Skin tightening beauty tools: Do they work, What are they doing, And which one is right for you?

I have many beauty tools and I pulled them out to discuss how they compare. For example, the differences between a microneedling pen and a high frequency wand, or a radio frequency device compared to an IPL or how skin lasers work. 

Do you have questions about Microneedling, Microdermabrasion, IPL, Lasers, Radio Frequency, HIFU, High Frequency, Microcurrent, and LED light devices? You are not alone. 

I see these questions on my social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok from people who are confused between device protocols, layering beauty tools and what they are trying to improve. My goal is to go into detail the best I can from research and personal use to help you understand the difference and choose the right device for your skin.

Join my private skincare App.  I’ve also included a link to hundreds of my Amazon Live skincare videos, you can catch me live every week and ask questions during the Amazon stream.  Tuesdays 7:30 am PST | Thursdays 9:00 am PST | Sundays 4 pm PST. I’m an Amazon Affiliate and I always appreciate it when you are able to attend or watch my Lives. Thank you!

Now let’s tackle our skincare.

First, anything claiming to tighten your skin is achieved through collagen induction therapy. 

Collagen Induction Therapy is becoming synonymous with microneedling, however, this is a disservice to you and me because collagen induction simply means a controlled injury that encourages collagen to grow. 

As we age our skin produces less and less collagen and elastin, these 2 skin components that keep baby skin plump and bright fade as we age.  CIT is simply the trigger to boost these skin proteins so we can have firmer skin. 

How we trigger and encourage our collagen to boost is our decision. Washing your face too vigorously can be collagen induction as most likely your face came away from this wash red and now your skin will go to work correcting the redness. Thus the stimulus can be superficial helping with skin tone or deeper helping with wrinkles and skin texture.

SKIN

TONING

  • Intense Pulsed Light IPL
  • High Frequency HF
  • Microcurrent MC
  • LED

Protocols that trigger CIT by controlled wound or exfoliation:

  • -Microneedling, aka MN
    • -Microdermabrasion
    • -Acid peels & Actives
    • -Dermaplaning

SKIN

TIGHTENING 

    • Microneedling MN
    • Microdermabrasion MD
    • Acid Peels / Actives
    • Dermaplaning
    • Ablative Lasers: Plamere & Plamon FB
    • Non-Ablative Lasers
      • Nira
      • Radio Frequency RF
      • Focused Ultrasound: Ultherapy & HIFU

Microneedling with a roller or a pen will create microtears in your skin and, depending on the depth of the pin cartridge, or roller, can penetrate your dermis. The dermis layer houses your collagen and elastin. Thus triggering this layer tightens skin.

Many know microneedling is one of my favorite protocols for changing my skin, and my favorite devices for microneedling are my Dr. Pen M8 and my more professional Illuma Pen. I have had great results with both. For scar resurfacing, use a 9-12 pin cartridge, and for skin rejuvenation and tightening, use 16 pin and up; I like the 36 pin cartridge.

Microneedling can also create exfoliation depending on how deep you microneedle. For instance, if I microneedle my skin 1mm or greater, I will become dry over the next three days and my skin will feel almost like sandpaper. This happens as the skin cells are punctured, dry up, and slough off. If I microneedle at .5mm, half the depth previously mentioned, then my skin will not slough off but instead will absorb all of the serums I used during my treatment and will be plump and glowing.

When the epidermis is removed by procedures like Microdermabrasion, Dermaplaning, and Acid peels like TCA or Retin A, these methods also trigger collagen induction. 

ALL DEVICES AND TREATMENTS 

Microdermabrasion uses diamond tips and suction to exfoliate off dead skin cells on your epidermis. Removing these will allow your skin to absorb the product better, and by shedding the epidermis, your dermis will need to respond and build. This is because your epidermis, meaning top skin layer, is your protective layer. It’s full of aging dried-out skin cells that protect the dermis. The suction action of microdermabrasion can cause slight redness, which is an immune response to the trauma.

Acid peels and Retin A, although not devices, are powerful agents at encouraging collagen production. Retin A is the tried and true anti-wrinkle cream, and Vitamin A’s success is anchored in its ability to exfoliate skin cells from the top down. Retin A causes desquamation; basically, breaking the bonds between skin cells so that cells slough off.

Dermaplaning will remove hair as well as the top micron of dead skin cells. This again triggers the dermis to make more skin cells.

We want to make more skin cells like babies!!! And the goal of these devices and protocols is to help influence and trigger skin production.

LASERS Ablative vs Non-Ablative. 

Ablative lasers remove the top layer of skin by burning it off. I have a few plasma pens; these are ablative as they cause trauma by vaporizing the top layer of skin.

Non-ablative lasers send wavelengths into the dermis, triggering wound healing without burning the skin.

Both types of lasers work by triggering collagen induction, and people who suffer from skin texture issues typically need ablative to help remodel and smooth out skin texture. The ablative laser downtime is 7-10 days, and side effects typically include pain, edema, erythema, infections, hyper- or hypopigmentation which could be permanent. Look at how much I swelled with my last plasma pen eye tightening treatment.

Besides the plasma pen, I’m not aware of other at-home ablative devices. Comment if you know of one.

Because of the downtime and side effects associated with ablative lasers, Non-ablative lasers, meaning they don’t burn off the epidermis, have become popular and abundant.

There are three chromophores in the makeup of our skin that lasers can target: 

  • Hemoglobin (found in blood)
  • Water
  • Melanin

These chromophores absorb wavelengths differently, allowing you to choose a skin laser device that targets your concern. 

The original CO2 ablative laser targeted water, and this made it effective at removing the epidermis, but this powerful laser has downtime and some side effects.

Non-ablative, nonfractional lasers primarily target hemoglobin to heat up the dermis triggering collagen growth. These devices include: 

  • Nira Laser
  • Radio Frequency
  • Ultherapy

The wavelength created by an Intense Pulsed Light will target melanin, helping reduce freckles, sunspots, and dark hair growth.  This is known as the:

  • IPL

Protocols that trigger CIT with lasers:

  • -Ablative Lasers (Plasma Pen, Plamere or Plamon)

  • -Non-ablative & non-fractional lasers (Nira)

    • -Radio Frequency RF

    • -Ultherapy or High Intense Focused Ultrasound HIFU

ABLATIVE LASERS (Plasma Pen, Plamere or Plamon)

Plasma pens such as the Plamere or Plamon cause a burn to the skin. Rather than burning all of the skin, It delivers tiny arcs of plasma created by an electrical discharge to the skin, singeing the surface and tightening the underlying tissue. Basically creating trauma and inducing collagen. I’ve noticed that the skin around my eyes has tightened over the past 2 years as I’ve used it once every 6 months.

The NIRA Skincare rejuvenation laser is a non-ablative non-fractional laser that’s FDA-cleared safe and effective for use at home. It works best on small facial areas and especially well on crow’s feet and under-eye wrinkles and bags.

How does NIRA compare to doctors’ offices?

Most dermatologists use fractional lasers at wavelengths up to 1550 nm. NIRA uses the same semiconductor laser diodes tuned at 1450 nm, allowing peak absorption in the dermis layers. NIRA uses a lower power per unit area and a non-fractional approach to avoid pain and redness. This device spreads the energy over daily treatments over the course of a month. Whereas the dermatologist typically treats once per month utilizing the full energy. Over time, the NIRA device puts in more energy than most professional treatments do in a single visit, and NIRA generates equal or more skin rejuvenation.

 

The NIRA Laser shoots micro blasts of heat into your dermis, which is sufficient to trigger collagen induction without creating pain and downtime. You don’t need to go to the doctor’s office once per month; instead, you need to use it for 2 minutes every day for the same results. I’ve said this many times, at-home devices are a trade-off, time versus money. You will save money at home with consistent use of these devices; however, you will sacrifice time to achieve results.

 

HIGH INTENSE FOCUSED ULTRASOUND HIFU

The heat being generated in Ultherapy and HIFU devices is coming from Ultrasound wavelengths. These wavelengths get your dermis up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celcius), and rather than heating up the entire section of skin, it sends in pulses of heat that drill down, creating columns in the skin like pricks from Microneedling. These columns are invisible from the epidermis; however, the ultrasound energy can thermally coagulate the proteins up to 5mm down in the dermis. The column injuries are less than 1 mm in length vertically from where energy is directed.

With focused ultrasound, this device can target different depths in the skin. In my experience, the shallowest depths are the most uncomfortable because our nerve endings are superficial. This procedure only hurts at certain levels, and the pain is only experienced during the actual procedure. Once the blast is done, the pain immediately subsides.

RADIO FREQUENCY

Radio Frequency (RF) uses low-energy radiation to heat the dermis. Unlike the Nira Laser that blasts heat into the dermis, RF takes longer because the wavelength is not as severe as the Nira Laser. For RF to be effective, you need to get the skin’s temperature to a minimum of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celcius) and maintain this heat for at least 3 minutes. The byproduct of this heat is collagen induction. RF is considered safe and effective at improving mild to moderate wrinkles.

I have a few RF devices, and I could never understand how to properly get the benefits of RF since I couldn’t monitor the heat. Last month I purchased the Tripollar Stop X RF device, and I love that it has a light that turns orange once it measures that my skin has reached temperature. Once the orange light engages, I watch the clock for 3 minutes and then switch to my next location.

I bought many small HIFU devices, but none are similar to my experience with a professional device in Korea. After Korea, I bought a mid-range model that is more expensive than the little handheld mini HIFU’s but not quite the expense of a doctor’s office. My legit machine does cause pain, and I only use it on my body since it feels like it is drilling into my skull.

You can be a bit swollen after a Focused Ultrasound experience, but it subsides quickly.

The results are witnessed 3-6 months after treatment.

SKIN TONING

In theory, all of the following devices could claim that they too induce collagen; however, they don’t equal the same impact as the previous devices. Rather these focus on the surface of the skin.

INTENSE PULSED LIGHT IPL

IPL is known as the “photofacial.” IPL uses light energy to accurately target and remove pigmented or damaged skin cells or hair follicles. The body then removes the damaged tissue naturally.

 

Unlike lasers, an IPL device sends out more than one wavelength of pulsating light.

IPL is not necessarily triggering collagen induction which is why an IPL is not used to tighten skin. IPL is used to brighten skin by evening out skin tone and killing hair follicles for smoother legs.

 

I have two at-home IPL devices. I have the Faustina, which was my first IPL, and for the past year, I’ve been using my Bosidin. I like that the Bosidins head swivels, that it’s a single bulb for both skin brightening and hair removal, and that it has a cooling function.

I have successfully eliminated 75% of my body’s hair at home with the Bosidin IPL.

 

HIGH-FREQUENCY HF

I have an entire post and video on High Frequency on my website linked below.

The high-frequency wand was invented by Nikola Tesla more than 120 years ago. It utilizes alternating current, sending electricity thru glass probes filled with noble gasses, such as Argon and Neon. The stimulation on the skin’s surface encourages nutrition and oxygen because the stimuli dilate blood vessels.

These wands can help resolve acne breakouts because the electricity creates ozone, and ozone kills P bacteria found in acne.

I use it a lot for hair growth. These wands usually include a comb probe so you can stimulate your scalp. This again brings nutrition to developing hair follicles, helping them to grow stronger for healthier hair.

MICROCURRENT 

Microcurrent devices utilize low voltage electric current to stimulate muscle fibers. The goal with microcurrent is to increase ATP in the muscles and this, in turn, plumps up the muscles in your face resulting in a lifted appearance. 

Microcurrent is my least favorite protocol which is why you rarely see me use it. I realize people swear by the results of microcurrent.  For me, it’s been difficult to master and enjoy. First, it takes a long time. Second, the probes are hard to do yourself and learn the choreography. And third, if you feel the current’s sensation, it’s too strong, and you’re exhausting the ATP you are trying to build.

I have bought the gloves thinking using my hands would be easier. I’ve bought the masks thinking perfect because they are hands-free. All three methods of use were not impactful for me.

I’ve also purchased the Nuface and the Foreo Bear Mini. Both devices I find interesting and less cumbersome than my larger myolift device. Honestly, I’ve never been consistent, and for microcurrent to work, daily use is recommended.

LED

Light Emitting Diodes are what create our LED beauty masks. The U.S. Navy SEALs began using it in the 1990s to help heal wounds quickly and to help regenerate damaged muscle tissues. The red visible and infrared light range is 650-850nm. This length of wavelength can reach the mitochondria inside our cells. 

 

As we age so do our mitochondria. ATP, essentially life’s energy is made inside our mitochondria. Red light between 650-850nm is absorbed by our mitochondria, in turn, mitochondria convert and produce ATP aka cellular energy.

More ATP in our cells means more action. Red light helps in healing the body because more cellular turnover increases oxygen, reduces inflammation, cleans up old cells, and keeps your mitochondria working at their optimum level.

ROSACEA

For those who suffer from Rosacea, Red LED light could give you the biggest benefit as the site Red Light Man explains below.

I didn’t realize that the reason our body creates new blood vessels or we begin to see capillaries in our skin is that as our mitochondria get old they slow down resulting in lower oxygen.

The Red Light Man site goes on to explain that, 

“Mitochondria cannot use oxygen properly when they are damaged. The inability to use oxygen increases blood flow to a tissue.

Mitochondria produce lactic acid when they can’t get and use oxygen, which leads to immediate vasodilation and the growth of fibroblasts. If this problem is prolonged over a period of time, new blood vessels start to grow.”

Red Light Man 

This scenario reminds me of Jurrasic Park, can you tell I have boys; when Jeff Goldbloom says, “life finds a way”. The mitochondria are not performing correctly, and rather than our bodies giving up our blood find new places for oxygen absorption. Unfortunately, this can result in red webs all over our cheeks, even texture due to the growth of fibroblasts, not a desirable look. Using red light devices to boost your mitochondria performance can help resolve redness in your skin.

HOW I USE MY DEVICES

Microneedling and TCA peels have always been my go to for collagen induction therapy. I love microneedling because there is a lot of freedom in this protocol. I like that not every session needs to be deep to be effective. Here is an example of my current schedule.

On November 1 I did my second plasma pen fibroblast Ablative treatment around my eyes and mouth for this year.

On November 16, I Microneedled with the Dr Pen M8 using a 16 pin cartridge, this experience was shared in last weeks video.

On December 1, I will do a TCA peel.

I ordered these protocols specifically with Plasma Fibroblast coming first, which is a spot specific treatment and can leave some tone uneveness as its ablative. At the 2 week mark I do a little light vitamin skin infusion with microneedling. Then a month after fibroblasting my face I perform a TCA peel which will even out my entire complexion and clean off any color from the summer months. Following the microneedling on the 16 I used red light to encourage healing.

In November I used my Bosidin on my arm 9 times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I used my high frequency wand 13 times on hair and scalp to help grow hair, (Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

I also used my new Radio Frequency device a couple times this month.

BY SKIN CONCERN

SKIN REJUVENATION (Skin types 1-3)

Includes: Wrinkles, Age Spots, Scars, Sagging jowls & Neck

  • SPF (protect yourself from more damage)
  • Microneedling Pen (Cartridges 16-36, if you have acne scars treat with 9 pin)
  • TCA 15-25% Series of peels 3 spaced 3-4 weeks apart depending on healing
  • Retin A
  • LED Red Light Mask
    • Plasma Pen
    • NIRA
    • Radio Frequency Device
    • IPL (break up sun exposure)
    • High Frequency (Hair Growth)
    • Microcurrent

ROSACEA

  • SPF (protect yourself from more damage)
  • LED Red Light Mask
  • IPL

SKIN REJUVENATION (Skin types 4-6)

Includes: Wrinkles, Age Spots, Sagging jowls & Neck

  • SPF
  • Microneedling Pen (Cartridges 16-36, if you have acne scars treat with 9 pin)
  • Lactic & Mandelic Acid Peels 
  • Retin A
  • LED Red Light Mask
    • NIRA
    • Radio Frequency Device
    • High Frequency (Hair Growth)
    • Microcurrent

ACNE

  • SPF (protect yourself from more damage)
  • Salicylic Acid
  • LED Blue Light & Red Light Combo
  • High Frequency Wand (Can be used for killing bacteria and growing hair)

 HAIR REMOVAL (Hair needs to have pigment on light skin)

  • IPL

DEVICE EFFICACY

SKIN CIRCULATION

  • LED Red Light
  • High Frequency Wand
  • Microcurrent

PRODUCT PENETRATION

  • Microneedling
  • Retin A
  • Microdermabrasian
  • Acids

WRINKLES / SAGGING SKIN

  • Microneedling
  • Retin A
  • Acids
  • Radio Frequency
  • Ablative Laser 

 

In the end all of this is up to you. These devices have efficacy however many are doing the same thing.For instance if you like Microneedling and don’t care for Radio Frequency then microneedle, they are both inducing collagen. Perhaps you hate needles and the idea of pricking your face, then Radio Frequency is a great alternative. Or if you don’t have time for RF then get the NIRA and shoot the heat in fast.

If you want to fade sun spots then using an IPL can be helpful but the most effective treatment for the sun is TCA and Retin A combined with SPF.

If you have an electric device in your body such as a pace maker, stick to microneedling, acids and LED treatments as the electric current of Radio Frequency, High Frequency and Microcurrent is not advised in people who have such implants.

When it comes to LED devices find one that is battery powered and that you can wash like my Omnilux of my Currentbody. For LED efficacy you need to be close to bulbs thus items that sit against your skin are giving you the biggest impact.

WOULD I BUY AGAIN?

These are the devices that I would buy again because I enjoy using them and have found efficacy:

  • Microneedling Pen (CIT)
  • NIRA (Non-Ablative)
  • Plasma Pen (Ablative, only skin types 1-3)
  • High Frequency (Stimulates my hair, skin, & kills acne)
  • LED Mask & Neck Mask (Healing Mitochondria)
  • Bosidin IPL (Hair removal & Pigment Lightening, only skin types 1-3)

*Because I rarely use my large HIFU machine I can’t fairly claim it made an impact. I plan to share and use it again on this channel so make sure to subscribe and watch for a future HIFU video.

These devices combined with Retin A and Acids through the year have drastically transformed my skin and how I feel about myself. 

You can reference older videos on my website to view my skin 3 years ago and the changes it has made. In my opinion my skins tone is much more even, rather than all of the redness I use to have. My pores have tightened giving me smoother skin that glows. My neck is a work in progress and we will continue truing it up together.