harpers bazaar logo

What to Know About Microcurrent Facials, the Skincare Treatment All Over Your Instagram Feed

Microcurrent facials promise to do a lot for you: help with anti-aging, brightening, filing your taxes (okay fine, we made up that last one). And while they may sound gimmicky, there’s serious science behind microcurrent technology. Initially approved by the FDA as a treatment for Bell’s Palsy, they’ve since become a staple in celebrity facialists’ offices for their skincare benefits. And the futuristic NuFACE device that’s taken over your Instagram feed? It’s a skincare tool that can be used at home to offer similar benefits.
Still, microcurrent facials aren’t an inexpensive habit, and at-home tools can cost upwards of $500. We enlisted a round table of skincare experts to explain what makes microcurrent facials worth the investment, and what results you can expect.

What Is a Microcurrent Facial?

Much of the treatment will be like a standard facial with cleansing, exfoliation, masks, etc.—but the microcurrent device ups the experience. “A microcurrent facial consists of your esthetician moving small electrical probes around your face, which pass painless electrical current into the skin on your face and neck to help tone, lift, firm, and reeducate tired muscles,” explains Sarah Akram, celebrity esthetician and owner of Sarah Akram Skincare in Alexandria, Virginia. “It stimulates your cells and promotes production of ATP, a molecule found in our cells that stores and transports chemical energy which assists with collagen, elastin production, and cell regeneration.”

The devices use three different currents that work together to allow for toning and better absorption of skincare products. “As a result of these simultaneous currents, your skin looks regenerated and feels rejuvenated,” says Darya Rzaca, co-founder of Atelier Beauté in Brooklyn, New York.

What Are the Results of a Microcurrent Facial?

The anti-aging benefits are hard to beat—in fact, both Akram and Rzaca refer to the treatment as a “non-invasive facelift.” More specifically, Rzaca says a microcurrent facial can help to “lift and tone cheeks and brows, tighten the jawline, improve circulation, and elasticity, diminish swelling under the eyes, and more.”

And like many facial treatments, the results are cumulative, so the more you micro, the better. Still, you can expect a “noticeably brighter, overall healthier, and younger-looking complexion after just one treatment,” according to Akram.

Are There Any Side Effects?

The devices may look a bit like a science experiment, but the skincare experts agree that microcurrent facials are safe and effective. “The side effects are very rare but can include nausea, fatigue, and drowsiness,” says Aneta Zuraw, co-owner of Atelier Beauté, who adds that the symptoms “usually start during or about 90 minutes after the treatment and may last from four to 24 hours post treatment.”

And although microcurrent facials are suitable for all skin types, there are some caveats. “If you’ve had any botox or fillers, most professionals will suggest you wait about two weeks for a microcurrent treatment,” says Akram, adding that “It’s also not suggested for anyone who has a pacemaker or electrical or metal plate implants.”

Zuraw also adds that patients with “severe acne, cancer, pregnancy, and epilepsy” should also avoid the treatment, unless otherwise told by their doctor.

Do At-Home Microcurrent Devices Work?

In a word, yes. “Microcurrent treatments like ours have become popular for providing both instant and cumulative pro-level results,” says Tera Peterson, co-founder of NuFACE, one of the most popular at-home microcurrent devices. Plus, Akram adds that at-home tools are great for “maintenance between facial services.”
According to Peterson, you only need to use the tool for five minutes a day to see results. “I’ll do my microcurrent treatment after cleansing my face, but before following up with any additional serums or moisturizers that may contain oils as these will block the microcurrent from penetrating down to the muscles,” says Peterson. Plus, she reminds that “It’s important to use a Microcurrent Activator like our Hydrating Aqua Gel or Firming + Brightening Silk Crème as these are specifically formulated to conduct the current and enhance results.”
Like an in-office treatment, there are no major side effects with an at-home device, although some people may feel a tingling sensation. If that happens, “My best advice for this is to use more of the activators,” says Peterson. “You always need to be sure that your skin is ultra-hydrated and there’s a mask-like layer of the activator applied to the area you are treating. If you start to feel anything, simply apply more—listen to your skin.”