I Used This $435 Anti-Aging Light Therapy Mask for a Month, and It 'Worked'

But all my 40-something friends have one question: Is it worth it?

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THE NEW AGE: Do Light Masks Really Work?
Photo: Courtesy/InStyle

"What the hell is on your face?"

My husband had just stumbled upon me resting in bed whilst wearing a Dr. Dennis Gross SpectraLite Faceware Pro light therapy mask, and this was his first reaction. Maybe you've been this spouse, or you've had a similar response scrolling through Instagram and happening upon someone, face alight, wearing the futurist, LED light therapy mask. It makes you look like a cyborg, and quite frankly, this was part of the draw for me when I committed to using it for a month to see if it noticeably changed my skin.

But really I was most excited about the possibility of some skin-provements. LED light therapy is the latest trendy at-home skincare treatment that makes big promises with regular use: a reduction in fine lines, an improvement in tone, a decrease in acne. I spoke with dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, who told me that, "LED lights can be used to help reduce breakouts as blue light can help reduce inflammation and fight acne-causing bacteria. Red light can stimulate collagen production so it may help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time as well as improve the overall texture of the skin."

I'm 42, so obviously those fine lines are creeping in, and – dare I say – some bold lines have made an appearance too. But I've also noticed a general dullness to my overall skin tone, and I am still sporting zits reminiscent of the ones I had in seventh grade. But does using an LED mask actually work? It certainly looks cool. And with a hefty price tag, is it worth it?

The Dr. Dennis Gross mask ($435, Sephora.com) I used for this experiment has blue and red light options, as well as one that allows you to use both lights at the same time. This was my go-to setting; my main focus was definitely my wrinkles, but I'm open to any zit help I can get. Consistency is key when it comes to any aspect of your skincare routine, and LED light therapy is no different.

Dr. Corey L. Hartman, dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, says "at-home devices can be excellent adjunct treatments to bolster a solid skincare regimen or to add a pop of therapy between in-office treatments." But he stressed they, "must be used consistently every day" in order for there to be visible change to the skin.

And look, I nailed this part. I used my mask regularly. I only missed one day in my four week trial. I've tried every skincare tool under the sun and I can confidently say this: if it is not easy to use – and I'm talking 'you don't need a special serum, you can do it in bed while looking at your phone' easy, I won't do it. I'm busy, exhausted, and my mental load is overflowing. I don't need one more task on my list. But all you have to do is slide this mask over your head (it is secured with a strap in the back so you can easily move about with it on), press a button, and go. Each setting turns off after 3 minutes, and I tried to rotate through all three each day for a full 9 minutes when I had the time. (And, it's nine minutes — I had the time.)

Kate Spencer tries the Dr. Dennis Gross LED Light Therapy Mask
Alarm your spouse and treat yourself in a mere nine minutes per day. Courtesy

After one month of regular use, I have noticed a slight change in the fine lines in my skin, especially the ones on my forehead, above my brow line. A really obnoxious pimple which sprouted underneath my eyebrow cleared up very quickly, and I do think my complexion looks a little bit brighter than before I started using the light mask. I plan on committing to another six weeks of use to really track changes. Dr Hartman stresses that in order to see results, you must pair any LED light therapy treatments with "the right skincare routine." Yes, it always comes back to washing your face.

Dr. Hartman notes that, "at-home LED treatments are not as effective as in office treatments," which can be more targeted and show results on a shorter timeline than the DIY route. In short: Your changes are probably not going to be as noticeable with an at-home treatment as they would be if you're seeing a professional, and if you want a more intense, targeted end result, you're probably going to want to skip right to the big guns.

Every over-40 friend I talk to about the mask asks me the same question: Is it worth it? And, sure, the price tag is my biggest hangup — the Dr. Dennis Gross mask I tried retails for $435, which is sticker shock central. (I was lucky enough to receive one to try out for this piece.) But other high tech skincare tools go for close to the same amount, and this is the only one I've ever been able to commit to. (I'm looking at you, NuFace collecting dust in my closet.) It's great for a very low maintenance person who wants to up their game, or who'd rather try the slow and steady route at home than pay for regular in-office treatments. And hey, if you've got money to burn and just want to post a robot-faced photo to your grid? Then it's an obvious yes.

The New Age is a column about beauty over 40, written by women who are over 40. Revolutionary, when you think about it! Kate Spencer and Doree Shafrir are the hosts of Forever35 Podcast. Doree's memoir, THANKS FOR WAITING: THE JOY & WEIRDNESS OF BEING A LATE BLOOMER, is out now, and Kate's rom-com, IN A NEW YORK MINUTE, will be published in March. Learn more at doree-shafrir.com and katespencerwrites.com.

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