LED Therapy, Microcurrent, sonic vibration.... what are they, and are they worth investing in? Gemma Watts takes us back to skin tech school.
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One of my earliest memories of beauty is setting up a home spa, aged 4 or 5, and giving my parents some fairly lacklustre facials. While my love of a home spa day remains, my technique has measurably improved. I love technology as much as I love the science of skin, and as years pass my collection of skincare devices only grows.
Home skincare devices are, undoubtedly, a luxury. They’re expensive, and for safety reasons their power simply cannot compare with that of a clinical device. However, I am of the belief that some of them really are worth it- if they are within your means, of course. I’ve tried and tested just about every home skincare device under the sun, and there are three types of skin tech that I find I’m queried on the most- LED, microcurrent, and sonic pulsations.
To assist in your home spa purchasing decisions, I’ve broken down what this skin technology has been designed to do for the skin, how it really works, and whether or not the price is worthwhile.
Light Therapy, or LED, uses light of varying wavelengths and frequencies to stimulate a variety of responses in the skin. LED does not contain UV, and is therefore entirely safe. The wavelengths of LED affect their colour, with each wavelength or colour designed to trigger a different response in the skin- for example red LED works to stimulate collagen production, ideal for those wishing to fill out fine lines and wrinkles, while blue LED targets bacteria within the sebaceous glands, making it perfect for those hoping to treat acne.
As mentioned, the strength of home LED physically cannot compete with the strength available in clinic. That said, the results of LED treatments are cumulative, so what you lose in strength you can come close to making up for in that you can use your home LED treatment daily.
I’ve tried a number of home LED devices- blue light spot treatments that look almost like a laser pointer designed to treat small, specific areas, a red light eye mask designed to target fine lines around the eyes, and a sheet masking device that combines LED technology with topical skincare. The home LED devices that have triggered the most noticeable changes in my skin have been full face LED masks which are, unfortunately, significantly more expensive than the aforementioned devices thanks largely to surface areas and the physical number of LED bulbs.
I rely predominantly on red LED, and the largest changes I have seen in my own skin have been surrounding inflammation- my skin bounces back from environmental stressors in next to no time, and the inflammation caused by hormonal breakouts is disappearing within 24 hours with consistent LED use, compared to close to a week without it.
I’ll never tell anyone that anything in the beauty space, other than sunscreen, is a “must have,” however if the price is within your means, I am of the firm belief that home LED systems are worth the investment. If you are unsure as to which LED mask is right for you, there are several unbiased comparison charts available online to help you make your decision.
My favourites: I use the Dr Dennis Gross Spectralite Facewear Pro on my face and the Omnilux Contour Neck and Decollete for my neck and decolletage.
*It’s worth noting that LED masks do not use UV light. UV light is the light emitted by the sun that can cause DNA damage to the skin, resulting in sun spots and pigmentation, wrinkles, a loss of collagen and elastin and, most dangerously, skin cancers. LED masks, whether in-salon or at home, do not use UV.
Much like LED technology, microcurrent treatments available in-clinic are always going to be substantially stronger than what you can safely use in your home.
Just the same as exercise, however, the results of microcurrent rely almost entirely on consistency. This is why I find home microcurrent treatments to be so beneficial. You wouldn’t do an exercise once and expect to see a change in your body, would you?
Most of us do not have daily access to a skin clinic, but daily access to home microcurrent is within the realm of possibility. Most brands recommend using home microcurrent between 5 and 7 days per week for the first 2 months to create real change in the skin, then 2 to 3 times per week for maintenance. This is the approach I have taken, and I have found it to be very effective.
My favourites: I have used the NuFACE Trinity device since late 2017 and it is one of my very favourite possessions (a huge and largely superficial call, I am aware).
Within a few months of use, I was receiving multiple Instagram direct messages per day asking if I had had my jawline slimmed and cheeks lifted with injectables. I had not. Make of that what you will.
There’s not a great deal of research available as to whether or not sonic skin devices can assist with product absorption, however they most certainly do increase circulation. Both research and my own experience have shown that this increase in circulation can deliver temporary results like an instant plumping of the skin and a healthy, glowing, almost “flushed” appearance, as well as more long-term results like a slight increase in cell turnover.
More specific results really depend on the device itself- vibrating cleansing devices have the ability to give the pores a slightly deeper cleanse and deliver something of an exfoliating effect, while vibrating facial massage tools are perfect for plumping up the skin for a juicy appearance while draining any excess fluid that might be causing a “puffy” appearance around the eye area and jaw.
But are these devices worth it? The results have been proven, however dermatologists tell us that our skin cells turn themselves over naturally- while a cleansing device might speed that process up, the results are not dissimilar to what we’d see with a topical physical exfoliant or even just using a washcloth with our cleanser.
Similarly, while a vibrating facial massage device can dramatically reduce puffiness and aid with lymphatic drainage, the same can be said for use of a simple roller, a Gua Sha, or even just a facial massage with our fingertips.
That said- I love t-sonic devices because I enjoy the sensory experience of a home facial. If they are within your means and they’ll help you relax, then all power to you. They certainly aren't an “essential,” though.
My favourites: Although dermatologists do say that cleansing devices are unnecessary and your fingertips do the job just fine, I really enjoy deep cleansing a couple of times each week for my Foreo Luna 3. I’ve used the Foreo Luna range for close to five years now and I really do find that the exfoliation element helps to loosen up any congestion within the pores.
I also love my Angela Caglia Vibrating Quartz Roller for a few reasons- the luxury of it (skincare should be fun!), the instant plump, juicy “glow” it gives my skin, and the speed with which it depuffs me when I’ve not had a deep sleep. That said, I see near identical results from a traditional quartz roller (Zove Beauty make my favourite).