Red light therapy—a treatment that involves shining a low-wavelength red light on your skin to improve its appearance—is perhaps the biggest trend in skincare right now. Early research shows that certain wavelengths of light may have the power to smooth out wrinkles and rejuvenate your skin. It’s typically seen in spas, but with the right device, you can experience it at home.
Red light therapy devices aren’t cheap, though. To help find the one worth your hard-earned money, I tested five of the most popular red light therapy facial tools, giving myself several LED treatments over five days. LightStim for Wrinkles emerged as the top pick due to its high number of LEDs, ease of use, lengthy warranty, and professional feel. (It squeaked right past the TheraFace Pro in the runner-up spot.)
The best red light therapy devices for the face, ranked:
- LightStim for Wrinkles
- Therabody TheraFace Pro
- Skin Gym Revilit
- Foreo UFO 2
- Solawave Advanced Skincare Wand with Red Light Therapy
The Best Red Light Therapy Facial Device
LightStim for Wrinkles
- Professional-strength red light therapy device designed specifically for wrinkles
- Emits four wavelengths: 605 nm amber, 630 nm red, 660 nm red, and 855 nm infrared
- FDA Cleared? Yes
- Highest amount of LEDs
- Easy to use
- Built-in timer
- Five-year warranty
- Must be plugged in
- Only offers LED therapy
- Not very portable
If you’re looking to get pro-quality red light therapy from an at-home device, LightStim for Wrinkles is your best bet. The handheld gadget contains 72 LEDs—more than any other device we tested—that emit four different wavelengths intended to treat fine lines and wrinkles. And it only takes a couple seconds to learn how to use it.
When I unzipped my LightStim from its sturdy white case, the device felt more like something I’d see at an esthetician’s office than a consumer-level product. It’s the largest red light therapy device of the bunch and its 2.5-inch head is studded with LEDs. The product also comes with a few extras, including a hydrating serum, a sheet mask, and a pair of goggles (unnecessary, but fun!), that deliver a complete experience.
Using the wand couldn’t be easier. You don’t even need to read the instruction manual to get started (although it contains some helpful tips and advice on protecting the device). Simply plug it in, flick the switch, and shine the powerful light on your face. At first, I was surprised to see only about half of the LEDs light up, but that’s to be expected. The device emits wavelengths of light the human eye can’t see (like 855 nm infrared) that show promise at treating wrinkles. That figured out, I pressed the device against my cheek and held it there until the built-in timer beeped after three minutes, letting me know it was time to move to the next area. Thanks to the device’s large head, it took only 15 minutes to treat my entire face. I noticed a slight glow to my skin after using the LightStim.
LightStim for Wrinkles is a top-notch red light therapy device, but it’s not perfect. It doesn’t contain a rechargeable battery, so it must be plugged in when you want to use it. Another downside is that the device only provides LED therapy in four wavelengths, with no ability to adjust the settings or switch to a different color for another skincare concern. Therefore, it might not be the top choice for someone who wants a multipurpose skincare device.
Overall, I was impressed by LightStim’s powerful light therapy, pro-quality feel, and simplicity. This is the device to invest in if you’re interested solely in light therapy for wrinkles—nothing more, nothing less.
- Handheld facial device that offers up to eight different treatments
- Emits three wavelengths: 415 nm blue, 633 nm red, 830 nm infrared
- FDA Cleared? Yes
- Easy to use
- Professional feel
- Three types of light therapy
- Some attachments require separate purchase
When it comes to skincare treatments, the TheraFace Pro seems to do it all. It comes with magnetic attachments to provide several treatments: Three wavelengths of LED therapy, microcurrent (which uses low-level electrical currents to stimulate muscles and skin), percussive massage, and deep cleansing. It can also provide hot and cold therapy, if you’re willing to spend an extra $99 on those attachments.
Considering the complexity of its features, the TheraFace Pro is surprisingly easy to use. Each attachment connects to the head of the pistol-shaped device using magnets, so there’s no way to accidentally put it on backward. Some attachments, such as the LED ring and the percussive therapy heads, can be attached and used simultaneously, while others (namely the microcurrent ring) must be used on their own. Three buttons on the base of the TheraFace Pro allow you to turn the device on and off, toggle through ring attachment settings, and adjust the intensity of the massage. A small OLED screen displays various options.
To start my treatment, I snapped on the LED ring and the flat percussive therapy tool, turned on the device, and selected the red light and lowest level massage. Then, I gently dragged the device over various parts of my face, focusing on moving from the center toward my ears and temple. The device beeps every 15 seconds to help you keep track of your treatment time, which I found helpful, although I would have loved to have the ability to adjust the timer’s duration. The percussive therapy was relaxing and left me feeling like I just had a facial massage. I looked a little red from the prolonged contact with the massager, but it went away within about 20 minutes.
I was also able to use the LED ring in conjunction with the massage feature. However, because the massage tool didn’t feel great when I left it on one area for more than a few seconds, it felt counterproductive to try to get LED therapy at the same time, since that typically requires beaming the light on a specific area of your face for a few minutes. I ultimately ended up removing the percussive attachment and using the light on its own. The TheraFace Pro keeps the LED slightly dim until it’s placed half an inch from the skin to help reduce glare, which I loved. I completed my treatment in 18 minutes, which included a few minutes of blasting blue LED to fight a breakout on my cheek. That seemed to help tame the blemish the next day.
Overall, I loved the TheraFace Pro. With that said, the TheraFace Pro fell short of the LightStim for Wrinkles as a red light therapy device. It’s quite a bit heavier, so I occasionally had to take breaks to let my wrist rest. By my count, the light ring contains 17 LEDs—a fraction of the 72 in the LightStim. It also only comes with a one-year warranty for the device, and a puny 90-day warranty for the attachment heads, whereas you get five years of coverage with the LightStim for Wrinkles.
The TheraFace Pro earns our wholehearted recommendation as a multi-purpose skincare tool with LED therapy. It has 4.4 stars on Amazon, with customers reporting that it makes them feel like they have their own skincare clinic at home. But if you’re mainly interested in a powerful red light therapy device without extra bells and whistles, the LightStim for Wrinkles could deliver exactly what you’re looking for at a much lower price.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is a beauty treatment that involves shining red LEDs on your skin for potential benefits, such as wrinkle reduction and facial rejuvenation. The science on red light therapy is promising but limited at this point, and there’s no agreed-upon recommendation for specific durations or frequency of red light therapy. In studies that have shown positive results, participants typically received red light therapy for about 20 minutes per session and underwent several sessions each week for multiple weeks.
What’s The Difference Between Red Light and LED Light Therapy?
LED light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that is sometimes used to ease wrinkles, acne, sun damage, pain, wounds, and other health and beauty concerns. The treatment consists of exposing the skin to varying wavelengths of light, each of which are thought to address specific issues. Red light therapy is a type of LED light therapy that specifically uses wavelengths of light between 620 nm and 750 nm, which appear as shades of red. It’s typically used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Red isn’t the only color of light that can work a little magic on our skin. A The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology “Phototherapy with Light Emitting Diodes” View Source found that blue light holds promise at clearing up skin by destroying acne-causing bacteria and infrared light may help wounds heal more quickly, hence why some light therapy devices include a variety of LED colors.
Are Red Light Therapy Devices Worth It?
Red light therapy holds promise as a potential way to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and promote overall skin rejuvenation, based on the results of several small trials. In fact, many dermatologists and estheticians perform the treatment regularly as part of their skincare services. Hopefully, larger, more robust studies will eventually provide greater evidence for the benefits of red light therapy. But if you’re regularly shelling out for expensive treatments from a pro, investing in a high-quality red light therapy device to use at home could allow you to do maintenance sessions between appointments and cut back on in-office sessions. (That said, those in-office devices are often stronger than ones designed for home use, so you may not see as dramatic an effect with your own tools.)
Red light therapy devices can also be worth it if you simply want to try improving the appearance of your skin at home—and you don’t mind spending a couple hundred dollars on a gadget. These devices pose little to no risks for most people (but consider chatting with a derm, just to make sure they’re safe for you!). Some devices also offer extra therapies, like microcurrent, percussive massage, and heat therapy, so they can be integrated into many parts of your skincare regimen.
There’s no guarantee you’ll see miracle results from red light therapy, but it has shown benefits when performed consistently in small research trials. If nothing else, shining a slightly warm light on your face can be a relaxing way to wind down at the end of the day or weekend.
Are Red Light Therapy Devices Healthy?
Based on our research and review, we believe that red light therapy devices can be considered healthy-ish for most people. The FDA classifies them as FDA “Regulatory Controls” View Source , which means they carry some risk because they are likely to have extended contact with the user. (Other Class II devices include syringes, catheters, pregnancy tests, and contact lenses.) Since most studies on red light therapy are small, no firm conclusions can be drawn just yet. They’re also not necessary for health. Instead, you can think of them as a potential accessory for great skin. If you get one, look for a device that’s cleared by the FDA as a Class II medical device.
I’ll be the first to admit skepticism at the idea that shining colored LEDs on my face could change (let alone improve) my appearance. But in fact, there are many proven examples of light causing reactions in our bodies. There’s sunburn, of course, along with the vitamin D our skin makes when we’re exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight. Light also impacts our vision, causing a reaction in the cells in our retinas, which then sends electrical signals to the brain’s visual processing center, per the American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery (ASLMS).
In the case of red light therapy, the treatment’s purported The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology “Phototherapy with Light Emitting Diodes” View Source . The ASLMS notes that when a light source is placed on or near skin, its photons can penetrate tissue and interact with light-absorbing molecules in skin cells (aka chromophores). That sets off a complex chain of reactions that’s not entirely understood, but seems to activate Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery “Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring” View Source and stimulate collagen production and proteins that help keep the skin healthy, to name a few. On the surface, The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology “Phototherapy with Light Emitting Diodes” View Source .
Whether red light (or any other color of LED therapy, for that matter) proves therapeutic for everyone is still up in the air. Studies on these treatments have typically only used very small numbers of participants, ranging from single-digit groups to a few dozen people at best. As promising as the results of those trials may be, it remains to be seen whether they hold true for larger groups.
The Nessie Rating: Healthy-ish
How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy Devices?
Most, if not all, of these red light therapy devices suggest using them consistently if you want to see results. The products come with their own recommendations for use, but it’s worth noting that trials on light therapy typically involved 20-minute treatments once or multiple times a week for several weeks. It’s never a bad idea to connect with a dermatologist to build a personalized treatment regimen for you. Finally, make sure you invest in a light that can cover a fair amount of surface area (say, your chin or most of a cheek) on your skin at one time. Otherwise, your targeted treatments could get really tedious and take far too long.
Can You Overuse Red Light Therapy Devices?
We couldn’t find any documentation of something terrible happening due to someone overusing their red light therapy wand or mask. Still, because research is limited—and most of the research out there focuses on short term use—we don’t recommend using these devices 24/7. Make sure to stick with the provided instructions on the one you choose, and stop using it if it becomes uncomfortable or your skin reacts poorly.
Anyone who experiences ScienceDirect “Photoallergy” View Source or takes medication that can increase photosensitivity (there’s more than you might think!) should avoid light therapies or, at the very least, consult with a dermatologist first. Additionally, anyone with retinal conditions should consult with their ophthalmologist.
How We Found The Best Red Light Devices for the Face
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Joni Sweet. I’ve been covering health and wellness as a writer and editor for major publications for more than 10 years. My work is in SELF, Health, Prevention, Forbes, Healthline, mindbodygreen, Greatist, and dozens of other publications. I’m a skincare skeptic, and I love researching whether there’s science to back up the claims of the trendiest devices and products.
Our Testing Process
I started the testing process by researching which red light therapy devices ranked highly in other publications and on Instagram. We decided to stick with wands, not masks—like the ones from Dr. Dennis Gross and HigherDOSE—which we plan to test later.
Testing involved removing each device from the package, charging it up (or plugging it in, in the case of the LightStim for Wrinkles), and reading the instructions for use. For the most part, I followed the instructions for each protocol, but I also used the devices to target various areas of my face (such as my forehead) and beam them with LED light for several minutes at a time. As I tested the devices, I paid attention to their ease of use and comfort. I also evaluated the specs on each device, relying on information from the website, instruction manuals, whether they’re FDA cleared, and online customer service to answer questions.
I also tested the other features (such as another color of LED or other therapeutic treatments) that were available on some devices. This wasn’t the primary focus of my testing, but any highlights or downsides that popped up when using these other features did influence the final reviews. Overall, I underwent approximately 61 minutes of LED therapy (plus other treatments) for the review.
For more on how we found the best red light facial therapy devices, read the test notes.
The Red Light Facial Device Buying Guide
Which Features Matter Most When Buying Red Light Facial Devices?
- Potential efficacy: Research on which wavelengths of light are most effective for different skin concerns is ongoing, but so far, the wavelengths of 633 nm (red) and 830nm (infrared) have shown positive results when used for certain skin concerns (such as wrinkles). Those are not the only wavelengths of light that hold promise, though. Before buying a red light therapy device, look into the wavelengths it emits and see whether there’s science to support its use in addressing your specific concerns.
- Strength of light: The more LEDs a device has, the stronger the light will be. If you’re looking for an at-home red light therapy device that’s similar to those you’ll find in an esthetician’s office, check to see that it has a high density of LEDs.
- Comfort: You need to perform red light therapy consistently and regularly if you’re hoping to see results, so make sure you find a device that feels comfortable to use. Devices that are too heavy or feel rough against the skin are likely to get relegated to the bottom of your bathroom vanity.
- Cost: Red light therapy devices aren’t cheap. You’ll need to spend at least $80 to get an OK device, and several hundred for a gadget that feels more professional. You may want to look for a device that offers other types of therapies (such as blue light treatment or microcurrent) to help justify the high cost.
Other Red Light Therapy Devices To Consider
Skin Gym Revilit
- Wireless light therapy device with blue, red, and green LEDs
- Emits four wavelengths: 465 nm blue, 525 nm green, 625 nm red, and 830 nm infrared
- FDA Cleared? Unknown
- Lightweight and travel-friendly
- Three types of LED therapy
- Easy to use
- No built-in timer
- Doesn’t feel professional
- Fewer LEDs than our top pick
The Skin Gym Revilit fell short of our top pick because it felt less like a professional-grade device, lacks a built-in timer, and has fewer LEDs. But it works well and comes with a much lower price tag, so it could be an option to consider if you want to save some money. It also comes with the added advantage of three modes that deliver different wavelengths of light to address different skincare concerns.
This light therapy device came almost ready to use out of the box. All I needed to do was remove the protective film from the head, let it charge for about an hour (using the accompanying USB cable), and it was good to go. I turned on the device by pressing and holding its only button for about two seconds, then pressed it again to toggle through three different modes: red light to address redness and aging, green light for pigmentation concerns, and blue to zap zits. For testing, I used red light mode, pressing the device directly against my skin for three minutes on each area, as per the product’s instructions. Using it felt totally comfortable and easy. The device is wireless, so I didn’t need to stay close to the wall, and it’s very lightweight. My arm never got tired from holding it during the treatment.
The device has a few noticeable flaws, however. Unlike our top pick and runner-up, the Skin Gym Revilit doesn’t have a built-in timer. I had to rely on my phone to time my treatment on each targeted area. Its relatively small head (about the same size as that of the TheraFace Pro, but smaller than the LightStim) meant it took extra time to treat my entire face. It contains 25 LEDs, which isn’t bad, but still pales in comparison to LightStim’s 72 LEDs. It felt noticeably less bright. And the bubblegum-pink wand felt a little toy-like in my hands—not the professional aesthetic I’d prefer.
With that said, it’s a worthwhile option to consider if you want to give LED therapy a try without spending hundreds of dollars.
Foreo UFO 2
- Wireless round device that delivers LED therapy, heating, cooling, massage, and mask application
- Engineered with eight lights (purple, white, green, orange, blue, cyan, yellow, and red LEDs) but does not indicate specific wavelengths
- FDA cleared? Yes
- Five treatments from one device
- Easy to hold
- Controlled by an app
- Can’t be used without the brand’s masks
- Contains few LEDs
If you’re already a sheet mask devotee and you want to give those kinds of treatments a boost, you might love the Foreo UFO 2. The flying saucer-shaped device works in conjunction with Foreo’s proprietary sheet masks using pre-programmed routines that last up to two minutes. These routines can include any or all of the device’s treatment options: heating, cooling, massaging, and (of course) LED therapy in a variety of colors. You can also program your own routines in advance and manually control all of these treatment options through your smartphone.
But before you can get started, you’ll need to “unlock” the device by pairing it to Foreo’s app via Bluetooth. It took about 10 minutes to download the app and set up the device. Throughout this process and my time testing the device, the UFO 2 frequently became unpaired with the app and occasionally didn’t respond when I tried using the manual settings.
When I tested the UFO 2 with the included sheet mask sample (the Make My Day UFO mask), it worked really well. I unwrapped it from the package, snapped in the mask (which looks like a cotton round, rather than a full-face mask), and turned it on. Then the magic began. The device warmed up, delivered gentle pulsations, and included a minute of red LED therapy, followed by 30 seconds of green light. The routine definitely helped my skin absorb the serum from the mask, and my complexion felt supple and glowed after the treatment. If I had an endless stash of these masks, I could see myself using this device all the time.
That’s the problem, though: I don’t have a pile of these masks on hand, and the packaging warns that customers should not use the device without a UFO Power Activated Mask. So by investing in the UFO 2, you’ll need to be willing to buy Foreo’s masks on an ongoing basis. A pack of six costs $13.19 plus shipping—not an absurd amount for sheet masks, but it will certainly add up if you want to incorporate the UFO 2 into your everyday routine.
You may be able to use a portion of a regular sheet mask in the UFO 2 (against Foreo’s guidance). However, you’d have to cut it down to a circle that’s 2.5 inches in diameter, then find a way to store the remainder of the mask so it didn’t dry out between skincare sessions. The device also wouldn’t have a pre-programmed treatment protocol for any random mask, so you’d have to go through the trouble of setting up your own regimen. All in all, trying to DIY your own masks for the UFO 2 doesn’t seem worth it.
Besides the tech problems and pricey mask commitment, the UFO 2 had several other issues that make it a tough sell. The device got way too hot when I turned the warming mode on manually without a mask installed, and I worried it could burn my skin. It only has eight LEDs, so I’m doubtful that the device’s light therapy is as powerful as some other devices. And every time I opened the app to adjust the device, it served me an irritating ad for another Foreo product before I could use my own UFO 2.
While there are better LED therapy devices out there, the UFO 2 can be a fun option to have on hand if you want to turn sheet masks into a full-blown, at-home spa treatment. But if you’re turned off by the mask requirement, go for the TheraFace Pro instead. It offers even more treatment options, and while it’s pricier, you won’t have to stock up on special masks to use it.
Red Light Therapy Facial Devices You Can Skip
Solawave Advanced Skincare Wand with Red Light Therapy
- Handheld wand with a strip of red LEDs
- Provides four different skincare treatments
- Emits one frequency: 660 nm red
- FDA Cleared? Yes
- Lightweight and travel friendly
- Adjustable head
- Soothing heat
- Breaks easily
- Few LEDs
- Treats little surface area at one time
After seeing the Solawave wand all over my Instagram feed, I was pumped to finally try the device. But it failed to live up to the hype. The Solawave felt chintzy and toy-like right out of the box. It seemed to have fewer LEDs than any other device I tested, and its thin head allows only an inch-long strip of your skin to get red light therapy at any given moment. Worst of all, it broke after I accidentally dropped it off my bathroom counter during the first use. This was completely my fault, but given that the instruction manual recommends applying serum to your face before using the device, it’s likely that your hands will be a little slippery when using the wand, creating the risk of a drop. A $150 device should stand up to basic wear and tear during normal use.
While overall a disappointment, the Solawave wand did have some upsides. Its red light therapy, while limited in its ability to cover a lot of surface area at once, emits a wavelength of 660 nm, which does Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery “The Efficacy and Safety of 660 nm and 411 to 777 nm Light-Emitting Devices for Treating Wrinkles ” View Source . It provides a therapeutic warmth and gentle buzzing sensation that makes me feel relaxed. The adjustable head gives three different angles to slide over the contours of your face. And its smart touch sensor, which turns the device on when it’s firm against the skin and off the moment you remove it, felt fairly high tech (although some other customers say it didn’t work for them).
Given that there are better, more durable red light therapy devices out there at a similar cost, I can’t recommend the Solawave wand. It’s earned 3.8 stars on Amazon, so clearly other customers have had mixed experiences with the device. While it’s more travel-friendly than many other red light devices, the device breaks too easily and has too many other flaws to justify its price.