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Recently, my 60-something-year-old mother started asking me about all of these new microcurrent toning devices, like the Nuface Classic Microcurrent Facial Toning Device ($228.96, Amazon.com). Promising to deliver results similar to a facelift, these devices stimulate the skin with little bits of electric current.
What Works: Muscle-Building and Collagen-Stimulating
While it’s not exactly equivalent to a trip to the gym crushing 100-pound weights, electrical stimulation can in fact cause muscles to become firmer over time. For instance, a study from The Journal of the Physical Therapy Association showed that electrical stimulation of the quadricep femoris (leg) muscle caused statistically significant muscle strengthening over control. Electrical stimulation has also been shown to improve recovery time to muscles following sports injury (Sports Medicine, 1992).
Microcurrents have been shown in peer-reviewed scientific studies to increase collagen and elastin fiber production in the affected regions (Revue Francaise de Gynecologie de Obstretrique, 1992). Though the method tested in this study used a thin acupuncture-like needle to apply the electrical current, rather than the more typical applicators, the underlying principle is the same. These microcurrents have also been shown to increase DNA protein and collagen synthesis when applied to skin cells in petri dishes (FASEB, 1987).
The idea, then, is that devices like Nuface Classic Microcurrent Facial Toning Device will strengthen underlying facial muscles over time, and also stimulate underlying collagen and elastin fiber production, resulting in tighter, firmer skin. That’s the general idea, anyway.
What Doesn’t Work: Jawline (for Women) Tightening and Strengthening Ligaments
Some argue that devices like the Nuface Classic Microcurrent Facial Toning Device aren’t strong enough to really change the face. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that they are.
Toned muscular jaws, cheekbones, and stronger lower faces are generally associated with masculine faces. In studies comparing the jawlines of women, those surveyed said the women with softer, less toned lower facial features were considered to be more feminine, according to a 2004 study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of the Biological Sciences. So even if these microcurrent devices are strong enough to elicit a change in the musculature of the face, it’s probably best to keep it for the forehead.
What’s more, not all facial sagging is caused by weakened muscles or even decreased collagen production. Some people have loose, sagging facial skin as the result of dramatic weight changes, which can cause the ligaments to be irreversibly stretched over time. Of course, building up the underlying muscles and increasing collagen doesn’t hurt if this is your problem – it is just that you are not directly treating the underlying cause.
The Real Issue: Maintenance
The real issue with a microcurrent facial toning device is maintenance. Muscle grows as a function of tension-bearing overload, which in plain English means, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. You can’t start to use a device like the Nuface Classic Microcurrent Facial Toning Device for a few days or weeks and then stop and expect to maintain results. Once you start, you should consider using the product at regular intervals perpetually, or run the risk of losing the gains that you make.
Yes, studies do show electrical currents can stimulate muscle and increase collagen production over time. However, keep the following in mind:
- Older persons > younger persons. Older persons lose muscle mass as they get older, and the face is no exception. Younger women may notice their faces look too masculine with regular facial muscle stimulation.
- Upper face > lower face. As tempting as it can be to use electrical stimulators on your neck and jawline, keep in mind that building up lower facial muscles can make the face appear more masculine. In addition, regular electrical stimulation over the thyroid may lead to hyperthyroid symptoms.
- Maintenance is necessary. Just like lifting weights: you snooze, you lose. You have to keep on using the device in order to maintain results.
What are your thoughts on electrical stimulators? Let us know in Comments below!