The thing about facials is that there are just so many different kinds. It's hard to keep track! Somewhere in the midst of rigorous face massage, professional peels, and painful-but-worth-it extractions is the high-tech stuff—namely electricity. All things that zap are commonly referred to as microcurrent treatments (oh, but there's so much more, you'll see). These treatments can range from high-end experiences with the likes of Melanie Simon to at-home tools that fit in the palm of your hand. Get one and you'll see; the lift and glow are basically unparalleled. But why? Instead of a boring internet search, take a moment and sit down with five of ITG's favorite technicians (all at once!) and find out: What's the deal? Is it worth it? And is it for me? Let's get started...
Shamara Bondaroff, owner, SB Skin: This treatment had been around for decades...
Jordana Mattioli, aesthetician: Electrical current facials used to only mean microcurrent, which is still the most popular.
Inge Theron, founder, Face Gym: Very few people know that over 40 muscles make up the scaffolding of the face.
Danuta Mieloch, owner, Rescue Spa: So, your facial muscles are directly attached to the skin—the combination of electric currents that we use in microcurrent treatments directly stimulate those muscles and also help with healing and circulation.
Melanie Simon, founder, ZIIP Beauty: What I consistently see from many clients with all different skin types is a beautiful texture and luminous, glowing skin that only comes from micro and nanocurrents. It outperforms light treatments, ultrasound, peels, microdermabrasion, and all of the other modalities we have to choose from.
Danuta: Think of it as your facial trainer.
Jordana: I would definitely compare it to working out—one session will give you a temporary tone and you'll feel and look great, but doing it regularly will really give you the best results.
Shamara: Results are definitely cumulative—even though you see results after the first one.
Jordana: The currents are associated with lifting, sculpting, and firming—those are the immediate results—but we have studies to show they also can increase elastin fibers and collagen thickness.
Melanie: In general, microcurrent facials increase your ATP production. ATP is necessary for your body to produce collagen and elastin, and production decreases as we age. Microcurrents kick up the productivity of collagen and the elasticity of the skin, while also being antibacterial in nature, which means far fewer breakouts.
Shamara: And it's excellent for lymphatic drainage, which is very beneficial to anyone who travels a lot, or whose lifestyle includes a lot of entertaining—meals, drinks, late nights, etc.
Danuta: It's like a reset button for almost any skin concern.
Jordana: But let’s get more specific! I have a few different machines that target different issues—all of these machines have different wavelengths and attachments to focus on different areas of the face.
Melanie: Having several different machines allows me to build any kind of waveform that my clients could potentially need. Some at-home devices outperform professional devices, and some professional tools are far more powerful and advanced than something you could purchase for home use.
Jordana: For getting active ingredients into the skin, I'll use pulsed Iontophoresis and low frequency Sonophoresis. Iontophoresis comes from the word ionizing, and it’s not a microcurrent—it’s an electrical current that separates and rejoins the ions in your skin. Sonophoresis is actually not an electrical current, it’s a sound wave. These waves alternate and have an effect called cavitation, which creates these little tiny channels into the skin, and the ingredients fall into those holes. Usually I’m using peptides or high amounts of vitamins like C or A.
Melanie: In every treatment, you’re getting 50% negative and 50% positive currents—that’s an alternating current. Alternating current is all about growth, and working with the body to make the skin luminous. I’m really encouraging the body to do its own job.
Jordana: A hi-frequency current is great for minimizing bacteria after cleaning out pores. My machine uses a specific gas called Argon gas, which is antibacterial, and I use that after extractions.
Melanie: Bacteria puts off a positive charge, so a negative current kills all of that. Sometimes it will physically pull out the bacteria—like, a blackhead may come out of your face.
Jordana: Areas that need firming and lifting, I'll use microcurrent with electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS. EMS is different from microcurrent—it’s deeper stimulation, and exercises your facial muscles by contracting them. You can even see your facial muscles contract—it’s totally weird! It’s kind of like waking up your muscles, and it tells them to produce more ATP. I like to use EMS more for the lower parts of the face where there might be more sagging, and microcurrents for the eyes and forehead.
Danuta: I typically suggest starting with 3 sessions every 2 weeks, and then once a month for maintenance. This way, you're tapping into that cell regeneration that happens every 28 days, helping to generate healthy cells.
Melanie: For many, this is not feasible because of the expense. In which case I recommend doing 2 to 3 sessions close together, and then get on a really good, efficacious skin care routine.
Shamara: I start treatments by gently cleansing the skin, then dive right into the microcurrent, going over the entire face and neck.
Melanie: Some professional machines use a conducting gel to help the energy flow, but for something like the Biologique Recherche machine, which uses Galvanic current, you can soak the skin in product.
Shamara: I use a conducting gel that’s aloe-based. That does double duty for me, because most people come in extremely dehydrated.
Jordana: If I’m treating your whole face with electrical currents, that portion alone can take about 45 minutes, so most of your facial time. Most of my clients prefer to focus on a few specific areas —eyes, forehead or jawline—instead of the whole face, so we still have time left for other facial treatment methods like extractions.
Shamara: I can also perform electric muscle stimulation on the body at the same time. Results are less immediate, but you see similar firming and lifting. It’s more of a secret—my clients find me through word of mouth, and people don’t post videos of themselves working electrical current on their asses!
Danuta: There is no downtime, no pain—perhaps a little tingle.
Jordana: The only time I say to avoid electrical currents is if you have any implanted devices like hearing aids or pacemakers, a history of seizures or epilepsy, or are pregnant.
Shamara: If you have Botox, microcurrent can complement it. Or if you want to wean yourself off of Botox, microcurrent is a great choice to achieve that goal as well.
Danuta: I think the treatments can create a healthy, toned face vs. too much Botox, which can lead to atrophy and a frozen face. We have clients that we have been seeing for 15 years and they're aging so gracefully. It's preventative—over time you’re challenging the aging process naturally, without any side effects.
Shamara: A lot of people are assume that it’s only anti-aging, but it’s also amazing for things like Bell’s Palsy, migraines, and recovery from surgery. ATP is so regenerative—I can’t believe the healing properties it has.
Melanie: But you can’t store excess ATP—that’s why you look great the next day, but after a few days it kind of starts going back. That is the beauty of at-home devices—they give people who can’t come into the salon control over their faces.
Jordana: It’s always going to be temporary—just like exercise. It’s different for everybody, but most results last from two days to a week. An at home device can absolutely be used in-between professional treatments.
Inge: Actually, the tools and electrical muscle stimulation device used in our workouts are the exact same products we retail for use at home. It’s basically like a personal trainer in your handbag.
Jordana: FaceGym is great because it’s affordable for people who like to incorporate electrical current. I use their device to do EMS—all of my machines are big and bulky, except for that.
Shamara: Once you come in for a treatment you'll see why an at-home device could never replace coming in for a facial. The power of the machine I use and the manipulation that the different probes allow cannot be replicated at home.
Danuta: Plus, in my experience, the angle is different when someone else works on you. Much like getting a haircut it's really difficult to do it yourself and be amazed with the results.
Jordana: They still will be beneficial if you use them regularly, but you have to use it! Just like most skin care, consistency is key.
Melanie: If you are going to invest the money in a facial, you should see real results. These facials deliver.
—as told to ITG
Research by Ali Oshinsky. Photo via ITG.