What Is A Microcurrent Facial?

Electricity Helps Firm and Tone the Skin

microcurrent facial
A microcurrent facial uses very low voltage electricity to rejuvenate the skin. Getty Images: John Burke

Microcurrent is an anti-aging technology that uses very low current electricity to rejuvenate facial muscles, increase cellular activity, improve skin tone and texture, and increase blood and lymphatic circulation. Microcurrent used to be quite common in the days when estheticians ran their own private studios, then fell by the wayside as spas grew in number. 

The reason?  Professional microcurrent machines start at about $4,500. It was cheaper and easier to create a basic facial than to invest in expensive equipment that required a series of treatments in a market that considered the basic facial a "splurge."

Recently micro current has been showing up in more spas as part of enhanced facials for people who seek non-invasive, results-oriented treatments. It is often combined with LED, a light therapy that also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, which give skin its youthful appearance. It is also sometimes combined with peels, which are an exfoliating treatment. The three together can give you an even more dramatic anti-aging treatment. 

​How Does Microcurrent Work?

Microcurrent delivers mimics the body's own bioelectrical currents and increases the cellular processes that slow down as we age.  You don't really feel the current. At most there will be a slight tingling sensation. A microcurrent treatment has these benefits:

  • It increases activity in fibroblast cells, which are found in connective tissue and are responsible for producing collage and elastin.
  • It re-educates muscles, shortening or lengthening them, depending on the technique and desired effect. The esthetician can shorter muscles for a "lifted" look, or relax muscles to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and expression lines.
  • It increases blood and lymph circulation, assisting the body's own waste removal system.
  • It increases synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which gives energy to the cells.
  • It increases protein synthesis, gluconeogenesis and cell membrane transport.
  • It enhances the penetration of the active ingredients of serum.

The first time I had a microcurrent treatment, I was a spa newbie, and extremely skeptical that it would work. So the esthetician did one-half of my face, then had me sit up and look in a hand mirror. It did look slightly lifted compared to the other side. The esthetician advised me that the best results come when you have a series microcurrent treatments, then keep them up. This means you have to be willing to spend quite a bit of money to get and keep results.

How Much Does Microcurrent Cost?

Microcurrent a good choice for someone who has concerns about aging skin but doesn't want plastic surgery or more painful skin tightening laser procedures. The results won't be as dramatic, but you also don't have any downtime or risk.  Plastic surgeons tend to be skeptical about the benefits of microcurrent because they say there aren't any credible studies confirming their efficacy. Another factor might be that it's not a treatment they offer. 

The price for a single treatment will vary, but $200 - $225 is typical. In addition, you have to get a series -- usually six, one month apart -- to get the full benefit, and then maintain it after that. So it is not something to do if you don't have the disposable income to have the series, and then maintain it. 

A facial treatment with microcurrent will also have the following steps:

  • Consultation. A facial should begin with a consultation. You might fill out a form with questions about your skin concerns, your diet, how much water you drink, which drugs and supplements you take, and products you are currently using. Retin-A and other drugs can affects your skin and what kind of treatments the esthetician recommends. More commonly, the esthetician will simply ask about your skin concerns and if you are using Retin-A. 
  • Preparations.  Usually the esthetician offers a wrap that goes around your body and underneath your arms, then closes with velcro. She leaves the room so you can put it on in privacy, then reenters.
  • Cleansing. Usually the esthetician starts by wrapping your hair with a towel or headband to keep product off of it. The first step is thorough cleansing, using cotton pads, esthetician wipes or sponges. Most professional facials do a double-cleanse. 
  • Skin Analysis. Depending on whether you have make-up on, the esthetician might look at your skin under a bright lamp first, or covers your eyes and looks at your skin through a brightly lit magnifying lamp. She is determining your basic skin type (dry, oily, combination, sensitive or normal) and skin conditions (acne, blackheads, whiteheads, aging, sun-damage, dehydration, etc.) The esthetician then chooses the appropriate products and treatments, and consults with you about what he or she sees and recommends.
  • Steam. Most facials use a machine that directs a thin vapor of warm steam to your face. This is relaxing and helps softens up any blackheads and whiteheads to be extracted. If you have very sensitive skin, the esthetician may not use steam.
  • Exfoliation using a mechanical or chemical exfoliant. Mechanical exfoliants have a gritty texture that rubs away the surface dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliation uses enzymes and acids to loosen the bond between skin cells. 
  • Extractions. This is the removal of blackheads or whiteheads if you want and need it. 
  • Facial massage using classic strokes like effleurage to both relax you and stimulate your skin and facial muscles.
  • Microcurrent, which is delivered when the esthetician holds a wand-like device in each hand against the skin. She needs special training to know how to use the equipment and specifically where the muscles are located so she can use the proper movements.
  • Facial mask targeted to your skin type (dry, oily, combination, sensitive, mature) and condition. 
  • Final application of toner, serums, moisturizer and sunscreen if it's daytime.
  • Advice on home skin care. The esthetician will tell you how she thinks you can take better care of your skin and recommend products.  
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