Makeup artists tell us they never know what they are going to get on the day when they are presented with their client's skin. Very often they have to work with a face or neck that's flaring up or super-sensitised and make it look glowing in double-quick time. Having a few tricks in their kit to take down redness, bring calm and radiance to a complexion is a must. One such essential we are increasingly seeing backstage – including at this year's Academy Awards – is the LED mask.
Last year it was all about the LED face for the mask, with Cary Mulligan's MUA Georgie Eisdell using the Currentbody Skin LED Light Therapy Mask , £279 on the actress. "Before every red carpet, we mask!!" Georgie wrote on Instagram. "@currentbody LED mask smoothes, calms and firms. I cannot live without it. I made sure we got a little 15-minute relaxation and skin love this morning with Carey before we started glam."
This time around it's all about the neck and decolletage, with both Olivia Colman and Kourtney Kardashian, treading the red carpet (Kourtney's first Oscars appearance!) after a session on the Currentbody Skin LED Neck and Dec Perfector , £279. "I love using [it] on Kourtney," her makeup artist Rokael revealed of the collar-and-bib device. "Her neckline and décolleté looked so healthy and glowing, and really popped with her strapless gown."
MUA Sarah Uslan used the same device on Olivia for "extra special love for my beautiful nominee," she said on Instagram.
Images: Instagram (left) @sarahuslan (right) @marcusrfrancis
We've seen a raft of new LED masks launching over the past couple of years to meet demand not just for skin rejuvenation but for mood-boosting. The low-level light therapy can also have a beneficial effect on immune health. The Light Salon, which was among the first to bring out one of the much-copied flexible silicone masks, as an at-home version of the powerful clinic treatments at London's Harvey Nichols, reported a 900 per cent increase in sales of its Boost LED Face Mask, £395 at the start of the 2020 lockdown.
The Light Salon mask has been seen on A-listers such as Victoria Beckham, who snapped herself in PJs (silk, monogrammed of course) wearing the Light Salon Boost mask because she was, she says, "launching #VictoriaBeckhamBeauty and the #VBSS20 show all in one weekend..."
And Just Like That actress Kristin Davis, is a fan of the Currentbody Skin LED Face Mask , £279, which she used (and 'Grammed) ahead of the premiere of the Sex and The City reboot ahead of the premiere of the SATC reboot. Her post wasn't an ad, she said, simply the influence of her makeup artist.
These two masks focus on red LED light only while others such as the new all-singing-all-dancing moulded silicone mask from Dr Mayam Zamani, MZ Skin LightMax Supercharged LED Mask 2.0 , £545 have a variety of light types to tackle different concerns. Our editorial director Victoria (below) found it very easy to use. It has red (633nm), infrared (830nm) and blue (415 nm) light accessible via in two different modes for ageing and acne. If it's in your price bracket, this is our top pick. It's lightweight, cordless and easy to walk around in. However, if you're a frequent traveller, the flat silicone masks above are much easier to stow.
LED mask skin benefits for face and neck
"LED light therapy is a painless treatment that triggers your skin’s natural healing abilities and can tackle many complexion issues such as fine lines, breakouts and hyperpigmentation," says Shenae Rae, founder of Swear By Skin, makers of the Look Lit LED Mask , £75.
The skin on the neck and decolletage can be particularly hard to look after. Not only is it thin and delicate and at the mercy of gravity, pollution and the drying effects of alcohol in perfume, it's also more often exposed to the sun. It's an area on which we can easily forget to apply sufficient suncream. LED can help to take down redness and restore collagen.
What do skin experts use? When we asked top doctors and facialists for their must-have at-home tools , facialist Joanne Evans sang the praises of LED, in particular, the Rio FaceLite Beauty Boosting LED Face Mask , £349. While it's not a dedicated neck device it can easily double up. Joanne lies it flat on her neck, chest and back.
LED mask for mood-boosting and better sleep
LED can be part of a toolbox for low mood (especially in dark winter days when many of us experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). "LED mimics natural light and boosts serotonin levels so we call it the 'happy light'," says Dr Johanna Ward , who uses the Dr Dennis Gross DRX Spectralite Faceware Pro Mask , £469, at home several times a week.
"Even short LED sessions boost energy and mood and decrease stress levels." If you struggle to sleep, LED masks can help with this too, as Laura explains: “Near-infrared can offer improved sleep by helping to reset our circadian rhythm and increasing the sleep hormone, melatonin."
"It can boost serotonin, our happy hormone, and ignite pockets of nitric oxide, which is just as valuable as vitamin D and present in every single cell in the body. Nitric oxide increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure, so it also works as a destress hormone,” she adds.
"LED has a balancing effect on cortisol, which helps lower stress during the treatment time. As the warm lights cocoon you, you can expect to feel more zen and instantly calmer," explains Laura Ferguson, co-founder of The Light Salon.
“Feedback from customers both in-salon and at-home LED treatments tell us that the bright lights offer a form of meditative calm,” says Laura. “For me, applying LED light to my face or body is an instant stress-buster. It slows down my breathing, and in turn, I can feel my shoulders and every part of my body relax."
LED can be amber, green or blue ( read our explainer on what LED does ) but it's the red that works its magic on immunity and mood. "Red light combined with near-infrared light [the kind used in masks] is a powerful combination for cellular restoration and immune health," explains Dr Ward. "Red lights stimulate the lymphatic system and helps strengthen the immune system, which is your body's internal army that protects you against toxins, pathogens and disease"
How to use an LED mask
Place the adjustable straps around your head, tuck the charger into your pocket (or bra!) and you're good to go. The masks are timed to shut off after ten minutes. You don't feel any heat at all and you can wear it as you go about your business. The red light doesn't restrict you from reading, watching TV or working, Joanne Evans tells us.
Laura recommends using the mask three to five times a week for ten minutes, but to adjust this in line with your emotional wellbeing. Our Editorial Director Victoria Woodhall uses her Boost during morning meditation for 20 minutes a day.
“Increase when you need more support, and decrease when you are sleeping well, your skin is glowing, and you require less,” says Laura. It won't cause you harm if you overuse the mask, but Laura notes that you can only absorb so much light. "The body processes light as it needs it. You can only absorb so much, so once your batteries are fully charged, so to speak, you need to use it up before charging again. This is individual to each person and is not measurable."
MORE GLOSS: The facial tools that doctors and aestheticians use at home