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Design by Viviana Quevedo; Photography by Luda311/Getty Images

The beauty game is constantly evolving, transforming, and getting more hi-tech by the day.

We’re seeing tools to tone, tighten, dig deep into pores, and achieve younger-looking, glowing skin. These products now include the likes of light wavelengths, sonic frequencies, and microcurrent technology.

With an increasing amount of gadgets available to buy and use at home, how do you know which ones work and which are bunk?

These hi-tech tools often come with hefty price tags, so it pays to figure out whether they’re worth the investment.

That’s where research and expert opinions come in.

Dermarolling is a form of microneedling where a handheld device rolls multiple tiny needles across the face, gently penetrating it.

By puncturing the skin, the treatment induces the body’s wound healing response and regeneration of the dermis. This stimulates collagen and elastin fiber production.

This is said to treat acne scarring, reduce fine lines, even out skin tone, and give an overall glow.

Needles range from 0.2 millimeters (mm) to 1.5 mm and have varied results, depending on their length. Smaller needles target wrinkles, enlarged pores, and skin discoloration, while larger needles focus on issues such as deep acne and surgical scars.

What the experts say

Dr. Joseph Zahn, assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences says they may just do the job.

“For acne scars, dermarollers appear to be quite effective, with the vast majority of patients noting clinically significant improvement in the appearance and texture of scars with relatively few treatments,” says Zahn.

He also notes that dermarollers are thought to increase collagen production in the skin, which means they may work well for fine lines and wrinkles.

“As for skin tone, several case studies have noted that dermarollers may enhance the effects of other treatments, leading to improved outcomes in hyperpigmentation or melasma,” says Zahn.

Various studies have been done on skin needling, with research showing that 2 to 3 sessions with a 1.5 mm needle could greatly improve acne scarring.

One study that involved participants receiving 3 needling sessions at 2-week intervals found permanent improvement in the overall scar appearance of the skin after 6 months.

Another study found that microneedling has been a successful treatment of periorbital hyperpigmentation, or dark circles.

It also noted that microneedling is a cost-effective and minimally invasive treatment for multiple cosmetic and dermatology conditions.

However, more studies are needed to determine the frequency, interval, and specific device settings to foster optimal results. It’s also important to stick to the instructions of the device to avoid risk.

“Most users of a dermaroller will notice mild pain, redness, and swelling of the skin, which typically resolves within 24 hours. Otherwise, these devices are generally well-tolerated with minimal risks,” says Zahn. “As always, consult with your board certified dermatologist before adding a new device to your routine.”

The verdict

Dermarollers may be effective in reducing acne scarring, as well as reducing fine lines and wrinkles and giving an overall improved appearance to the skin.

The procedure involves minimal risk. However, users need to follow the instructions, including aftercare, carefully.

LED face masks are full face masks that omit varying light wavelengths — from around 400–700 nanometers on the electromagnetic spectrum — onto the skin.

At the lower end of the spectrum, at around 400 nanometers, blue light targets and kills bacteria, helping to treat acne.

At the other end, red rays — around 700 nanometers — increase blood circulation and boost collagen by penetrating deeper into the skin. This is said to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and help with inflammation.

What the experts say

Blue LED masks are effective at killing bacteria on the skin.

“The bacteria that causes acne is very susceptible to the blue light spectrum,” says Dr. Mara Weinstein Velez, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, director of cosmetics and lasers.

“Blue light has antibacterial effects and anti-inflammatory effects which can help reduce redness and prevent future breakouts,” she says.

Blue light can also help treat inflammatory conditions.

“Light therapy (both red and blue light) is a treatment used to treat inflammatory conditions like eczema and psoriasis but more commonly, actinic keratosis, which are precancerous growths. This process for treating actinic keratoses is called photodynamic therapy,” says Weinstein Velez.

Red LED masks can help to brighten the skin by reaching the dermis, the deepest layer of skin, and stimulating collagen and elastin fibers.

“It also helps promote wound healing and tissue repair through increasing the rate of cellular regeneration, and can be used after procedures in the office,” says Weinstein Velez.

She also explains that red LED masks may stimulate the production of serotonin as a result of the exposure to light, resulting in a boost in mood.

There has also been research into the effectiveness of light treatment for acne. Overall, they give evidence to the treatment of light-based therapies for acne when a blue and blue-red light is used.

In one study, patients showed acne reduction after 8 treatments over a 4-week period with an at-home light treatment device. It also concluded there were no adverse effects to the treatment.

An older study concluded that a blue LED light source is an effective method for reducing inflamed lesions and treating mild to moderate facial acne.

Weinstein Velez says it’s important to consult your board certified dermatologist before using a LED mask, as each person is different.

“When looking at specifics, look for safety features like auto shut-offs, heat regulators, and timers,” she says.

The verdict

LED face masks may be an effective treatment of acne and in reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

Face steamers are home devices that propel steam for a set time onto your skin and head.

Face steaming helps to open your pores. This makes it easier to remove dirt, oil, and sebum. The loose pores also help to release dead skin cells and bacteria that contribute to acne and blackheads.

This gives pores a deep clean and primes skin for skin care products such as serums and moisturizers.

Steam is also said to promote blood circulation, delivering increased oxygen to the skin while boosting collagen and elastin levels. This helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, giving an all-around radiant glow.

On top of that, the treatment helps to hydrate the skin by increasing natural oil production.

If you’re feeling a little sniffly, face steaming can also help with congestion — especially with the help of essential oils like tea tree oil. Be sure to follow proper safety precautions.

What the experts say

“Face steamers can be helpful for softening built up oil and dead skin cells that can get trapped inside the pores, making it easier to remove it manually,” says Dr. Amanda Doyle from Russak Dermatology Clinic.

“It can also give the skin a healthy glow since it helps to improve blood flow to the area and soften the skin,” she says.

Doyle advises to keep the temperature of the steam at a safe level and keep your steaming time brief.

“Heat can also exacerbate some conditions, like rosacea. It’s best to avoid it for these patients unless it’s used on patients that have well-controlled rosacea in a medical office setting,” she says.

Zahn agrees.

“Steaming the face may help hydrate your skin, when used in moderation. Too much can lead to loss of moisture or dryness in the skin. In general, after using, follow up immediately with a moisturizer to help seal in the hydration,” Zahn says.

If you aren’t sure whether a steamer will be a good addition to your skin care routine, ask your dermatologist.

The verdict

Face steamers can be effective in loosening pores to give skin a deeper clean. However, they should be used carefully and in moderation to avoid burning or dehydrating the skin.

Sonic facial cleansing brushes are made with nylon or silicone bristles that use sonic frequency to give a deeper clean. They’re used in conjunction with face cleansing solutions, such as oils, creams, or foams.

The idea is that the tiny pulses get into the skin where hands or washcloths fall short. They loosen and expel dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells more effectively.

Users have also commented online about the feel-good massage benefits that facial brushes provide.

What the experts say

“[Sonic cleansers] are effective [because]… high-frequency sound waves are transmitted through liquid to deep clean,” says Weinstein Velez. “They help loosen dirt and oil from the surface and ultimately remove deep-down impurities for a deep pore cleanse.”

Research also shows that sonic brushes may offer effective treatment to remove pollutant build-up and excess sebum in the pores, as well as prevent aging effects.

Sonic cleansers also exfoliate, speeding up the normal 28-day skin renewal cycle.

“The exfoliation that occurs also tightens the skin and reduces pore size. This type of cleanser stimulates cellular waste and ultimately helps your skin detox,” says Weinstein Velez.

This also improves absorption of skin care products.

Additionally, a cohort study on participants with mild to moderate acne and acne-prone skin found that those who used sonic facial cleansing brushes with gel cleansers had a significant reduction of breakouts.

Still, additional clinical research into the various applications of sonic skin care technology is needed.

Be sure to start slow and test areas of the skin.

“Generally speaking, using a sonic face cleanser too long, too often, or too aggressively can lead to irritation,” says Weinstein Velez.

When picking out your device, ask your derm.

“It’s important to consult your board certified dermatologist before using a sonic face cleanser, as there are many options available,” she says.

The verdict

When used with facial cleansing solutions, sonic facial cleansing devices can help give the skin a deeper clean and remove dirt, sebum, and other impurities built up in the pores.

Follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging skin from over-exfoliation.

Facial toning devices are small handheld gadgets that use microcurrent technology (microcurrent electrical neuromuscular stimulation, to be more specific) to help tone and tighten the face and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

What the experts says

“These devices use software microwave microcurrent technology and electrical stimulation that help to repair and rebuild collagen,” says Weinstein Velez. “These devices stimulate facial muscles which in turn can contribute to a more youthful appearance, improve face contours, and brighten, smooth, and soften skin.”

Other benefits of the device include brighter, smoother, softer skin, a reduction of wrinkles, and improved facial contours, according to Weinstein Velez.

A study on neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) devices found that users reported significant improved firmness, tone, and lift.

“Make sure you use it properly and follow the manufacturer’s directions,” says Doyle.

Weinstein Velez recommends using a toning device about 3 times a week, 5 minutes each time to see improvements, but check with your derm before you buy.

“It’s important to consult your board certified dermatologist before using facial toning devices, as they are not recommended for all skin types,” she says.

The verdict

Facial toning devices can be effective in tightening and toning the skin. Users should follow the instructions carefully for best results.

There are plenty of hi-tech beauty devices you can use at home.

They can be effective at toning and tightening, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, improving scarring, and giving a glow to the skin.

Most come at minimal risk, but should be used according to dermatologist instructions for best results and to avoid damage to the skin.

Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.