Most at-home facial and skincare devices/tools are like fitness equipment – they sell your biggest hopes and dreams, but end up collecting dust in your storage closet. In my opinion, a custom skincare regimen (with the right ingredients) and consistency are over 80% of the recipe for reaching your skin goals. Devices are not going to do much in the long run. However, I do love devices for helping with certain skin conditions like acne and aging. In particular, LED panels, microcurrent, high frequency, and ultrasonic devices can help a lot. However, besides creating a renewed sense of motivation, most other devices and tools will most likely leave you disappointed, or potentially regretful.
Beauty devices are here to stay! Each season there seems to be a newer, flashier, and even more “effective” device advertisement served up to us on our favorite social media platform or online beauty publication. But with so many options, marketing claims, and price points, how do you know which ones, if any, are worthy of your precious time and money? Also, do they truly make a difference and help you achieve your most desired skin goals with ease and unparalleled technology? In this article, I’m going to answer all of these questions for you and more. I’ll also share my professional secrets on how to actually achieve your skin goals, with and without devices. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
Most at-home skincare devices – aka the devices and tools that you, a consumer, can purchase without a professional license – are typically made and manufactured to mimic more advanced, professional modalities. However, to ensure public safety regulations, the at-home versions are often diluted in power, pressure, and severity. And this is a good thing since the average consumer is not knowledgeable enough (No, Google is not a substitution for a degree or license in skin physiology) to safely operate professional devices. This is how many skin issues, unfortunately, are born!
And on this topic, there are some “at-home” skincare devices that I just don’t recommend without your esthetician’s support, recommendation and training. Those devices are, but are not limited to:
Microneedling devices like derma-rollers and plastic needle pens
These devices are rarely used correctly and more often can potentially tear, sensitize or even infect the skin. Also, most home rollers or pens don’t penetrate the skin deep enough to make that big of a difference in my opinion. Professional and clinical microneedling can be very effective in treating scars, wrinkles, texture issues and skin elasticity, and do this through dermal needle punctures that activate the skin’s own healing mechanisms. Basically, it’s a controlled injury to the body that helps the skin regenerate in various ways. But the at-home versions can be much less reliable and subject to human error.
Microdermabrasion machines or scrubs
We can think of microdermabrasion as a more aggressive exfoliation treatment that gives our skin another controlled injury response to help with scar revision and advanced aging. But like professional microdermabrasion, there is a time and place for this type of treatment, and I see many people overdoing it and causing a harmful injury to the skin in return. And remember, once the skin is damaged, it is very hard to correct that damage. This is why aggressive skin treatments are usually things of the past – since we’re realizing as an industry that healing and nourishing the skin is just as important as exfoliation, if not more! As an experienced esthetician, I would only perform microdermabrasion on a very select few individuals and would avoid it for the majority of my clients. I recommend avoiding any device, tool, or scrub with the term “microdermabrasion” on it since the majority of products I see are too aggressive for most skins.
Bristle Facial Brushes
Like microdermabrasion devices, many facial brushes (think Clarisonics) can also be overly aggressive on the skin. And as humans, I find that we really enjoy a good “scrub”, leading us to use too much pressure. Many of my clients always say, “there’s something about getting in there and feeling squeaky clean after a good scrub.” But this is the last thing our skin should ever feel. If your skin feels “squeaky clean” you’ve most likely overdone it. I also don’t like these types of brushes because they can spread bacteria around if not cleaned properly (which is typical in my experience). It usually causes hypersensitivity and potentially damaging, inflammatory skin conditions. Just avoid it. Your hands work just fine.
Now, a fun analogy to introduce in the next section of this article
We can often look at all the different types of skincare devices and tools the same way we look at various types of at-home fitness equipment and apparatuses. For example, many of us have seen a great advertisement for a fitness device in our lives – whether it be an ab roller, a new-an-improved treadmill thingy, a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick machine, or a gazelle thigh squeezer, the list could go on. Many times the commercials or ads make these machines seem like the silver bullet to all of our fitness problems, but if we buy them, how likely will it be that it ends up rotting away in our basement or self-proclaimed home gym? I, myself, have had a few fitness “devices” die in a pile of dust before eventually making the trek to Goodwill to donate their carcasses. And unfortunately, this is often what I see happening to skincare devices. It’s a flashy, shiny new toy that promises excitement, ease, and all of our hopes and dreams come true. We love new things, and we often think, “wow, this is what will make me more consistent with my routine!” But more often than not, many beauty devices are simply shots of motivation that eventually wear off. They, too, start to rot away like our home gym equipment. But that also doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun, effective, and motivating to us when we need it!
And that’s why it’s important to understand what is worth your time and money based on your specific skin and lifestyle goals. Below I’ve outlined some great options of home devices and tools that match up well with your budget and skincare needs.
If your goals ARE…
Wrinkles and deep lines ~
Wrinkles, lines, and loss of elasticity will inevitably come with aging, and that is ok! But if you want to give your skin as much strength and energy to slow that process down, I recommend investing in a quality LED device, like this one from Celluma, which helps the skin rejuvenate with cell-energizing light-emitting diodes. Another good option is a microcurrent device, like this one from Nuface, which is said to tone, lift and contour the skin.
Acne/oily skin ~
For all different forms of acne and skin congestion, I recommend LED as well. Blue light is great at killing the bacteria that cause acne and can be a great way to reduce blemishes. In addition, an at-home high-frequency machine like this one from NuDerma will quickly and painlessly keep acne bacteria in check and can be used on a daily basis. Some also believe high-frequency machines can help with product penetration as well, which is perfect for delivering the right nutrients to your skin cells.
Ultrasonic devices like MySkinBuddy and Coterie’s Love device are both great ultrasonic devices to help deep clean pores and keep blackheads at bay. I also love a gentle silicone scrubber like this one to give you a better cleanse.
Hyperpigmentation & melasma ~
Dark spots can be caused by scarring (like after you pick a blemish), hormonal imbalances (especially when you’re pregnant), sun damage, and even internal inflammation. Depending on what type you have, there are a few devices and tools that can help with effective skincare products.
Most hyperpigmentation is managed through controlled exfoliation, lighteners, and retinoids. And although there are not a lot of devices specifically targeted for hyperpigmentation, I would again recommend a quality LED device like Celluma, which can help bring down certain inflammation responses that trigger melanin formation. In addition, you could use ultrasonic devices, rollers, cooling globes, and even microinfusion devices to help your skincare ingredients work better on the skin.
Dull, tired skin ~
If your skin is feeling pretty lifeless, you could benefit from increasing the blood flow within your skin. There are great devices and tools that can do this. My favorites from a low-budget perspective are your simple jade or quartz rollers, Gua Sha tools, and silicone facial scrubbers. You can also use LED and ultrasonic devices to encourage cellular energy as well.
Dry skin ~
Dry and dehydrated skin is treated best with soothing and circulation-inducing devices like ultrasonic, or even gently massaging a hydrating serum in with a jade roller or gua sha tool.
Sensitive skin ~
Sensitive skin is skin that tends to get irritated, red, and even inflamed with certain products and devices. You’ll want to tread lightly here with any device. If you’re interested in getting a device, I would look for ones that are “no touch,” like LED panels and micro-infusion devices. Remember to use the right products/ingredients as well.
Because rosacea can use antimicrobial modalities sometimes, LED blue light and high frequency could be a potentially helpful device option. Besides that, I would really only use soothing and cooling tools like gentle rollers and icy globes occasionally.
While professional microneedling treatments and chemical peels are my go-to’s for scar revision, I don’t recommend either of those modalities for at-home usage due to safety concerns. But if you want to give your skin a small nudge, you can use LED panels and ultrasonic devices. However, it most likely won’t make much of a difference.
MY BREAKDOWN OF COMMON AT-HOME DEVICES:
*Talk to your doctor before using any of these if you are pregnant, have cancer, or have used an Accutane in the last 12 months*
|Budget||Device or Tool||Good For…||Example||Don’t use if…|
|$$$||Ultrasonic (Cavitation (scrubber) and/or sonophoresis)||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention, Acne (not flared), Blackheads, Dull Skin, Dry Skin||Coterie Love Device, MySkinBuddy (I sell through my spa)||Pregnant/nursing, pacemakers, circulation disorders, infection, cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, seizures|
|$$$$$||LED Mask or Light||Wrinkles/Deep Lines (Red light), Age Prevention, Melasma, Acne (blue light), Oily, Scarring, Dull Skin, Dry Skin, Sensitive, Rosacea||Celluma, MySkinBuddy (I sell through my spa)||Pregnant/nursing (Dr. approval), epilepsy, cancer, photosensitive or medications that cause photosensitivity (antibiotics), steroid use|
|$$||Dermaplane tool (Aka face shaver)||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention, Melasma, Dull Skin||Dermaflash||Pregnant, active acne or rosacea, recent use of Accutane or RetinA, eczema/psoriasis, malignant skin tumors, open lesions, lupus, active herpes infection, sunburn|
|$||Facial rollers/massagers||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention, Oily, Dull Skin, Dry Skin||ZAQ||Open wounds, rashes, sunburn, bruising, cancer, inflammation|
|$||Gua Sha tools||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention, Oily, Dull Skin, Dry Skin||ZAQ||Open wounds, rashes, sunburn, bruising, cancer, inflammation|
|$$||Silicone Facial Scrubber||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention, Acne (not active), Oily, Blackheads, Dry, Sensitive, Rosacea (not active)||Coterie Revive||Open wounds, rashes, sunburn, bruising, cancer, inflammation, ultra sensitive skin|
|$$||High Frequency||Age Prevention, Acne, Blackheads, Dull Skin, Dry Skin||NuDerma||Pregnant, metal implants, no jewelry, rosacea, telangiectasia, epilepsy, heart conditions, pacemaker, thrombosis, seizures, cancer|
|$||Cooling devices (globes, sticks, etc.)||Melasma, Acne/Oily, Dull Skin, Dry Skin, Sensitive, Rosacea||Facial Ice Globes, Cooling masks, Or put your roller/massager in the fridge||Open wounds|
|$$$||Microcurrent||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention||NuFace||Pregnant/nursing, pacemakers, circulation disorders, infection, cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, seizures, thrombosis, metal implants, no jewelry or lots of metal dental fillings, recent neurotoxin or filler injections|
|$$$||Microinfusion Devices (the jury is still out for me on whether this is worth any investment)||Wrinkles/Deep Lines, Age Prevention||Droplette||Pregnant, Accutane user, allergy-prone|