Is the IlluMask Worth It? Debunking At-Home Light Therapy Skincare
Jager Weatherby on 26 Aug 2014 at 9:00am
With the Clarisonic, No! No!, and various at-home lasers aimed at eliminating wrinkles to acne to body hair, how is a woman to know what’s worth the hype?
One device that’s getting a lot of attention from the beauty mags is the illuMask. According to the company’s website, the product (which comes in both anti-acne and anti-aging varieties) is a “revolutionary” mask that uses light therapy to improve the appearance of the skin. A single device is good for 30 15-minutes sessions, costs $29.99, and claims to show results in as little as two to four weeks.
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The product certainly sounds appealing, but does it really live up to its marketing? We here at RealSelf were initially skeptical of the claims (If it sounds too good to be true… ), especially when taking into consideration the need to repurchase after every 30 uses. “Even if the bulbs burn out, why can't you replace them?” asks RealSelf community manager Sharon. “Haven't they ever heard of the Razor-Razorblade Business Model?” Fellow community manager Jill echoes that sentiment: “So the landfills are going to look psycho. Seems like such a waste.”
In an effort to get some insights about the illuMask, RealSelf sat down with Paula’s Choice founder and best-selling author Paula Begoun and board-certified Seattle dermatologist Dr. Daniel Levy to get the scoop on whether this product is Worth It.
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PAULA’S TAKEI have to say in the world of sham/scam products, this one is right up there. Whether you agree this technology works or doesn’t is worth a discussion, but the notion that you have to throw the device away after a period of time is built-in obsolescence for no reason other than to force a repurchase. They found a way to spin the need to replace it after 30 treatments by making it cheap enough for everyone to buy the first time around. However, this would add up to costing as much as the more expensive machines if you kept rebuying it. This technology doesn’t run out any more than your clock radio does. Think about it this way: When your radio emits a red light that is the exact same type of LED light this machine produces, imagine if you had to replace that every month or so! It’s sheer lunacy.
DR. LEVY’S TAKEI agree with Paula. There are two distinct issues: Whether this LED product is clinically effective, and whether this particular LED product is cost-effective. In both regards, I have concerns and doubts. With regard to clinical efficacy, there is no peer-reviewed data or studies by medical experts. I'd like to see data that these results are reproducible in hundreds of people in a study, with before/after photos, assessing change in skin quality according to standardized scales (such as the Glogau scale, which classifies the severity of wrinkles).
Second, they have brought the consumable business model directly to the consumer. As a provider in the medical esthetic industry, I'm used to paying several thousands of dollars each month to laser companies for various laser tips and fibers which have to be discarded and replaced after each treatment or series of treatments. This cost is inevitably passed along to the consumer. I can see that a business promoting an inexpensive, at-home device could only thrive off of a consumable model, whereby the consumer has a low "buy-in" cost, but is then forced to repurchase in order to achieve or maintain a result. Ultimately, I don't see this as a clinically effective or cost-effective tool.
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CONCLUSION: Not Worth ItIf you do decide to give the illuMask a try, you can rest assured that (while maybe not efficient) it is a safe bet. Though some have warned that these lights “can trigger migraines or seizures in someone who is prone to them,” Dr. Levy disagrees. “Since the illuMask appears to be equipped with eye-protective shades, I wouldn’t go as far in saying they risk triggering migraines or seizures. [...] The relatively low-risk profile of this device, as compared to in-office light treatments, reflects its inherently lower level of energy, which makes it unlikely to produce a significant result. Lack of efficacy, and accruing another aesthetic fossil in your at-home beauty bar, are the main risks.”
Photo credits: Courtesy of illuMask; Courtesy of PaulasChoice.com; Courtesy of Dr. Daniel Levy