Do you need skincare devices in your routine? Part 1 of 3 - intro & LED masks (faceLite)

Posted by Natasha Dauncey on

At home skincare devices have really enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. Many of these at home devices have in-clinic / professional counterparts and during the pandemic when people were unable to attend aesthetic clinics for treatments, at-home devices started to become the go-to option. That said, it's worth remembering that in-clinic treatments are more powerful than the at home options, which means you should see better results with less treatment time. At home options are less powerful and designed for more frequent use (but as with everything, moderation is still key so it's best to follow manufacturers' guidance on usage). With so many options available and the promises of more “youthful looking skin” which come with them, it can be overwhelming to know which ones are worth your time and money. In this mini-series (of 3 parts), we'll explore three popular modalities: LED masks, microcurrent devices, and RF devices. This post ended up being a lot lengthier than planned so I've split it into 3 parts, covering one device in each. There are of course other modalities but I’ve focused on these ones as I have personal experience of using them, so I can offer my own insights too. That said, please bear in mind everyone’s skin is different so my experience may not be the same as yours or others! I tested all of these devices separately for at least a month each to give them a fair review (I’m still using a couple of them now). Just a note that I purchased all the devices mentioned below myself and I’m not affiliated with any of these brands – these are just my honest opinions 😊.

For context: I'm 48 years old with a consistent skincare routine in place. I don't use any injectables (botox / fillers) but I'm interested in "ageing well" and protecting my skin the best way I can. My skin type is fairly balanced but I'm getting progressively dehydrated with age and I'm prone to closed comedones (which are under control with regular retinoid use).

This post will cover LED masks (specifically red light and near infrared light:

LED Masks: red light / near infrared light - skin "rejuvenation" and calming

Claims: LED masks come in a variety of wavelengths but my faceLite operates with two clinically proven ones: red (633nm) and near-infrared (830nm) for skin rejuvenation, so I’m going to focus on these. According to faceLite’s website, these wavelengths “have been shown in clinical studies to stimulate collagen and elastin production (both of which naturally reduce with ageing), whilst also improving blood flow and tissue oxygenation which leaves skin looking rejuvenated, plumper and over time helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.” Red light works by increasing ATP production: the energy that fuels our cells. Better cell function leads to all the benefits mentioned above – though bear in mind that this happens on a cumulative basis, so the masks need to be worn consistently for some time to see results.

N.B. There are also masks with multiple colours of light (yellow, green etc), but I would recommend against these currently, purely because of the lack of data to support them. In contrast, red and near infrared light have data to support them. Blue light has also been shown to be beneficial for treating acne, though its benefits are best limited more to short-term / occasional use (unlike red light and near IR light which can be used long term). It’s also worth mentioning that blue light can potentially induce hyperpigmentation in skin of colour, so I personally avoid blue light for this reason.  

My Experience: I've been using an LED mask regularly for 4 years and I bought the faceLite mask in particular as it was recommended to me by facialist Andy Millward (I actually call him the “skin barrier King” because he has taught me so much about skin barrier health!). This is a flexible silicone mask which sits close to your skin (as opposed to the rigid masks which may not fit as well). I have a slightly older version which only has one strap to secure it and that’s the only downside of this – it could have benefited from an extra strap over the top to keep it scure. But it’s not a dealbreaker for me! There are obviously a raft of LED masks on the market at different price points and it can be hard to know which is best. There are some more “technical” reviews of these masks based on the number/strength of bulbs and power output but it’s more complicated than that and to be honest, way outside of my expertise which is why I went with Andy’s recommendation! And the reason he stocks this one for home use is that it’s made by the manufacturers of Dermalux – the in-clinic version of LED treatment. I personally have more trust in brands that make devices used in aesthetic clinics, as they’ll have the best technology and knowledge. I mention this because after getting good results with my faceLite, I subsequently purchased the CurrentBody neck & dec LED mask (it was cheaper than the faceLite version but I really should have known better!). I’m sad to say I haven’t seen as much of a benefit with the Current Body mask, so I’m not as confident in its quality and wouldn’t recommend it (despite all the influencer recommendations for it!).

Anyway, back to how I used these masks: I initially used the masks around 5 times a week for the first few weeks, then after that I dropped down to 3 times a week for 10 mins at a time (I’m currently using it 2-3 times a week as I alternate devices!) - think of this like a "loading phase" followed by a "maintenance phase". Initially my eyes were a little sensitive to the light but I quickly adjusted and I now either lie down and relax with it on, or I wander around the house getting on with life (much to my family's amusement)! For me, the LED mask has been brilliant when it comes to supporting my skin health. I think I started to notice within the first month or two that my skin felt softer, more hydrated and smoother and just generally looked and felt “healthier/fresher”. It’s also great for wound healing and calming inflammation, so I also use it post microneedling (which I get done in-clinic, I haven’t attempted it on myself!), or if my skin ever feels sensitised or drier than usual. In terms of improvement in fine lines, this is harder to quantify because I was already using tretinoin / retinal which has also made a significant difference to my skin. What I will say, is that as my skin ages it’s become progressively more dehydrated, and regular use of the LED mask has really helped to address this, so I don’t see myself stopping use of the mask anytime soon! Another top tip I was given by Andy is to use an antioxidant serum under the LED mask, as this can help to counteract free radicals generated by the mask, and it can also help to boost your results. I have been using barrier support serum + barrier defence AOX serum under my mask and these work perfectly with it! If I had to pick just one of these, I'd go for the AOX serum - simply because it's a dedicated antioxidant serum.

I must admit, I didn’t have big expectations the faceLite when I bought it – and at the time I bought it my skin was throwing a bit of a wobbly after I’d tried to increase the strength of tretinoin. But I have to say, it’s really helped make my skin feel more resilient and look healthier, and I love how calming it is. Spoiler alert: if I could only choose one modality from LED, microcurrent and RF, I would choose LED (I'll explain more about why in the rest of the series!

Verdict: LED masks are a worthwhile investment if you're patient and consistent, and if you’re careful with choosing a reputable brand. They are not a quick fix and are a bit of a commitment (totally doable though!), but with regular use (up to 10mins, 2-3 times a week after the initial “loading” phase), they can complement your skincare routine really well, especially if you're focussed on maintaining skin health.

Here's part 2: covering microcurrent!

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