Sure, serums and creams are great for nourishing and moisturizing your skin. But if you want to take your beauty routine up a notch, it’s worth considering one of the many facial tools that exist — aka gizmos that use some sort of technology to improve your complexion.
A lot of these devices resemble the tools facialists or dermatologists use for in-office treatments, and many claim to produce similar results. Dr. Purvisha Patel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, believes at-home beauty devices are booming. A report done in April by Research and Markets forecasted the beauty device market to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 18.8% between 2019 and 2027, and found that new technological advancements in the product category have led consumers to increasingly turn to at-home treatments. This is especially the case during quarantine, which has separated many people from professional facial treatments.
“People have been looking to more at-home options to give them [skin-boosting] results,” says Patel. These devices include microneedling tools (rollers that — yes — use teeny pins to stimulate collagen), facial wands (like jade rollers and other massagers), and handheld microcurrent products (which use electrical stimulation to sculpt), to name just a few examples.
Despite the many complexion-boosting perks these products claim to make, Patel cautions that beauty devices are a “double-edged sword.” One key thing to note? “These [tools] will never be as strong or effective as getting a procedure done at your dermatologist’s office,” she says. “As with skin care marketing, they can be rife with misinformation, and consumers will be disappointed when the wrong tool is used for the wrong skin issue.” If you’re not sure if a device is right for you, check with your derm before buying it.
Looking to get more out of your beauty routine? Here, experts share what you need to know about the facial tools that can level up your skin care.
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The new Magic Glow Wand by celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas is meant to reduce puffiness and redness as well as enhance the benefits of your skin care products by using hot, cold, and massage settings. “Heat can help with absorption of skin care, and massage helps with facial puffiness and skin that feels inflamed,” says Patel.
Generally, she explains, massage-type facial tools like jade rollers and gua sha stones are used to stimulate lymphatic flow, which results in less fluid buildup in the skin (aka puffiness). Your lymphatic system is a network of vessels, tissues, and organs that carry lymphatic fluid throughout your body to keep your systems operating efficiently, and movement (massage, in this case) is necessary for it to run smoothly. With these sorts of beauty devices, Patel notes that the results are temporary — they’ll last a day at most — and everyday use is best for optimal results.
Microcurrent tools work to keep your skin taut and lifted. “These release a small amount of current, or electricity, into the skin while you are moving the device against lymphatic flow to push out fluid that makes you look puffy,” says Patel. “Microcurrent is thought to help with facial muscle tone and collagen production.” The zaps from the current make your skin react as if it were wounded, which results in the collagen boost, she explains. Foreo’s recently launched Bear device has five microcurrent intensities to choose from and pairs with an app to guide you through the facial routine. These are safe to use every day, says Patel. “At-home devices aren’t strong enough to do harm to the skin or muscles,” she says.
Similar to the Foreo Bear devices, the ZIIP is a handheld microcurrent tool that also incorporates nanocurrent waves for even more results. The latter form of electrical stimulation uses smaller wavelengths to penetrate the skin even deeper than microcurrent waves, so this device is meant to create a more pronounced sculpting effect (though this hasn’t been thoroughly studied). Also like the Bear, the ZIIP syncs with an app that walks you through a number of facial treatments, which range from full face toning to more targeted areas like the skin around your eyes. Since the ZIIP uses more electrical currents in its treatment than a microcurrent device, the brand recommends using it about three times a week since it’ll give your skin time to process the currents.
The Droplette is basically a face mist with superpowers. It was developed by two MIT-trained PhDs and uses a strong “micro-mist” to deliver concentrated beauty ingredients (and it’s backed by NASA, BTW). You can buy it with whichever ingredient capsules you like (choices include glycolic acid, collagen, and retinol), which are in concentrated droplet form that the device diffuses into a fluid aero-mist that takes the actives deep beneath your skin’s surface. The combo of high-speed velocity from the mist and the small particle size of the ingredients together allows for super-efficient absorption.
Dr. Stacy Chimento, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist from Bay Harbor Island’s Riverchase Dermatology, tells Bustle she sees more people looking at absorption of skin care ingredients to get the most benefits out of what you use. “This year, get ready to add facial massagers and product applicators [to the facial tool] discussion as products like the Droplette gain more attention,” she says.
If your exfoliation routine needs a boost or if you’re dealing with clogged pores, a microdermabrasion device can help. “This is a good option during the pandemic or if you can’t handle the downtime of something stronger like a chemical peel,” Dr. Shirley Chi, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles, tells Bustle. “It works to exfoliate lightly and evenly and could potentially allow serums and acne medication to be absorbed better.” If your skin is on the sensitive side, she cautions to not overdo it. Patel says these types of devices should be used once a week for a month, then once a month for maintenance — otherwise, your skin will be more prone to irritation.
Dermal rollers, or microneedling devices, create super-tiny punctures in the skin (that you don’t see or really feel) with super-thin needles, resulting in increased collagen production, which is great for those who are looking for anti-aging benefits. “At-home microneedling devices are a good idea if you can’t get to your dermatologist on a regular basis,” says Chi. Her tip? Follow the safety and cleaning instructions for whichever tool you get. “I generally recommend using microneedling heads for about two weeks at a time before changing them out,” she says. “The needles become dull and can become contaminated with repeated use.”
Patel notes that various factors affect how quickly you’ll see results. “It depends on skin thickness and the length of the needles,” she says. “Those with thicker or acne-scarred skin can use shorter needles once a week.” Longer needles should only be used every three to four weeks, however, since they go deeper into the skin.
A number of Clarisonic alternatives flooded the shelves when the iconic brand went out of business in early 2020. One such example? The Conture Aerocleanse, which uses sonic vibrations and precise airflow to take your face-washing routine to the next level. If you have sensitive skin, Chi cautions these types of tools can be irritating, especially in the winter months when skin tends to be drier.
In a dermatologist’s office, you can get a number of hair loss treatments, ranging from light treatments to PRP (injection of platelet-rich plasma), which helps increase hair growth and strengthen your strands. But if you’re looking for something similar to use at home, you can get a roller — like this one by BeautyBio — to stimulate circulation on the scalp with needles and low-level red light, which will stimulate growth. When paired with a serum, like the one this set comes with, Patel says the vitamins in the formula can also increase hair thickness.
“The efficacy of these products is dependent on the user, hair density, products on the scalp, and the strength of the light,” she says, stressing that you should consult a dermatologist before starting any hair growth treatment. “That’s to see what type of hair loss you have and if such devices will even be helpful.”
Been away from your waxing salon? Patel says depilatory, aka hair removal, devices are on the rise since people haven’t been able to get to their salon appointments, and a market analysis report conducted by Grand View Research predicted that the hair removal product category’s revenue would reach $3.17 billion by 2025 (though this was done before COVID). The research found a rising consumer demand for home grooming products, which coincides with the rise of options available on the shelves, from epilators to hair removal creams.
“Dermaplaning pens such as the Hollywood Smoother and Dermaflash essentially shave the skin, exfoliating and removing face hair,” she tells Bustle. “This results in the appearance of smoother skin. These are safe, and the hair grows back.”
Similar to LED light facial treatments you can get at the derm’s office or from a facialist, you can snag a handheld device for similar at-home use — just don’t expect the same kinds of results. “While at-home devices like LED light masks or applicators don’t have the efficacy of in-office treatments, they provide a convenient way to address acne issues that have a distinctive bacterial and inflammatory component,” says Chimento. You can get a device that uses red LED light for more of an anti-aging effect, or go with blue if you’re dealing with breakouts.
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Dhurat, R. (2013). A Randomized Evaluator Blinded Study of Effect of Microneedling in Androgenetic Alopecia: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746236/
Khademi, K. (2012). The effect of microcurrents on facial wrinkles. Pars of Jahrom University of Medical Sciences. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323852520_The_effect_of_microcurrents_on_facial_wrinkles
Saniee, F. (2012). Consider of Micro-Current’s effect to variation of Facial Wrinkle trend, Randomized Clinical Trial Study. Life Science Journal. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230642269_Consider_of_Micro-Current’s_effect_to_variation_of_Facial_Wrinkle_trend_Randomized_Clinical_Trial_Study
Shah, M. (2020). Microdermabrasion. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535383/
Singh, A. (2016). Microneedling: Advances and widening horizons. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976400/
Wunsch, A. (2014). A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. Photomedicine And Laser Surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/
Dr. Purvisha Patel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare
Dr. Stacy Chimento, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist from Riverchase Dermatology
Dr. Shirley Chi, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles
10 Facial Tools Worth Trying In 2021, According To Derms The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Bustle.