Celebs are obsessing over the $35 dollar mask, but does it actually clear up your skin? We put one reporter on the case

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Credit: Source Lena Dunham/Instagram

What It Is: The new Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne mask, $35 at drugstores.

Who Tried It: Maria Yagoda, writer-reporter

Why We Tried It: For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve had spots on my face.

Before puberty, red blotches and dryness splattered my cheeks and forehead, and after puberty, not even my sparkly, baby blue eye shadow could distract from my pimples. As is true of most things, the worst of my skin troubles was in middle school, but I still deal with sporadic breakouts on a regular basis, despite my militant face-washing routine.

I’m always on the lookout for products that will make my skin look like that the dog Snapchat filter is perpetually hovering over my face (without the tongue stuff). I’ve started to suspect that the sheet masks, mud masks and clay masks I splurge on only offer temporary results, like a brighter complexion or slightly less redness. When I saw Lena Dunham wearing an illuminated robot mask on her Instagram, I looked up the new Neutrogena product, which claims to kill the bacteria that causes breakouts. Each $35 mask comes with a small remote control with a power button to allow you to turn it on 30 times. (After your thirtieth use, you buy a new remote.)

Here’s my face, pre-mask:


The mask, which has a thin sliver for your eyes to see through, attaches to your face with glasses-like “arms.” After you turn it on, the mask stays lit for ten minutes and then turns off automatically. So, theoretically, you could wear it while watching your shows, doing squats, texting people you shouldn’t, etc. BUT, important caveat – there’s no mouth hole, which means that you can’t really drink wine while wearing it, unless you set up an elaborate straw system. (And 90 percent of the fun of wearing masks is drinking wine throughout.)


While the light mask comes with 30 usages, I wanted to see if I could see results in 10 days.

My first time trying the mask was on Bachelor Monday; I casually slipped it on while at a friend’s house to watch Nick Viall make questionable choices. The device was super easy to set up, but to reiterate an earlier point, the fact that I had to stop drinking wine for ten minutes was pretty horrific. Other than having to pause my wine consumption, I pretty much forgot it was on. The light didn’t feel like anything on my skin – no pain or heat. There was just a faint burning rubber smell, but when is there not?


By evening three, I’d grown to look forward to my mask time. Because I couldn’t see so well wearing it (the eye slit is pretty small), I’d just sit and try to meditate, which almost immediately escalated to me replaying fights I’ve had with my exes in my head. Relaxation is hard.


On one occasion, I brought the mask to work so I could clock in some time at the office. While not terribly discreet, the mask is a phenomenal conversation piece. If you’re looking to finally make a splash at your workplace or catch the eye of your boss, I couldn’t recommend a more effective way to get people talking.


After my tenth wear, I looked closely in the mirror and tried to tell if my skin was clearer. Aside from a small breakout on my chin, probably hormonal or stress-related, the rest of my face looked clear. Was it the mask, or had I just been more diligent about washing my face that week? With skin care, changes can be hard to understand because there are so many factors to consider. (How clean are your pillow cases? Are you stressed? What are you eating? Are you touching your face obsessively?)

I deduced that the mask didn’t hurt my skin, but I didn’t notice a huge difference. I will definitely keep using it, though, because I’ve convinced myself that the light (much like a sun lamp) boosts my mood. Plus, it can’t be unhealthy to force myself to stop drinking wine for 10 minutes every day.