Light therapy face masks reduce wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, rosacea and psoriasis. How do you decide which mask is right for your skin?
The best face mask for wrinkles shines red and infrared. The best mask for acne shines blue and red. The best face mask manufacturers put three (maximum four) colors in their masks, not seven as we so often see. Flexible face masks are the most comfortable, but you can make rigid masks comfortable with a bit of cotton.
I’ll also show you a simple way to avoid unwanted electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that might be coming off your face mask. Skip to #13 if you want to understand the wavelength expressed as 660 nm or 830 nm. Then start back at list item #1.
1. Should You Even Get an LED Face Mask?
Over 5,000 research studies support using red, infrared and blue light therapy treating wrinkles and acne, as well as wounds, broken bones, and brain functions. Light therapy is a powerful way to reduce lines and acne. Compared to acid and drug treatment, low level light therapy (LLLT) is effective and painless.
LED Face Mask Benefits (these facts are true of all light therapy, not just mask therapy)
- Light heals without heat
- Light is non-invasive
- Light is painless
- Light is non-pharmaceutical
- Light is the price of the device without doctor’s office visits
LED Face Mask Downsides
- medical and clinical office treatments might be more effective
- if you do the dose incorrectly, it might not help
- if the vendor sells an inferior device, it will not help
View the Science Using the Light Therapy Database
I created the Light Therapy Database to document the red light therapy, blue light therapy, etc. scientific studies on humans. You can read scientific summaries and click directly to the original published studies. Go to the EMF Channel Light Therapy Database here.
2. How to Choose the Right LED Face Mask Colors
Infrared and red are the most studied light therapy colors. Blue is the next most studied color. Acne and wrinkles respond to blue, red, infrared alone and in combinations.
The list below shows which colors were tested on wrinkles and acne. For example, both red and red with blue were studied on acne. These are the colors you want in your LED face mask.
The links for Acne, Wrinkles, etc. go to my EMF Channel Light Therapy Database for that condition. The links open in new windows so you don’t lose your place here.
Most Studied and Successful Light Therapy Colors for the Skin
- Best Acne Light Therapy Colors:
- Blue and Red Combined
- Blue and Infrared Combined
- Possibly Green
- Best Aging Treatment Light Therapy Colors:
- Red and Infrared Combined
- Best Rosacea Light Therapy Colors:
- Infrared (not well studied)
- Best Psoriasis Light Therapy Colors (link includes UV available only at the doctor’s office):
- Best Hyperpigmentation Light Therapy Colors:
- Best Acne Light Therapy Colors:
Get the Right Color for Wrinkles, Acne, Psoriasis, Hyperpigmentation and Rosacea
To view the science behind these colors, look at the Light Dose Database I created on EMF Channel. Each scientific study summary displays the wavelengths (colors) the researchers used when testing light therapy.
The information is as complete as I can make it. Sometimes studies don’t include every parameter. The database is a work in progress.
You Do Not Need the EXACT Colors (Wavelengths)
LED lights placed in consumer (as opposed to medical) face masks are not that precise. This is fine.
You do not need EXACTLY 633 nm or EXACTLY 850 nm to get good results. Your face will respond to an entire range of wavelengths (colors) nearby the ideal color.
It’s OK to use 808 nm if the study used 810 nm. The only time this might not be true is when treating the brain with LED therapy. The face responds just fine to a range of colors.
How to Handle Hyperpigmentation
Infrared can cause and well as treat hyperpigmentation. If you are treating hyperpigmentation, or you are concerned that the face mask is causing hyperpigmentation, STOP infrared and ADD blue light to your routine.
Psoriasis Responds to UV Light, but UV Light is Dangerous
Many studies show that ultraviolet (UV) light successfully treats psoriasis. You can get UV therapy at the doctor’s office, but not in an an LED Face Mask. UV is dangerous to the skin and eyes. Just like limiting your sun exposure protects you from UV rays, you need to protect yourself from UV therapy light as well.
You can also treat psoriasis with blue light, and blue combined with red or infrared. You cannot get a UV face mask, but you can get a blue, red and infrared face mask. Keep your eyes completely covered with opaque goggles when using blue light.
You Should Know that Rosacea Data is Sparse
The only rosacea light therapy science I can find is really just a doctor reporting on a patient. It’s not a scientific study.
The Best LED Face Mask Colors for Wrinkles, Acne, Hyperpigmentation, Psoriasis and Rosacea
I summarized the light colors in the table below. These are shown in scientific studies to treat the skin conditions listed. The links go to my Light Dose Database on EMF Channel. The database entries there link directly to the scientific journal publications of each light therapy study.
Acne Lesions, Sebum Output, Inflammatory Markers, Sebaceous Gland Size
Wrinkles, Rejuvenation, Collage, Elastin, Fine Lines, Crow’s Feet
Just an in-office report, not a study. Eliminate rosacea small acneiform papules and decrease redness
Infrared 830 nm
Redness and scale reduction and elimination
3. How to Choose a Comfortable LED Face Mask
- rigid face masks can be annoying
- heavy face masks can cause discomfort
- head straps can make an uncomfortable mask even more uncomfortable
- eyeglass type ear holders help relieve discomfort
- placing cotton under the mask edges can dramatically relieve discomfort
- soft, comfortable silicone masks are coming onto the market
Undo the LED Face Mask Discomfort
Light therapy face masks can be rigid and heavy. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable wearing the mask, there’s an easy work-around. Put some cotton around the very edges of the mask to lift it off your face. The cotton is soft so it protects your skin from the plastic edges. It’s also a cushion, so it protects you from the mask weight.
Silicone masks are coming out now. This is a fantastic development for anyone who feels that his or her mask is too rigid or heavy. Silicone is light, soft and flexible. It’s an ideal mask material.
4. What You Need to Know About Face Mask FDA Clearance
- FDA Clearance is permission the FDA gives a company to make medical claims in its market
- FDA Clearance is not based on third party scientific trials testing the device
FDA Clearance Demonstrates Marketing Savvy
LED face masks are “wellness devices.” They are not medical devices. The FDA does not require manufacturers to test wellness devices. FDA Clearance is a permission to market a wellness device as having a certain medical benefit.
To get this clearance, the company does in-house research on its product. It sends documentation of the research to the FDA. When the FDA is satisfied that the device is what the marketing says it is, the FDA gives the company “clearance” to market the device.
While it’s not nothing, FDA Clearance is nothing close to the scientific testing associated with pharmaceuticals.
5. How to Get the Fastest Therapy from Your Face Mask
- The closer a light is to your skin, the faster your treatment will be
- The more powerful the mask, the shorter the treatment time per session
The Face Mask Bulbs Should Be Close to Your Face
Light treatment is most effective when you hold the light right to the skin. Two problems happen when the lights are at a distance:
- with every bit of distance, the energy falls off, and you therefore get less light
- When the light is away from your skin, some of the light reflects and you don’t get the benefit of the light that’s lost to reflection
Use the Face Mask as Directed!
To get a therapeutic response, you want to absorb the right amount of light. An odd fact about light therapy is that too little and too much light are both ineffective.
For the sake of comfort, you can lift the light just a bit from your face. Put some cotton on the edges to relieve the weight. Just go a tiny bit. If you create a lot of distance, energy will drop off and more light will reflect rather than absorb.
6. How to Find the Mask’s Power (Regardless of What the Marketing Says)
- Check the “time per treatment” to guess the device’s power
- The longer the treatment time, the weaker the device
- A powerful treatment time is 10 to 30 minutes.
- A weak treatment time is 30 to 60 minutes
Face Mask Power is Not Always as Powerful as Stated
Face mask companies overstate how powerful their masks are, probably out of a need to compete. The irony is that more power is not better! Too little and too much power are equally useless.
The power is the “mW” number at some distance. It’s really hard to believe so many mask descriptions on this value. There’s a much better way to find out the power, without relying on the vendor’s trustworthiness.
A “weak” light can be a therapeutic light. But you will have to add time to your treatment to get enough light to make a difference. If you’re willing to put in 30-60 minutes per treatment, then a weak mask is fine.
It’s easy to see through the games when you know the secret of getting a good light therapy dose.
The Secret to Whether a Mask is Powerful or Weak
Weak masks have long treatment times. Powerful masks have short treatment times.
No matter what the box says about how many mW/cm^2 at 0 inches, the time per treatment is your go-to spec.
The mask won’t work if you get too little light or too much light. The vendor therefore has to give you the right time per treatment for the mask’s real power. If they say it’s more powerful than Superman on Spinach, but have a 55 minute treatment time, then their marketing is very suspect.
To get a therapeutic result, you need the right amount of light. If you get too much light or too little light, the mask won’t work. Use the mask for the treatment time indicated in the instructions.
Weak lights have long treatment times. Powerful lights have short treatment times.
7. How to Choose Your LED Face Mask Power Source (Battery or Plug)
- if you will sit or lie down during treatment, the power source should not matter much
- if you do not want to be tethered to the wall outlet during treatment, get a battery-powered LED face mask
- this battery-powered mask should have a reasonably sized eye portal so you can see where you’re going
What to Look for in an LED Mask if You’re Easily Bored
If you think being chained to the wall during your treatments will drive you insane (my hand is raised here), then you want a portable device. If you want to see where you’re going while wearing your portable device, then the mask should have a good opening at eye level.
8. How to Treat Hard-to-Reach Areas with Your LED Face Mask
- get a mask large enough to reach your jaw
- get a mask with a neck treatment option
- use the mask on areas besides your face
- flexible masks might work better for non-face treatments
How to Use the Mask as a General Therapy Device
You should be cautious and speak to your doctor about light therapy for the eyes and thyroid. You should avoid light therapy if you have an underlying eye problem or are taking photosensitive medications. Outside of these concerns, light therapy is enormously beneficial to all parts of the body.
Light therapy reduces scars, helps bones heal, and reduces pain. You would use the same colors found in a face mask for these other conditions.
For Off Face Use, Increase the Treatment Time
You can use your mask as a general therapy device, with a few considerations.
LED face masks are not very powerful. You might need to hold the mask on the target area for quite a while to get a proper dose of light. You might need to add time to your treatment to account for the weak energy output.
Rigid face masks don’t sit as close to the skin as flexible masks do. The closer to the skin the light is, the more photons you absorb. You might need to add time to your treatment to account for this distance.
9. How to Protect Your Eyes During Face Mask Treatment
- Some people with healthy eyes have uncomfortable reactions to light therapy
- People with pre-existing eye conditions, or who are taking “photo sensitive medications,’ should not use LED therapy without their doctor’s permission
What is the LED Therapy Eye Debate?
Neutrogena recalled its blue light acne mask in 2019. It was a voluntary recall based on reports from people with pre-existing eye conditions having discomfort using the product.
Studies show that light therapy can heal low vision and symptoms of macular degeneration. That does not mean, however, that light therapy is safe for all users.
If you have a pre-existing eye condition, or you are taking photosensitive medication, do not use LED therapy before clearing it with your eye doctor.
If you are otherwise worried about your eye health while using the mask, put a blackout mask you’re your eyes.
There is also evidence that infrared light can contribute to cataracts over a long period. Err on the side of safety. Wear blackout goggles if you share these concerns.
10. How to Tell if the Face Mask Vendor Has a Clue
- face masks emitting 390 nm “purple” are DANGEROUS
- seven color face masks are usually a waste of money
- the scientifically tested colors are blue, green, red and infrared
- colors besides those tested are marketing hype
- colors advertised without their wavelengths are probably an optical illusion and not therapeutic
The Face Mask’s Colors Should be in the Known Therapeutic Range
There are two ways to offer you seven color face masks.
- The mask has seven types of LED diodes, one for each color, or
- The mask creates the illusion of separate colors by mixing primary colors
Why would the vendor go to the expense of inserting LEDs for unproven colors? There’s little to no science behind certain wavelengths included in the 7 color masks. That’s a waste of everyone’s money. We don’t know what the extra colors can do, so why use them?
I suspect that some 7-color masks are not offering distinct colors at all. For example, I’m looking at a 7-color mask that allegedly offers “390 nm purple” to “improve blood circulation” and to “remove wrinkles.”
Is there really a purple LED outputting 390 nm light in this mask? NEWSFLASH: 390 nm is ultraviolet, and it’s dangerous for your skin and your eyes.
Why would a manufacturer put a dangerous color in their mask?
I suspect that they’re actually not putting a dangerous UV light in the mask. Instead, they have the mask run red and blue at the same time. This looks like purple to the human brain, but it is not a 390 nm color. It’s more like 660 nm and 420 nm, which just looks like purple but is not the 390 nm wavelength.
There’s no scenario in which this 7-color mask makes sense. If the mask is emitting 390 nm, it’s outputting dangerous ultraviolet rays at your face and eyes. If it’s mixing red and blue to make purple, then it’s outputting two wavelengths that have healthy responses, but they’re not “purple.” They’re red and blue running at the same time.
Face mask manufacturers want to impress you, so they advertise more color lights than their competitors do. The legitimate, scientifically tested colors are below:
- red: substantial evidence
- infrared: substantial evidence
- blue: impressive but less evidence (just fewer studies)
- green: some evidence (very few studies)
390 nm light reddens skin. When combined with oral medication, 390 nm exposure can assist in clearing psoriasis symptoms. 390 nm does not “improve blood circulation” or “remove wrinkles.” It does cause skin cancer and eye damage.
Bottom line, there’s not enough science to back using non-standard light therapy colors.
The Face Mask Wavelengths Should be Stated Next to Each Color
Colors outside the four listed above might be therapeutic. Maybe I didn’t find the science and the face mask manufacturer did. Should you trust the colors?
The marketing should state each mask color along with that color’s wavelength. If the mask offers red, you know which red by the number next to it. For example, Red 630 nm (red 630 nanometers) means that this red is the one whose wavelengths are 630 billionths of a meter apart.
If the face mask company goes to the trouble of adding colors outside those that are heavily tested, it has to spend money on LED chips that emit those colors. This increases their costs for lights that have little science to back using them.
Take the color purple as an example. Purple might have therapeutic benefits, being that it’s in between therapeutic ultraviolet you can get at the doctor’s office, and blue that you can get in a face mask.
If the mask’s marketing gives you the purple’s wavelength, then the light is coming from the LED semi-conductor. Based on its place in the color spectrum, purple is probably a healing color. There’s just not that much science i’ve found on it, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s worth using.
If the mask’s marketing fails to give you purple’s wavelength, then the mask is probably creating the illusion of purple without giving you a therapeutic benefit. The mask shines blue and red at the same time. Blue and red looks purple to our brains, but it is not the correct wavelength of purple light.
The best bet is to avoid masks that offer colors besides, red, blue, green and infrared. If the mask does have other colors, then it should display the wavelengths of those colors as well.
11. How to Choose a Good Face Mask Company
- Some medical light companies are now in the consumer face mask market
- These companies have a history of producing tested medical products
- One hopes this reflects well in the quality of their consumer offerings
- Their products might cost more than competitors’ because they invested in research
- There are definitely excellent companies that do not have a medical history
- If the product is very expensive, and it is NOT from a historically medical company, then the company is using price to fool you into thinking that there’s something special there. Don’t fall for it.
Use This Simple Trick to Test if a Company is Legit or Pretentious
Light therapy companies that started in the medical field have the science, research and history to earn our respect. The years of science and the talent that goes into their products justifies higher prices.
Then there are light therapy companies that don’t have a scientific and medical history, but they sell their products for very high prices. You should know that ultra high prices are a marketing trick to persuade you that there must be something special about this specific product.
If the face mask company has a medical history and charges more for their products, then you are buying that education and science when you buy their products.
If the face mask company has nothing but marketing and high prices, with absolutely nothing in their personnel or manufacturing history to justify higher prices, then that company is pretending to be special, but it is not. It’s just pretentious. In my experience, it is the overpriced light therapy companies that have the worst customer service, too.
12. A Simple Way to Avoid Harmful EMFs from Your LED Mask
To avoid harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted from the therapeutic mask:
- get a battery-powered mask, or
- get a mask with a power control you can keep a foot or more away from your body
A How to Get an LED Device that Doesn’t Hurt You with EMFs
The therapeutic light coming from your mask is an electromagnetic field. We don’t need to avoid red light, blue light, and the other healthy lights. But we should avoid the unnatural EMFs that the device emits. These are the ones the fan and power supply produce.
There is controversy over whether this protection is even required. Certain scientists behave in a wholly unscientific way when they dismiss the issue without testing. Talk to the thousands of people online who say that electronic devices are driving them crazy with brain fog and pain.
The scientists who dismiss Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) base their argument on how low the power is in therapeutic masks, or cell phones, for example. They are not taking into account this fact:
The resonant frequency in electronic devices produces heat in our tissues. That heat is dangerous, especially over repeated exposures.
You just need a little distance to render these EMFs harmless. But the face mask in on your head, so how do you create distance?
Avoid the issue altogether by getting a battery powered light. If you get a wall-outlet powered light, just ensure that the transformer (the box along the wire to your head) is at least 6 inches from your body.
13. How to Understand the Face Mask Colors
- nm stands for nanometers
- nanometers are billionths of a meter (too small for the human eye to see)
- colors of light travel in waves
- the distance from peak to peak of one of these waves is a wavelength
- the most effective shade of red light is 630 nm
- there is a distance of 630 billionths of a meter from the peak of one wave to the peak of the next