Give your facials high-tech cred by layering results-oriented technologies.


You don’t have to open a medical spa to offer clients effective solutions to their skincare needs. Skilled estheticians can achieve impressive results by layering currently available technologies—microdermabrasion, microcurrent, light-emitting diodes (LED) and product penetration systems. Adding high-tech facials will give your business the edge it needs to succeed. Here’s a brief look at available technologies, and how six day spas are combining them to offer results-oriented facials designed to satisfy today’s value-conscious consumers.

Top Tier Technologies

Microdermabrasion appeared in the European medical market around 1986 and helped fuel day spa growth across the U.S. in the ’90s. Most day spas own at least one of these machines designed to remove the outer layer of dead cells and promote cell turnover.

Original microdermabrasion machines sprayed aluminum oxide crystals as the abrasive agent and employed vacuum suction to carry away the used crystals and skin debris. This is still the most common type of microdermabrasion, but some devices now utilize different abrasives, from vibrating paddles to water and ultrasound.

In another study… [researchers] found that the effects of microdermabrasion were significantly improved when an antioxidant-rich serum was applied afterward.

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Clinical studies substantiate the benefits of microdermabrasion. Dr. Bruce M. Freedman and his colleagues at Plastic Surgery Associates of Northern Virginia treated 10 volunteers, aged 31 to 62, with six aluminum oxide microdermabrasion facial treatments at one week to 10 days apart. The results, published in the December 2001 issue of Dermatologic Surgery, showed a thickening of the epidermis and dermis and improved blood flow with deposition of new collagen and elastin fibers. The authors concluded that microdermabrasion produces clinical improvement by a mechanism resembling a reparative process at the dermal and epidermal levels.

In another study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment in 2009, Freedman and his colleagues found that the effects of microdermabrasion were significantly improved when an antioxidant-rich serum was applied afterward.

Microcurrent frequencies (50 to 500 microamperes) mimic electrical signals produced by human cells. In 1982, the Cheng study published in Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research found that reproducing these signals with a microcurrent machine and delivering them to the skin increased protein synthesis and triggered the production and storage of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules that can speed cellular metabolism, which often declines as we age. Better cellular metabolism allows for increases in collagen and elastin fibers and an overall improvement in skin tone.

Most experts agree that microcurrent therapy is cumulative. While effects are immediately visible, they last only a short time. It can take eight or more treatments to begin seeing longer-lasting effects. Even then, clients will need treatments at least monthly to maintain benefits. Microcurrent is the only spa treatment proven to affect facial muscles.

Most experts agree that microcurrent therapy is cumulative. While effects are immediately visible, they last only a short time. It can take eight or more treatments to begin seeing longer-lasting effects.

LED therapy is well documented in clinical research and yet it remains controversial. Unlike lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) do not injure the skin; instead, they trigger cellular activities that can lead to a host of healing and antiaging benefits. Different light wavelengths—measured in nanometers (nm)—are absorbed by specific photo-acceptors. Blue light (415 nm to 450 nm) for example, is directed at acne, while red light (633 nm to 660 nm) targets fibroblast cells and collagen production. Scientists are still experimenting with wavelengths and pulse sequences to find which are most effective.

There have been dozens of articles in respected medical journals that show the effects of blue light on treating acne and many others assessing the effects of yellow and red light on wound healing and tissue rejuvenation. Studies show slight but cumulative skin rejuvenation. Visible improvement often takes several treatments.

Product penetration systems now include multiple technologies: Iontophoresis, in which electrical current technology is employed via galvanic and/or microcurrent devices to deliver skincare ingredients, has been in use for years. It is the most established method of transdermal penetration.

Oxygen infusion employs an O2 concentration device with a handpiece to spray the oxygen and special serums onto the skin. The forced oxygen spray is designed to help skincare actives better penetrate. The oxygen treatment itself is relaxing and soothing, and safe for all skin types.

Ultrasound, better known for its uses in physical therapy and diagnostic medicine, is the latest technology employed in penetration systems. Called sonophoresis, the use of ultrasound to enhance skin penetration has been demonstrated in several articles. In 2008, the Journal of Cosmetic & Laser Therapy published a study by David Goldberg and colleagues that showed new collagen formation and improvements in skin hue and tone after a combined treatment of microdermabrasion and sonophoresis of a proprietary topical solution. Some newer devices combine electrical current and ultrasound.

Savvy spa owners find that the following, less-frequently-used technologies add yet another dimension of results to their high-tech facial treatment combos:

• Skin analysis Complexion analysis devices let you see beneath the surface and show clients how their skin compares with that of others. Imaging devices have become staples in medical spas and can help drive effective skin care at day spas as well.

• Sonic cleansing brush A high-tech cleansing brush lets you provide deep cleansing in less time, reportedly removing twice as much dirt and oil and six times as much makeup as conventional cleansing methods.

• Targeted radiofrequency These devices effectively treat superficial skin problems. Shar Aberi at Alfons Skin Care offers this treatment to clients with facial skin tags, spider veins, fibromas and cherry angiomas.

High-Tech Facials

Non-Surgical Face-Lift (60 min./$225)
Skin Essence, Raleigh, NC

Lina Yan, owner of Skin Essence, was a physician in China and now specializes in results-oriented skin care. She began layering technologies and topicals about nine years ago and reports many satisfied clients thanks to her Non-Surgical Face-Lift. First she does a thorough skin analysis and takes a history to help her determine the appropriate course of action. She starts with microdermabrasion, follows with a chemical peel and then calms the skin with the LED light. “Clearer, brighter skin is obvious after about one week,” Yan says. “Some people might complain about the price, but they are ultimately happy with the results.”

Success tip: Skin Essence sweetens the deal by offering a series of six Non-Surgical Face-Lifts at $195 each.

3-in-1 Facial (90 min./$150)
Pure Aesthetica, Alexandria, VA

Jodey McGhee, co-owner and esthetician, learned from experience that microdermabrasion alone isn’t the best treatment. “We’re getting much better results with our microderm now that we’re layering it with other treatments,” says McGhee. “First we add hydrating, cooling agents like organic aloe vera, and cucumber and vitamin masks. Next we apply microcurrent to re-educate muscles and firm skin. We finish with an oxygen treatment using a nebulizer to infuse a vitamin and mineral cocktail. We also leave enough time after the first facial for a cup of fresh, raw juice and a discussion about nutrition, which we consider vital to clear, healthy skin.”

Success tip: Pure Aesthetica offers first-time clients 50% off the 3-in-1 Facial. “At the end of that facial we offer them two more at $100 each if they prepay. After that they can purchase a series of six for $125 each. This is the secret to our ongoing success,” says McGhee.

Lumi Light & Lift Facial (90 min./$225)
SAVI Day Spa, Tacoma, WA

Esthetician and co-owner Sharon Kline starts with exfoliation, which ranges from simple gommage application to crystal microdermabrasion or a strong peel. Next comes a relaxing, 30-minute LED treatment, programmed to meet the client’s specific needs. “I’ve seen a huge shift in acne and pigment problems since I added the LED technology,” she says. “After the LED, I apply galvanic current using a gel appropriate for the skin type to soothe and improve skin texture. This is followed by a microcurrent treatment that begins with 10 minutes of lymphatic drainage then pulses at a higher—but not uncomfortable—frequency, to lift and tone muscles. Being able to do all of these treatments with one machine is great.”

Success tip: SAVI gives clients the option to receive either the 60-minute “Light” or “Lift” aspect of the facial for the more affordable price of $125.

New Alfons Signature Facial (60 min./$125)
Alfons Skin Care, Mill Valley, CA

Shar Aberi, owner and esthetician, layers a gentle, 5-minute enzyme peel with use of a handheld sonic frequency brush, which removes the peel and provides a little deeper exfoliation. She follows with an appropriate serum and a microcurrent treatment to tone and lift. “The microcurrent also helps the serum penetrate,” Aberi says. After a customized mask, Aberi finishes with an illuminating serum, sunscreen and makeup so the client leaves feeling and looking great.

Success tip: “Once clients see how well the microcurrent works,” Aberi says, “they often return to purchase the device for home use. If they’re interested but hesitant, I allow them to rent it for two weeks for $100. Nearly everyone pays the balance at the end of the rental period so they can keep the device.”

Essential Hydrafacial (50 min./$255)
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai, CA

Spa director Gloria Ah Sam says her resort clients don’t want anything that will keep them out of the sun. An Essential Hydrafacial offers results with no downtime. The all-in-one system exfoliates, cleanses, hydrates and allows the esthetician to infuse serums appropriate to skin conditions such as acne, rosacea or aging. It also has an add-on LED therapy component.

Success tip: Estheticians end the facial with a relaxing LED treatment, along with a shoulder and neck massage for the best of both worlds.

Signature Facial (60 min./$80)
Golden Bough Day Spa, Snohomish, WA

Owner Rachel Wills provided standard facials for years, but now finds she gets much better results using layered technology. After a cleansing and steam, Wills’ Signature Facial calls for microdermabrasion (unless the client has very thin skin), followed by microcurrent, a customized serum and a mask. The client then relaxes under LED lights for about 15 minutes before receiving an oxygen infusion of a vitamin and hyaluronic acid serum. “I always apply sunscreen at the end,” says Wills, “and stress the importance of protecting newly peeled skin from the sun.”

Success tip: “The oxygen treatment is the frosting on the cake for everyone, but it’s really great for clients with jet lag or those plagued with acne,” notes Wills.

Your choices in tech-friendly products, single-purpose devices and multifaceted systems are greater than ever. Here’s a partial list of companies that manufacture/distribute this equipment.

A1A Facial & Salon Equipment

Altair Instruments / DiamondTome

Athena Beauty

Beautiful Image

Bio Jouvance/Europro

Canfield / VISIA



Diamond Peel Systems

Echo2 Plus

Edge Systems

Finer Face

5 Star Formulators

Image Microderm




Organica Systems

877. 347.6960,



Skin Care Consultants / Lamprobe


Universal Companies

Note: Not all of these technologies are available for use by estheticians in every state. It’s important to check with your state licensing board before investing in any new device. Even microdermabrasion is beyond the scope of an esthetician’s license in some states.

Linda W. Lewis is an editorial consultant and a regular contributor to DAYSPA.

Build your spa business with spa marketing and spa management tips • Read about professional spa products • Enter for a chance to win spa skincare, face & facial products, skin cleansers and more • Subscribe to DAYSPASubscribe to DAYSPA‘s eNewsletter

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