Neutrogena casts shadow over LED devices

Neutrogena ambassador Montana Cox helped launch the acne mask in Sydney last year

Neutrogena’s recall of its popular Visibly Clear Light Therapy Acne Mask and Activator, is likely to raise consumer concerns about the safety of LED beauty devices around the world.

In Australia, Neutrogena’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson Pacific, recalled the device, and withdrew it from the market, in conjunction with the Therapeutic Goods Association.

According to the TGA, the device was recalled because:

“It has been identified that, for a small subset of potentially susceptible people (including people with certain eye-related disorders e.g. retinitis pigmentosa, ocular albinism, other congenital retinal disorders), repeated exposure may cause varying degrees of retinal damage that could be irreversible and could accelerate peripheral vision impairment or loss”.

“[In addition] other potential adverse events that may be associated with use of this device are eye pain, eye discomfort, eye irritation, tearing, blinding, blurring of vision, seeing spots/flashes and other changes in vision (for example vision colour).”

In its official statement announcing the recall, Neutrogena stressed that the recall is being undertaken “as a precautionary measure”.

“As part of our quality and safety commitment, we routinely monitor our products and review the latest science,” the company said.

“Following reports of generally mild, rare and transient visual adverse events, combined with a growing scientific discussion around the safety of blue light, we further evaluated the potential effects of the Mask on the eye.

“It has been identified that there is a theoretical risk of eye injury for a small subset of the population with certain underlying eye conditions, as well as for users taking medications which could enhance the eye’s sensitivity to light. We have not received any reports of eye injury in this small subset of individuals with the underlying eye conditions.”

The Neutrogena Visibly Clear Light Therapy Acne Mask and Activator is a reusable non-sterile device, intended for home-use to treat mild to moderate acne on the face. The device, comprising an ‘acne face mask’ and detachable corded ‘activator’, delivers a combination of red and blue light via light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The activator is a small hand-held battery pack that is electronically limited to 30 sessions of 10 minutes each, intended to be used once per day, after which it times out and a new one is to be purchased separately and the mask is re-used.

According to one industry source, the recall is likely to dampen consumers’ confidence in the purchase of LED devices, particularly devices designed for home use, as Neutrogena is a well-established, well-respected brand owned by another equally well-established well-respected brand, Johnson & Johnson – so “if its devices aren’t safe why would the others be”.

If nothing else, it will certainly make consumers think twice before purchasing such devices from “unknown” online sources.

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