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The Lab Rat: LightStim Red Light Therapy

When I was twenty, my skin was so taut that no matter how hard I scrunched my face, I couldn’t induce lines on my forehead. By twenty-five, I could easily furrow my brow into a squiggly pattern. Now, at thirtycough, my forehead at rest is still mostly smooth, but I can see the teensytiniest little permanent groove forming above my left eyebrow. Give it another five years, and it might settle down and start spawning. So if you’re like me, concerned about wrinkles but unable to spend a month’s salary at the dermatologist’s office getting professional laser resurfacing, you get a home wrinkle-erasing tool like the LightStim.
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The theory behind the LightStim is “red light therapy,” which is the idea that the right wavelength of red light stimulates your skin to make more collagen and elastin to keep it young and taut. Or something like that. Honestly, that’s pretty much everything I or anyone else know about it.

The Fountain of Fail
To stimulate my deadbeat collagen and elastin, I spent ten minutes per night with the LightStim wand pointed at my face. Per the instructions, you center the wand over the area you want to treat and leave it there for three minutes before moving to the next area. I chose to treat three areas, for a total of nine minutes. I could have done my whole face but a) I didn’t have the patience and b) a lifetime of meticulous sunscreen use and not smoking have left the rest of my face in good shape, so I felt entitled to cut this corner.

LightStim promised that I’d start to see some improvement in eight weeks. I faithfully used it for eight weeks, at least five times per week. The things I do for my readers! And after those eight weeks, what did I see? Nothing. No measurable difference. Not even the beginnings of a difference. I might as well have waved a potato over my face, or tried to pray the wrinkles away.

To be fair, I don’t have truly extensive crow’s feet or deep-set wrinkles, and maybe the LightStim isn’t great at fixing wrinkles that are just beginning. But if it can’t fix a tiny baby wrinkle, how can it hope to fix a big mondo-wrinkle? Isn’t it supposed to be easier to start the prevention process before things get out of control?  

And aside from the lack of noticeable effects, I must relay that using the LightStim was also a giant pain in the ass. It requires outlet power, so I was chained to a wall while I used it. And while the website says that while you’re using the wand you can “watch television, surf the Web, or read a book,” it doesn’t mention how you’re supposed to accomplish those when you’re also supposed to keep your eyes closed the whole time. I mainly just lay in bed and tried not to fall asleep while my husband made fun of me and surreptitiously took unflattering pictures to post on Facebook.

Also, the device just feels cheap, like a kid’s toy. The Clarisonic, the Tria—those feel good in your hands; they feel like quality. I dropped the LightStim off the bed once and the casing came apart like it was the remote from a Walmart TV. Considering that the damn thing costs $300, it would be nice if it felt a little more solid.

In a derm’s office, wielded by a professional, maybe this red light therapy works wonders. On the LightStim and QVC websites (where the device is sold), commenters all seem to love this thing, so it could have just been me. Who knows? All I know is that by my calculations, I expended six hours of my life without anything to show for it. I’d make a sad, frowny face about the futility of it all, but that would cause wrinkles, and the LightStim can’t help me with those.  

 

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