The global skincare industry is massive. In 2018, the market for skincare products reached $134.8 billion in value, with a likely 4.4% compound annual growth rate through 2025. Does the sheer volume of skincare and beauty products available drive this growth? Or is rising global demand for cosmetics a foregone conclusion?

It’s likely a combination of both, but one thing is for certain. This fierce global marketplace and constant consumer demand for newer and more effective cosmetics continue to yield interesting and problematic products. The LED mask is both.

Many cosmetics enthusiasts and celebrity spokespeople swear by LED masks as a viable treatment for several facial skin conditions that range from mildly irritating to life-impacting. But how do they work? And for that matter, do they work at all?

What Do LED Masks Claim to Do?

There is no shortage of creams, conditioning treatments, and invasive surgeries available for customers with disposable income. The use of cosmetics dates back to the ancient Egyptians, but modern treatments provide far wider-ranging solutions for a variety of mild to severe issues that impact our health and confidence.

LED masks enjoyed almost immediate popularity and buzz. This is because they purport to offer a non-surgical and painless alternative for achieving a number of desirable aesthetic outcomes. These include:

  • Stimulating collagen production to reduce wrinkles and fine lines on the face
  • Providing antibacterial properties that help fight off acne
  • Reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation for more youthful skin
  • Improving the tightness of skin by promoting elastin production

An LED mask emits blue and red wavelengths of visible light. On the electromagnetic spectrum, this light ranges from 400 to 700 nanometers. Makers of LED masks claim that 400-nanometer blue light targets bacteria, while the 700-nanometer red light wavelength facilitates blood circulation and collagen formation.

Do LED Masks Work?

do led masks work

Like anything else, bold claims require bold evidence. So what does the available information say? And what about skincare experts?

There is evidence that some well-chosen wavelengths of light may help wounds heal faster, help prevent scar formation, and help make elastin and collagen production more “active” in photodamaged skin. These low-level laser treatments are also popular for body contouring purposes and even for helping deal with chronic pain, including back pain. Higher-wavelength light is even used to address joint pain in some patients.

However, well-observed the effects of light on human skin may be, some experts say LED masks are not well enough understood or regulated to make any sweeping health claims about them. Other experts point out that any effects will almost certainly be minimal compared to the higher-intensity and more carefully calibrated light therapies available through professional clinical treatments.

Are There Any Side Effects or Risks?

If you’re considering “investing” in an LED mask to boost your beauty routine or avoid the higher price tag of professional skin treatment, a degree of caution is encouraged.

LED masks may pose a danger under some circumstances. In July 2019, Neutrogena — out of what they called “an abundance of caution” — recalled their Light Therapy Acne Mask from store shelves. They cited a “theoretical risk of eye injury.” Australia’s Department of Health issued a recall of its own that same July over concerns that those with some eye disorders could experience retinal damage and even permanent vision loss or impairment.

Health experts have delivered warnings of their own on that score. Dr. Rita Linkner of New York City warns that without eye protection and a dermatologist’s attention to detail concerning light calibration, the safety and predictability of at-home LED masks should not be assumed by anybody.

The Future of Skin Care or a Flash in the Pan?

Those who want to keep their skin looking youthful and healthy can begin doing so by spending a safe amount of time in the sun regularly, eating well, exercising, and getting the correct amount of sleep for your age group and lifestyle. In-clinic treatments for signs of aging and more severe skin conditions can also produce favorable results for some patients.

As for at-home LED masks, the signs point to the technology sticking around and probably improving. Even if most of them are either gimmicky throwaways that provide minimal results or even potentially dangerous electrical appliances right now, one can’t say how far technology will go in the future. For the time being, though, consumers should probably exercise a degree of caution with these masks.