Your Comprehensive Guide To Skin Care Tools

From microcurrent devices to LED light masks.

by Rasna Neelam and Tamim Alnuweiri
A comprehensive guide to skin care tools and how to use them.
Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

The skin care industry continues to expand by the day. Beauty purchases even surged during the pandemic as people turned to self-care and their routines during quarantine. Among the boom, skin care tools in particular saw a rising interest over the past year and a half — the gizmos and gadgets that zap and zhuzh your face for everything from better elasticity to fewer breakouts. With the world of at-home beauty devices now so vast and difficult to navigate, Bustle spoke to a number of experts to simplify things.

“Face tools are becoming very popular with many of my own patients,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care. Her take on what’s been fueling the trend? “[It’s] the idea of taking home some of the technology we use in-office in less aggressive dosing.” That’s on top of having less access to professional treatments during COVID — these devices bring the technology to your very own beauty cabinet, no appointment required.

Although they can achieve a lot, Ciraldo says these tools are best used as preventative measures rather than corrective ones — which are still best left for a professional. That said, skin care tools can be used to enhance in-office procedures. “I do recommend devices to some of my patients to supplement their professional treatments,” Ciraldo says, pointing to dermaplaning as a way to help keep pores clear between in-office extractions or peels.

Before you dive into the complicated world of skin care tools, keep in mind it’s always wise to consult your dermatologist before starting a new treatment. With that said, keep scrolling for a comprehensive guide on the beauty-boosting options on the shelves.

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1. LED Light Therapy

LED (light-emitting diode) skin care tools come in the form of masks and handheld wands. These work by delivering visible, colorful light to the skin at varying wavelengths, each of which offers a unique benefit: red for anti-aging, blue for treating acne, and green to soothe inflammation.

“The masks are designed to reduce fine lines by stimulating collagen production and combat acne through their antibacterial benefits,” says Edyta Jarosz, master esthetician at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue. Although those are the most well-known benefits, Madalaina Conti, esthetician and trainer at FaceGym, says you can also experience a laundry list of other skin-boosting perks. “LED therapy is often used to treat redness, rosacea, reduce the appearance of pore size, even skin tone, and aid with pigmentation,” she tells Bustle. That said, she notes LED is sometimes used after another treatment (not the treatment itself) to minimize downtime and aid in healing — think procedures like chemical peels and facial extractions.

Although each LED light product will have specific instructions, the general verdict is that you’ll reap the best results with daily use. Your regular skin care routine can be applied normally afterward.

2. Microcurrent Devices

Microcurrent devices are facial tools with the added boost of electricity. “They’re a safe and effective at-home option for delivering targeted radiofrequency energy to the skin to stimulate collagen production and produce anti-aging results,” says Dr. Hadley King, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. These tend to be handheld wands that have metal ends that conduct electricity to the skin. The electricity, or current, boosts muscle stimulation and facial circulation, which results in a natural lift that also tightens and firms the skin, explains Jarosz.

For an at-home microcurrent treatment, begin by cleansing and toning the skin with oil-free products since oil acts as a barrier to electrical current, says Jarosz. You will also need a conducting gel which most devices will come with. Follow the instructions of your specific tool, but generally speaking, experts recommend applying an ample amount of the gel. After that, perform the treatment by gliding the tool across your skin, remove the gel, and finish with the rest of your skin care routine. For best results, use these tools three to five days a week.

3. Dermaplaning

Dermaplaning uses a blade to remove debris and exfoliate the uppermost layers of your skin. It essentially looks a lot like shaving your face but with tiny, more delicate and precise razors.

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Maryam Naz, M.D. is a big proponent of dermaplaning because of the way it decongests the skin and prepares it to better absorb topical products after. There is also the aesthetic benefit of removing peach fuzz for smoother makeup application.

Although this is a generally easy and affordable home treatment, the involvement of a razor warrants careful use since it could cause cuts or micro-tears. Follow best practices and do it no more than once every week or two.

4. Ice Globes

Ice globes are handheld wands filled with fluid that’s best served cold, whether that means keeping them in the fridge or submerging them in cold water for 10 minutes prior to use. Among the world of beauty tools, experts seem to agree that these are a great entryway for beginners. “They are foolproof tools,” says Conti.

“Ice globes are great if your skin tends to be sensitized as they calm inflammation,” says Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist, author, and founder of her eponymous skin care brand and spa. The combination of the cold and the smoothness of the glass results in reduced puffiness and inflammation, and massaging your skin with the spheres boosts circulation for an immediately soothed effect.

When it comes to where exactly it goes in your routine, these offer some flexibility. Conti suggests sandwiching a massage sesh in between a mask treatment and your regular skin care regimen. “You can also use the globes over your skin care as well,” she adds. These are safe to use every day.

5. Gua Sha

Gua sha is a Traditional Chinese Medicine tool used for facial and body massages. While the gemstones were traditionally used to treat the body, Conti says they’ve become a staple in facial skin care. The gua sha tool is a flat handheld stone with a number of curves, most commonly made of rose quartz or jade.

The main benefits of gua sha facial massage are a sculpted effect, reduced puffiness, and less muscle tension (so it’s great for jaw pain, for example). According to Conti, your gua sha treatment should be done on cleansed and hydrated skin. She recommends using a facial oil so the tool glides rather than tugs on your face.

You can turn to a number of different gua sha techniques. The first is a gua sha lymphatic drainage massage. “By scraping the tool over the skin in upward strokes, you promote tissue drainage, and reduce puffiness and inflammation,” Jarosz says. Conti adds you’ll also have reduced water tension. The overall effect is more of a healthy glow in lieu of skin dullness.

The second use of the gua sha tool involves hitting pressure points for the relaxation of your facial muscles. “The tool fits on the face nicely so you can get a deep release of tension in the muscles that block healthy circulation,” Vargas says. This also results in a more even radiance. Try using your gua sha at least once a week for best results.

6. Face Rollers

Face rollers are the most basic skin care devices out there. Chances are you have a jade roller sitting in your bathroom at this very moment. These tools are usually made from jade or rose quartz, but you’ll find a slew of variations on the shelves.

Like ice globes, the appeal of these products is simplicity and ease of use. “You can roll [these] over the face on dry skin or after you’ve applied your skin care,” Conti says. The rollers are said to help with lowering inflammation, stimulating circulation, and de-puffing the skin. For an added soothing and de-puffing effect, stick the roller in the fridge prior to use. Use them whenever you’re looking for a feel-so-good face massage.

7. Vibrating Facial Tools

Vibrating facial tools come in many shapes and sizes, but put simply: They’re electric massage-based wands that use vibrating pulses to achieve beautifying perks.

The device packs a hefty skin-boosting punch. “It’s great for lymphatic drainage massages, facial muscle relaxation, boosting your glow, and making the most out of topical skin care treatments,” Vargas says. Conti adds that these can also help smooth fine lines and wrinkles. They’re similar to jade rollers, but the vibrations boost the effects on your skin. Essentially, vibrating waves penetrate beyond the top layer of your complexion for anti-aging effects.

As far as efficacy, something to keep in mind: “I suggest trying vibrating facial tools if you know that you will be committed to using them regularly and long term,” says Ciraldo. She explains these devices offer short-term anti-gravity effects, so daily use will bring you the. best results.

Depending on the specific tool in your arsenal, the instructions will change. But, generally speaking, you’ll typically need something on your skin to allow the product to glide. Vargas’ hot tip is to apply a sheet mask before going over your face with the tool.

Studies referenced:

Caberlotto, E. (2017). Effects of a skin-massaging device on the ex-vivo expression of human dermis proteins and in-vivo facial wrinkles. PLoS One.

Dai, T. (2012). Blue light for infectious diseases: Propionibacterium acnes, Helicobacter pylori, and beyond?. Drug Resist Updat.

Khademi, K. (2012). The effect of microcurrents on facial wrinkles. Pars of Jahrom University of Medical Sciences.

Nielsen, A. (2007). The Effect Of Gua Sha Treatment On The Microcirculation Of Surface Tissue. Explore (NY).

Opel, D. (2015). Light-emitting Diodes. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.

Rodan, K. (2016). Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Saniee, F. (2012). Consider of Micro-Current's effect to variation of Facial Wrinkle trend, Randomized Clinical Trial Study. Life Science Journal.'s_effect_to_variation_of_Facial_Wrinkle_trend_Randomized_Clinical_Trial_Study

Tzen, Y-T. (2018). Increased skin blood flow during low intensity vibration in human participants: Analysis of control mechanisms using short-time Fourier transform. PLoS One.

Wunsch, A. (2014). A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery.


Edyta Jarosz, master esthetician at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue

Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist, author and founder of Joanna Vargas

Dr. Hadley King, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist

Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care

Dr. Maryam Naz, M.D., board-certified plastic surgeon

Madalaina Conti, esthetician and trainer at FaceGym