For 46% of us, acne is our main health and beauty concern. Can an at-home light mask disrupt the acne cycle?

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According to an expansive European study of women aged 16-30 conducted by Censuswide and Neutrogena  in January of this year, a shocking 87 per cent reported that acne  has, or has had, a significant impact on their lives. Given that the research included responses from 4,013 women across five markets, this should serve as a powerful wake-up call to anyone who dismisses acne as simply ‘a phase’ or something superficial that should be ‘put up with’.

To throw the issue into further perspective, we worry more about acne (46 per cent) than we do about our weight (21 per cent), with UK women reporting the highest levels of emotional distress in all countries surveyed: 93 per cent of British women with acne report that the condition of their skin has a negative impact on their self-confidence. 59 per cent of UK women admit to feeling ashamed, with the same number describing themselves as ugly, and unsurprisingly such low self-esteem has a knock on effect on our social lives: 32 per cent avoid meeting up with friends, 35 per cent admit that their acne prevents them from seeking out new friendships, and 30 per cent don’t feel comfortable going on dates.

The average acne sufferer spends £41 a month on skincare and makeup to combat acne, with 19 per cent of women spending up to £99 a month

It’s not just our social lives that suffer- in Europe 16 per cent of women stop going to the gym during bad breakouts, while 23 per cent will go to the length of changing bedding everyday in an effort to keep bacteria at bay. The average acne sufferer also spends £41 a month on skincare and makeup to combat acne , with 19 per cent of women spending up to £99 a month. 62 per cent will spend further funds on in-clinic treatments such as deep cleansing facials, chemical peels, light treatment therapy, dermabrasion or microdermabrasion, laser resurfacing and minor plastic surgery. Timewise, Brits spend the longest on their daily anti-acne skincare regime in Europe, coming in at 26 minutes a day.

Despite the often tragic ramifications of acne, UK women are the least likely to seek professional help, either from a counsellor or dermatologist, at 13 per cent compared to 35 per cent of women in other European countries. We’re far more likely to try to treat acne at home, looking for advice online (80 per cent), spending around an hour a week researching treatments and solutions, with just 21 per cent of us confiding in friends and 25 per cent in our parents. Whether physically, psychologically, socially or financially, it’s clear that acne wreaks damage that goes far beyond a few angry red spots; it’s a literally and figuratively scarring condition.

As such, it’s time that the treatment of acne in every sense bucked up its ideas and entered the modern world. Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask , £59.99, is one such attempt at innovation, designed to bring a dermatologist inspired antibacterial light treatment into your front room, in a daily, ten minute window. The reusable mask slips on via a pair of “sunglasses”, and you bathe your freshly washed skin in psychedelic blue and red lights, all the while looking like the long lost third member of Daft Punk. After ten minutes the lights flick off, and you can then go about your usual skincare business. It certainly beats faffing around with gooey sheet masks and the like, and the science is behind the light show is intriguing.

Aiming to target the P.acnes bacteria caused by a buildup of oil underneath the skin, the mask emits light in the red and blue spectrum that kills bacteria below the surface level of the skin, thus helping to reduce breakouts. Each mask allows you 30 daily treatments, after which time your skin should appear clearer. Once your month-long “course” has come to an end, you can keep your mask and purchase a new Activator for £14.99 to bring it back to life.

Obviously the mask itself and subsequent Activator are going to contribute towards your financial acne treatment outgoings, and for an unmentioned reason the mask isn’t recommended by Neutrogena for very severe acne with extensive pustules and nodules. Spend and suitability aside, the fact that it’s so easy to use means that you’re likely to be consistent with treatment, and while the technology isn’t as advanced, or light as intense, as professional in-clinic treatments, the prognosis for small clusters of spots, redness and inflammation is positive, and treatment risk is low. The mask does need to be used in conjunction with a skincare routine that targets acne, so light therapy is an additional expense, though the fact that studies quoted by the American Academy of Dermatology reported a 51% reduction in acne after four days of using at-home red and light blue therapy devices is encouraging. Onto the anecdotal evidence…

On balance, I’d say that looking like a rave welder for ten minutes at a time has its payoffs

I’ve been on the Light Therapy Acne Mask bandwagon for exactly four days so far, and even after a night out that got a little more raucous than intended, putting the mask on once I got home was still a non-faffy novelty (the eye window leaves just enough space for Netflix viewing, although...distracting). Having started the week with a nice crop of whiteheads and other spot species on my chin and jaw, I’m pleased to report that they’ve shrunk, although I’m yet to see a clear up in the redness department. Knowing that I’ve got over three weeks to work on that, however, I’m impressed by the initial zapping action. It’s not miraculous, but then what face mask can legitimately claim to be? It does, however, make the kind of difference that makes your makeup apply evenly, your spots less volcanic and, as a result, your day that bit better. On balance, I’d say that looking like a rave welder for ten minutes at a time has its payoffs if you suffer from mild to moderate acne, and it’s refreshing that dermatological technology is being brought to us at a relatively affordable, rather than triple figure, price tag. In a nutshell: the force is strong in terms of light relief for many, but not all, acne sufferers, but watch this space...

Have you tried the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask yet? We’d love to hear how you’re getting on below…

If you’re suffering from acne and don’t know where to turn, consult our SOS page  here

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