I tried the $700 LED mask

In September last year, my face imploded. I’m not talking about a small rash but a full-blown meltdown. I didn’t leave the house for three days.

I was mixing way too many potions and serums – because it’s my job – and my skin barrier just got cooked. A product I was gifted, which smelt like the bottom of a spa pool, sent my epidermis into an inflammation spasm.

My skin became very sore, it felt like I’d been stung by a bee. My eyes were constantly watering, and I wanted to scratch my entire face-off. It was horrendous. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, not even the brats who used to bully me in high school.

I called my beauty therapist the morning of the incident. “I’ve woken up looking like a chipmunk, and you have to help me fix this!” I pleaded. As well as ditching my regular skincare routine in favour of non-active, soothing creams, it was suggested I try LED light treatments.

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I was unversed in the wonderful world of LED light therapy treatments, but I got up to speed quickly as over the course of two weeks I did seven sessions under a clinical LED light machine.

The LED light penetrates the skin, in the same way topical products do, and is said to heal wounds, treat fine lines, wrinkles, inflammation and acne. I was mainly focused on my football-sized eye sockets.

Four or so weeks after the incident when the swelling subsided, I started to gradually incorporate an active product or two into my night-time skincare routine. Perhaps not gradually enough because it happened again!

I was so stressed out, thinking I’d ruined my epidermis forever and ended my career.

As a beauty writer I have to try active products so that I can write about them, pay my rent and buy the cheapest bottle of wine at the bottle store.

I knew I couldn’t keep bugging the clinic I endorsed for free, for daily LED sessions. It would’ve cost them a bomb, and I don’t have the funds to cover professional treatments. So I decided to invest in an at-home LED face mask.

The moment I made up my mind to drop half a month’s rent on a mask, I knew I was going to go big. I wanted the Dr Dennis Gross SpectraLite Faceware Pro, so I bit the bullet and got it.

Yes, I paid $738. I have no regrets.

The mask has three settings, each lasting for three minutes. The first has 100 red LEDs that are said to boost the skin’s collagen production to help with fine lines and wrinkles. The second has 62 LEDs that can help reduce acne by destroying bacteria on the skin. The third is a mix of red and blue LEDs that work simultaneously to help improve the look of your skin.

The mask is very easy to use. You just cleanse your face thoroughly before you strap it on. Make sure you don’t use any other products on your face. You don’t want anything blocking the LED lights from penetrating your skin’s epidermis.

You may notice a slight sensation of heat but nothing too off-putting and your face will feel slightly tighter after each session.

Although the SpectraLite is an excellent at-home device, it can’t compare to the far more powerful clinical LED machines, they are in a league of their own. I plan on using them in conjunction with one another.

At 25, I don’t have many visible fine lines or wrinkles. So I can’t make a fair comment on whether it’s helped in that regard. Likewise, I’ve never had cystic acne, but I do still get the occasional breakout. However, since using the SpectraLite consistently, my breakouts are few and far between, and don’t appear as inflamed as they once were.

The SpectraLite has healed my damaged epidermis. After just three weeks of religious nightly use, I could start to incorporate actives as usual into my routine, this time without the genuine terror that I would wake up with ball-bag eyes.

I’ve been using the SpectraLite for about eight months now. Even though my skin barrier is now completely healed, I have no plans to put the device down anytime soon. Not just because it cost me an arm and a leg, but because it continues to help with my overall skin’s health. I love those three minutes of pure relaxation and gratification as the lights zap me a new face.

Would I recommend this product? Yes.

Is it worth every penny? Yes.

Does the strap annoy the hell out of me? Yes.

But I can cope with it because I hate the thought of having ball-bag eyes for the rest of my life much more.

What Dr K says

Dr Kirshni Appanna is a cosmetic doctor at Jeunesse MedSpa. Here is her advice on LED masks.

LED (light-emitting diode) therapy involves treating the skin with different wavelengths of light to help treat skin concerns, including sun damage, acne, rosacea, wound healing and scarring. It uses non-heat-generating light to stimulate your body’s natural cell processes, to accelerate rejuvenation and repair of the skin.

The light acts as a source of energy to fuel the repair and rejuvenation of damaged cells, stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, boosting circulation and accelerating tissue repair, treating acne and killing bacteria.

Dr Kirshni Appanna is a cosmetic doctor at Jeunesse MedSpa.

Rebekah Parsons-King/Fairfax NZ

Dr Kirshni Appanna is a cosmetic doctor at Jeunesse MedSpa.

LED light therapy is an emerging treatment for skin rejuvenation and a variety of conditions. There are randomised double-blinded control studies that demonstrated some beneficial uses of LED therapy, but there are also others that have shown the ineffectiveness of LED therapies. I believe there is some beneficial use of LED light therapy, but more research is needed.

If the device is powerful enough, and has the correct wavelength of light, then you should see results. Ideally, they should be FDA/TGA approved to know that they are safe with some efficacy. LED light therapy doesn’t give extremely dramatic effects compared to other skin rejuvenation treatments, but it is painless with almost no side effects, and does not require any recovery time.

At-home LED devices are a fraction of the strength of devices that are used in clinics.This means that at-home devices will need to be used more frequently. In the clinic, you’re more likely to see better results. Provided the at-home LED system has the correct wavelength for the target cells, delivers an appropriate power density and an adequate energy density, then it will be effective.

It’s best to see a professional initially to assess whether LED light therapy is ideal for you. If you do use an at-home device, use it for only a few minutes a day, ensuring it covers your entire face and that you close your eyes.