- Neutrogena’s light therapy mask is used to help treat acne and other common skin conditions.
- The mask may cause eye issues for certain people on medications or those with underlying conditions.
- Many experts think that the mask may be safe to use if you don’t fall into one of those two groups.
If you’re a fan of the beauty and wellness set on Instagram, you’ve undoubtedly become familiar with light therapy masks. Designed to treat acne and inflammation, they look like space-age welding masks.
Their aesthetic, price, and promise of an easy treatment for minor skin problems have made them a hit.
Now, one of the biggest names behind the products is pulling theirs from the market.
Earlier this month, Neutrogena issued a recall for its Light Therapy Acne Mask and Activator due to safety concerns that the product could damage the eyes of certain users.
“Our decision to recall this product is being made out of an abundance of caution,” said Neutrogena in a statement.
“[The mask] is safe for use by the general population when used once per day as directed. Reports of visual effects associated with the use of [the mask] are rare, generally mild and transient,” the statement continued.
The company further warned that for certain populations, including those with underlying eye conditions, or individuals taking medications that can increase sensitivity to light, there’s a “theoretical risk of eye injury.”
The Neutrogena mask uses two types of light to treat the skin. According to the product’s description, blue light is supposed to kill the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes, while red light reduces inflammation.
The product was subsequently withdrawn in Australia as well. The Australian Department of Health issued a similar warning on July 17, stating that potential adverse events associated with the mask include eye pain and discomfort, blurring of vision, blinding, and seeing spots or flashes.
For individuals with underlying eye problems, such as retinitis pigmentosa, ocular albinism, and other retinal problems, “Repeated exposure may cause varying degrees of retinal damage that could be irreversible and could accelerate peripheral vision impairment or loss.”
Dr. Matthew Gorski, an ophthalmologist at Northwell Health, Great Neck, New York, explained to Healthline that there needs to be more research done on the effects of blue light and eye health.
“In the last couple of years, there has been some laboratory research that has commented that there may be effects of blue light on retinal cells. What’s important to know is that there has not been definitive clinical evidence,” said Gorski.
“It’s a very theoretical risk,” he added.
Blue light, the same kind that’s emitted from fluorescent lighting and the screens of electronic devices like cellphones, TVs, and computers, has been associated with other health problems, most notably sleep problems.
Researchers have begun to investigate whether blue light has the potential to lead to serious eye damage, including macular degeneration, which results from the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina.
However, there’s no conclusive evidence yet.
Light therapy has been part of the armamentarium of dermatologists for some time, but only recently have cheap devices hit the market that are designed to be used at home without the supervision of a professional.
“I have blue light in my office,” Dr. Michele S. Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City.
“The blue light that I have in my office is extremely powerful — people wear goggles when they are using it to protect their eyes. The lights that are in these $35 machines at home are not equivalent,” she said.
Well, it’s unclear.
Individuals with known eye problems or photosensitivity probably shouldn’t use a light therapy mask until a further consensus is gathered about whether or not the device can be used safely with more or better protection of the eyes.
“With the proper eye protection, these things are very inexpensive and could help a large range of patients. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” said Green.
“I think with any product or medicine that you’re going to buy, it’s always important to talk to your doctor first. Of course, if you ever have any visual disturbance or change in vision or eye pain, you should definitely see an eye care professional,” said Gorski.