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So many skin-care devices catch our eye that it’s hard to tell the truly helpful from the purely hyped. So we asked the professionals — four dermatologists and two aestheticians, to be exact — about the best options for a number of skin concerns including acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. Whether you’re already happy with your skin and just want a personalized routine to maintain it, or have some serious goals you’d like to meet, our experts shared the best beauty tech out there — including facial brushes to get a deeper clean and red-light helmets to promote hair growth. We’re focusing only on the higher investment–higher payoff beauty tech so we haven’t included manual tools (like gua sha stones). And because these devices use various forms of energy like LED light or microcurrent technology, consult your doctor before using if you’re pregnant or have an existing medical condition.
Because it can tell you what your skin needs, a moisture meter is a foundation for any home-based routine. “These devices can help determine if skin is dehydrated,” Dr. Farhaad Riyaz, a board-certified dermatologist who is also a docent medical advisor, says that the moisture meter can tell you what your skin needs. “Many people trying to improve their skin actually cause harm by overusing products or doubling up on ingredients. Too many acids or other harsh ingredients can cause dehydration or dry out the skin, which actually contributes to premature aging.” By pressing the probe on the top of the pen into the skin, this device reads moisture as well as oiliness. Riyaz states that the device comes with a diagram and a manual explaining the best percentages for different areas. “Optimal moisture readings are from 35-60 percent.” He continues, “Where ratings fall below the 35 percent patients need to look at their regimen and lifestyle.” If you fall into this lower range, he recommends checking if your cleansers are sulfate-free and confirming that your toners are alcohol-free, and then adding extra hydration into your routine. Your oil content should be in a similar range, but “anything below 35-40 percent warrants attention,” Riyaz says. Your skin doesn’t change often enough to warrant daily testing. It is worth testing during changes in seasons and periods of hormonal shift (like menopause). This will allow you to refine your routine. You can use this pen to evaluate the effect of a new product.
Some skin-care devices are close to $1,000, so it’s important to really know what you’re getting. Ideally we’d purchase things that address multiple skin concerns, like the My Skin Buddy, which uses four different technologies: ultrasonic vibration, ion care, LED therapy, and thermal heat therapy. Celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar recently purchased this all-in-one device and noticed a visible difference in her skin, citing “clearer, more refined and toned skin” after just a few days. Ultrasonic vibration pulses at 8,500 times per hour and provides a mini massage that lifts and firms the skin. The ion care system emits both positive and negative ions. Your products will penetrate more easily if you use negative ions, and your skin will be more clean with the positive ions. My Skin Buddy contains blue, green, and red LED lights. These light sources are combined to fight bacteria that causes acne (blue light), reduce wrinkles (red light), as well as reduce redness (green). All other functions are boosted by the heat therapy. It assists the ions in emulsifying dirt and oil. It also aids in the vibration’s skin tightening by increasing oxygen to the cells by improving blood circulation and shrinking pore size. “It sounded too cool to be true, but I quickly fell in love with it,” Aguilar said. “It has a cleaning mode, toning mode and a treatment mode that helps penetrate your finishing products like serum and moisturizer,” She adds. “It’s ability to customize settings makes it ideal for all skin types.”
Created by Makeup artist Jillian Dempsey, “this 24K skin sculpting gold-plated T-bar vibrates 6,000 times per minute leaving your face sculpted, contoured, and smooth,” says Taylor Worden, celebrity aesthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin. Mackenzie Wagoner, a writer, tested it alongside a variety of facial rollers and felt it was worth the cost. It relieved tension in her jaws and it instantly brightened her skin. “I rev this puppy up as soon as I’ve applied my skin care, morning and night, to just get those good vibrations all over my face, starting at my neck, moving upward and outward all the way up into my hairline to release tension and boost my circulation and lymphatic system,” She said. The massaging effect of the vibration that left her so relaxed (she equated it to a strong dose of CBD) was enough to sell Wagoner, but dermatologist Whitney Bowe also explained the skin-care benefits. According to Wagoner’s interview with Bowe, vibrations applied with slight pressure can theoretically stimulate collagen production and “act as a wakeup call for your cells.” If you can’t justify the cost, Tracee Ellis Ross and Rio are very happy with this $12 dupe.
A thorough cleansing is essential for any skin-care regimen. Dr. Corey L. Hartman is founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, Birmingham, Alabama. It’s especially good for acne, he says. “It’s not a direct treatment but it’s a way to get your skin more thoroughly cleansed and let your active ingredients penetrate better.” There’s no shortage of cleansing brushes on the market, and frankly some are far cheaper, but Hartman said this one seems to be a little more effective than the others.
This is another favorite of Dr. Hartman’s. It increases lymphatic flow, improves circulation, and is good for overall skin health. “It’s a facial massage device that helps to decrease edema and puffiness, and keeps the lymphatic drainage channels moving and open, preventing blockages so that we can get rid of all those toxins and impurities that our lymphatic system is meant to help us get rid of.” Sometimes this natural process can use a little help, which is where the Magic Glow Wand comes in.
The Magic Glow Wand is still being tested by our experts, but the two dermatologists who spoke to it sound promising. Droplette turns serums into micromists which can penetrate deeply into skin. The Droplette uses a piezoelectric transmitter to make the droplets only 4 microns wide. The pump forces the mist out at a rapid speed, making them smaller. This allows the mist to penetrate the skin more easily. “If we were to liken it to an in office procedure it would be like the jet-fuel laser, which powerfully injects a serum so that it can penetrate deeper and bypass the skin barrier a little bit,” Michelle Henry from Skin & Aesthetic Surgery, Manhattan. You can’t just use your favorite products that you already own though. Droplette makes capsules that will fit inside the device. Three options are available: 10% collagen capsules to hydrate and firm;.15% retinol capsules that smoothen and revitalize the skin; and 8% glycolic capsules that give brighter and more glowing skin. Dr. Hartman has tried it as well and thinks it’s “promising,” but found it a little difficult to use.
Surely you’ve seen some satisfying videos on the internet of a spatula-like tool like this exfoliating skin. The ultrasonic spatulas are great for treating acne-prone skin. “They attempt to eliminate dirt, debris, and oil that clog pores and can lead to breakouts, and slough off the accumulation of dead skin cells,” Dr. Riyaz. Dr. Riyaz. This will remove dead skin cells from your face. Once you have cleared your pores, your products will be more easily absorbed into your skin. The Dermaflash one has both an extract and infuse modes. “The infuse mode helps to penetrate products deeper into your skin and is great for dry and dehydrated skin,” says Worden, while “the extract mode helps to unclog and remove dirt, blackheads, dead skin cells.” Start with extract mode, which uses a steady vibration to unclog, and after you can apply a serum or moisturizer and switch to infuse mode, which uses a tapping vibration that “enhances the penetration of the active ingredients in your skin care to help them work more effectively,” according to the description. Worden particularly likes the results for your nose, and recommends them for teens and people with lots of blackheads.
Four of our experts recommended the Lightstim. It uses LED light therapy to treat the skin a few skin conditions. This is a blue-light treatment for acne. “Blue-light therapy helps soothe inflammation, irritation and destroy acne-causing bacteria,” Aguilar explained. “This is a very beneficial treatment for those with acne because it can be used often, it works, and the chances of being allergic to ingredients are nonexistent.” The device has some red light to soothe and calm the skin. Dr. Hartman loves the combination of red and blue light. “Red light and blue light are different wavelengths,” He explains. “The red light targets deeper, and can more effectively get into the oil gland where C-acnes and P-acnes like to hang out and cause trouble.” And while there are a lot of LED devices out there Aguilar thinks Lightstim is the best “because it has dense bulbs and plenty of them.” She adds, “It’s portable, and because of its small head, it can be used on the full face, neck, hands and body. It’s built-in timer let’s you know when it’s time to move on to the next area.” Worden is a fan too, but she advises anyone using products with vitamin A or benzoyl peroxide to apply those after the light.
This blue light device is about $20 cheaper than the Lightstim, but doesn’t have any red light diodes. Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King says it still yields positive results and likes it because “It’s safe, easy to use, pain-free, waterproof, portable, and offers 100 uses after a single charge.” It still gets at the route of P-acnes and also utilizes t-sonic pulsations to increase blood circulation and cell turnover.
If you’re looking for a more affordable way to try out LED skin care, Dr.Henry recommends Neutrogena’s spot treatment. “It’s an old-school one but I really do like it still for acne,” She said. While it won’t cover as much surface area as the others, it’s great for the occasional active breakout and small enough to travel with, but is not suitable for all over preventative use. It has just a couple of lights which isn’t much compared to Lightstim’s 36, but if you are willing to go pimple by pimple, in a compact device you’re still getting blue light and red light, and for $30, you can’t really beat that.
Stacked Skincare’s high frequency facial wand uses an argon gas-filled electrode to penetrate the skin. The electrode creates oxygen when it hits skin. This oxygen generation is too strong for bacteria, so the acne-causing P. acnes cannot survive. Worden states that in addition to helping prevent pimples, it also helps to plump the skin. It can also reduce inflammation and redness. She suggests that you use this in the initial stages of your acne. You can choose to spot treat, or cover more area with the different tips included in this device. It is recommended to use the device at least twice a week.
To target signs of aging, Lightstim for wrinkles uses red light (amber light, dark red and infrared LEDs). “The most common benefit of red-light therapy includes a decrease in inflammation, an increase in cellular energy (which plays a role in collagen production), smoothing lines and wrinkles, promoting wound healing, and it can reverse photoaging in the skin,” Aguilar says. It’s safe for all age groups, but Worden recommends “people to start using it in their 20s so they can help prevent the first signs of aging.” She adds, “Use the light five to seven days a week, three minutes per spot.” And while all the devices on this list are safe, Dr. Hartman cautions the use of light therapy to anyone dealing with hyperpigmentation. “Even if metered, even if for short periods of time, I would be careful of any additional light because, depending upon the source of your hyperpigmentation, light and heat could be driving forces,” He said.
The only downside to the LED devices we’ve mentioned thus far is that they are handheld, which could get annoying and deter use. Our experts suggest a mask such as this to provide hands-free treatment. “It’s really easy to use, because you just put it on and turn it on, you don’t have to worry about moving it around, you can do it while you’re doing other things, hands-free,” Dr. Hartman says so. Dr. Hartman says that the device has more than 160 red and blue light options to treat acne and increase collagen production. While this is pricier than the handheld options, if you think you’ll use it more due to the convenience it might be worth it.
It’s the same concept, but $40 more expensive. Dr. Riyaz is a fan of masks because “unlike handheld devices, LED phototherapy masks are much more user-friendly, as you can read or watch your favorite show while you treat your skin.” This device has fewer LEDs than the above at 132 and only uses red and near-infrared light, but Dr. Riyaz still thinks it’s beneficial. Near-infrared light “targets fibroblasts (the cells responsible for collagen and elastin production), and this form of phototherapy can truly help restore aging skin,” he says. “Once the lights are absorbed and converted to energy, cellular function improves and collagen production is stimulated, restoring optimal skin functioning and smoothing visible signs of aging.”
Four experts mentioned microcurrent devices to us. They send soft waves of energy through the skin and to the muscles in the face which increases the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or the body’s cellular energy. This encourages muscle contraction and relaxation and the proteins and amino acids produced during facial stimulation help tone the facial muscles over time. Dr. Riyaz says that this helps reduce the appearance of loss in elasticity. “[These devices] claim to increase lymphatic and blood circulation, collagen and elastin production and cellular energy to fight signs of aging,” He continues. This NuFace, which we’ve written about before, is a favorite among our dermatologists. “I have yet to see anything surpass the efficacy and design of NuFACE Trinity where you can switch out the applicator so you can can target different concerns in different parts of the face, and it only takes about five minutes a day, but you can help define and contour. It helps with muscle toning, and prevents the sagging that occurs when we all mature,” Dr. Hartman agrees. Microcurrent isn’t recommended if you’ve had Botox, but if you haven’t started yet, Worden says “If you think you need Botox you can start using this gadget instead.”
This device combines microcurrent technology with LED therapy. This device emits radiofrequency and electrical impulses which boost collagen production and open pores to allow light therapy to penetrate deeper. What’s novel about this device is you get access to different types of light all in one. You can choose from red to treat wrinkles, blue to treat acne, yellow to cleanse, or pink for hyperpigmentation. Aguilar claims that microcurrent therapy can reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well as hydrate the skin. Using strobing mode, your pores will open up, allowing your moisturizing creams and serums to penetrate deeper for increased hydration.
If you’re looking for a more targeted device, Dr. King recommends “the Tripollar Stop VX, which offers a safe and effective at-home option for delivering targeted radio frequency energy to the skin to stimulate collagen production and produce anti-aging results,” she says. It has three alternating radio frequency currents for faster, more even heating and a shorter treatment time. The device will let you know when your skin reaches the ideal temperature. This is a safety feature to prevent it from becoming too hot.
Hyperpigmentation is more difficult than treating acne or wrinkles at home. “Hyperpigmentation is tricky as it’s caused by different factors, whether it be hormonal, inflammation, or from previous trauma,” Aguilar agrees. “Using the wrong tool can further pigment the skin.” That’s why there’s not a lot on the market to directly target pigment, but our experts mentioned a few devices they feel comfortable recommending. Worden loves this microdermabrasion device, which suctions away dead skin cells to reveal a brighter and more even skin tone. “This microdermabrasion tool sloughs off all the dead skin cells helping to improve your skin of acne, wrinkles, and pigmentation,” She said.
Opte is a revolutionary new device Dr. Henry is extremely excited about. It conceals dark spots and also fades away existing ones. It first scans the skin to detect dark marks, even the ones you can’t see yet, and then Opte “emits a serum that not only helps to camouflage the dark spots in a really nice and natural way, but also helps to reduce the pigment in the skin so it’s treating it while it’s reducing the pigment which is really huge,” Dr. Henry says. The optimizing serum has a mineral pigment that instantly gives you an even skin tone, while the Niacinamide fades the spots over time.
You can also incorporate technology into your beauty routine with at-home laser hair removal. Like in the salon, “laser hair removal treatments emit light of a wavelength that is absorbed by melanin in the root of the hair,” says Dr. King. “The light energy is converted to heat, which permanently damages and destroys hair follicles.” While at-home devices have lower energy settings to make them safer, you should still be cautious as burns may occur. This device is quite safe. It’s the first FDA-approved at-home laser device and uses the same diode laser that dermatologists use in their office. Dr. King likes the small size of the hand piece, which allows him to maneuver the device around the body. And while this might be best in class, it’s not for everyone. “Because these devices target melanin, the pigment in our skin and hair, the best candidates will be those with light skin and dark hair,” She said. “That’s the ideal setup so that the device can target the hair without damaging the skin. Darker skin will increase the risk of burning. And lighter hair can decrease the effectiveness.” While you’ve likely seen Black YouTubers and beauty bloggers try at-home laser hair removal devices with varying levels of success, the safest approach for darker skin is in-office treatment with a professional.
If you’re too nervous to try laser hair removal, this Braun device is a solid alternative. It uses “intense pulsed light (IPL) rather than a laser,” Dr. King says. “It has a sensor that automatically adapts to your skin tone, making it one of the safest choices for at-home use.” And while it’s safe, it’s still only recommended for medium to dark hair color. These devices should not be used if you have light skin or dark hair.
Back in 2018, Strategist senior editor Crystal Martin wrote about the Dermaflash, which simulates in-office dermaplaning, to remove the fine hairs on her chin. It’s typically done with a surgical blade that removes layers of dead skin cells as well as the hair. It is easier to do at home. Dermaflash uses an exfoliating blade that is guarded to remove vellus hairs. “You’d have to really try to cut yourself to do some damage,” Martin agrees. “The hair comes off in little puffs, which is oddly satisfying. I work my way around my face in less than ten minutes, and there’s no pain at all. I’ve never even had any post-planing irritation or redness.” No worries, the hair doesn’t grow back thicker or darker either.
If you’re looking to do the opposite, there are even devices out there to help you grow hair. You can stimulate hair growth with red light hair devices. “Studies show that red light both helps increase the hair’s diameter and density, and it does that by being anti-inflammatory,” Dr. Henry said. “In a lot of hair loss conditions, inflammation plays a role, especially in shedding, and particularly in female hair loss, you see inflammation, more so than we see in male-pattern hair loss. So we believe that anti-inflammation works to help to stimulate some hair growth.” This helmet is FDA-approved to treat alopecia, receding hairline, and balding and thinning hair with use of 51 medical-grade lasers and LED lights. It is recommended to wear the helmet every other day for 25 mins. After six months, you will see more hair growth.
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