Skincare tech – the at-home beauty tools to know about from microcurrent to LED

Lockdown is finally beginning to ease in Scotland – but we reckon there are a few things we got used to that will be sticking around.

A flexible work-life balance, spending more quality time with friends and family and not feeling too guilty when you’d rather chill on the sofa at home than hit the town are all high on our list.

And, since beauty salons and hairdressers have been closed, there has been a bigger focus on self-care and DIY beauty treatments – within reason, of course.

Enter, at-home beauty tech: A way to up your beauty routine from lotions and potions to Space Age gadgetry… Almost.

True, many of the devices on the market aren’t cheap, but use them enough and they’re a cost-effective way to boost your routine without heading to a spa or a clinic for a facial. Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular tools – and how they work.

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Microcurrent – sculpts your face

I’m a diehard microcurrent addict: Low-voltage electric currents help tone facial muscles, stimulate cell growth, and improve collagen development in the dermis. It is regularly described as the gym for your face – which has 65 muscles. It’s used by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba and J Lo, so you’re in good company… Though they have money and genetics on their side, to be fair.

I first tried the CACI facial at a salon in 2018, which, to be fair, operates at a stronger wattage than an at-home treatment and was also performed by a professional. But I was impressed with how contoured my face looked and eventually ordered a device to see if, over time, I could give myself similar results.

I’ve now had the NuFACE for almost two years and my mum, a self-proclaimed cynic when it comes to skincare, swears by hers for toning up her neck and jawline.

I’ve also recently tried the FOREO Bear: Launched in 2020, it works with microcurrent and sonic pulsations which help to relax and de-puff the skin while the electricity works its magic. And, it has its own anti-shock system to stop you getting zapped during your treatment.

One reason I’m excited about this is it has multiple strength settings and has a guided facial on the FOREO app which talks you through the various movements. An even bigger bonus is that you can trace your device when you can’t find it using the bluetooth connection. I’ve had to use it a few times despite never leaving my house…

With any microcurrent device, you must apply a conductive gel so the current passes deeply into the skin and you don’t harm the surface. If you have sensitive skin, you might find it unsuitable.

Does it work?

As I’ve used microcurrent for two years, I wouldn’t go without it in my daily routine. I treat it the same as you would treat brushing your teeth: It’s easy, takes five minutes and gives your face a visible lift. It’s said to work best in the forehead; mine is line-free and the stronger muscles mean my eyebrows lift highly when I move them (albeit not the most attractive look). With the demand for cheek and jaw fillers on the rise, it’s worth trying a device like this first to bring out what you have naturally.

Microneedling – induces collagen to help rejuvenate

This one isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it works a treat. Microneedling is the use of tiny needles to prick the skin, creating tiny wounds that stimulate its natural repair abilities and boost collagen.

I was first exposed to microneedling when I tried out the vampire PHP facial, which injects your own blood plasma back into your skin to increase your growth factors. I don’t have a centrifuge kicking about the house so I had to go with the plain-old microneedling method instead. Slightly less gnarly, at least – and much cheaper.

How does it help?

As we age the natural scaffolding of our skin deteriorates, which results in fine lines, wrinkles, and varying skin textures. By encouraging more collagen and elastin to be produced, treatments like this can reduce the appearance of lines, pores and acne scars and help slow down the process. It is a wee bit painful – so if you prefer a ‘softly, softly’ approach to facials, sit this one out.

You’re only meant to use an electronic microneedling device every four to six weeks and you can’t wear makeup for 24 hours afterwards, so it’s an ideal treatment to try in lockdown.

Dermapen in action

Dermapen in action

How to use it

I use a cartridge with 12 tiny needles, changing it every time. You can adjust the length of the needles using the dial which can help lessen the pain. Personally, I go for the full whack as I’ve got a higher pain threshold, but the skin around the eyes you should probably take more care of.

Make sure your skin is cleansed of makeup and debris and then you work slowly around the face. Some automatically ‘stamp’ for you but I have to do this myself with my device.

This is probably a riskier treatment than the others: Don’t be tempted to spend too long in one trouble area or use blunted needles, as you might draw blood or create micro-tears, which can lead to scarring. Make sure your device is cleared by the FDA and dispose of each needle cartridge after use.

What are the results like?

Swelling, redness and dryness are the norm in the 48 hours following your treatment; your skin is effectively an open wound, so you should avoid wearing makeup and scented products the following day. Instead, wear a broad spectrum SPF if you’re leaving the house – yep, even if it’s dreich outside.

My skin definitely feels tighter and bouncier the morning after, especially across the cheeks. The pores on my nose look smaller and my under-eyes look less tired. I do occasionally peel, but it tends to resolve itself after a day or two.

I use this TBPHP microneedling device from Amazon, but if an electronic device gives you the heebie jeebies, try a handheld derma roller for more control.

LED – helps charge up your collagen

LED – standing for Light Emitting Diodes – is a light therapy harnessing varying wavelengths of light, including red and blue, to treat skin problems. NASA originally developed it for plant growth experiments on shuttle missions before later finding it could help with healing wounds. There are few better ringing endorsement than actual rocket scientists.

Foreo LED Smart Mask

Foreo LED Smart Mask

How does it work?

Red LED light is the most widely used, understood to act on cells in the dermis known as fibroblasts, which play a role in the production of collagen. Blue targets the oil glands and thus, are mostly used for acne treatment, yellow reduces redness and inflammation and so on. The treatment is safe for all skin colours and types and does not burn the skin.

You can try it out in the form of a mask or a wand – if you’re happy to lie and chill out, the first one is your guy. But I’ve always opted for one where you can move around the skin as I can’t sit still. The LED wand from LUX is a cheap place to start at £35. Typically the more you spend, the more powerful the light is: But if you use it plenty while watching TV, you should still get results. The bonus of LED is you can’t overdo it.

Again, I’m a sucker for Foreo: Their UFO Smart Mask device combines LED with a sheet mask that works in three minutes and leaves your skin juicy and glowing. It also uses Thermo (heating) and Cryo (cooling) and sonic pulsations to make the nutrients to sink deeper into the skin.

Is it effective?

You can whizz through a Smart Mask treatment on the app in around two minutes, moving the device around your face in circling motions and rubbing the residue in afterwards. There are a range of masks to choose from including Manuka Honey, Acai Berry and Cannabis Seed Oil – and they smell amazing.

The combination of light and radiofrequency definitely gives my skin a glow, though you have to use it consistently over time for the best results. I tend to use it at night before I apply any skincare and in the morning if I look like I could use a pick-me-up.

I had compliments from friends on how radiant my skin looked on a Zoom after using it one night, which had me wondering why I ever bothered to slap makeup on for a 30-minute video call. I save the sheet masks as a wee treat and tend to use the UFO freestyle with a conductive gel. Have a gander on LookFantastic.

Facial steaming – decongests your pores

I’ll admit it: I’m an absolute steamer. I miss the feeling of hitting the sauna or hot yoga and coming out soothed with fresh, glossy skin and slathering on moisturiser. For now, the slightly less Zen version from the comfort of your own home will have to do.

Steaming was one of the first DIY beauty treatments I ever tried was when I was around 11: A girl at Guide Camp told me I could ward off spots using a bowl of hot water and a tea towel over my head (Truthfully, I’m not sure that alone could have fought the merciless onslaught of hormonal acne). However, as an accident-prone adult, I decided to up my game using a much safer at-home steamer.

How it works

Steaming works by increasing blood circulation to the skin by raising its internal temperature, causing oxygen to flow to the surface. This helps unstick clogged pores and draw out impurities such as dirt and oil.

The Sarah Chapman steamer (it’s on offer right now at Feel Unique) apparently emits “ionic, nano-sized steam particles” to penetrate the skin deeper and help remove dead skin cells. You’re meant to use distilled or filtered water, but I take a punt from time to time with some good old-fashioned tap water… I didn’t grow scales, but just as an FYI: Doing it repeatedly could affect the water chamber.

Is it effective?

I find it works like a double-cleanse: Steaming after washing your face makes it feel squeaky clean and rejuvenated. You have a one-minute window before evaporation occurs, which can lead to dehydration, so that’s when I slap on a serum or a moisturiser to lock in the moisture afterwards. You do look a bit ridiculous hunched over a plume of vapours for five minutes – as demonstrated in the video – but it’s actually fairly relaxing and worth trying a few times a week when you’ve got little else to do.

Do you have any game-changing skincare tools worth raving about? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter. Check out our lifestyle news section.

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