The Truth About At-Home LED Facial Masks, According To Dermatologists

At $35, the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask lauded by influential Instagrammers and celebrities alike appeared to be an affordable alternative to the pricey LED treatments you’d find at a dermatologist’s office. Red light can be used to treat inflammation and skin discoloring as well as promote the production of collagen, while blue light is often used to treat acne.

But if you’re interested in either blue or red light treatment to tackle things like acne or inflammation, it might be worth investing in a visit to the experts ― or at least some protective eyewear. The brand recently recalled its popular mask out of what it called an “abundance of caution.”

On July 17, the Australian Department of Health issued a recall, stating that “for a small subset of potentially susceptible people (including people with certain eye-related disorders, e.g. retinitis pigmentosa, ocular albinism, other congenital retinal disorders), repeated exposure may cause varying degrees of retinal damage that could be irreversible and could accelerate peripheral vision impairment or loss.”

Other potential side effects include eye pain and discomfort, blurring of vision and even blindness.

Lena Dunham using the now-recalled mask in 2016.

So, what else do we need to know about at-home treatments? HuffPost chatted with board-certified NYC-based dermatologists Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City as well as Dhaval Bhanusali of Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery to find out.

Both Linkner and Bhanusali stressed the importance of having proper medical-grade eye protection and taking the steps to ensure everything is exactly as it should be — two things you might not necessarily be doing at home.

“[At a dermatologist] it’s done in the proper setting, the lights are calibrated in such a way that it’s safe, and a technician has checked the lighting to make sure you’re getting the exact right amount of light that you’re supposed to be getting for a medical grade, safe treatment to be conducted from patient to patient,” Linkner said.

There’s also the matter of making sure you’re not overexposing yourself. “We have a monitor to ensure treatments are done for specific time frames within recommended guidelines,” Bhanusali said.

Having a procedure done in an office also guarantees consistency, one of Linkner’s big issues with at-home products. Not only is the light less intense on an at-home mask, it can also vary depending on where you’re using it.

“It plugs into a regular outlet, and voltage, energy and current can be different in different rooms,” she said. “I don’t think the consistency is there, from treatment to treatment. Who is to say you’re delivering the same amount of energy every time you do the treatment and will get equivalent results if you do it at home versus if you take it with you somewhere like on vacation?”

Linkner’s practice charges $50 per session for the Blu-U acne treatment, and said it should be done two to three times per week. Bhanusali said that while it varies by treatment and is usually offered as part of a package, a session of light therapy can range between $200-$300. No small chunk of change, to be sure.

Both Bhanusali and Linkner agreed that the at-home masks do work, just perhaps at a lower level than professional-grade treatments. If you’re going to use them, Linkner has a few tips.

“If you’re gonna do it, do it safely and consistently,” she said. “I always tell patients to take a picture of themselves before they even plug in the machine on the first day and don’t look at it for four to six weeks. Use it consistently as directed and see if it makes a difference for you.”

Bhanusali also recommended consulting with a doctor before “jumping into treatment,” especially if you have preexisting medical conditions.

Light mask on, people. Just get yourself some eye protection first.