NPD Science

Improve your skin with a light mask?


The idea of the Dragon’s Den is a great one for a television programme.  What could be more fascinating than watching people pitching ideas to potential investors?  Unfortunately I don’t much care for the way the BBC actually go about it.  I find the host’s increasing resemblance to the cat in the hat unnerving.  The melodramatic editing with frequent previews and hammy music clips is also both annoying and is done in such a heavy handed way that you can predict the outcome and so lose all the suspense.

But Mrs Beauty Scientist was watching it this week and said I would be interested in the light mask somebody was trying unsuccessfully to get funded.  The concept was a mask you placed over your head which illuminated your skin with different coloured lights.  The red one was for wrinkles and the blue one was antibacterial and so would treat acne.

In principle this doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  Light certainly does affect the skin.  We only need to look at our own skin to confirm this.  The bits that get a lot of light look very different to those that are usually covered.  On the whole the conclusion you would draw is that light is bad.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some kind of desirable outcome from treating the skin with light.  I was talking about one such idea recently when I reviewed Boots product for cold sores.  There is also the way the body uses energy in sunlight to produce vitamin D.

So I’d be prepared to listen if someone suggested a light mask.  Unfortunately the Dragon’s Den is edited for entertainment value rather than enlightenment.  The inventor was portrayed as a hapless dreamer who had no idea about the scientific background to what he had created.  Good television no doubt, and it might have been true.  But what I’d have wanted to see was the actual evidence that this mask was having an effect on the skin.  If it treats acne for instance, I’d want to know how well it did.  Given that so many people suffer from acne and it is such a miserable condition, even if this mask just helped a few percent of patients that would still be a valuable product.

In fact this idea has been around for a long time.  Unless the man on the Dragon’s Den was extraordinarily ill informed he must have known that some work on just such an idea had been carried out in London by a dermatologist and that some favourable results had been published.  I wonder if that bit was edited out for effect?

New product development is a lot more involved than simply getting the science right of course.  When I do watch Dragon’s Den I am always interested in the questions the entrepreneurs ask. They are the sorts of questions that really should be asked during product development meetings.  How much of a margin can we get, how many units can be sold, what problem is it going to solve are all things that should be considered and reconsidered at every stage.  (What usually happens is that everyone devotes their efforts to blaming other people for delays.)  A light mask might well be perfectly feasible technically but still not be a viable proposition commercially.

It is a shame that the BBC passed up on the chance to look at a potentially interesting product seriously and analytically and chose instead to go for getting a quick laugh instead.  I don’t think I would take any idea I had into such an arena.

So I hope nobody who watched the programme dismisses the idea of light therapy out of hand.  But like any dragon, be sure to check out the evidence before handing over your cash.

That’s enough for one blog post, let me know if you’d be interested in a more detailed review of the evidence.


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