High-tech facial devices always hit the market with a bang, piquing our interest with blue lights and spaceship designs that make us hope perfect skin isn't just some futuristic fantasy of ours. Some end up being bogus; others, brilliant. But how do you distinguish between the two before throwing down your cash? We're on a mission to find out. Over the next few weeks, R29 staffers will be road-testing the biggest innovations of the year to see if each delivers on its stellar claims. Up first: the newly launched Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask. Besides guaranteeing one hell of a Star Wars-themed Instagram post, it's designed to deliver the same benefits as LED therapy: calming inflammation and zapping away blemish-inducing bacteria. We tapped senior features editor Molly Stout — who admits that "adult acne is driving [her] crazy" — to try out Neutrogena's light-therapy mask for 10 minutes a day for an entire month. On her wish list going into the experiment? Fewer cystic-acne breakouts and smoother skin.
Turns out, using the treatment became a relaxing mode of escape. "After getting through the initial embarrassment of wearing it in bed with my husband, I started to look forward to it every night," she says. "I would never, ever condone tanning booths, but when I used to go in my irresponsible teenage years, I enjoyed the calming feeling of being enshrined in a compartment with warm lights engulfing me. That's sort of what the Neutrogena mask was like for my face: a 10-minute meditation session."
After just a week, Stout noticed the device did improve her skin — namely, it helped with those pesky on-the-surface blemishes. (Which, as you may know, are often the workings of blackheads and whiteheads.) "But I didn't stop breaking out," she says. "My acne, according to my dermatologist, is hormonal, and it shows up around my chin and jawline. The Neutrogena mask worked for me on a superficial level, giving me softer, glowing skin. But it couldn't combat my cystic acne. Still, I noticed an improvement, and the 10-minute reprieves from all distractions every night were worth far more than the $40 retail price." To be fair, this product doesn't treat deeper lesions — only mild to moderate breakouts. (It'd likely take a Jedi-grade gadget to fully cure cystic acne, TBH.) But this might be all it takes to banish those surface-level zits to a galaxy far, far away.