Once only a risk for selfie bait, the acne-fighting device has been recalled due to the potential risk for eye injury.

By Rachel Jacoby Zoldan
July 23, 2019
Neutrogena

If you've scrolled through your Insta feed anytime in the past few years, odds are you've seen at least a few selfies featuring the popular Neutrogena LED Light Therapy Mask. Designed to help banish pesky pimples, the device uses blue light therapy to target acne-causing bacteria and red light therapy to reduce inflammation (as a bonus, it helps with anti-aging, too). The $35 mask was shown to be effective in clinical studies, making it an instant derm favorite and the gold standard for a new wave of at-home LED devices. (Related: Does Light Therapy for Skin Really Work?)

That is, until earlier this month, when Neutrogena quietly recalled the mask following incidents of eye injury. (Luckily, the brand's red and blue light acne-fighting wand—which made our list of The Best Acne Spot Treatments to Get Rid of a Pimple Fast—isn't a part of the recall.)

"Reports of visual effects associated with the use of the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask are rare, generally mild and transient," the brand explained in their statement. Yet it cautioned that "for a small subset of the population with certain underlying eye conditions, as well as for users taking medications which could enhance ocular photosensitivity, there is a theoretical risk of eye injury."

The brand didn't share how many cases of actual injury occurred as a result of using the mask, but they did clarify that they decided to recall the product 'out of an abundance of caution,' noting that the mask remains "safe for use by the general population when used once per day as directed."

However, as the New York Times reported, the Australian Department of Health issued a consumer-level recall last week, adding some pretty scary-sounding harmful effects that may be associated with the device, including "eye pain, eye discomfort, eye irritation, tearing, blinding, blurring of vision, seeing spots/flashes and other changes in vision (for example vision color)." Their notice advised all consumers—not just those with underlying eye conditions—to stop using the mask.

Where do derms stand on the safety of at-home light therapy devices? "All light therapy devices carry this similar risk," says New York City-based dermatologist Doris Day, M.D., who often works with similar technologies in-office. This puts those with conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa (a rare genetic defect) in danger of the aforementioned eye injury, she adds. "However, what really matters is the wavelength of light that's used and how long the contact is," says Dr. Day.

If used as directed—once a day for the ten-minute cycle—the mask should be safe if you don't suffer from any ocular sensitivities, she says. If you think that applies to you, Dr. Day recommends checking with your ophthalmologist before using any LED light therapy at home.

Dr. Day also recommends keeping your eyes closed to ensure safety, and other derms have suggested opaque goggles (like those used in tanning booths) to keep the light from penetrating. (FWIW, these eye safety tips aren't mentioned anywhere on Neutrogena's website, or as part of their 'important tips for usage' guide.)

If you already own the mask and would rather err on the side of caution, Neutrogena is offering refunds—just call the brand's consumer care hotline at 1-800-582-4048.

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