Would you buy a $1700 LED mask beauty device?

Gosh I hope not 😱!

One of the things I was most excited to see at the Korean Biomedical and Skin Care conference last week was the LED skin care mask by CELLRETURN Co. Ltd. (a 10 y.o. South Korean cosmetics device company). I kept seeing it on Instagram and it looked cool so I was curious. However, despite all the buzz on social media about this mask there wasn’t much information on the product itself. None of the captions under the pictures of the device on social media actually said anything substantive about the mask other than the generic description that went something like: fights wrinkles and acne while helping you look younger (helllooo every cosmetics product says that). This should have been a big red flag for me given that I had started a biomedical company that failed because it was based on a “cool tool” without much else but this thought evaded me until I actually met with the company.

There are actually 3 generations of the CELLRETURN LED mask and the one selling for $1700 is the latest one that was released mid to late last year (so, no long term study data on safety and efficacy). Although, when I asked, the 1st and 2nd generations from 2015 and 2016, respectively, weren’t that much cheaper. In fact, they are still in the $1100-$1500 range. Having been looking at LED skin care masks for nearly a year, I wanted to understand this particular price point given that most sit at the $400-$600 range (check out Amazon). I mean, the pioneering Opera LED mask from the UK that was all over Instagram and being touted by celebrities like Jessica Alba and Kim Kardashian retails for less than $1500 in the secondary market. Not quite sure how much it was sold for when it first launched. *On a side note, the Opera mask has been mysteriously pulled off the market by the manufacturer around summer of this year 🤷🏽‍♀️.

In any case, for this particular CELLRETURN mask, I wanted to know why it was hitting at $1000+ above the price median. Is it that much better than say, the Dr. Gross mask at $435 from Sephora (that sometimes qualify for 15-20% off coupons) that has gotten US FDA approval and is used in an actual dermatology clinic? Based on the sales pitch given to me by CELLRETURN, my answer is, ummmm NO.

Ok, first, what does the company claim that this can do? Well, it’s a UV-free, color light mask that, when used 2-4 times per week for 20-30 mins., will eliminate/treat acne, wrinkles or skin discoloration (depending whether you use the red, blue or purple light setting, respectively) over 2 months of continuous use for 20-30 mins, 2-3 times per week. This is actually not that absurd, there have been clinical trials conducted that have yielded data supporting this claim about LED light therapy. But NOTE: the clinical trial data available do not support any specific LED mask brand.

In addition to these in-home devices, you can actually get the strongest LED mask treatment at your dermatologist’s office as an add-on to any treatment for about $30-60 a pop. I have no idea what brand they favor but it’s been great when I’ve added it on because it’s warm. No clue if it actually “worked” at preventing wrinkles but it did nothing for my acne, I can say that much. But even in this scenario, at the highest price point and for the maximum treatment of 8 weeks, you’re looking at a total spend of $1440 ($60*(3 per week x 8 weeks)) AND you get the white light that’s only available through a medical professional. Now, I get that this is a flawed analysis given that you wouldn’t get the LED treatment by itself at $30-60 a pop, you would have to get it as an add-on to a treatment that may be 100+ on its own. But think about it from a value-add perspective. The value-add of using this device on top of another skin care treatment is about $30-$60.

So again, why is this one $1700? Well, according to one of their salespeople (a head guy nonetheless but I don’t wanna get him in trouble), it’s because they believe that they are the best in the market. My response to that was 🤯! This was a perfect example of pricing a “cool tool” rather than a solution for the affected population’s willingness to pay.

As an avid consumer of beauty products, I am always on the lookout for the latest and coolest tools and products. But as a scientist, lawyer and businesswoman, one way I avoid bankruptcy due to product consumption overload is to evaluate the value proposition of these new, cool tools. In this case, while cool, I don’t see a $1700 value proposition in this anti-wrinkle/anti-acne/skin brightening LED mask. For me, I’d rather spend the cash visiting my dermatologist.

Here’s to hoping the company prices right in the next iteration. Otherwise, it’s slated to come to you in the U.S. through door-to-door sales (according to the company).😬

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