My feelings toward the Ion Infrared Beauty Stimulator are similar to those that I have for Jimmy's Q-Link (the thingy that you wear around your neck to harmonize your body): in a word, bemused. A tiny amount of science ignites hope, but we've probably been royally had and, either way, it's virtually impossible to tell.

I got the Ion Infrared at a trade fair, where they were on sale for about $60. It appears (the box is devoid of any information, such as the manufacturer's name and address) to be made in China as a competitor to Taiwan's more established Ultrasonic and Ion Stimulator, which is on sale in the US for about $250. It uses, as the name implies, a combination of positive/negative ions and infrared light. They are all purported to have a specific role.

The negative ion setting is used to cleanse the skin and unblock the pores. I found it hard to tell whether it made any difference. My face looked clean, but then it usually does after I've washed it. So I tried to find out whether negative ions are noted for their cleansing abilities. In the process, I turned up an awful lot of twaddle on ions.

Sorting the nonsense from the sane, I learned that ions are clusters of mostly water molecules that are positively or negatively charged - and they always come in pairs with one of each. Negative air ionization can things like dust particles in the air bond together, forming larger particles and thus falling out of the air. Perhaps that's what's happening to the dirt on my face. Negative ions are also meant to make a stuffy room airy and comfortable. However, according to Scandinavian researchers, this is a myth.

My Ion Infrared Beauty Stimulator also has a positive ion setting that is supposed to help nutrients in creams and moisturizers penetrate deep under the skin. This is even more difficult to verify with the naked eye. Positive ions are the evil twins of the negatives. They worsen the symptoms of people with asthma and lurk in offices with sick building syndrome. Perhaps they redeem themselves by helping cosmetic penetration, but I've found no clinical evidence of that.

The next setting is for infra-red light. I am more at home with that. Infra-red (invisible light) is used along with visible light pulses in LED systems. LED is much gentler than intense pulse light (IPL) or laser resurfacing. It works by stimulating the body's tissues to convert the light energy into cellular energy. It boosts collagen production and scavenger cells that remove excess pigmentation or scar tissue.

The real issue for me is that the Ion Infrared routine adds a minimum of 15 minutes to my morning ablutions. This means sacrificing sleep, breakfast, exercise or cuddles with husband and cats. I think I'd want to see more noticeable results before I trade.