LED Light Therapy for Acne: Shining a New Light on Skin Care

You may have seen people wearing futuristic face masks as part of their skincare routine on social media. These LED light therapy masks claim to improve acne, wrinkles, dark marks, and more. But how do they work and what can they actually do? 

What is LED Light Therapy?

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, has a rich history. In the late nineteenth century, Niels Ryberg Finsen, a Nobel Prize-winning physician, pioneered the modern era of phototherapy by treating skin tuberculosis with ultraviolet light. Later, red light therapy was used by NASA in the 1960s to grow plants in space. Since then, light therapy has evolved, using advances in technology to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as psoriasis, vitiligo, eczema, rosacea, and more recently, acne. 

LED light therapy is a skincare treatment that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to deliver specific wavelengths of light to the skin, which energizes cells and can promote healing and rejuvenation. The effects of LED light therapy on the skin are based on the principle of photobiomodulation, which is how light influences cell behavior. 

As you may remember from science class, different wavelengths of light appear as different colors, like red, blue, and also invisible light like near-infrared. These wavelengths reach different layers of your skin where they do different things.

Blue Light Therapy

Blue light in LED light therapy has shorter wavelengths (around 400-470 nanometers), which gives it a shallower penetration into your skin than red light, mostly affecting the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin. It is particularly effective against acne because it targets the sebaceous glands, which produce oil, and it can kill Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes), the bacteria that live on the skin and contribute to acne.

Blue light therapy is generally used for shorter periods of time and should be used with eye shields to protect your eyes.

Red Light Therapy

Red light used in LED light therapy has longer wavelengths (around 630-660 nanometers), and penetrates relatively deep into the skin, up to about 6 mm. It can reach into the dermis layer and stimulate collagen production, which helps skin elasticity and firmness, and aids in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. Red light also has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve blood circulation, both of which are beneficial for acne-prone skin.


I find this to be a fun accessory if you’re looking to up your skincare game. It’s optional, but overall beneficial. There is a mixed consensus on it increasing the risk of hyperpigmentation. Melasma can worsen with heat, so I would be cautious in that scenario. @Sam #redlighttherapy #skincare routine #skincaretips #skincarehacks #dermatologist #derm

♬ original sound – Dr. Mamina Turegano, MD

Near Infrared Light Therapy

Near infrared light has even longer wavelengths than red light (usually used at around 800-900 nanometers). It’s beyond what the human eye can see, which is why we don’t perceive it as a color. This type of light goes deeper into the skin compared to blue or red light. It is effective in reducing inflammation and improving circulation, which can help in the acne healing process.

Red Light vs. Blue Light Therapy for Acne

When it comes to using LED light therapy as acne treatment, both red and blue light therapy have a place:

Blue Light Therapy for Acne

​​Blue light therapy reaches the outer layers of the skin and has an antibacterial effect on C. acnes bacteria.

  • Antibacterial Properties: When exposed to blue light, acne-causing bacteria produce a substance that reacts when it absorbs blue light. This reaction creates harmful molecules that then destroy the acne-causing bacteria. 
  • Reduces Oil Production: Blue light can also help in reducing the activity of sebaceous glands, leading to less oil on the skin and fewer acne breakouts.

Red Light Therapy for Acne

Red light therapy, on the other hand, penetrates deeper into the skin compared to blue light and works by reducing inflammation and promoting healing. 

  • Reduces Inflammation: Effective in reducing the redness and swelling that happens with inflammatory acne, such as cystic acne.
  • Promotes Healing: Aids in healing the skin after a breakout which can help reduce the hyperpigmentation that acne leaves behind.
  • Stimulates Collagen Production: Helps in the production of collagen, which can improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of acne scars.

Red Light Therapy for Acne Scars

LED light therapy can be used on mild acne scars, particularly the use of red and near-infrared light. Red light promotes healing and collagen production, which can improve the texture and appearance of shallow scars. Near-infrared light goes deeper to reduce inflammation and promote recovery. It’s often used in combination with other treatments like chemical peels, microneedling, or laser therapy for better results. Additionally, using blue LED light for active acne can potentially help prevent new scars from forming.

However, for deeper scars, LED therapy alone will probably not be enough. While LED light therapy can improve skin appearance and texture, it’s important to have realistic expectations and understand that it will likely not completely remove pitted scars. Regular and consistent use is key, and for best guidance, consulting a dermatologist is the way to go, especially for severe scarring. 

What to Look for in a LED Face Mask?

LED face masks can be expensive, so if you are looking to buy one, there are several important factors to consider to ensure that you get a safe and effective product. Remember, what works for one person might not work for another, so consider your specific skin concerns and any sensitivities when choosing a light therapy mask. Consulting with a dermatologist can also be helpful in making an informed decision. Here’s a list of key things to look at:

Irradiance (Light Intensity)

The mask should provide sufficient irradiance to be effective. Look for information on the light intensity, usually measured in milliwatts per square centimeter (mW/cm²).


Check that the mask offers the specific type of light (such as red or blue light) that suits your skin needs. Red light is typically used for anti-aging, collagen production, and inflammation, while blue light targets acne-causing bacteria. Check the wavelength range. Red light is most effective at 630-660 nm, and blue light at around 400-470 nm. Near-infrared wavelengths closer to 800 nm are commonly used as they offer a balance between effective skin penetration without the risk of tissue damage that might happen with higher wavelengths.

FDA Approval

Check if the mask is FDA-cleared as the market has a wide range of light therapy masks, and not all may meet the same standards of quality and safety. Using a mask that is FDA-cleared can give you some peace of mind regarding its safety.

Treatment Time

Consider the recommended duration of each treatment session. Some masks may require longer or more frequent use for optimal results. 

Cost and Warranty

Consider the price and whether it fits your budget. If you are ready to splurge on a more expensive mask, check if there’s a warranty or money-back guarantee, which can provide some assurance of the product’s quality.


We know that LED technology can improve so many things on the skin, if used consistently. The challenge is that these devices are so variable in the number of bulbs, wavelengths, wearability and how much energy is delivered. Would you use this in your skin care routine? #drpremtripathi #ledmask

♬ Do You Want to Find Out – Sonoda

Best LED Light Masks for Acne

In the realm of light therapy for acne, one of the most accessible treatments are light therapy masks. These wearable devices are designed to sit close to the skin and deliver specific wavelengths of light directly to the skin, targeting acne and its causes. Unlike traditional light therapy equipment found in dermatologists’ offices, these masks are generally less powerful but offer the convenience of at-home treatment, making light therapy available to a broader audience.

Light therapy masks tend to be more effective on mild to moderate acne. Those with severe or cystic acne might not see significant improvements and may require more intensive treatments like Accutane first. Here are some of our favorite LED light therapy masks:

Omnilux Contour Face Mask: 633nm (red) and 830nm (near-infrared)

HigherDOSE Red Light Therapy Face Mask: 630 nm (red) and 830 nm (near-infrared)

Omnilux Clear Face Mask: 415nm (blue) and 633nm (red)

Omnilux Men Face Mask: 633nm (red), 830nm (near-infrared), and 1072nm (near-infrared)

CurrentBody LED Light Therapy Face Mask: 633nm (red) and 830nm (near-infrared)

Qure Light Therapy Mask: 415nm (blue), 605nm (amber), 630nm (red), 660nm (deep red), 880nm (near-infrared)

Solawave 4-in-1 Radiant Renewal Wand: 630nm (red)

LED Light Therapy for Dark Skin Tones

LED therapy, particularly red and near-infrared light, is known to have a low risk of causing hyperpigmentation, a concern often associated with laser treatments or chemical peels in darker skin tones. As with any skincare treatment, you should consult with a dermatologist before starting LED light therapy to make sure it is appropriate for your specific skin type.

Benefits of Light Therapy Masks for Acne

There are many advantages to using light therapy masks for acne-prone skin:

  • Non-Invasive and Painless: Unlike some acne treatments, light therapy masks are not part of the “no pain, no gain mentality” and they are appropriate if you have sensitive skin.
  • No Harmful Side Effects: These masks do not use UV light, so they don’t have the harmful side effects associated with UV exposure, such as skin aging and increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Ease of Use: Light therapy masks are designed for home use, making them convenient and time-efficient. You can incorporate them into your regular skincare routine without the need for frequent dermatologist visits.
  • Support Other Treatments: Red light therapy can help soothe irritation brought on by other acne treatments like topical retinoids.

Light Therapy for Pimples

Blue LED light therapy is an effective and non-invasive way to spot treat active pimples, primarily by targeting and destroying C. acnes. The blue light triggers a reaction in the bacteria’s natural substances, producing free radicals that kill the bacteria. Additionally, LED light therapy spot treatment devices can offer anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing the redness and swelling that goes along with pimples and may help regulate oil production in the skin. 

Omnilux Blemish Eraser: 415nm (blue) and 633nm (red)

DRx SpotLite Acne Treatment Device: 415 nm (blue) and 630 nm (red)

Solawave Bye Acne Spot Treatment: 415 nm (blue) and 630 nm (red)

LED light therapy masks can be an easy and fun way to support acne-prone skin. By utilizing specific wavelengths of light, these masks target acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation, promote healing, and as a bonus, may even reduce wrinkles. However if you have more severe acne or acne scarring, you would do better to speak to a dermatologist first and use a mask as a secondary at-home treatment. 

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