For those who desperately want relief from their acne without the harsh chemicals in many gels, creams, and medications, the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask offered a welcome alternative. It was relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and for many, extremely effective in their battle against acne.
The Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask was one of the more popular red light therapy products on the market before it was voluntarily recalled.
What were the reasons for this recall? Is light therapy unsafe? And how can you protect yourself from the rare side effects of light therapy?
What Is Light Therapy?
Light therapy, also called phototherapy or LED therapy, is the therapeutic process of shining specific wavelengths of light onto the body to produce beneficial effects. Devices isolate wavelengths of red, green, blue or full-spectrum light and emit them through light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
The mitochondria in your body’s cells are responsible for generating energy, and they can harness these light wavelengths to help produce cellular energy for the body.
Light therapy can be administered in a medical office or spa, or at home with a personal device.
Specific wavelengths of light show usefulness for treating specific ailments in the body. For example, red light therapy can reduce inflammation, encourage healing and improve blood flow to the skin.
Green light therapy is particularly effective at encouraging healthy sleep.
Blue light therapy is known for its antimicrobial effects.
Light Therapy for Skin
Because light therapy is particularly effective for skin conditions, scientists have developed many treatments for cosmetic uses. Skin conditions such as eczema, cold sores, canker sores, burns and stretch marks have benefited from light therapy treatment.
Blue light waves, in particular, have been successfully used to active photosensitive medications applied to the skin. This is known as photodynamic therapy.
Light Therapy for Acne
Many cosmetic products that use light therapy have been developed. Therapy with red and blue light is particularly effective for treating acne in many instances. The anti-inflammatory effects of red light work to soothe acne breakouts, and blue light helps to kill acne-causing bacteria.
Why Was the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask Recalled?
The Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask uses red and blue wavelengths of light to address the inflammation and bacteria that lead to facial acne. The mask fits over the face and emits red and blue light wavelengths via LEDs. The mask includes an eye shield and a blank space over the eye area to protect consumers’ eyes.
Neutrogena, a skin care, hair care, and cosmetics company, and its parent company, Johnson and Johnson, voluntarily recalled the Light Therapy Acne Mask in July 2019. Neutrogena stated that this recall was “out of an abundance of caution” due to concerns over possible injury to the eyes.
At the time of the recall, Neutrogena stated that they received complaints of “visual effects” from users of their light therapy mask. These complaints included seeing spots, eye pain, tearing and blurry vision. The complaints were rare, associated with only .02% of masks sold. No permanent damage to eyesight has been reported.
Still, Neutrogena issued the recall because, theoretically, the product could pose a potential risk to a small number of people who have certain eye conditions or who take certain medications that increase the eye’s sensitivity to light.
Is Light Therapy a Risk for Eye Health?
Most physicians agree that the risk of eye damage from light therapy is minimal and largely theoretical. Light therapy has been tested in thousands of peer-reviewed clinical studies and demonstrates an overall excellent safety profile.
One expert even considered this particular recall “excessively cautious.” High-intensity light and prolonged exposure can both be dangerous to the eyes, but the Neutrogena mask uses low-level light for one short interval per day.
However, for some individuals with underlying eye conditions such as ocular albinism, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy or other health problems of the retina, light therapy could pose a theoretical risk. More research on light therapy — especially blue light therapy — is needed to determine the possible risks for people with these conditions, or for people taking light-sensitizing drugs, such as doxycycline.
If you have any vision concerns, it’s always best to consult with your eye doctor about your particular situation before using a light therapy device.
Eye Protection During Light Therapy
Many light therapy products intended for use on the face now come with built-in eye protection or a pair of protective goggles. If the device you’re using doesn’t come with eye protection, there are multiple products available for purchase. Here are just a few examples.
Light Therapy Face Masks With Eye Protection
The Peppy Co LED Light Therapy Mask V2 provides red, yellow and blue light therapy settings and boasts an ergonomic fit. The red light stimulates collagen production and reduces inflammation; the yellow light reduces pigmentation and stimulates blood flow; and the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria. The device also has built-in goggles to protect from any possible eye damage, and each treatment lasts only 10 minutes.
The LightStim for Wrinkles LED Light Therapy Device is a handheld device cleared by the FDA for treating facial wrinkles. According to the LightStim website, 100% of participants in an FDA trial of LightStim for Wrinkles saw significant improvement in their wrinkles after eight weeks of treatment.
The device uses 72 small LEDs that administer amber, red and infrared light wavelengths to the face. LightStim for Wrinkles comes with goggles for eye protection.
Eye Protection Products
If the product you’re interested in doesn’t come with eye protection, consider purchasing a separate product designed to protect your vision. This could be typical, dark tanning goggles, as they block most visible light in addition to UV light, or it could be a product designed specifically for light therapy.
The reVive Light Therapy Relaxation Goggles are an inexpensive purchase with three pairs of eye protection goggles in one package. They are portable and come with an adjustable strap that keeps the goggles on your head. They claim to help with relaxation during light therapy sessions in addition to protecting the eyes.
If you’re interested in a higher-end option, the Delasco Noir Patient Eye Shield goggles are durable and intended for use with laser, LED and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments.
Speak With Your Doctor if You Have Concerns
Most light therapy devices have an extremely low risk of causing eye damage, especially when used according to product directions. But if you have eye problems or feel unsure about using light therapy products, consult with your ophthalmologist or optometrist to determine the best course of action for your situation.