I Tried Several Skincare Devices & One Transformed My Face Instantly

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,
Is it worth me buying any beauty tools? I’ve basically accepted that getting a facial is probably a very distant point in the future, and I was a pretty regular customer until the pandemic kicked off – I’d see my aesthetician at least six times a year. Is there anything on the market worth buying as a stopgap, or maybe even to supplement my treatments in future? I’m really missing the whole experience, and so is my face!

Izzy, 32
Up until last year, I was a staunch beauty tool sceptic. Nothing you can buy at home is as powerful as what you get in clinic. Or so I reasoned. Tools were just fun add-ons or cute gimmicks to pass the time. I’ve definitely changed my tune after not being able to have a facial for a whole year. Plenty of them actually offer great benefits and if you’re serious enough about skincare to be a regular at your aesthetician’s office, you should definitely consider adding them to your routine as a booster.
That’s not to say I endorse all of them wholesale, nor do I think anyone 'needs' them per se. The core work of skincare is done through the unsexy stuff: SPF, retinol, vitamin C, sleep, abstention from smoking and so on. But for those of you – like you, Izzy – who like to play the beauty game on a more advanced setting, why not?

One category of beauty tool I’m yet to be fully convinced by are cleansing devices. This is partly because of the lifespan some of them seem to have (RIP Clarisonic) but also because I personally don’t think anything beats your hands, a good cleanser and a warm flannel. I’ve owned a few cleansing devices in my time but always slid back to a more manual method. However, I know plenty of people who swear by their handheld cleansing gadget of choice so if the facials you were having pre-lockdown were to keep acne and oiliness at bay, you may find it beneficial. Just be careful to buy from a trusted retailer and avoid anything with harsh bristles which can be aggressive on the skin. 
Another category I’m iffy on? Pore vacuums or spot suckers or zappers or whatever you want to call them. You’re more likely to cause more damage and inflammation by attempting to extract or pop a spot, which means a greater likelihood that it’ll leave a scar behind. And believe me, the scarring can take so much longer to heal than the original spot, especially if you have darker skin, which releases more melanin. Also, you can get into an endless cycle of compulsive picking and looking for something to extract. Just pop a hydrocolloid acne patch – like a Starface sticker – on the sucker and let that work its magic.
However, I’ve fallen head over heels of late for two electrical tools, specifically the NuFace Microcurrent Trinity Toning Device and The Light Salon Boost Mask. My favourite facials always incorporated some element of microcurrent and LED light therapy but I’d never tried a DIY version. Microcurrent is an energy source that stimulates the facial muscles, making your face appear more lifted and toned. The effects are noticeable but temporary. As such, I’d book in for a microcurrent facial ahead of a big event (usually with SKNDoctor aka Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe) or if I’d really been feeling stressed and wrung out, and enjoy the benefits for a few days. 
For me, the NuFace doesn’t offer the same potent immediate lift but after using it as instructed (every day for five minutes) my skin absolutely looks like it did after a pro treatment. My cheekbones look more sculpted, my skin feels nicely toned and, because you can use it every day, you keep the benefits rolling on in. I’ve noticed enough of a difference in my skin a) to commit to using it for good and b) to make the price tag worth it. Everyone’s different and of course it’s not the same as Botox or a face lift but it does make you look like you’ve really slept well for about two weeks. There’s not heaps of clinical research into microcurrent for cosmetic use but one Italian study found that it did noticeably improve skin laxity, with the caveat that repeated use is necessary.

Then, LED. I have fairly sensitive skin and found that an LED boost at the end of an aggressive extraction facial always served to soothe my skin and extend the benefits of the post-treatment glow. But the machines they use are massive and bulky so I didn’t think I’d ever be able to recreate that at home, either. However, The Light Salon, which is one of my favourite spots, has nailed it with its at-home Boost mask. It’s made from a soft, pliable plastic and has two straps so you can comfortably wear it while sitting, lying down or even walking around. You can watch Netflix, scroll Instagram, even work on your laptop while wearing it. The 10-minute blast of LED leaves my skin looking really lovely, with a brighter complexion and a supple feel. It’s thought that red LED light can help stimulate collagen production and there is some preliminary research that looks promising.
I’m also a big fan of manual tools. Gua sha and jade rolling are a lovely addition to a spa evening at home – they feel beautifully cooling on the skin and give an uptick in circulation that leaves skin feeling plump and smooth. While they don’t mimic professional results, if you’re looking for a purse-friendly, gentle introduction to tools, they’re brilliant.
Regardless of the brand, LED and microcurrent tools tend to be very pricey, and that’s down to the complexity of the tools themselves. The technology isn’t exactly NASA level but calibrating the right amount of intensity into a handheld tool which can safely mimic in-clinic results is tricky. If you look online I’m sure you can find off-brand options for a slice of the price, but you simply don’t know how safe or effective they’ll be. 
Illustrated by Olivia Santner
If you’re looking for all-over brightness and pep without injectables and you’ve got some cash to blow, I’d definitely recommend either tool. Or both, if you’re feeling bougie.
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email deardaniela@vice.com, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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