At-home skincare devices: Which is right for you?
Updated: Oct 16, 2020
The number of devices available now for use at home is incredible, even overwhelming. What’s exciting is that the technology behind these at-home devices has roots in dermatologist's offices and aesthetic clinics. I’ve put together this post to share with you background on modalities, let you know which modality can benefit which skin concerns and to give you a set of tools to make the best decision for you. Of course, to make the most of the investment in time and money, I recommend you assess your biggest concerns and choose the modality that best addresses those areas.
Rotating devices is just fine. Some modalities can be used in the same protocol, spaced AM/PM and some are best rotated in an out periodically, say every quarter. Below you’ll see my pick of the skincare devices that you can use at home as well as some suggestions on how to use them.
(I'm working on an 'easy to print' version of this table... I'll post very soon!!)
Radio Frequency (RF) works by creating heat within the skin and provides an initial quick ‘tightening effect’ as the heat makes the collagen in the skin contract; as well as a longer term production of new collagen. Most home-based RF devices have been designed to be used on the face and neck, avoiding the thyroid.
At-home radio frequency devices provide the following benefits:
Short term collagen shrinkage in the dermis (which is why you’ll see immediate results)
Longer term fibroblast stimulation to create revitalized collagen and elastin
Stronger skin scaffolding in the deeper skin layers
Enhanced cell metabolism
Refreshed epidermis/outer layer skin cells
Best for: Tightening lax skin such as jowls and neck. Reducing fine lines and wrinkles giving smoother, more radiant looking skin. At-home RF won't create miracles so best for skin that's not showing too much laxity.
Results after: Immediate but subtle results can be seen after first session but a longer term commitment (1+ months) is required to see any significant changes in the quality of skin, and ongoing maintenance is key to retaining lift.
Time commitment: normally 20 mins per day for first 2 months and 2-3 times per week thereafter.
Clinical proof: GOOD to ROBUST, depending on device.
Pain level: Feels like ‘hot stone massage’. Painless as long as device is kept in motion.
My take: I like RF because its one of the few modalities that quickly and effectively addresses the number one concern I hear from my community; sagging and crepiness.
What to look for: Choose a device that is FDA approved, ideally from a company that also makes medical-grade devices.
My picks: I prefer the NEWA as it is the only at-home device that uses 3DEEP RF technology (6 RF generators with different polarities) The result is a deeper heating in the depth of the tissue with decreased heat on the surface. Other at-home RF (such as Silk’n FaceTite ) are more superficial. NEWA is made by the company that makes the in-clinic Endymed RF machine (in fact, they both use 3DEEP technology) so it has undergone extensive testing for both safety and efficacy.
NEWA (FDA cleared) (use code PENN20 for 20% off until the end of October)
NEWA (FDA cleared) (use code NEWA076 for £50 off the device and a free Heliocare fluid Cream suncream (offer value £81)
Microcurrent mimics our body’s own natural bioelectrical field and sends tiny electrical currents into our muscles. Microcurrent works, in part, by targeting those muscles under the skin that can cause our facial skin to wrinkle and sag. As we age, our muscles become accustomed to certain expressions and tend to "stick" in these positions (think ‘11s’ between the eyebrows.) At the same time, other muscles in our face aren’t used enough, and they begin to atrophy, which leads to sagging. An example of this can be seen around the eyebrows, cheeks and jaw lines which can suffer sagging or loss of definition as we age.
All micro current devices send waves to the muscles that help strengthen or ‘re-educate’ under-worked muscles. Additionally, some micro current devices have an additional function that will relax muscles to ‘erase’ expression lines. When this happens the face is lifted, firmed and toned to a more youthful appearance. At the same time, micro current improves circulation to your face which stimulates production of collagen, improves tone and texture, and eliminates fine lines.
Beyond effecting muscles, the ATP that stimulates muscles has an impact on all cell types that are involved in keeping our skin healthy. A regular ‘dose’ of ATP is an extremely valuable tool in an anti-aging arsenal. Because ATP is used up very quickly, we need to have a regular regime to ‘restock’ and build our stores. A healthy level of ATP stored in our cells is continually available for skin repair and new cell generation.
Best for: Lifting muscles of the face and neck, supporting skin health via the production of ATP. The Myolift Mini has both “Educate” and “Erase” for firming and relaxing the muscles, respectively.
Results after: An immediate lift can be seen in certain facial muscles, particularly the brows and cheeks but regular use is required for sustained results. Like exercising the muscles, it’s a lifetime commitment!
Time commitment: Depending on the tool and areas treated, 10-45 minutes, three to five times per week.
Clinical proof: ROBUST
Pain level: None
My take: Microcurrent is one of my favourite at-home treatments. It can be combined with all other modalities and provides both short and long term results. Apart from those with specific contraindications (see manufacturers’ websites), everybody can profit from a commitment to microcurrent. Personally, this is where I’m prepared to invest - I see myself using microcurrent indefinitely and, as it combines with so many other treatments and is completely non-invasive and pain-free it can be used year round. I say invest in the best device you can afford!
What to look for: There are a range of solid devices on the market; the right one for you depends on your habits/budget. As with other tools on this list, look for a device that is FDA cleared and has a good customer service track record (dead batteries and missing charger cords are part of life, especially when a device is being used many times a week!)
My picks: If you want 'microcurrent on the go' with a single hand-held unit that's easy to pull out of a handbag or vanity table drawer, go for the NuFace or similar handheld. If you're prepared to learn endure a little inconvenience (plugging in wires and probes, layering gloves), you'll get more power in the Myolift Mini. As long as we're on the topic of gloves... for me this has been a game-changer. I still pull out my NuFace when I'm crunched for time or on the road (sometimes in the car with my husband behind the wheel!!), but the Myolift with gloves are good compay serveral times a week during my microcurrent sessions.
Myolift Mini (FDA cleared) use PENN5 for 5% off
Nuface (FDA cleared) You can get 25% off your Skinstore.com purchase by using my code "Penny" at checkout
Also, I'm really loving the NuFace gel primer with DMAE
Also eligible for 25% off at Skinstore.com using code "Penny" at checkout
Skinstore link for Nuface Gold Gel with DMAE
US Amazon Link for the DMAE gel
And the gloves! I love conductive gloves for use with the Myolift
US Amazon link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009T8EBXG/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&psc=1&linkCode=sl1&tag=pennsmithsk01-20&linkId=0294d9867a901eedaf8817ce2ce8fa1a&language=en_US
There are two different types at-home anti-aging lasers currently on the market; fractional, non-Fractional. Fractional lasers (such as the Tria Age-Defying Laser) treat multiple signs of ageing and stimulate collagen and elastin growth. They work by creating microscopic tissue injuries which gives your body the signal to start producing more collagen. Fractional lasers can impact blood vessels, causes redness and inflammation and do cause some pain.
Non-fractional lasers (NIRA Skincare Laser) stimulate the production of new cells by sending heat signals to the dermis. NIRA uses non-fractional laser to heat the skin to the point where dermal cells send out heat shock protein formation (HSP) stimulating your cells to rejuvenate and increase collagen production. The NIRA Skincare Laser uses a 1450 nm diode that penetrates the lower levels of the skin, giving your body the signal to produce more collagen without damaging existing skin. NIRA does this just below the pain threshold and well below the point where skin tissue is damaged. If you do feel pain while using the NIRA you can simply 'dial down' the control and use it at a lower setting - although ideally you'll work up to a higher setting as you'll see results more quickly (it took a few weeks for me to dial the NIRA up to full strength). One nice thing about laser devices is that they don't require conductive gels - so no ongoing costs after the initial outlay for the device.
Best for: Fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes and mouth.
Time commitment: Depending on device and areas treated, but quite quick - each eye takes one minute with the NIRA
Results after: Initial changes can sometimes be noticed at the three to four week mark but real changes in collagen can take six months or more.
Clinical proof for at-home version: SOLID
Pain level: LOW TO MODERATE (NIRA) to MODERATE(TRIA) - I found treating the area around the mouth particularly 'spicy'.
My take: At home laser is very interesting for those who want to avoid using botox yet want to address the classic ‘crow’s feet’ around the eyes or ‘barcode lines’ around the mouth. The NIRA has been tested around eyes and mouth but, in theory, there’s no reason you can’t use NIRA on forehead and other lines/wrinkles. I prefer the NIRA over the Tria because if offers less downtime and is less painful yet offers similar results.
What to look for: Like their in-clinic counterparts, at-home lasers can be painful. And like other home-based modalities, compliance is key to seeing results. My advise is to be honest with yourself about the level of pain you're wlling to endure.
INTENSE PULSED LIGHT (IPL)
While most people associate home-based IPL exclusively with hair removal, a new generation of IPL has emerged that also tackles ‘skin rejuvenation’. IPL devices send short, concentrated, pulsating beams of light to irregular skin. Unlike laser where a single spectrum of concentrated light is applied to the skin, IPL uses many wavelengths. More wavelength mean more uses/applications on the skin - from a single device. In the case of both the Faustina IPL and the Viss IPL, a simple switch of cartridge on the device means you can use it for facial rejuvenation, acne AND hair removal. In all cases, the light bypasses the epidermis and gently heats the cells in the dermis. Using the skin rejuvenation cartridge, the wavelength specifically act on fibroblasts which start to produce more collagen, improving texture and fine wrinkles. The new skin that forms is smoother and firmer. The acne cartridge reduces acne bacteria in the pores of the skin and reducing blood supply to the sebaceous glands whereas the hair removal cartridge focuses on the safe destruction of the hair follicle.
Best for: Broken capillaries, localised pigmentation. It has a lesser effect on improving skin texture through collagen stimulation. Acne cartridge for dealing with P. acnes bacteria.
Time commitment: A full face treatment takes 10-15 minutes, done two to three times per week.
Results after: Some changes can be observed after a few weeks (particularly changes in capillaries); full results from one to three months.
Clinical proof for at-home version: SOLID
Pain level: LOW - feels like a light snap of a rubber band.
My take: I’m a big fan of the Faustina IPL - to date the only home-based IPL that I’ve tried.
What to look for: I like the flexibility of the Faustina as it works for multiple conditions. There are few competitors out there and I find the Faustina has the best price/value proposition.
The power: 3.5 – 5.1 j/cm² or 19.89 joules for the lamp window. this makes FAUSTINA 3IN1 on the top of the similar home IPLs in the market.
Faustina on Amazon UK https://amzn.to/3lhgy5A
Faustina on Amazon US https://amzn.to/2QdNxJx
If you've followed me for any length of time, you know how enthusiastic i am about microneedling. You'll also know that microneedlng isn't a 'quick fix'; the best results can be had with a carefully designed series of microneedling sessions taking place over the course of several months. I'm a huge proponent of home microneedling at a depth of .5mm on a monthly basis (the low threshold for CIT or collagen induction therapy - AKA medical needling) combined with weekly cosmetic microneedling at, say, .25mm. While cosmetic needling doesn't encourage collagen renewal at the same rate as CIT, studies show that it helps in the release of growth factors, the thickening of the epidermis and the cross talk so our keratinocytes talk to our melanocytes, encouraging even pigmentation and healthy glow. Cosmetic needling also helps with product penetration and can be amazing to pair with copper peptides, other pepdies and growth factors.
I'm working on an updated 'Microndeedle with me' video series which will walk you through the exact steps I recommend you take. In the mean time, do refer to my Microneedling Playlist for guidance.
Best for: A better question is maybe 'what isn't microneedling good for?!' From helping with pigmentation to collagen formation to dealing with skin laxity on the neck, microneedling remains at the top of my list of home modalities (in treatment room too!)
Time commitment: Up to once per week for cosmetic needling (less than .3mm depth) and once per month for CIT (medical needling at depth of .5mm). Once you're an experenced microneedler 🙂 sessions will take 20-30 mins, including prep time, depending on areas covered.
Results after: Many people report initial changes after the first month but the best results can be obtained after a course of six monthly CIT sessions interspersed with regluar cosmetic needling
Clinical proof for at-home version: ROBUST
Pain level: some - topical OTC anesthetic such as lidocaine may be used
My take: I'm a huge fan of microneedling - there are few modalities that deliver such a punch
What to look for: I prefer microndeedling pens as they tend to deliver more uniform results and are adjustable so that you can use a single tool at diffrent depths (say, .2 around the lips and .3 on the cheeks) whereas dermal rollers don't offer that level of control. Additionally, most pens have disposable needle cartridges. Hygine is SO important with microneedling (watch my videos to learn the best technique!!) - this is reason alone to use a pen with disposable cartridges. To be clear, I'm NOT a proponent of medical needling at home with depths of over .5mm - in my opinion depths over .5mm should be done in the treatment room with a certified professional esthetician or dermatologist.
My picks: As for tools, I'm confident in recommending the Dr. Pen range. They offer a number of devices at a very reasonable prices. Have a look at my Dr. Pen Comparison Video to learn the differences of individual Dr. Pen models including the A6, M8, A7 and X5 .
All four pens on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3hoci1G
LIGHT EMITTING DIODES (LED) LIGHT THERAPY - RED
LED light therapy has a long established history of skin uses. Navy SEALs began using it over thirty years ago to help heal wounds quickly and to help repair damaged muscles. Since then, the modality has been extensively researched and used in aesthetic settings. Red light is used for treating the outer most layer of skin, the epidermis. When the light is applied to the skin, the epidermis absorbs it and then stimulates collagen proteins. Newer, healthier skin cells are produced which absorb fluid and hold onto it better than old cells resulting in plumper, smoother skin that reflects light better (who doesn't want that!?!?) Red LED light also reduces inflammation while improving circulation, which can give you a healthier glow. Like micro current, LED light therapy stimulates the body’s production of ATP, while also igniting your body’s synthesis of collagen and elastin—both elements that govern overall skin health. LED therapy also supports normal cell growth and stimulates the production of new blood vessels for improved blood flow to the skin.
Best for: Preventing laxity, reinforcing collagen and elastin, brightening skin tone. One of my favorite ways to use red LED is after microneedlng. There is significant clinical data supporting red light for wound healing, making it a natural pairing for helping skin to repair after collegen induction therapy (medical needling) - just be sure the red light is far enough from the face not to contaminate newly needled skin!
Time commitment: normally 10-20 mins, ideally 6 to 7 days a week (depending on the device). LED is one of those modalities where frequency is your friend.
Results after: Depending on the strength of the device, some report an immediate glow, however more profound changes to the epidermis begin to show after the first month and can continue to improve for several months.
Clinical proof for at-home version: WEAK to ROBUST, depending on device. Multiple clinical studies support the effectiveness of red LED therapy in photo rejuvenation. One study reported that 90% of the participants showed a reduction in skin wrinkles and skin roughness. After 12 red LED light treatments 87% experienced a reduction in the Fitzpatrick wrinkling severity score. But unless you're prepared to spend hours a day under an LED mask, it really may be worth investing in one of the more powerful panels on the market.
Pain level: None
My take: Results aren’t immediate, but overtime the right red LED can be an excellent investment. In my opinion, nearly everybody should include red LED as part of their skincare routine, either in clinic or at home. While red LED can help with skin laxity it is best used proactively as skin that has already lost significant laxity is unlikely to show dramatic improvements. In a nutshell. Use a well chosen red LED for maintenance and prevention but not to address significant ageing issues.
What to look for:
Wavelength - is it the right wavelength to impact your collagen? Look for 630-680nm for red, 800-8800nm for near-infrared or a combination of both
Power density - is it strong enough? This is calculated total wattage/treatment area. I'll soon be doing a more in-depth video/post on red LED, but for now this is an excellent post for those of you wanting to get into the science.
Size of light/treatment area - is it practical to treat the area you want? A hand-held wand with the right wavelength and power density still may not be practical if it takes 45 mins for your daily treatment.
Mito Red LED Panel Use code PENNY for a discount
RED RUSH 360 Use CODE: PENNY for $25 off each device you buy
LIGHT EMITTING DIODES (LED) LIGHT THERAPY - BLUE
Best for: Mild to moderate acne
Time commitment: normally 10-20 mins, ideally 6 to 7 days a week (depending on the device and areas treated)
Results after: Depending on the strength of the device, results are usually noticeable within two to four weeks.
Clinical proof for at-home version: MODERATE. Studies show moderate evidence for the efficacy of blue light treatments for people with mild to moderate acne. There is a lack of data for outcomes in cases of severe acne.
Pain level: None
My take: Acne can be a complex condition to treat and can have multiple contributors. However, P. acnes bacteria is almost always at least partially implicated. Blue light creates an oxygen rich environment which basically sterilises the P. acnes bacteria. If you use a red light in conjunction with a blue light you have a real winner, as the red light works at shrinking the sebaceous gland and quelling inflammation while the blue light minimises the bacteria. While it is unlikely to fully address acne issues on its own (oftentimes topicals, diet, hormones and cleaning routines need to be part of the plan) blue light is such a non-invasive and low cost way to support the issue that I think it should be included in the routine of anybody who experiences regular acne.
What to look for:
Wavelength - range of 405-420 nm is used to kill the Propionobacterium acnes bacteria in skin
Power density - make sure there are enough bulbs to make an impact in the time you're prepared to devote to the therapy.
Lightstim For Acne US: https://amzn.to/34mZfd6
Project E (blue) In the UK: https://amzn.to/34kyHcr
LIGHT EMITTING DIODES (LED) LIGHT THERAPY - GREEN
Green light targets melanocytes, slowing down the production of melanin so that not as much pigmentation reaches the top layers of skin. It also sooths irritated or over-stimulated skin and can be a great supporting tool to reduce sun damage and calm rosacea and even reduce redness and erythema.
Best for: hyperpigmentation, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Time commitment: normally 5 to 10 mins, ideally 6 to 7 days a week (depending on the device and treatment areas)
Results after: Depending on the strength of the device, initial reduction in pigmentation is usually noticeable within two to three weeks, but ongoing use and religious use of SPF is critical to longterm effectiveness.
Clinical proof for at-home version: LIMITED... but just because robust studies don't exist, does't mean it isn't effective!!
Pain level: None
My take: I love using green light in the treatment room to target dark circles, pigmentation, broken capillaries and sunspots and wouldn't be without a small unit to use at home.
What to look for:
Wavelength - 520nm
Power density - Like with red and blue LED, make sure there are enough bulbs to make an impact in the time you're prepared to devote to the therapy.
With 250 bulbs in a small surface, this green LED disck really packs a punch. Instructions call for it to be directed for 90 second increments at individual treatment areas. I tend to use my green Illuminated LED for about six 90 second cycles on my face each morning after cleansing.
Use code 'Penn' for free shipment in the US
We get sooo many questions in my Facebook group about whether people can combine certain modalities. Combining devices is sensible, if you have the time and resources. However, as some of these modalites impact the collagen cycle, it's important to PACE OURSELVES. See Combining at-home anti-aging devices: NuFACE, NEWA, Myolift, Microneedling, and more for additional information.