have been using their LED glove on just my right hand. I am very excited about the glove because now I can just use that on one hand and see if there is an improvement from the left hand. Finally a clean comparison! ***a 4 month update can be found in my Omnilux Story highlights!***

Omnilux Men

10% off with code GOALS10
$395
$ 355
55
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm; 1072 nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
Top Pick
  • In addition to having the same red (633nm) and NIR (830nm) wavelengths, this also includes another NIR wavelength of 1072nm to penetrate even deeper into the skin.  What I am very happy to report is that most of the LEDs are still the 633nm and 830nm wavelengths — but then they added a handful of the 1072nm LEDs to target the forehead, the crow’s feet, and along the laugh lines.
  • I talk more about the new research behind 1072 wavelength in my other blog post, but the reason Omnilux is calling this the Omnilux Men’s mask is because “Men generally have ~25% thicker facial skin than women due to men having a higher percentage of the hormone testosterone. Since the 1072nm penetrates deeper than 633nm and 830nm it is able to target the deepest cells.”  As a note, I couldn’t find a citation (that doesn’t mean one isn’t out there) for the 25% thicker estimate, but I did find a  high quality study that reported that males had 10-20% thicker skin than females (Bailey et al., 2011).
    • Note that women can use the mask. Whether you experience better results or the same results is unclear. But there is no reason to expect any unwanted adverse results. 
  • This mask has slightly longer straps than the Clear and Contour but otherwise it is the same size. 
  • If you haven’t bought an LED mask yet and you were considering the Omnilux Contour, and wound healing or inflammation is a priority for you, I would go with the new mask rather than the original Contour. The Contour is amazing at wound healing–I can personally attest to that after I split my eyebrow open and it healed in record time and there are numerous studies providing evidence for 830nm and 633nm for wound healing. But the added oomph of the 1072 and its deeper penetration is promising. So because of that, I would personally go with the new mask.   (Note: Omnilux is sent me the new mask and I have been using it since Nov 2022 and I don’t see any immediate different from the contour mask but I also haven’t had any sensitized or inflamed skin to see if the men’s version ended up being more effective at skin soothing/healing)
  • For a longer blog post on this mask click here

Omnilux Clear

10% off with code GOALS10
$395
$ 355
55
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 633nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • This mask is not intended to prevent acne. It is just for the short term treatment of acne. For example, just for the Clear mask Omnilux recommends 4, 10-minute treatments per week for 6 weeks and once the 6 weeks are up you are supposed to stop using it. (In the peer reviewed literature most studies just did 2 treatments a week for 4 weeks max).
  • It has blue (415nm) and red (633nm) and that combo is the evidence-based combination for acne, so that is great (sometimes companies include blue light but not at the correct or effective wavelength).  
  • It also has built in eye-guards (which is very important for any mask with Blue wavelengths) 
  • The benefit of the 415nm wavelength is that it does not penetrate very deeply so it targets a very specific bacteria in your skin. Red light also targets a different bacteria that is deeper in your skin AND it can help reduce inflammation. The Contour mask can also help with acne (I have found it very beneficial for hormonal acne as it can reduce inflammation and the red light still targets the one form of bacteria deeper in the skin) and red and NIR don’t have any potential drawbacks like blue light does (like the potential for unwanted pigmentation). So unless you want a second mask for a short term treatment of moderate acne that is all over your face (and it would be too time intensive to spot treat each pimple with a LED stick), I would personally stick with the Contour mask rather than the Clear. 
  • Also, as an FYI, neither red + blue nor red + NIR work great for whiteheads or blackheads.

Current Body Mask

GOALSLED saves 20-22%
$399
$ 296
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
Best Price
  • This is identical (not just in looks, in wavelength, irradiance) to Light Salon. The only difference is it is missing the strap for the top of the head and it is cheaper than Light Salon. 
  • Since you can easily buy an extra strap for $7 to greatly improve fit (Here is the one that a follower recommended), I have a hard time justifying getting Light Salon over this one given the price difference.
  • Available at CurrentBody.com.
  • GOALSLED makes the LED mask $296 for those in the US. Then for other regions outside the US, pricing varies a bit depending on where you are so Current Body gave me a code to just give people a flat 20% off.
  • GOALSLED gives 22% off the “neck and dec” (making the Neck and Dec $264)
  • GOALSHAND brings the LED Hand to $240.
  • GOALSCOMBO gives 25% off the kit with the mask and N&D and makes it just $539.

Light Salon Mask

Code: GOALSTOGETGLOWING25
$495
$ 374
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • This is the mask that I used from Nov. 2019-Dec. 2020. I was sent the mask by the brand to try (with no string attached) and I loved it. One key thing I found was that the strap on top really helps improve the fit, so I like that they include it. However, if you live in the US, because of the exchange rate (they are based in the UK), this one may end up being pricier than some of the other ones that are identical to it (i.e., CurrentBody, PRIORI). This and the DDG LED mask are the most popular in terms of LED masks that you see on Instagram, probably because it has been gifted to a number of bloggers/influencers (I was one of them) so it has gotten more exposure. But it doesn’t make Light Salon any better than any of the other flexible masks that I cover in this post.
  • Available at thelight-salon.com where I have a 25% off affiliate coupon code (GOALSTOGETGLOWING25) that brings the cost down to $373.87This code works on all Light Salon products.
  • The mask is also available at Bluemercury and Verishop for $495 (and they sometimes have coupon codes that will work on it) and it is available at Selfridges for  £395.

HigherDOSE LED Mask

Code: GLOWING for 15% off
$299
$ 255
  • Wavelengths: 630nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (3-5x/week)
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (29.5 cm x 21.6 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year limited
  • *New Edition as of 1/18/22 and the irradiance was finally added on 11/29/22!**
  • Great wavelengths and great irradiance! (It took me almost a year to get in touch with someone that would provide the irradiance. I was quite shocked when I found out it was 50 mW/cm2 (I would have thought they would want to make that a selling point!). They are sending me the mask so I will be able to say whether it feels warm after use. ***UPDATE: When I got the mask and read the booklet it said that the irradiance was 30 and NOT 50 mW.cm2. So that is frustrating that I was given wrong information originally.***
  • This mask is similar to the flexible shape of the Omnilux. I’m not sure whether the measurements include the bumps for the straps (the measurements for the Omnilux and other flex masks don’t). But assuming they don’t then this would be a slightly larger flexible mask, which might be appealing to people that found the other flexible masks as being slightly too small (I have heard that from only a couple people, but usually it is with respect to the height and not the width).
  • Having only a 1 year warranty is a big downside. My Omnilux had issues at 1.5 years and was immediately replaced and my Light Salon mask had a few lights go out right after 1 year and was also still under warranty. So a 1 year warranty means you run the risk of having to buy an all new mask if something goes wrong as a year (LED is a very fragile technology so the warranties are very important IMHO) . So I personally think 2 year warranties are the way to go with LED masks.

Priori Mask

Discount Code: VANESSA12
$429
$ 378
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • This is identical to Light Salon and Current Body and compared to the Light Salon this also doesn’t have the strap on top, so you may want to buy that to improve fit.
  • The one downside for me is that the pattern on the front is too bold for my taste, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter because no one needs to see you wearing it.
  • Available at Skinstore and Lookfantastic and Priori’s website
  • At Skinstore, I have an affiliate code (VANESSA) that will take 25% off making this $321.75. HOWEVER, I would recommend instead purchasing direct through Priori because I have heard that if there are any issues with the mask that is how you will get a replacement mask (whereas I have heard Skinstore will refund you but you have to mail back the mask).
  • On Priori’s website I have a 12% off code (VANESSA12). 

FaceLITE Mask

$429
$ 378
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • You can find this in both Shape A or Shape B. It looks like Shape A (which looks like Omnilux is available in the US and the other shape is sold in the UK).
  • FaceLITE hasn’t launched their US website yet, but you can DM @honeyanddewskin (who is my friend and is an esthetician) and she is selling them for $350+$17 shipping. The US version appears to be the same shape as the Omnilux versus the Light Salon.
  • FDA 510(k) approval document
    • You will notice in the 510(k) document the LG BEAUTY LED MASK was used as the predicate device (that is how I initially got the specs of the LG Mask! 🙂 ) You can see that since the LG Beauty Mask doesn’t have to have the EXACT same specs to be deemed “substantially equivalent”

Déesse Express

(price is in pounds)
£ 299
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • It is unclear if this uses the same Shape A as Omnilux, FaceLite and DpDerm or if it uses Shape B (like Light Salon, Current Body, and Priori). The photos on Cult Beauty and FacetheFuture show both, so that is annoying. But on their website it looks like they sell Shape A–so I really can’t say for sure. 
  • The one thing different about this mask compared to the other “Shape A” masks is that it comes with goggles that can be attached whereas with Omnilux you can buy them separately for $20 (note that the vast majority of people don’t need to or like to use the goggles. I personally find them very uncomfortable to wear and the red light doesn’t bother me, but my mom has super sensitive retinas and the only way she can wear the mask is if she has the goggles attached.)
  • Originally they priced this to be £395, but thankfully they came to their senses and brought down the price to £299.
  • Depending on the exchange rate, this comes out to about $357-$397. 

DPDerm

Formerly SkinLite
$ 395
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (27 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Identical to Omnilux and FaceLite (in Shape A) and Deesse. 
  • This has the same style of straps that the FaceLite has. I prefer when the two straps are separate (like they are with the Omnilux)
  • I would pass on this because the Omnilux Contour and FaceLITE are identical but cheaper and I don’t know how good that DP company is about making their warranty process quick and easy. 

Boots No7

Age Defying LED Mask
£ 150
  • Wavelengths: 630nm; 850nm
  • Irradiance: 35 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min
  • Fluence: 21 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (29 cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: ???
  • This is not available for those in the states.
  • I was happy to see this had a good irradiance and used Red and NIR in the right wavelengths (and that the company disclosed it… but that was hard to find, it was in a Facebook post comment that they replied to and my friend found while I was digging for that information).
  • But if you have access to it, this could be a great, more affordable option. I don’t have any info as to whether this has undergone any clearance processes or safety testing.
  • This is unconfirmed, but someone said it had a 2 year warranty

Dr. Dennis Gross

FaceWare Pro
$ 455
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 605nm; 630nm; 660nm; 880nm
  • Irradiance: 50-61 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 3 min
  • Fluence: 11 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (22 cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • This has a 2 year warranty BUT you have to be sure to register your device within ONE MONTH of buying it or the warranty is void. This is a major downside in my opinion and sadly a follower had the experience of the mask not working after 6 months but the company didn’t honor the warranty because she didn’t register it.
  • I think this is a good mask with caveats. First, I would only use the setting that focuses on red/NIR wavelengths rather than consistent use of their settings that include blue light (more info on some things to consider with blue light is provided at the end of the post). Next, while I am happy to see a red wavelength at 630nm is included, I wish they had ALL their red diodes at that wavelength rather than having some having some at 660nm and some at the less than ideal 605 wavelength. Second, I wonder why they went with 880nm instead of 830nm for the NIR wavelength. (Especially since max absorption has been found for 820-840nm. It’s not that 880nn can’t be effective, it just struck me as odd). The reason I don’t love the inclusion of wavelengths that don’t have evidence behind them is because I don’t know what the distribution of lights is while it is for the red setting (for example, it would be a bummer if it is primarily the 605 wavelength). So personally, I prefer the masks that just include 633 nm and 830nm because I know that all of what I am getting are the ideal wavelengths. One perk of this mask is that the higher irradiance means that it also has a shorter treatment time (3 min). However, that doesn’t mean this mask is stronger/more effective, it just means you get to spend less time wearing the mask (which is a big perk for some). In terms of design/fit, I have heard the complaint that the strap breaks easily and then you have to hold in up (or lie down with it on) and I believe Caroline Hirons noted that this is too small for her face. So in terms of the hard style masks, i would look at the dimensions I provided and see if there are some that have larger dimensions in my chart.
  • FDA 510(k) premarket notification: Here and here (this one included the 415nm)
  • This one is available LOTS of places. So it could make it easier to find a good deal (or at least see which store has the best Rakuten cash back). SkinstoreSephoraDermstoreSpaceNKNordstromViolet Grey; LovelySkinBloomingdales

Qure LED Mask

Discount Code: VANESSA10
$329
$ 296
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 605nm; 660nm; 880nm
  • Irradiance: 11-60 mW/cm2 (depending on mode)
  • Treatment time: 3 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence: depends on mode
  • Style: Hard (22 cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year limited
  • If you really want the Dr. Dennis Gross Mask, I would probably consider getting this one instead. The Qure mask has the same wavelengths, shape, and nearly identical irradiance as the DDG Faceware Spectralite and it has an app that goes with it. In the app you can just use the blue+red light on one portion of your face (so that is nice because as I have said over and over–I am not a face of having blue light all over my face. So if you had a bad breakout on one cheek, you could just have the blue light treatment there and use Red + NIR everywhere else). And it’s cheaper. It is $296 after you use the code VANESSA10.
  • My same complaints about the DDG wavelengths apply here. So read the DDG summary for that info
  • The best part about the DDG and Qure is that it is only 3 minutes. So while it doesn’t have my ideal wavelengths, using the mask consistently is what is most important. So if you are more likely to consistently use a 3 min mask versus a 10 min one, I would get the Qure mask (and I would stick with the red setting for the primary mode to consistently use).
  • The wavelengths and the irradiance for each wavelength are as follows (note that you can’t just add up the irradiance for each wavelength to get the total irradiance–the only time the irradiance is additive is when the wavelengths are sharing a double chip–instead I would say that that red setting ranges from 11-40 mW/cm2) and the red+ blue setting ranges from 40-60: 415nm (60 mW/cm2); 605nm (26 mW/cm2); 630nm (26 mW/cm2); 660nm (40 mW/cm2); 880nm (11 mW/cm2)

Opera LeBody

$ 699
  • Wavelengths: 630nm; 845 nm
  • Irradiance: 50 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (3x/week)
  • Fluence: 30 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (22 cm x 31 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • This has great wavelengths, one of the best irradiance, and it has a neck attachment.
  • But a big downside of this one is the price and only 1 year warranty and the high price.
  • Available on lebodyusa.com or on amazon which sells it for $709 but it currently has a $150 coupon making it $559
  • Irradiance found via 510(k) document

MZ Skin Light Therapy

Golden Treatment Mask
$625
$ 370
  • Wavelengths: 430nm; 450-460nm; 520nm; 570-590nm; 630nm
  • Irradiance: 35 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (3x/week)
  • Fluence: 21 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (24 cm x 19 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • This one has a lot of unnecessary wavelengths (personally, I would Just use the 630nm setting on this) and it has some wavelengths (439, 450-460nm) I would actively avoid using. And a major downside in my eyes is that it doesn’t include NIR AND it has to be plugged in to use (so it isn’t one I would use).

MZ Skin LED

2.0 LightMAX Supercharged LED Mask
$ 818
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (3-5x/week)
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Molded (unclear on dimensions)
  • Warranty: 2 years (but you have to register it)
  • There are 2 treatment modes: Anti-aging (Red 633nm with NIR 830nm) and Acne mode (red plus blue 415nm).
  • A follower purchased this and chatted with me about their thoughts. They like that on the charger it counted down the minutes that remain. It is quasi flexible, but it it won’t lay flat on its own. But you could lay it on your chest, for example, and press and hold it down. The big downside is that when you use the Red/NIR setting, there are no light coverage on the chin at all (there is only light coverage on the chin with the blue + red setting).
  • This has good wavelengths and irradiance, but it is super expensive. If you are excited about the blue light for infrequent breakouts you may want to consider getting a $50 LED stick by Dr. Dennis Gross. It has 415nm and 633nm and high irradiance so it is a 3 min session. That way you can use that on any spots that pop up. But if you do want to treat acne all over your face, then you may like the option of the MZ mask because you could use the blue setting. I would rely on the Red + NIR setting for day to day use though because consistent use of Blue light isn’t great for your skin. It can be wonderful in the short term (like less than a couple times a week for 4 weeks) for moderate to severe acne, but it isn’t something I would use to prevent acne or to use on a consistent basis.

Shani Darden by Déesse PRO LED Light Mask

$ 1900
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 630nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 29 mW/cm2 (red + NIR); 44 mW/cm2 (Blue + Red)
  • Treatment time: 10 min (5x/week)
  • Fluence: 17.4 - 26.4 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (24cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: Limited 2 year
  • **This mask has been significantly updated from the version I previously shared in 2021** Here are the differences:
    • The previous mask only had an irradiance of 10.9-14.3 mW/cm2. Specifically:
      • 415nm: 3.43 mW/cm2
      • 580: 3.19 mW/cm2
      • 520nm: 2.57 mW/cm2
      • 630: 3.44 mW/cm2
    • This one has fitted silicone eyewear for the blue light setting.
    • This got rid of the 520nm and 580 nm wavelengths. This is a big improvement in my opinion because the 520nm-580nm wavelengths have minimal empirical evidence for their effects using low level light therapy (studies that use these wavelengths for pigmentation use intense pulsed light with MUCH higher power which is different from LED at home masks that use low level light therapy). 
    • This one now has 3 modes instead of 2 (Anti-Aging, Acne and Pigmentation)
    • This one has a new neck Attachment
  • The acne mode is evidence based and all good. It uses 415nm and 630nm.
  • Where I am a annoyed is with their distinction with Mode 1 and Mode 3. And this is where they show their hand as being more interested in fake marketing ploys to justify their exorbitant price (so get ready for a mini rant).
    • I chatted with their customer service and they said “MODE 1 emits light in the Red and Near-infrared region of the light spectrum and treats the visible signs of aging such as facial wrinkles. MODE 3 emits light in the Red and Near-infrared region of the light spectrum and treats the visible signs of photoaging, evens skin tone and helps reduce age spots.”
    • Notice that the bolded text is exactly the same. So I asked if the two modes had the same treatment duration time. They said yes–both are 10 min long. Both use the same irradiance. I confirmed that both have the same combination of red and NIR diodes. AND YET, they created two different modes that would have the EXACT say effect on the skin. Just say there is a Red + NIR mode and a Blue + Red mode.
    • Bottom line is that if each mode is using the same wavelengths and has the same power density…. then I don’t see how it is treating different things. The dumb this is that both 630 and 830 have evidence that they treat both aging such as wrinkles AND visible signs of photoaging, such as evening skin tone and helping reduce age spots. SO WHY MAKE TWO MODES? I think they wanted to say it has THREE modes (whereas other masks like the DDG has two) to help justify their marked up price. 
  • Unfortunately, this one still needs be plugged in while in use (which I personally find to be an inconvenience but I guess that depends on where you have power outlets to plug in to!)
  • They still always highlight the number of lights, but as I noted previously, the number of lights doesn’t matter. The irradiance and wavelengths matter most.
  • They priced it ridiculously high. Just remember that more expensive doesn’t mean it is better. 

Déesse PRO

Original Version
1,440
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 520nm; 580nm; 630nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 10.9-14.3 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 20 min (2-3x/week)
  • Fluence: 6.5-8.6 mW/cm2
  • Style: Hard (24cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • This is a mask that has focused heavily on the highlighting the large number of lights as well as the number of wavelengths as a key selling point for why they say it is the best.. but looking at the key parameters it has a much lower irradiance than I had anticipated which means longer treatment duration times. Also, see the graphic in this post which highlights that the number of lights doesn’t matter. The irradiance and wavelengths matter most).
  • While it is good that is includes 630nm and 830nm, the 520nm-580nm wavelengths have minimal empirical evidence for their effects using low level light therapy (studies that use these wavelengths for pigmentation use intense pulsed light with MUCH higher power which is different from LED at home masks that use low level light therapy). 
  • Another big downside is that it has to be plugged in AND it is so overpriced. 
  • If you do a setting with an individual wavelength, here are the power densities
    • 415nm: 3.43 mW/cm2
    • 580: 3.19 mW/cm2
    • 520nm: 2.57 mW/cm2
    • 630: 3.44 mW/cm2
    • 830: 7.46 mW/cm2

Aduro 7+1 LED Face Mask

$ 319
  • Wavelengths: 400-420nm; 465-470nm;500-520nm; 515-525 nm; 565-590nm; 600-612nm; 620-630nm; 830-870nm
  • Irradiance: 18 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 20 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence: 21.6 mW/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (29 cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: 2 year
  • There are a number of red flags for me about this one.
    • This definitely a mask that is hoping that you think more wavelengths immediately means it is better–which just isn’t the case.
    • While it does have Red and NIR wavelengths (620-630; 830-870), they aren’t precise (i.e., they are a range rather than one precise point). And I am not sure whether you could JUST use the red and NIR in any one setting. 
    • Second, it contains a number of wavelengths that don’t have evidence to back them up (and some like 465-470nm are ones I would actually avoid) AND I am really turned off by the unfounded claims that this company makes about the various colors it includes (it has a lot of wavelengths that have no evidence to back up their claims).
    • The lower irradiance means you would need to wear this longer (20 min) and more days a week to see results. 

Eco Face Near-Infrared LED Mask

$ 233
  • Wavelengths: 630nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: Company declined disclosing
  • Treatment time: 20 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence: Company declined disclosing
  • Style: Hard (25 cm x 20 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • If you are ok with uncertainty and not knowing the irradiance and having to use it for 20 min instead of 10, this isn’t a bad option because at least it uses good wavelengths. Gothamista reviewed this one in the previous YouTube video I linked to (TLDR: she liked it but she liked the Light Salon better). I was sad to find out they won’t reveal their irradiance. But I guess one bonus is that they provide some white paper results (which should be taken with a grain of salt but they are better than nothing.)

Project E Beauty Skin Rejuvenation Photon Mask

$ 149
  • Wavelengths: 390nm; 415nm; 490nm; 525nm; 590nm; 630nm
  • Irradiance: 29.8 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (4x/week)
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (20 cm x 24 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • There are a number of red flags for me on this one that would make me skip it:
    • First, it doesn’t have NIR– if you really want to see the best results I would make sure the mask has red and NIR. 
    • They use 390nm which researchers have cautioned to avoid (Serrage et al., 2020).
    • You could get this and just use the red 630nm setting (though red + NIR is more effective).
    • The 490nm, 525nm, 590nm wavelengths are all ones I wouldn’t waste my time using. 
    • The company makes some bold and unsupported claims about their various wavelengths which is a turn off for me.
    • It only has a 1 year warranty.
  • Note: This one has the shape and style that is found all over Amazon. It’s interesting that the irradiance of this is SO different front the Dermashine because I was wondering if all of these look alike masks would have the same irradiance (and were just the same mask, rebranded). But turns out that isn’t the case! So that’s a big lesson to not assume two masks would have the same irradiance if they have the same wavelengths, number of lights, and look identical.

Cellreturn LED Platinum

$ 1740
  • Wavelengths**: 460-470nm; 620-680nm; 760-900nm
  • Irradiance: Company declined disclosing
  • Treatment time: 20 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence***: 1.89 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (33 cm x 28 cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Very expensive mask and the company is very guarded about the wavelengths and power. I found two journal articles that provided some information but otherwise the company declined commenting. The odd thing is that the parameters provided in the journal articles were not ideal. They didn’t provide the irradiance but they provided the fluence, and using that to calculate the irradiance gave a shockingly low number (1.5 mW/cm2). Also I couldn’t confirm if the wavelength of the NIR was 760-900 or if it had a more narrow band. This matters because research has found that wavelengths between 700-770 have been reported to not have any significant activity (Gupta et al., 2014; Karu, 2010; Wu et al 2012). Despite the low irradiance, a recent study by Kim et al 2020 found some positive outcomes.
  • A downside for me is storing this huge mask and having to use it 7 days a week for 20 minutes.
  • Another downside is that it only has a 1 year warranty [again, this is surprising given the price I would expect 2 year warranty]
  • **Reported via Kim et al., 2020a (doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000020568). Kim et al., (2020b) also report a more precise wavelength of 660nm and 850nm. The company did not respond to requests for information about the precise wavelengths used.
    ***Reported via Kim et al., 2020b (https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13599). Based on this, the mW/cm2 could be assumed to be 1.5 mW/cm2.

LED Light Shield Mask

(Gets produced by lots of companies)
$ 75-100
  • Wavelengths: 405-420nm; 590-620nm; 620-750nm
  • Irradiance: Company declined disclosing
  • Treatment time: 20 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence: Company declined disclosing
  • Style: Hard (15 cm x 21 cm)
  • Warranty: Varies
  • You can find tons of varieties of this same mask, some brands are Beauty ORA, DMH, Poosh, Dermalactives— Avoid them all.
  • Hard pass for me on this one. I wish I could show you how many people I was passed around to in this company trying to find out the irradiance. In the end they said they declined telling me… the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. Poosh sells it among other places.
  • In addition to not revealing the irradiance, this has wide wavelength bands and it overlaps with wavelengths that are not ideal.
    • First, it is missing a NIR wavelength. 
    • Second, the “red” wavelength goes from 620-750nm–that is extremely wide range (not to mention the research that suggests avoiding wavelengths between 700-780). Not saying this won’t or can’t potentially deliver results, but it is one that I am extremely skeptical of. Also, given the recommended duration (7 days a week for 20 min) I am guessing the irradiance is quite low.
  • This is another mask that is hoping that the appeal of “7 wavelengths” and the cheap price will entice you… but I would totally pass on this. 

Wrinklit LED Mask

$ 99
  • Wavelengths: 405-420nm; 590-620nm; 620-750nm
  • Irradiance: Company declined disclosing
  • Treatment time: 20 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence: Company declined disclosing
  • Style: Hard (15 cm x 21 cm)
  • Warranty: None reported
  • New addition as of 5/10/22
  • (I am guessing is just some variation of the shield mask above)
  • In order for LED masks to actually be effective, the wavelength and irradiance are key. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t use evidence-based wavelengths AND they have a very wide band (ideally you want a specific wavelength with maybe +/- 15 nm variation.
    • When that gap gets large that indicates low quality LED). In the red wavelength, this uses 620nm -750nm (that’s a HUGE span… not great at all. Ideally, you would want to see 633nm).
    • The blue wavelength is better (405nm to 420nm wavelength, 415nm is the ideal), but blue light comes with downsides to consider and eye protection is necessary which this doesn’t provide. 
    • Then it uses “orange” (590-620nm) which doesn’t have evidence to back up its claims,
    • An other major downside is that it doesn’t have Near Infrared. It is best to look for masks with red (at 633nm) AND NIR (and ~830nm) is where you have the best chance to see results.
  • Finally, the company doesn’t provide information about the irradiance (power)–and if the mask isn’t appropriately powered, then the wavelengths aren’t going to reach their destination in the skin.
  • Oh and the shape is silly–wouldn’t you want full coverage on your forehead rather than having a heart shape?

Dr. Naomi Let it Glow LED Mask

$ 419
  • Wavelengths: 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 40 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (3-5x/week)
  • Fluence: 24 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (dimensions unknown)
  • Warranty: 2 year
  • New addition as of 5/10/22
  • I found out about this one from @ms_hannah_e on IG and it has great specs! It uses evidence based wavelengths for red and NIR and has a great irradiance. This only has one strap across the back, so this might be one where you might want to buy an extra velcro strap to help you better customize your fit.

Angela Caglia Skincare Crystal Led Face Mask

$ 495
  • Wavelengths: 465nm; 630nm
  • Irradiance: 30 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 10 min (5x/week)
  • Fluence: 18 J/cm2
  • Style: Flexible (dimensions unknown)
  • Warranty: None found
  • New addition as of 5/10/22
  • This is the most gimmicky LED mask…apparently this one also has rose quartz crystals. 
  • Major downside right off the bat is that it uses a blue wavelength that is NOT the one that has been found to help with acne (415nm) but has been found to induce hyperpigmentation.
  • But since it does include blue wavelengths I was happy to see that it comes with protective goggles (blue wavelengths require eye protection whereas red does not).
  •  Another major downside is that it doesn’t include NIR.
  •  One plus is that it has a good wavelength for red and it seems like you are able to choose either the blue or the red setting. I would personally skip the blue setting entirely and just use the red setting. But at this price, I would buy a mask that has both Red and NIR because let’s be honest, the addition of rose quartz crystals is not going to do anything for your skin.

DERMASHINE Pro 7 color LED Mask

$ 70
  • Wavelengths: 463 nm; 510 nm; 527 nm; 590 nm;400-700 nm; 600 nm; 650 nm
  • Irradiance: 0.5 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 30 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence: 0.9 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (20cm x 24cm)
  • Warranty: None found
  • New addition as of 5/10/22
  • This is the most gimmicky LED mask…apparently this one also has rose quartz crystals. 
  • Major downside right off the bat is that it uses a blue wavelength that is NOT the one that has been found to help with acne (415nm) but has been found to induce hyperpigmentation.
  • But since it does include blue wavelengths I was happy to see that it comes with protective goggles (blue wavelengths require eye protection whereas red does not).
  •  Another major downside is that it doesn’t include NIR.
  •  One plus is that it has a good wavelength for red and it seems like you are able to choose either the blue or the red setting. I would personally skip the blue setting entirely and just use the red setting. But at this price, I would buy a mask that has both Red and NIR because let’s be honest, the addition of rose quartz crystals is not going to do anything for your skin.

Mask & Glo® Pro

$ 359
  • Wavelengths: 415nm; 630nm; 830 nm
  • Irradiance: Company declined to disclose
  • Treatment time: 10 min (3-5x/week)
  • Fluence: Company declined to disclose
  • Style: Flexible (unclear on dimensions)
  • Warranty: None found
  • With this mask you can either do the Red+ NIR Or just Blue. Unfortunately, the blue setting doesn’t also combine Red (red + blue is the most effective for a short term acne treatment)
  • One downside is that you only get 4 uses before needing to charge it again (that is really low and would be annoying in my opinion).
  • One good sign was that it comes with eye protection (as it should since it uses blue wavelengths). 
  • Another big downside is that the company doesn’t disclose the irradiance. So you are taking a gamble with this one.
  • Another gamble is because I couldn’t find anything about a warranty. 

Curicare LED Mask

$ 619
  • Wavelengths: 595nm; 630nm; 850 nm
  • Irradiance: 8-11 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 8 min (7x/week)
  • Fluence*: Depends on mode
  • Style: Hard (19cm x 29cm)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • New addition to list as of 6/11/2021.
  • This mask uses red and NIR and discloses the irradiance, so those are two positives.
  • Mainly the price and the 1 year warranty are some downsides.
  • And for me the large size is a negative because I always wonder where to store it. Also, while it only recommends 8 min sessions, the frequency is 7 days a week (I prefer the masks that can make a recommendation for fewer days a week given the irradiance).
  • *595nm uses 2.5 mW/cm2: 630nm uses 7.8 mW/Cm2: 850nm uses 8.3 mW/cm2. The “daily” mode has 11.2 mW/cm2: the “Calming” mode uses 7.8 mW/cm2; the “Secret” mode uses 8.3 mW/cm2.

LG PRA.L DERMA LED Mask

$ 540
  • Wavelengths: 637nm; 854nm
  • Irradiance: 25 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 9 min (5x/week)
  • Fluence: 13.5 J/cm2
  • Style: Hard (18cm x 23cm)
  • Warranty: 2 year
  • This one’s parameters are pretty good (this is the mask that FaceLITE used as the predicate device in their 510(k) submission.) But in terms of where to buy it, it can be a little hard to find. But right now it is available on Amazon. And I have seen some on Ebay
  • FDA 510(k) premarket notification 

Dermalux Flex MD

$ 2,495
  • Wavelengths: 415 nm; 633nm; 830nm
  • Irradiance: 11 mW/cm2
  • Treatment time: 30 min (5x/week)
  • Fluence: 20 J/cm2
  • Style: Arch
  • Warranty: 2 year
  • This post was intended to just focus on LED Face masks, but Current Body sent me the Dermalux Flex to try so I thought I would include a little summary in this post. When Current Body first asked if I wanted to try this, I passed because I know it would be hard to use it consistently because unlike the LED Face masks that I can wear and multitask (usually that just means I am watching TV), with this device you have to lay down for 30 minutes with your eyes closed. My mind is too busy to let me do that and I would be bored in an instant. But when Current Body heard I had fallen and cut open my brow, they suggested I try it and sent it to me. Long story short, but it didn’t arrive in time for me to use it on my face to speed up the healing of that cut, but when it did arrive, I gave it to my mom to review.
  • My mom can’t use the regular LED face masks because her retinas are SO sensitive to bright light, but she is able to use the Dermalux because she can wear little goggles that make it perfectly dark. So, my mom has been using it for about 3 months and her review is that the size of it makes it hard to store in an easily accessible place so that has resulted in her forgetting to use it. Also, she doesn’t like how she has to use it for 30 min and wishes it was only 10 min like the Current Body Neck and Deck LED mask she uses.
  • When the Dermalux arrived I looked through the manual and found the irradiance information that I had been looking for previously and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as high as I had assumed it would be. But the lower irradiance explains why you have to have such a long 30 min session (the lower the irradiance the longer you need to use it to get the appropriate “dose”).
    • As a reminder, dosage is dependent on the treatment time. So while when Dermalux reports a 20 j/cm2 dosage for the red wavelength, that would come out to a 11 mw/cm2 irradiance (I used the equation dose/fluence = irradiance x .001 x treatment time in seconds). So the irradiance is actually lower than Current Body LED masks, but because the treatment time is 30 min (versus 10) the fluence/dose is higher for Dermalux. But if I were to do 3 sessions of the Current body mask (making it 30 minutes total), I would get a dose of 54 j/cm2.
  • Usually when LED devices (like various panels) are designed to not be directly touching the skin (like it is when you wear an LED device) the irradiance is slightly higher to account for that distance from the the skin to the device.
  • Given the price, I was expecting Dermalux to offer a higher dose with a shorter (or equal) treatment time as my LED masks. The biggest benefit of the Dermalux Flex is the size (but that also ends up making it tricky to discreetly tuck away but still have it be easily accessible). 
  • But the coverage of LED is quite nice–it covers a lot more skin than any of my other LED devices so I can treat a larger section of my body/face at a time.
  • Also, something to note is that I have a number of friends and followers that have said that the flexible LED masks (and definitely the DDG mask) don’t cover their entire face. So if you are someone that needed a larger mask, this is a good option because unfortunately all of the flexible LED masks are essentially the same dimensions (Except for a centimeter or so). Given the large size, one way I have used this has been to lay it on my chest while I watch TV (it covers MUCH more skin than the Neck and Deck masks).
  • A final thing to keep in mind is that it needs to be plugged in to use it. So, for me and my mom, the size it takes up to store it (it comes in a massive carrying bag), the longer treatment duration, and the need to plug it in all make this really inconvenient to use.
  • BUT if those things don’t bother you, and you are someone that can plan to use this consistently and you are someone that wants to cover more skin, I am sure you will have great results because it uses evidence-based wavelengths and a good irradiance.

Mechanism of Action of LLLT

Ok if you want to know even more about the mechanism of action, this section is for you!

The “photobiomodulation zone” comprises cells which have absorbed the incident photons, directly or indirectly transferred the photon energy to the cells’ own energy stores, becoming photoactivated (Calderhead, 2018). The light energy helps to enhance our cellular potential (helping our cells to function more efficiently), promote oxygen utilization within the cell, and generate cellular fuel (or ATP) (Barolet, 2018; de Freitas & Hamblin, 2016; Hamblin, 2016). Photobiomodulation stimulates fibroblast proliferation, collagen synthesis, growth factors, and extracellular matrix production by activating cellular mitochondrial respiratory pathways (Ablon, 2018). Therefore, LED light therapy aids skin rejuvenation through increasing collagen production and decreasing collagen degradation (which can be seen with the tightening of lax skin and the reduction of wrinkles).

  • LED light therapy is thought to improve tissue function
  • helping mitochondria produce more energy (i.e., improved energy metabolism)
  • decreasing inflammation
  • helping build the cell defense systems to increase resiliency.

Red and Near infrared (NIR) have a number of different mechanisms of action, but two main ones involve:

  1. enhancing cellular mitochondrial function and ATP production through interacting with a photoreceptor called cytochrome c oxidase. Mitochondria are the energy-producing units of our cells. Think of them as the batteries that fuel all the processes of our organs. Enhancing the mitochondrial function translates into more cellular energy inside the cell, which allows the cell or organ (e.g. skin) to work optimally. When red and near-infrared light photons reach the photoacceptor cytochrome c oxidase, it helps the mitochondria use oxygen more efficiently to produce ATP.
  2. Building up the cell’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and cell defense systems by creating a low dose stressor that the body then adapts to by becoming even stronger (known as hormesis).

Through these mechanisms, LLLT is thought to help increase the skin’s ability to resist the photoaging processes.

Skin rejuvenation is strongly linked to the wound healing process. For example, to repair damage from UV rays, your skin needs to be able to repair cellular and DNA damage (which is similar to what it does during wound healing). Red light can help this process because it stimulates collagen synthesis and fibroblast formation, anti-inflammatory action, energy production in mitochondria, and DNA repair (Barolet, 2018; de Freitas & Hamblin, 2016; Hamblin, 2016).

This next figure from Kim and Calderhead  (2011)  further illustrates the confirmed mechanisms of action for the three main endpoints of 830 nm LLLT (633 nm has beneficial effects as well), namely wound healing, the anti-inflammatory response through acceleration and quenching of the post-wound inflammatory phase and pain attenuation.

Peer-Reviewed Research Evidence

The main benefits seen in clinical trials of LLLT for skin rejuvenation (in other words, excluding research focused specifically on inflammation) are:

  • reduction of wrinkles and fine lines
  • improvements in radiance
  • improvements in texture
  • improvements in skin tone (Note that only a couple studies have specifically measured pigmentation or melasma, most ask for subjective assessments of “improved skin tone”)
  • increased elasticity (less evidence for this compared to the the above benefits)

Biopsies have shown increased collagen and elastin production that would account for many of these benefits.


I have focused this review on skin rejuvenation, but there is a huge body evidence looking at LLLT on wound healing and reducing inflammation. Here are a few snippets from that body of evidence:

  • Reduction in inflammation due to light therapy is one of the most accepted LLLT effects (Lopes-Martins et al., 2007).
  • LLLT has been also effectively used in “wound healing applications following surgical aesthetic and resurfacing procedures, post-procedural erythema, and in conjunction with photodynamic therapy” (Ablon, 2018)
  • Trelles and Allones (2006) found applying red light (633nm; 80mw/cm2; 96j/cm2) after laser resurfacing cut healing time in half. Later studies by Trelles and others found 633nm (82 mW/cm2; 98J/cm2) and 830nm (46mW/cm2; 55 J/cm2) improved post procedure wound healing.

 

When will you see results?

Across thee various studies, the best results were not seen immediately post treatment, but later on at 4, 8 and 12 weeks or more after the final treatment. The pattern of improvement described by many authors describes significant improvements occurring 9–12 weeks from the start of treatment, with some visible improvement occurring as early as 5– 6 weeks.

Building collagen tasks time. And while things may be happening under the surface of the skin, often visible results do not become apparent until the 9th and 12th weeks.

Research Studies: Things to Keep in Mind

  • Many companies cite evidence from in vitro or animal studies. While those studies can be useful, it is important to note that studies that examine the effect of LLLT therapy tend to find a much larger effect in animal studies than in humans (e.g., Woodruff et al., 2004)
  • Comparisons of findings among studies of LLLT is greatly complicated by use of different wavelengths and dosages. Different wavelengths (e.g., 904 nm, 780–860 nm, and 890 nm) have produced conflicting results.

Some other interesting applications that still have very little research on them were outlined in Barolet (2008).

  • “If LED therapy is administered several times prior to a UV insult, a mechanical trauma such as a CO2 laser treatment or a surgery, one may prevent undesirable consequences such as sunburn, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), or hypertrophic scarring, respectively.”
  • Barolet goes on to talk about those applications here.
    • For example, Barolet (2008) reported that the use of LED 660 nm therapy can prevent or treat PIH, help with sunburn prevention.

Safety

Light irradiation with low power density has been reported as a noninvasive, non-carcinogenic, atraumatic, with no known side effect therapy to many diseases and undesired conditions. Typically, there are no safety concerns for LEDs unless they are blue or if the device uses a very strong power (>100 mW/cm2).

The main risks that have appeared in clinical trials were minor and self-resolving and include (Jagdeo et al., 2018)

  • erythema (redness) (but just in high power densities)
  • hyperpigmentation (in wavelengths under 600nm)
  • ocular symptoms (typically with blue light)
    • If you are using a blue light, it is advised that you use eye protection.

    • “Whilst the perceivable dangers of LLLT are mainly related to retinal damage (both clinician and patient) and skin burn (mainly related to shorter UV wavelengths), the safety of LLLT is well documented in a number of standards such as US Code of Federal Regulations, American National Standards Institute and the International Standards Manual, and other laser safety books and review articles [21, 22]. This includes ‘The Guidelines for Skin Exposure to Light’ in the International Standards Manual (IEC-825) which states that an exposure of less than 200 mW/cm2 is safe, and the marketing and the use of therapeutic LLLT is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Preventative measures such as safety googles should always be utilized to minimize any risks and therapeutic devices may utilize high-powered light sources (>500 mW) may be spread over larger areas to fall within the recommended irradiance exposure limits.” (Hadis et al., 2016)

    • “Caution must be emphasized especially for epileptic and photophobic patients especially if LEDs are pulsed.” (Barolet, 2008).

Risk Mitigation Strategies

  • use protective eyewear 
  • discontinue sessions if any side effects occur
  • limit the number of treatment sessions

Reference List

  1. Ablon, G. (2018). Phototherapy with light emitting diodes: treating a broad range of medical and aesthetic conditions in dermatology. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 11(2), 21.
  2. Almeida‐Lopes, L., Rigau, J., Amaro Zângaro, R., Guidugli‐Neto, J., & Marques Jaeger, M. M. (2001). Comparison of the low level laser therapy effects on cultured human gingival fibroblasts proliferation using different irradiance and same fluence. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine: The Official Journal of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, 29(2), 179-184.
  3. Avci P, et al. (2013) Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Mar;32(1):41-52.
    Barolet, D. (2018). Photobiomodulation in dermatology: harnessing light from visible to near infrared. Medical Research Archives, 6(1).
  4. Barolet, D., Christiaens, F., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Infrared and skin: Friend or foe. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 155, 78-85.
  5. Barolet, D., Roberge, C. J., Auger, F. A., Boucher, A., & Germain, L. (2009). Regulation of skin collagen metabolism in vitro using a pulsed 660 nm LED light source: clinical correlation with a single-blinded study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 129(12), 2751-2759.
  6. Bhat, J., Birch, J., Whitehurst, C., & Lanigan, S. W. (2005). A single-blinded randomised controlled study to determine the efficacy of Omnilux Revive facial treatment in skin rejuvenation. Lasers in medical science, 20(1), 6-10.
  7. Calderhead, G., & Tanaka, Y. (2017). Photobiological basics and clinical indications of phototherapy for skin rejuvenation. Photomedicine: Advances in Clinical Practice. Croatia: InTech, 215-252.
  8. Calderhead, R. G. (2018). Current Status of Light-Emitting Diode Phototherapy in Dermatological Practice. In Lasers in Dermatology and Medicine (pp. 285-337). Springer, Cham.
  9. Calderhead, R. G., & Omi, T. (2014). Light-Emitting Diode Phototherapy. Handbook of Lasers in Dermatology, 307–327. doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-5322-1_20
  10. Calderhead, R. G., & Vasily, D. B. (2016). Low level light therapy with light-emitting diodes for the aging face. Clinics in Plastic Surgery, 43(3), 541-550.
  11. Calderhead, R. G., Kim, W. S., Ohshiro, T., Trelles, M. A., & Vasily, D. (2015). Adjunctive 830 nm light-emitting diode therapy can improve the results following aesthetic procedures. Laser therapy, 24(4), 277-289.
  12. Calderhead RG. Low level light therapy with light emitting diodes. Consulting Room 2020;3(03):13–15
  13. Chen, L., Xu, Z., Jiang, M., Zhang, C., Wang, X., & Xiang, L. (2018). Light-emitting diode 585 nm photomodulation inhibiting melanin synthesis and inducing autophagy in human melanocytes. Journal of Dermatological Science, 89(1), 11-18.
  14. Chung, H., Dai, T., Sharma, S. K., Huang, Y. Y., Carroll, J. D., & Hamblin, M. R. (2012). The nuts and bolts of low-level laser (light) therapy. Annals of biomedical engineering, 40(2), 516-533.
  15. De Cordova, J. A. (2021). Role of Photo-Biomodulation Therapy in Facial Rejuvenation and Facial Plastic Surgery. Facial Plastic Surgery, 37(02), 267-273.
  16. de Freitas, L. F., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Proposed mechanisms of photobiomodulation or low-level light therapy. IEEE Journal of selected topics in quantum electronics, 22(3), 348-364.
  17. Denda, M., & Fuziwara, S. (2008). Visible radiation affects epidermal permeability barrier recovery: selective effects of red and blue light. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 128(5), 1335-1335.
  18. Duteil, L., Cardot‐Leccia, N., Queille‐Roussel, C., Maubert, Y., Harmelin, Y., Boukari, F., … & Passeron, T. (2014). Differences in visible light‐induced pigmentation according to wavelengths: a clinical and histological study in comparison with UVB exposure. Pigment cell & melanoma research, 27(5), 822-826
  19. Enwemeka, C. S., Parker, J. C., Dowdy, D. S., Harkness, E. E., Harkness, L. E., & Woodruff, L. D. (2004). The efficacy of low-power lasers in tissue repair and pain control: a meta-analysis study. Photomedicine and Laser Therapy, 22(4), 323-329.
  20. Fournier N, Fritz K,Mordon S. Use of nonthermal blue (405-to 420-nm) and near-infrared light (850- to 900-nm) dualwavelength system in combination with glycolic acid peels and topical vitamin C for skin photorejuvenation. Dermatol Surg. 2006;32(9):1140–6.
  21. Gavish, L., & Houreld, N. N. (2019). Therapeutic efficacy of home-use photobiomodulation devices: a systematic literature review. Photobiomodulation, photomedicine, and laser surgery, 37(1), 4-16.
  22. Gold, M. H., Andriessen, A., Biron, J., & Andriessen, H. (2009). Clinical efficacy of self-applied blue light therapy for mild-to-moderate facial acne. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2(3), 44
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