When you’ve worked as a beauty editor for 15 years, you tend to approach each new trend with a mix of trepidation, skepticism, and unbridled excitement. It’s a weird internal tug-of-war between “A light-emitting diode that plumps your skin? Pfft, as if” yet also, simultaneously, “Oh hell yes gimme, gimme, gimme.”
But the problem over the last ten years or so has been that many of the cosmetic trends required scalpels, needles and weeks of down time. And, well, I’m a wuss. And also, quite attached to the face I have. Which is why it’s so damn exciting that the pendulum is slowly swinging back, with numbers of cosmetics procedures dropping by five percent since the year 2000. And, simultaneously, the interest in minimally (or not-at-all) invasive treatments taking off, fuelled by the rocket ship that is technology, and all the wonderful we-don’t-quite-understand-it-but-know-we-want-it innovation that comes with it.
And this is where we’re currently at: at a place where a facial with just a steam machine and a therapist is considered a cute retro treat, giving way instead to vitamin infusions, face-fitness and elastin-enhancing electrical currents… all with a distinct lack of needles. Here’s what your face can look forward to in the (not so) distant future.
Those deep in the beauty mix will know that facial fitness as a concept is not new. Just look at countries like China, Japan and the beauty-pioneering south Korea where face workouts have just been something you just do for years to contour and shape the face.
But, with places like the UK-born FaceGym now popping up in New York, we’ll soon be dropping “wanna go for a face workout?” into casual conversation like it’s just another hot yoga class. For the uninitiated: The FaceGym motto is very clear: they are not a facial. They’re a workout… for your face. Essentially it involves a lot of vigorous facial massage, or as they call it “muscle manipulation” and some high tech (but again, non-invasive) tools to tone, tighten and sculpt the 40 (yes, FORTY) muscles in your face. There’s even a warm up, some cardio and a cool down. And while it may sound kitschy, and definitely not a super fun time, even the people who really don’t want it to work (like the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino) have to (sometimes, grudgingly) admit that it does.
Nano and micro current devices
Ah, technology. It has a way of normalizing the once outrageous, and perhaps the truest sign of the times is that we believe anything and everything is possible. This is exactly how I felt when I first read about nano and micro current technology, and what it can do for your skin. Without taking you too far back into Senior year chemistry, this technology uses electrical currents to stimulate the skin’s levels of Adenosine triphosphate (or, ATP for short) – which is essentially the energy source driving the production of things like collagen and elastin (the first things we lose in our skin as we age).
Melanie Simon, renowned Electrical Esthetician and creator of the ZIIP nanocurrent device explains further: “Nanocurrent is a bio-identical electric current that can communicate with our skin’s cells by enhancing production of collagen and elastin, eliminating free-radical neutralizing electrons, and boosting the skin’s level of ATP. Low levels of electrical currents have been clinically proven to increase ATP production by up to 500%.” All of this results in more clarity, better texture and tighter, firmer, brighter skin. And, it’s your own body (not a foreign substance) that’s doing the heavy lifting since it’s your own cells (with just a little electrical help) creating the effect. With a device like ZIIP, this is further enhanced with conductive gels that pull the current into the skin and also include active ingredients like specific peptides for firming or plumping.
Microcurrents (in devices like Nu Face) on the other hand are more in line with face workouts in that they use low-level currents to stimulate the muscles (and ATP production), helping to contour, tone and firm the skin. “It stimulates the superficial facial and neck muscles creating instant lift and tone, “ says Melanie “and had better and longer lasting results with continued use.”
The catch is that excess ATP cannot be stored in the body, so to get all the glorious effects, needs continual use.
No, this is not about pairing your glow sticks with your sheet mask. Rather, it’s the move towards facials that lean on technological tools and products to get more for your face. It’s an ethos that New York’s Facial Bar, Silver Mirror has built their business on. As Cindy Kim, Co-Founder and Co-CEO explains, “facials at Silver Mirror include a variety of high-end modalities and products such as microdermabrasion, hydra-dermabrasion, chemical peels, advanced LED therapy, high frequency, derma-rolling, electrical muscle stimulation, specialty masks…”
They use tools such as the terrifyingly named (but effective) “Ultrasonic hammer,” which has both cold and warm functions to speed up the absorption of products into the skin, soothe, increase circulation and stimulate the skin tissue (to drive product in deeper) using ultrasonic waves.
Silver Mirror are also advocates for oxygen therapy, which has been around for at least a decade and uses high pressure oxygen combined with concentrated forms of vitamins to penetrate the nutrients deep into the lower (dermal) layers of the skin. Cindy explains “Because oxygen is introduced to the skin at the cellular level, it bonds to red blood cells, providing additional strength to the collagen and elastin fibers, which stimulates production of healthy new cells and increases the strength and suppleness of the skin.”
Although all of this may seem like the next level of high maintenance, from the facialist’s perspective, it’s more that there is a quiet acknowledgment that great, healthy skin takes time, and requires constant upkeep… just like staying fit. Rather than just getting a hit of Botox whenever you see a line about to form, there’s a shift towards skin health in general, and not just reacting to the issues after the fact. It’s a kind of wellness woke-ness. Cindy says “consumers are gravitating towards more natural and holistic facial treatments and other consumers are gravitating towards high-tech and active skin treatments and products.” And therein lies the real trend: a mixture of wellness and technology that merge perfectly together to capture both the illusive glowing, youthful skin and the beauty zeitgeist.