You may have noticed that Neutrogena, Aveeno, and RoC are promoting products that claim to build collagen, repair damage, and restore elasticity to the skin using an electric charge that is created when you apply their products to your skin. Using electricity to stimulate collagen production and restore the skin’s youthful appearance isn’t a new concept in the skincare world. What is new are the home care products that claim to do the same thing as a microcurrent facial. These home care products play off of the use of bioelectricity as it is already used in the medical industry to heal wounds and even promote bone growth.
Microcurrent Facial Treatments
In her new book Complexion Perfection! esthetician to the stars Kate Somerville explains that a microcurrent skincare treatment involves the use of two sets of prongs which are applied to the face and emit very small electrical impulses that mimic the naturally occurring electrical impulses in the body. This triggers a chemical reaction that then encourages the body to product more collagen and elastin.
Additionally, Somerville writes that the microcurrent brings oxygen to the skin cells, increases circulation in the skin, and lifts facial muscles back into place. Somerville says that the results of such treatments are immediate and cumulative. Eventually, she claims, if you get enough of these treatments you will have toned and elastic skin.
Not everyone agrees with these assessments. In a February, 2010 Elle magazine article entitled Fight Aging by Healing Damaged Skin dermatologist Dr. Alexa Kimball says that Somerville’s claims that microcurrent treatments help create collagen and enhance circulation are very hard to evaluate. Furthermore, Dr. Kimball says that the idea that muscle contractions are helpful in restoring the skin’s youthful appearance is also likely incorrect since, for example, an anti-aging treatment like Botox works by stopping muscle contractions.
If anyone has tried professional microcurrent treatments please feel free to comment below about your experience.
Microcurrent or Bioelectricity Home Skincare Products
So how do the new home care products work that claim to use electricity to stimulate collagen and elastin production and help slow down the aging process?
Collagen and elastin are proteins in skin that diminish as we get older. Collagen is like scaffolding that gives skin its structure and keeps wrinkles from forming, while elastin is more like a spring-without it, skin loses its ability to bounce back and starts to sag.
For quite some time, dermatologists have known that collagen production can be stimulated topically with glycolic acid, vitamin C and retinoids, but there have been very few products proven to promote production of elastin. Electric stimulation may be the answer.
The concept doesn’t involve any batteries or machinery; instead, electric stimulation is delivered by topical creams that contain energized zinc and copper. Application of the grayish zinc and copper cream is followed by use of a moisturizer, which causes the two elements to exchange an electron and purportedly generates a 10 micro amp charge. Though the charge is quite weak-you can’t actually feel anything-manufacturers claim it nonetheless triggers the skin to synthesize both collagen and the more elusive elastin.
In the Elle article already mentioned above the science behind the new Neutrogena Clinical products is explained:
… Neutrogena is the first brand to go deep on bioelectricity; in particular, they’re tapping into biomimetics—the science of using technology to copy biological systems. The new Neutrogena Clinical collection contains zinc particles that are coated in copper. Though you can’t feel them, the company claims these microbatteries— each roughly the size of a skin cell—create a current that revs up cells’ abilities to communicate with one another, just as they would in normal wound healing (telling one another, for example: Make collagen!). Duracell-inspired skin care certainly sounds like science fiction, but [Dr. Gordana]Vunjak-Novakovic [professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University] seems remarkably optimistic that it might actually work: “The idea is to wake up the native mechanism that the body already knows but, over decades, has forgotten.”
Obviously this is all very intriguing stuff. But so far there have been no independent evaluations of these home care products effectiveness. Once again – if anyone has tried these products please comment and let us know if they worked as promised.
By the way, this only seems to be the beginning of such home care products. The FDA is currently reviewing a palm-size home use microcurrent device called the DermaLucent Handheld that combines LED light therapy with microcurrent light therapy. The NuFace microcurrent device is already being sold for home use. I would expect to see more products like the Neutrogena, Aveeno, and RoC products if those are a success with consumers.
Sources and Further Reading
Complexion Perfection! by Kate Somerville – pages 85-86 and 130
Fight Aging Using Bioelectricity – New Beauty Magazine – Spring 2010 – page 52
Shocking News from Aveeno, Neutrogena, and RoC by Paula Begoun