Spa menus just aren’t as simple as they used to be. Nowadays, it’s not about what luxurious mask you’re getting or how many extractions you can handle. Thanks to advancements in technology, we now have access to devices that can treat myriad skin issues. High-tech facials, de rigueur these days, incorporate LED lights, microcurrents, and a slew of sophisticated techniques to smooth, revitalize, and brighten our skin. “Science has advanced the beauty world considerably,” says Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas® Salons and Skincare. “We can now opt for non-invasive treatments that really yield great results.”
But, with so many new buzzy options on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? To help, we break down some of the most popular treatments today — along with the skincare issues they target — so you can make the best decision for your skin needs. Read ahead before booking your next treatment.
The Treatment: Radiofrequency Facial
What a Radiofrequency Facial Targets: Skin laxity, collagen production, fine lines
How a Radiofrequency Facial Works: “Radiofrequency combines heat with radio waves, which are a type of electrical current, to push together [and stimulate the production of new] collagen fibers,” explains Vargas. During her facials, Vargas uses a small handheld radiofrequency wand to distribute energy directly into the skin.
She first dips the wand into sonogram gel, then moves it in circular motions over clients’ cheeks, undereyes, brow, nose, neck, and chin. The heat produced by the device warms the dermis and the subdermis, triggering collagen production. If you’re nervous that the sensation will be uncomfortable, don’t be: Vargas assures us the treatment is pain-free and actually feels like a warm massage. “Radiofrequency really tightens the skin beyond anything I have ever encountered before in non-invasive technologies,” she says. “It gives the person an instant face lift the day of the treatment.” Best part: results continue to get better, as it can take a few months for new collagen to completely form.
Even better, it’s not just for the face. Vargas performs radiofrequency treatments on clients’ butts, thighs, bellies, jawlines, and even their knees. “When used with microneedling, it can help eliminate stretch marks anywhere on your body,” she says. While you can see improvements instantly post-facial, Vargas recommends a series of treatments for optimal results.
Radiofrequency Facial DIY Tips: Similar to professional radiofrequency facials, home devices such as the FDA-cleared NEWA® Skin Tightening System ($200) require steady use for maximum results. For a low-tech approach to boosting collagen and increasing cell turnover, Vargas advises the regular evening use of a retinol formula. Learn how to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine here.
Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.
The Treatment: DiamondGlowTM
What DiamondGlow Targets: Clogged pores, dead skin cells, rough texture
How DiamondGlow Works: “DiamondGlow does three things in one,” explains Inna Prokopenko, RN, from Gateway Aesthetic Institute and Laser Center℠. “It will exfoliate your skin, extract any buildup, and infuse a [SkinMedica® Pro-Infusion serum] that your skin [needs], like a brightening or clarifying agent.” The customizable treatment uses a medical grade diamond tip to exfoliate while suctioning build-up from pores.
Perhaps the most famous attribute of the DiamondGlow treatment, however, is how the device collects the extracted dead skin, oils, and blackheads in a jar, so post-treatment clients can see the gunk that’s been hanging out in their pores. “It’s actually very satisfying to look in the jar and see everything that got literally sucked out of your skin,” says Prokopenko. Also, the results are instant, with visibly plumper, smoother skin with little to no downtime.
DIY Tips: Of course, DiamondGlow can only be administered by professionals, but there are things you can do yourself to slough off dead skin. When it comes to at-home exfoliation, Prokopenko likes a Clarisonic® Mia Prima® brush ($99). “Clarisonic vibrates your skin, so it kind of shakes off the dead layers instead of scrubbing them off, which makes it a lot safer,” she says. If you’re opting to use a facial scrub instead, don’t overdo it. “People have a tendency to think more is better, but then they’re going to traumatise the skin cells, and the cells are going to age faster and not hold water as well,” she says. You also run the risk of over-exfoliation, which will set your skincare routine back considerably. For chemical exfoliation, Prokopenko recommends products with glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar, like SkinCeuticals® Glycolic 10 Renew OvernightTM ($80). It could cause irritation if your skin isn’t used to it, so start by easing this ingredient into your routine one night a week and working your way up.
The Treatment: Gua Sha Facial
What a Gua Sha Facial Targets: Puffiness, circulation, muscle tension
How a Gua Sha Facial Works: “Facial Gua Sha uses a smooth tool — often made of jade or quartz — to stroke and massage the face and neck using specific techniques that improve circulation and release tension,” explains Sandra Lanshin Chiu, Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, and founder of Lanshin℠, a healing studio in Brooklyn, New York.
If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a gua sha or rolling tool.
While body Gua Sha — an important technique used in traditional Chinese medicine — uses a more aggressive approach, facial Gua Sha requires a much lighter touch, says the expert. “Facial Gua Sha stimulates and improves circulation of blood [and] lymph [fluid] in the skin and underlying tissue,” says Chiu. “Healthy skin is the key to achieving glowing skin and restoring youth to facial features.” Those of us who are permanently stressed out will be happy to know the treatment also releases knots that build up in facial muscles and tissue, just as they can in the neck and shoulders.
Gua Sha Facial DIY Tips: “In my experience, facial Gua Sha delivers the best results when the tool is held as flat/flush against the skin as possible, creating full tool-to-skin contact,” says Chiu. As far as pressure, the expert recommends a light to medium touch. “The face really responds to a ‘less is more’ approach,” she says.
To prep the skin, use a hydrating mist like Ranavat BotanicsTM Jasmine Tonique ($40), followed by the facial oil or moisturizer of choice “in order to facilitate the necessary ‘glide,’” says Chiu. “Practicing on skin that isn’t properly hydrated may cause some red marks. They’re not permanent, but they’re not the goal of facial Gua Sha.” If you’re interested in giving it a go, consider an expert-designed tool, like Chiu’s patented Lanshin ProTM ($125) or the Angela Caglia® Rose Quartz Gua Sha Tool ($58). As with any treatment, the better your technique, the better the results. To master your moves, get some gua sha tips here.
The Treatment: Microcurrent Facial
What a Microcurrent Facial Targets: Lymphatic drainage, collagen production, skin laxity, fine lines and wrinkles
How a Microcurrent Facial Works: “Microcurrent uses low-level electrical current to tone, tighten, and lift muscles,” says celebrity esthetician Shani Darden. “It’s essentially exercise for your facial muscles.” Vargas agrees that the treatment is the equivalent of a barre class for your face. “I use electricity to drain out excess puffiness, tighten the muscle, and tighten the skin,” she says. For her signature Triple Crown Facial, Vargas uses two handheld prongs to deliver precise doses of energy to the skin and to boost collagen production. This also helps minimize fine lines and wrinkles.
The results from a microcurrent facial are so instantaneous and noticeable that Vargas will often treat half of a client’s face, then show them their real-time before-and-after in a mirror. “By the end of your treatment, your jawline will be more defined, your cheekbones more pronounced, and you will have younger-looking skin and refreshed eyes,” she says, adding it’s her favorite facial to administer before weddings and red carpets. Important note: While Vargas says the treatment is super relaxing (“It usually makes people fall asleep”), pregnant women or anyone with a pacemaker should avoid a microcurrent facial as these combinations are unsafe.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Microcurrent Facial DIY Tips: Most experts recommend maintaining microcurrent facial results with at-home tools like ZIIP® ($495) and NuFace Trinity® ($325). The key to seeing results, says Darden, is if you use your device regularly. If you don’t have a specialized tool to use, that’s OK, too. Vargas says to massage your products into skin nightly and in the morning to encourage lymphatic drainage and de-puff the face. “It’s easy to do,” she says. “Using gentle but firm pressure, mimic a ‘J’ motion across your face.”
The Treatment: Microdermabrasion
What Microdermabrasion Targets: Dead skin cells, dull skin, fine lines, enlarged pores, age spots, acne scars, hyperpigmentation
How Microdermabrasion Works: “Microdermabrasion is the mechanical removal of dirt and dead skin cells via a machine that either has a diamond-tipped wand or has crystals that shoot at the surface of the skin,” explains Vargas. “It’s great deep exfoliation for fine lines, sun damage, and building collagen.” Vargas only uses diamond-tipped micro machines. “It’s more modern and easier to deliver a consistent result with all skin types, even those with sensitive skin,” she says.
During the treatment, the device is gently worked across a client’s face to loosen dead skin cells. At the same time, a vacuum-like suction will suck the debris into the wand. Vargas is such a fan of the treatment that she does it as the first step of every facial at her salons. “I find it can be customized to fit a client’s specific skincare needs, and it makes the facials feel even more luxurious,” she says. And, although sloughing dirt and grime off your skin is really satisfying, Vargas says to reserve microdermabrasion as a once-a-month treat. “I don't like a deep exfoliation more than that,” she notes.
Microdermabrasion DIY Tips: Fans of microdermabrasion can use at-home devices like PMD® Personal Microderm Pro ($199) or the Silk’n Revit® Microdermabrasion Device ($99) to exfoliate skin weekly. In its place, Vargas also recommends using a light scrub like her Exfoliating Mask ($75) once or twice a week — or just using a washcloth if you have sensitive skin and think a scrub is too much for you.
The Treatment: Oxygen Facial
What an Oxygen Facial Targets: Dehydrated skin, dull skin, fine lines
How an Oxygen Facial Works: Every salon has its own method for an oxygen facial. At Darden’s studio, clients lay under an oxygen dome with a mask on. “The oxygen helps the mask to penetrate the skin deeply, which results in glowing, hydrated skin,” she says. Alternatively, at NYC’s Daphne Studio℠, esthetician Alexandra Accardo says the oxygen treatment is administered at the end of a facial. Once skin has been cleansed, exfoliated, and massaged, the esthetician will load a serum into a device that looks like a makeup airbrushing tool. This device infuses the serum into the skin using pressurized oxygen. “The oxygen promotes the delivery of these professional strength serums into the skin,” explains Accardo, which she says feels cooling and calming. Another bonus: “Oxygen helps stimulate blood flow in the skin, and better circulation results in brighter, happier skin.”
Oxygen Facial DIY Tips: For similar results at home, Accardo recommends massaging your face for a few minutes a day using a roller tool — like the Skin Gym® Face Sculptor ($69) — which can help lift the skin. “Massage stimulates the blood flow and helps bring more oxygen to the tissue,” she says. You can also use products that help to oxygenate the skin, such as Biologique Recherche® Masque VIP O2TM or Dr. Brandt Skincare® Oxygen Facial Flash Recovery Mask ($70).
The Treatment: Dermaplaning
What Dermaplaning Targets: Dead skin cells, dull complexion, fine lines and wrinkles, minor scars
How Dermaplaning Works: “Dermaplaning is a physical exfoliation of dead skin cells,” explains Accardo. During the process, a licensed provider uses a scalpel to literally scrape off dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. “We start with the forehead and go section by section, holding and stretching the skin as much as possible while working the blade at 45-degree angle strokes,” she says. As a side effect (or bonus!), the treatment also removes vellus, or peach fuzz.
If the thought of basically shaving off these baby hairs is freaking you out, you’re not alone. The most common concern for women is the fear of having a five o’clock shadow when the vellus hairs grow back. “Peach fuzz will not grow back thicker,” assures Accardo. Instead, the result is bright, soft skin that “feels like butter,” she says. And, because you’re getting rid of the pesky peach fuzz that can absorb foundation, makeup goes on much smoother — making dermaplaning an ideal treatment to book before big events. Another bonus: Getting rid of that dead skin also means your products will absorb better.
Still, the treatment isn’t for everyone. Those with reactive, sensitive skin, or inflamed acne should avoid dermaplaning. As far as frequency, to maintain the best results, Accardo recommends the treatment on a monthly basis. Learn more about dermaplaning — and see the results of it! — here.
Dermaplaning DIY Tips: Exfoliating devices such as DERMAFLASH® make it easy to get rid of build-up and peach fuzz from the comfort of your own home. If you have dark facial hair, like on the chin, pluck those first, advises Accardo. This hair is different than peach fuzz.
Product prices may vary from the time this article was written.
Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.
DiamondGlowTM is an Allergan®-owned treatment.
The DiamondGlowTM device is a general dermabrasion device that gently removes the top layer of skin and delivers topical cosmetic serums onto the skin.
Important Safety Information
The DiamondGlowTM treatment is not for everyone. You should not have a DiamondGlowTM treatment if you have compromised skin quality. Tell your provider if you are pregnant or lactating, or if you have any medical conditions, including allergies, and if you are using topical medications on the area to be treated.
Typical side effects include a scratchy, stinging sensation during the treatment and temporary tightness, redness or slight swelling after the treatment. Rare serious side effects may also occur and include severe skin irritation and allergic reactions.
SkinMedica® Pro-Infusion Serums Disclaimer
SkinMedica® Pro-Infusion Serums are intended to meet the FDA’s definition of a cosmetic product, an article applied to the human body to cleanse, beautify, promote attractiveness, and alter appearances. These products are not intended to be drugs that diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. These products have not been approved by the FDA and the statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Please talk to your provider for additional information.