These days, beauty lovers are swiping more on their skin than serums and lotions. Technology has made its way into the skin care realm, and everyone from your aunt to your favorite celebrity is probably talking about red light therapy and at-home microcurrent facials. 

The market for skin care devices—including masks, wands, and bars—is projected to grow from 5.02 billion in 2022 to 13.94 billion by 2032. At $100-plus, these tools are certainly an investment—but are they a good one? Ahead, dermatologists Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, and Dr. Marisa Garshick, discuss the merits and pitfalls of these devices and whether they’re really as good as in-office treatments. 

What are skin care devices, and what problems do they address? 

“Skin care devices now offer cutting-edge technologies once only available in dermatology offices,” explains Shirazi. These devices employ microcurrents, LED photobiomodulation, and radiofrequency technologies to stimulate collagen production, treat acne, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and scarring. However, the scientific merit of these devices is still in question. 

Shirazi attributes the popularity of skin care gadgets to social media and the rise of interest in skin care that occurred during the pandemic. And, of course, the convenience factor of conducting your skin care treatments at home rather than a doctor’s office can’t be overstated. “These at-home devices are designed to be portable and user-friendly, allowing consumers to incorporate them into their at-home skin care routines,” adds Shirazi. 

The benefits of skin care devices

At-home skin care devices like the Solawave 4-in-1 Advanced Skincare Wand ($169), NuFace Trinity+ Starter Kit ($395), and the Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro ($455)  are relatively new to the market. As you’re shopping for one, you may notice words like “microcurrents” and “LED therapy.” Here’s what those terms mean—and what benefits they have to offer. 


“Microcurrent devices use low levels of electrical current to stimulate facial muscles to help sculpt and lift the face,” Garshick says. “It is thought since microcurrent has been shown to help wound healing and reduce inflammation, it may also promote collagen and elastin production to help firm and tighten the skin, though more research is needed.” Microcurrent tech may also boost circulation, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

LED photobiomodulation

NASA originally created red and blue light therapy to assist in healing and wound recovery

Red wavelength light may soften wrinkles, stimulate collagen production, and boost circulation. “Red light therapy in LED masks works by photobiomodulation, a phenomenon where different components of our cells are activated by different wavelengths of light,” says Shirazi. “Red light therapy is like your morning coffee. It helps wake up your skin cells by activating the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of our cells.” This stimulation helps your mitochondria go to work repairing your cells and helping them grow. 

Blue light, meanwhile, may help clear your skin of acne by killing bacteria. 

Radiofrequency technology

These skin care devices use radio frequency to stimulate collagen production. “If your main concern is skin tightening, then using a radiofrequency device to deliver thermal energy works best to tighten tissue,” says Shirazi.

Where skin care devices fall short

While skin care devices show a lot of promise, many of them could benefit from a few more years of research. “In many ways, it is important to note that skin care tools and devices do not replace at-home skin care routine or in-office procedures,” says Garshick. 

Another thing to note: Because you’ll be operating these devices without the help of a trained professional, it’s important to follow directions to a tee, especially when your skin is getting acclimated to the new tool. For example, the Solawave 4-in-1 Advanced Skincare Wand instructions specifically state to start with five minutes of treatment three times a week to test how your epidermis will react.  

“That said, it is best to avoid certain at-home devices that offer minimal benefits and may cause harm if used incorrectly such as pore vacuums and at-home microneedling kits for facial rejuvenation,” warns Garshick. 

So, are they worth the money? 

If taking care of your skin is a big part of your wellness routine, investing in one of these devices may be worth it for you. “Depending on the concern, it is possible there may be some temporary improvements as well as some long-term benefits with consistent use,” says Garshick. “For this reason, if you have the budget and want to consider incorporating these, it is reasonable, but in general, there may be greater benefits with in-office treatments.”

Both dermatologists recommend buying a device that has been clinically tested and cleared by the FDA. “Consulting with a dermatologist or skin care professional can also help determine the best skin care regimen, including the use of skin care devices, based on individual skin concerns and goals,” says Shirazi.  

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