Our skin has a protective barrier. Its job? To hold moisture in tight while keeping out environmental irritants, like pollution. Keeping that barrier strong is tantamount to having healthy skin, but sometimes, it can make it tricky for topical ingredients to penetrate deeply enough to reach their maximum potential. Formulators have found a way around this by using molecules that are small enough to break through ("multi-weight hyaluronic acid," for example, exists for precisely this reason), but skin-care infusion devices are here to take absorption to the next level.
"The skin barrier is limiting when it comes to skin-care products and delivery systems because some of the molecules that we want to get into our skin are unable to penetrate," says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "What [infusion] devices do is help to circumvent that barrier by helping to deliver these ingredients deeper." She caveats that we don't have quite enough evidence to prove that these devices deliver superior results to your usual creams or serums, "but the concept definitely makes sense."
So far, there are three main ways that skin-care infusion devices work. The Droplette 2 ($199 to $499) and the Luminess Breeze 2 ($293) are devices that transform serums into micro mists, so the molecules are super small and better able to penetrate. The Foreo UFO 3 ($129 to $359) uses heat to push the active ingredients deep within the dermis. And the Repêchage LED Radio Frequency and EMS Skin Tightening Machine ($150) uses electric pulses in the form of electroporation/mesoporation, delivering skin-care ingredients directly into the surface layers of the skin.
Benefits of skin-care infusion devices
If you're wondering if skin-care infusion devices are necessary, the short answer is no. Skin-care infusion devices can be a helpful and fun add-on to your routine, but your regimen is likely just fine without them. However, they're wonderful if you want to give your active ingredients—especially those with larger molecule sizes, like hyaluronic acid and collagen—an extra boost. boost. "Very few people couldn't benefit from a little extra moisture," says Dr. Garshick, so using it for these ingredients is wonderful.
However, she's unsure of how helpful these devices are for other ingredients, like retinol and exfoliating acids, which tend to absorb into the skin well enough on their own. "Not every ingredient needs to be able to penetrate deeper to exert more of an effect," she says. "For example, a lot of the time an exfoliating acid is just fine sitting at the surface. But no matter what the ingredient is, presumably if you're getting more absorption, you're getting greater potency and, and a greater result as well."
Additionally, pushing these harsher actives deeper into the skin could potentially make them easier to tolerate. "Some might argue that actually when you're using these delivery systems, you're actually getting more benefit and less irritation," says Dr. Garshick. "Because presumably, if you're able to deliver it deeper, you're not experiencing as much of that surface-related irritation and sensitivity. As long as you're following the protocol of introducing new active ingredients with the same caution you would without the device, it should be okay for anyone to use."
What to know before buying a skin-care infusion device?
Because these devices are a) expensive and b) not totally necessary, you should consider whether or not you can actually commit to using them before you buy.
"These devices are a little bit skin care 2.0 in the sense that logistically they do require a little bit more motivation in terms of using them," says Dr. Garshick. "It's not just like throwing a cream on your face—it does take a little bit more dedication. For a true beginner, it sometimes may help to make sure you have the basics of skin care. So get in the habit of using a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen, and then you can explore enhancing your routine utilizing these devices."
Micro-mist skin-care infusion
These devices come with serums that you load into them, and their delivery systems turn those serums into fine micro mists. This allows the molecules to be condensed into a smaller size so that they can penetrate deeper into the skin. Dr. Garshick is a big fan of the Droplette. "I use it as more of a booster," she says. "It's not part of my daily routine, but I do like getting a little boost with it."
You can get just the Droplette tool for $199, but it makes more sense to get a starter pack ($239 to $499) which comes with 28 to 30 serum capsules of your choice. Choose from plumping collagen, smoothing retinol, exfoliating glycolic acid, brightening tranexamic acid, stimulating lip plumper, rejuvenating growth factors, or combo packs.
Once you load a capsule into Droplette, it uses vibration and electricity to force the serum through a steel mesh made with super small holes, creating micro-mist particles. Then, a pump pushes these tiny molecules out super fast while evaporating the water base of the formulation, leaving the active ingredients more concentrated and potent.
This device comes with one of three skin-care sets of your choice. Pick from Anti-Aging (1 percent retinol and 2 percent hyaluronic acid), Blemish Prone (10 percent niacinamide and 2 percent hyaluronic acid), or Revitalizing (15 percent vitamin C and 2 percent hyaluronic acid). Once you’ve got the starter kit, you can also add on other serums like 11 percent alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) and Pro-Vitamin B5.
To use, simply put a few drops of serum into the device, aim it at your face, and pull the trigger. This combines air with the serum and propels it towards a pressurizing nozzle, transforming it into a micro-droplet mist that is then propelled toward the skin with air.
Heat-based skin-care infusion
"The idea with heat is that you're opening up the blood vessels and enhancing circulation," says Dr. Garshick. "By doing that, you're able to maybe allow things to be drawn into the system a little bit more easily."
The UFO 3 is available in four forms: UFO 3 ($359), UFO 3 LED ($299), UFO 3 mini ($199), and UFO 3 go ($129). All four use gentle heat to allow for enhanced absorption. Depending on the model you get, these tools also employ LED light, cryotherapy, and massage to revitalize skin. Just apply your skin-care products of choice and then run the device over your skin for a two-minute cycle to experience the benefits.
Electrical skin-care infusion
Electroportation (also known as mesoportation) uses pulse currents to help the surface layer of the skin better absorb key ingredients. "Using electroporation is another way to help improve penetration," says Dr. Garshick. "More studies are needed to better understand the use in the setting of skin care, though it has been looked at for other types of drug delivery."
In addition to using electroporation/mesoporation to enhance ingredient absorption, this tool also uses revitalizing LED in six different colors (each with its own benefit), along with skin-firming electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), and radio frequency (RF). Apply your fave products and run the tool over your face for an invigorating 10-minute session. This tool also comes with a free bottle of Glavanic Gel, which moisturizes and protects the skin from the any potential side effects from the electric currents.
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