We can all agree that there’s no such thing as a welcome pimple (unless it’s on your arch-nemesis’s face! Did I say that? Shhhhh.). But there are so many different treatment methods, finding one that works for you can be a big pain. And promising an acne-free complexion is even bigger business for dozens of companies.
Enter Illumask, an at-home light therapy treatment for acne-troubled skin.
Over the past decade, laser therapy has gained popularity for reducing hyperpigmentation, smoothing wrinkles, and fighting acne. Called phototherapy, light therapy is an acne treatment that uses red and blue LED lights to treat a range of inflamed skin, from mild comedones (the scientific term for whiteheads) to inflammatory lesions (the really painful stuff.)
But until recently, the procedure has been expensive: A 15-30 minute session at a doctor or dermatologist’s office could cost patients upwards of $150, with few healthcare providers covering the cost.
Several early birds to the market attempted to bring phototherapy into acne-sufferers homes, but the price tags were still in most consumers’ “Wish List” range. However, Illumask approached the at-home skin care market with the goal of providing an effective acne-fighting treatment for roughly one dollar a day.
Illumask was created by Dr. David Shuter, a plastic surgeon in Jupiter, FL. and Jay Tapper, an entrepreneur from Philadelphia, whose previous inventions include the Spinbrush toothbrush and Tap King, an in-home beer tap. To date however, Illumask has not been peer-reviewed by medical experts, although it has received clearance by the FDA for it’s anti-acne claims.
To make an in-home phototherapy acne-treatment that was more affordable than other models on the market, Illumask was designed with fewer and weaker lights. It’s also disposable, which means the mask is good for 30 or 90 treatments of 15 minutes each, and is meant to be tossed out at the end of its cycle.
Where Can You Buy Illumask?
Illumask is available in some stores (I’ve seen reviewers who stated they got one at Target). It’s also available at Ulta, on Amazon, and of course on the product’s home site, www.illumask.com.
A quick word about ordering through Illumask’s site: The company selling Illumask offers buyers the convenience of a “Continuity Plan,” which is claimed to help “save the hassle of reordering.”
“How wonderful!” you might say to yourself. “I don’t have to worry about ordering another month’s worth of treatments!”
Well, not so fast. Auto-ship programs are something we talk about in every applicable review, because they involve automatic charges that are applied to your credit card every 30 days.
We feel this deserves mentioning, because it’s not unheard of for consumers to have a really difficult time canceling auto-ship programs, and getting your money back can sometimes be a hassle.
The Illumask Promise
Based on their clinical studies and backed by an FDA approval, Illumask promises users the following:
- The device uses non-UV lights that are totally safe
- It eliminates acne-causing bacteria to prevent future breakouts
- Heals redness and inflammation from existing breakouts
- Delivers smoother, clearer skin with evened tone and reduced redness
- No harsh chemicals or reported side effects
How Much Does Illumask Cost?
Illumask is meant to be a $1-a-day treatment. Used every day for 15 minutes, the mask will last users 30 days. Buyers on the product’s site will be offered two choices, both of which provide free shipping & handling:
- $29.95 for 1 mask (equaling 30 days of treatments)
- $79.95 for 3 masks (90 days worth of treatments), plus a free mask of your choice*
While I didn’t complete the sales process, all signs indicate that signing up for the larger package forces buyers to agree to Illumask’s auto-ship program, which we talked about previously.
Additionally, Illumask offers buyers a money back guarantee within 45 days of purchase. The refund is less shipping & handling costs, and requires unhappy users to contact customer service for a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number before shipping it back.
How You Use Illumask
Illumask’s Jason-style hockey mask might look a bit intimidating at first, although it’s easy for beginners to use:
- Start off with a clean face to ensure the best results
- Slide the mask on your face like you would a pair of glasses
- Press the button on the accompanying hand-held remote
- Illumask turns on that easy!
- Find a way to sit still for 15 minutes without going crazy
- Illumask automatically turns off when your treatment time is up
Potential Red Flags
Aside from potentially being forced to sign up for Illumask’s autoship program, should you order from their site, there are two foreseeable issues with their product.
The first is regarding your safety, so it deserves some attention: Look, light exposure is no joke. These LED lights are safe for your skin, but the eye protection installed in each mask appears flimsy at best.
There are reviewers who reported some eye irritation, so please be extra-alert for any sensitivity that may indicate your peepers are in need of more gentle treatment.
Additionally, phototherapy has – in very rare cases – been known to trigger migraines and seizures in those who are prone to them. If this describes you, definitely consider consulting with your doctor before strapping Illumask on for a personal light show.
The second issue with Illumask is regarding the sheer amount of waste this disposable product is promoting. And what really drives it in is that the waste isn’t even necessary.
See, Illumask treats skin using LED lights. LED lights have an average lifespan of 50,000 hours – that means, used 12 hours a day, the lights in Illumask should last for more than 11 years.
So why is the product designed to be tossed after only 450 minutes use? To get you to buy more, of course!
If you’re handy, there is one user on Amazon who’s top-rated review teaches Illumask buyers how to hack past their circuit board’s timer and reset the counter to “0,” which allows them to reuse Illumask as many times as they’d like—essentially for a lifetime.
While I can’t officially condone the short-circuit route, it’s worth considering whether or not you want to buy from a company whose concerns for the environment aren’t even skin deep.
What Reviewers Think About Illumask
On average, Illumask gets a little over 3.5 stars from 67 Amazon reviews, in addition to an average of 4.1 on Ulta.
While some users found that their fine lines and wrinkles were smoothed, those focused on improving their acne experienced less-positive results.
“I am 10 days into this treatment and I don't see any noticeable results. I still have blackheads on my nose, old acne scars, and uneven bumps near my chin (where the light doesn't reach). The worst part about this mask is while wearing it, I find it difficult to breathe behind the mask. It also messes up my vision. After taking the mask off, things look green tinted for 10 minutes. I'm not sure this is good for your eyes!” (Source)
Other users report a mild-to-moderate increase in skin clarity, which is a side effect of dryness.
Final Thoughts on Illumask
Many users stated that they would recommend Illumask to their friends, so if you’re struggling with acne and haven’t found a solution using topical treatments, this at-home device may be a cost-effective way to wrangle your skin into shape.
But users should be aware of any negative effects to their vision and general discomfort in their eyes and adjust their use accordingly.
As always, it might be best to consult with your doctor before starting to use a new product for problem skin, especially if you’re prone to migraines, seizures, or vision problems.
Marginally (at best) effective treatment, TOTAL billing nightmare
I bought what I thought was a 30-day supply direct from the Illumask website. I'm an intelligent person, I always read the fine print, and I legitimately thought I was only buying the 30 day supply. I wanted one, to try, and did not need 3. Lo and behold, after 30 days, I got charged for 3 controllers. No problem, I thought, I'll just call and cancel. I did, they issued an RMA, and I sent my unwanted, untouched shipment back to them, and I received a confirmation that I was unsubscirbed. This was 5 months ago. Cut to today, I got billed AGAIN. Again I called, and they claim to have never received my return shipment, so not only do they refuse to refund the current charge, but I will have the pleasure of being billed AGAIN next month. Now I have to find my post office receipt to prove to them that I sent it back.
It's all a nightmare. Frankly, the stress is giving me more zits than any of the marginal benefit I may have gotten from the mask. Also, I feel like the mask legitimately has damaged my eyesight. Ever since I started using it, my vision seems to be dimmer, and I now have a floater that never goes away in my left eye. If it really did come from the mask, it is ABSOLUTELY not worth it, and, there will be lawsuits.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend