Microcurrent Tools Use Electricity to Lift and Plump the Skin, but Are They Worth the Price Tag?

These devices supposedly supply an at-home electrical facial with lasting benefits.

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Waveform technology's benefits have made their way into the world of at-home skin care. Wielding a professional-grade beauty device in the palm of your hand, one that can help increase blood flow and lymphatic drainage and reduce the effects of sun damage, acne, wrinkles, and pigmentation, is no longer a pipe dream—it's a reality. Microcurrent tools, which include ZIIP and NuFace's products, offer non-invasive treatments that lift and sculpt, essentially providing an instant face-lift. With celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Priyanka Chopra, Dan Levy, and Sarah Paulson singing these tools' praises, we wanted to determine these tiny machines' true efficacy. To do so, we spoke with a few skin care professionals about the advantages of including an electrical facial into your skin care routine, and here's what they had to share.

woman using microcurrent facial massager
Galina Zhigalova / EyeEm / Getty Images

How does microcurrent work?

Using a microcurrent device, says Erica Skynn, a celebrity aesthetician and the creator of Derm7, can produce anti-aging results by reprogramming muscle memory; this leads to skin tightening. The ZIIP tool (a trailblazer in the tech and beauty space, the device functions via an app for a tailored experience), in particular, combines both nano and micro currents to boost adenosine triphoshate (ATP), a chemical energy molecule that is essential for cell metabolism, but diminishes with age. When powered by a conductive gel, these devices emit microcurrents, which target the muscles and the top layers of the skin, and nanocurrents, which penetrate deeper layers of the dermis more easily, and with less resistance. By boosting ATP on both levels, these low-level electrical currents allegedly drive collagen and elastin production.

Who benefits from using these devices?

Our bodies need to work harder to repair damaged skin cells over time, resulting in a loss of firmness and dull, loose skin. Dr. Uchenna R. Okereke, a board-certified dermatologist, explains that as a result, our faces lose fat, collagen, and experience bone resorption when we age. That's where these tools come in—and while they are certainly well suited for those seeing the signs of time on their faces, they truly are for everyone. Perfect for acne suffers or even those with sensitive skin types, most tolerate and respond well to the effects, which are said to be long-lasting.

How effective are these tools?

As with any beauty-related practice, you will see the best results through consistent use. But that initial purchase—both the ZIIP ($495, amazon.com) and NuFace's Trinity Toning Device ($339, nordstrom.com) cost a pretty penny—often makes people hesitant to try these tools in the first place. There is some validity to this: There isn't much existing data (yet!) to support that at-home devices are as impactful as in-office treatments, notes Dr. Okereke. (But don't forget that an electrical facial costs hundreds of dollars per session, which makes these devices the winner on the cost-per-use scale.) Research does show, however, that microcurrent plays a significant role in homeostasis on a cellular level (results will vary depending on skin type and the level of existing damage), notes Skynn. "Under normal conditions, manipulating this process by applying these energy sources externally can significantly support wound healing," she says, adding that this logic applies to aging complexions, as well.

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