The skincare community is serious about beauty tools — at least it seems that way on TikTok. Over the last few years, LED light therapy face masks for at-home use have become a coveted skincare technology and an unexpected status symbol. The futuristic, illuminated masks typically cost in the region of £300 to £500 and claim to have many skincare benefits, from stimulating collagen production to treating acne and tackling hyperpigmentation.
It's also a treatment that comes celeb-approved, with fans that are said to include Victoria Beckham, Bella Hadid, and Emma Stone. Yet I’ve been tentative to buy into the LED mask craze until now. When it comes to trying new beauty treatments (especially the more invasive kind, like laser treatments or microdermabrasion) I always take a moment to ask, Is this safe to use on dark skin? before committing to a regime or treatment plan.
LED masks and light therapy (a skin treatment that dermatologists and aestheticians have been using for decades to promote healing) are generally considered safe to use on darker skin tones. “[When using an LED mask on dark skin tones] you would have the same concerns as with any skin type,” explains aesthetician Alicia Lartey, who recommends LED masks for some of her clients. “You just have to make sure that the person is not photosensitive [experiencing heightened skin sensitivity or a reaction when your skin is exposed to UV radiation] and that they are not using any active ingredients such as exfoliants or any retinoids. It’s also important to make sure that your skin barrier is intact,” Lartey stresses. The science behind LED light therapy is pretty fascinating: by using different low wavelengths of light, experts have discovered that the different colours — most commonly red, blue and yellow lights — are able to penetrate the skin and promote different results. Red light therapy, for example, is said to reduce redness and promote healing, and yellow light has skin-rejuvenating properties. There is some evidence that blue light therapy can reduce inflammation and reduce acne-causing bacteria. However, there hasn’t been much research on the overall effectiveness of light therapy on darker skin tones. As Refinery29’s senior beauty writer Amanda Mitchell explained in a recent article, Black and brown skincare lovers are turning to 'melanin-safe' treatments (products made specifically for skin of colour) that are guaranteed not to alter the skin’s tone while preventing common issues such as hyperpigmentation. Yet before I counted out light therapy altogether, Black-owned company SwearBy Skin’s LookLit LED Mask, £80, was recommended as an affordable option for sceptics, with the promise that it could help give my skin a new glow in six weeks. The brand states that it’s UV-free, created for all skin types and easy to use.
Like many people with a brown skin tone, hyperpigmentation is one of my major bugbears. I often say that I have three skin tones depending on how much time I’ve spent in the sun or if I’ve had an acne breakout. These days, I am religious when it comes to using SPF and it has had a noticeable effect on dark scars over the years, but there is still room for improvement. I was intrigued to see if the LookLit Mask could lead to more even and brighter skin.
SwearBy Skin’s founder, Shenae Rae, turned to LED therapy for her hyperpigmentation after struggling to find laser facials that were safe on darker skin tones. "Everyone told me to get laser facial treatment because [of my hyperpigmentation] but, at the time, no one would do laser on me because I was too dark. That was years ago, before technologies were formed for darker skin types," she says. After being introduced to non-invasive light therapy by Black dermatologists and aestheticians while living in LA, Shenae decided to develop a device that was effective and affordable that anyone could use. "Black and brown people can sometimes feel ignored by the beauty industry, especially when it comes to more intensive treatments, but things are changing," she adds. "People with darker skin tend to suffer from hyperpigmentation a lot more than others, so this is a great option."
Shenae tells me that it can help reduce hyperpigmentation but stresses that it isn’t a quick fix for those dealing with acne.
My first impressions of SwearBy Skin's LookLit LED Mask
So, first impressions: the LookLit 3-in-1 LED Mask is far lighter and more streamlined than many cumbersome alternatives on the market, which often resemble a Stormtrooper helmet. At £80, it's also comparatively reasonably priced. The mask is as easy to use as the brand claims and comes with three settings: red light to promote collagen production, blue light to help reduce acne and inflammation, and yellow light for hyperpigmentation. All you have to do is cleanse your face, pop on the mask (remember to charge it first), choose your setting and then sit back for 10 minutes. The mask automatically turns itself off when done. The whole process was so simple that I couldn’t help but think it was too easy — how much could this 10-minute treatment really change my skin?
As it turns out, the results will depend on how much time you’re willing to commit. To really see visible results, SwearBy Skin recommends using the mask three to four times a week on one of the colour settings to target a specific outcome. So I committed.
Finding the right time to wear the mask was tricky. I often feel time-strapped in the morning, but I do set aside time for my skincare and beauty routine. Still, waiting an extra 10 minutes before applying my moisturiser felt like a stretch if I wanted to leave the house on time. Thankfully, the mask is lightweight and wireless so you can use it on the go. After cleansing my face and applying a hyaluronic acid serum (I am currently using The Inkey List’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum), I wore the mask for 10 minutes while I made my breakfast (startling my partner in the kitchen without fail). On a work from home day, I wore it as I tackled my emails.
Is SwearBy Skin's LookLit LED Mask worth it?
Over the past month I used the mask around three times a week, primarily on the yellow light setting (although for at least two weeks I only managed two treatments). I found myself being extra cautious when applying my usual skincare products after being advised not to use the mask in conjunction with any retinoids or other “skin actives” like exfoliating acids until after I finished using the mask. “You wouldn't use your LED mask with any retinoids including retinol on your actual skin because that is when you can experience burning,” stresses Lartey. “You would first cleanse your face and hydrate your skin, then use your LED mask. Once you take the mask off you can continue your routine with your exfoliants and your retinoids.”
I haven’t seen a drastic change in my skin’s appearance overall but I did notice that my favourite brightening serums (currently the Venn Advanced Multi-Perfecting Red Oil Serum, followed by Venn’s All-In-One Concentrate Moisturiser and Bondi Sands SPF 50) seemed to perform better on my skin after using the mask. I saved much of my active skincare for the evening and used Byoma’s Brightening Toner along with Byoma’s Moisturising Rich Cream before bed.
My skin is glowing but at this stage it’s hard to pinpoint just how much credit the LED mask can take for that. In truth, I think the mask is best for prevention rather than cure. Between using the mask and applying SPF diligently, I haven’t seen any new pigmentation form on the sides of my face where there are dark marks from past acne bouts. That said, the LookLit Mask is a great introduction for those curious about light therapy skin treatments and who are willing to invest the time to see results. For those with severe skin issues, especially acne, I would strongly advise managing expectations because, as Shenae reiterates, this isn’t a quick fix and they should seek the help and advice of a qualified dermatologist or GP. Personally, I will keep using my LED mask in my perpetual bid for my skin to be as glowy as possible. I’m in this for the long haul!
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