Do you need skincare devices in your routine? Part 2 of 3 - microcurrent / nanoccurrent devices (ZIIP halo)

Posted by Natasha Dauncey on

In part 1 of this mini-series, we looked at LED red light / infrared masks. This part will cover microcurrent (and nanocurrent). Rather than focus too much on technical aspects of this modality, I've looked more at the practical aspects of using these devices - specifically the ZIIP Halo (and Foreo Bear mini). Just as a reminder that I purchased all the devices mentioned in this series myself and I’m not affiliated with any of these brands – these are just my opinions 😊.

For context: I'm 48 years old with a consistent skincare routine in place. I don't use any injectables (botox / fillers) but I'm interested in "ageing well" and protecting my skin the best way I can. My skin type is fairly balanced but I'm getting progressively dehydrated with age and I'm prone to closed comedones (which are under control with regular retinoid use).

Microcurrent: muscle toning

Claims: Microcurrent devices promise to lift and tone facial muscles, and tighten, brighten, smooth, plump and unify skin tone, as well as improving lymphatic drainage. By delivering low-level electrical currents which mimic the natural currents found in the body, these devices are said to stimulate the facial muscles and tissues, toning / firming and potentially giving a more lifted effect. Microcurrent also increases blood flow and has been suggested to stimulate collagen production, which in turn has benefits on skin texture and reducing the appearance of fine lines / wrinkles. As with LED masks, microcurrent effects are cumulative and can contribute to maintaining skin health when used consistently over time.

My Experience: for context I think it’s important to mention that I’ve been told I have pretty good muscle tone, which may make any possible results I’d get quite marginal. I’ve had two different microcurrent devices which I’ve enjoyed (and disliked) for different reasons. I first bought the Foreo bear mini nearly a year ago; this has microcurrent + a T-sonic massage feature to boost circulation. Sadly I had to return it due to connectivity issues with their app – (incidentally, the app is pretty limited in functionality compared to the ZIIP halo (I think you can pay extra for additional features on the app, which I wasn't prepared to do). What I did like about this device was that you could cover your face very quickly, so it didn’t take long to use and ergonomically it was very comfortable to hold / use and extremely portable due to its size (I took it on holiday with me!), it felt quite robust in terms of build quality. It felt quite easy to slot this into a routine a few days a week (if you’re committed enough to do so!). However, this model “zapped” me quite a lot (despite the "anti-shock" system it claims to have) and I personally found the current a little too strong for my liking, even on lower settings – I got quite a lot of muscle twitching, especially on my lower face. In hindsight I suspect this was down to their serum that they suggest using with it. Whilst I actually enjoyed the serum (it’s nicely hydrating), due to its quite runny viscosity and the fact it dries down quickly, I don’t think it's the best texture to use with the device as you actually want quite a lot of slip to minimise the zapping (which feels like little electric shocks!). Having since tried the silver gel which comes with the ZIIP halo, I'm almost certain that the gel you use will affect how the microcurrent feels on the skin - you need something fairly viscous which sits on the skin and doesn't dry down too quickly. I very quickly noticed an improvement in the way my skin looked with the Foreo Bear mini, especially given that I only had the device for a month before returning it, though I wonder if this was down to the T-sonic massage feature rather than the microcurrent specifically. I didn’t see any improvement in muscle tone (I was really hoping for lifted brows!), but more just a healthy glow – presumably from the improved blood flow. Maybe if I’d tried it with a different gel (and it didn’t have the connectivity issues) I would have stuck with it.

Next I decided to go with the ZIIP halo after a bit of research and discussing it with a local aesthetician. One of the main differences with this device is that it’s the only one to offer both microcurrent and nanocurrent – nanocurrent is thought to provide more long-term results (I don’t know how much clinical data there is to support microcurrent / nanocurrent though!). I think where this device really shines is the fact it offers different treatments to follow on the app and the fact it’s been designed by someone with specific expertise in microcurrent. They’re all short so very easy to fit in and do more than one on the same day (the longest is 12 mins but most targeted treatments are 2-4 minutes). They have been devised by the creator of the ZIIP halo – Melanie Simon (dubbed “the electrical aesthetician”) – you simply follow along with her as she demos how to use the device on different parts of your face. Just be aware that without the app, you can only do the 4 minute “lift” treatment, so you won’t have the versatility of the other treatments which are programmed to run on specific intensities according to the area being treated. There are a few different ZIIP gels that can be used with the ZIIP halo (and they’re all pretty spendy, as is the Foreo one). I’m currently using the silver gel which is noticeably more viscous than the Foreo one and therefore has the glide needed to use the device. It’s also got a range of lovely hydrating ingredients which the microcurrent can help “push” into the skin. When I run out though, I think I’ll just switch to using pure glycerin (maybe mixed with my barrier support serum!) instead as that would work in a similar way (just without the other active ingredients in the branded gels). I find the ZIIP halo much gentler and comfortable on the skin than the Foreo bear mini (no zapping unless you go over a blemish, then it’s a bit ouch!) and therefore I find myself reaching quite regularly for it. It’s got a pretty ergonomic shape (though I think I found the Bear mini easier to hold as it’s much smaller), but I don’t think the build quality is that great. It’s lightweight (not a bad thing) but it somehow doesn’t feel very robust – in fact mine is already rattling and I’ve only been using it for 6 months! I have also had compatibility issues with the app (Android) and I don’t think I’m alone in this after a quick google search. It means it’s cumbersome to run through more than one treatment at a time without disconnecting and reconnecting my bluetooth connection (not a dealbreaker, but irritating given the price of this device) - maybe the Apple version of the app is more reliable? In terms of results, I do see healthier, softer, fresher looking skin (again probably down to the improved blood flow), but I haven’t seen any of the lifting effects I’ve seen in other before / after reviews, and I don’t see any evening of my skin tone after using it for over 6 months. That said, as I'm already quite focussed on skin health maintenance (diligent sun protection, retinoids / solid skincare routine, balanced diet and lifestyle focus, occasional treatments like microneedling / peels), it's a combination of all of these that's keeping my skin in good condition and I'm perhaps unlikely to see any dramatic results from any additional modalities I add. I haven't done a direct comparison of both devices (as I didn't have them at the same time), but I feel like I saw more of a healthy "glow" with the Foreo bear mini, however, again it's hard to say for sure it was from the device, because I got the Foreo fairly soon after a course of lactic acid peels that left my skin absolutely glowing! Despite all this, one of the stand out ZIIP treatments for me has been the lips one – I’m pretty sure my lips seem plumper since I started using this so that is somewhere I've seen a more noticeable change. This treatment was recently added to the app (I think it’s great that they’re regularly adding more treatment options to the app!).

Verdict: Compared to the LED mask, I see microcurrent devices as more of a nice to have – for me and my current skin concerns, at least. Similarly to LED masks, microcurrent devices also require consistency and a bit of time, and despite my commitment to using microcurrent 3 times a week, I haven’t seen any lifting effects though I do appreciate the fresher looking skin it gives me. But if I had to pick between the 2, I’d choose the LED mask as I feel like it offers more wide ranging benefits (calming / healing as well as rejuvenating and maintaining skin barrier health). I think if you have poor muscle tone, perhaps you might see more improvements from this, but for someone with a solid skincare routine in place (especially if you’re using retinoids) and very good skin health, I don’t know if you’ll be blown away by the results, especially when you consider the price! If you’re just looking to improve blood flow, then you’re probably better off with regular facial massage which would need minimal tools (and this is something that I've been trialling myself more recently)!

I'd love to know if you've tried microcurrent and what you think of it. And look out for the final part of the series: at-home radiofrequency, coming soon!


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