Mask-wearing has resulted in an uptick of breakouts — and for some of us, it’s the first time in our lives that we’ve been dealing with broken out complexions. Ever in search of skincare solutions that won’t irritate our skin, exacerbate aging, or result in the mixing of too many harsh active ingredients, consumers are increasingly turning to DIY facials, treatments, and non-invasive beauty tools, like high frequency wands.
“High frequency is literally the OG esthetician tool,” says celebrity esthetician Candace Marino, also known as The LA Facialist. “It was the first device I ever learned in esthetician school and I’ve used them in my treatment room as a licensed esthetician for the last fifteen years. If you’ve ever had a facial and they used something that sounds like a bug zapper, that’s high frequency,” she says.
They have long been used by facialists to treat skin concerns like breakouts and skin aging. Ranging in price from about $40 to $150, they’re also safe and easy enough to use from home as part of your nightly regimens. To find out if they could be an at-home solution to maskne (AKA mask-induced acne), hormonal breakouts, and more, we asked a dermatologist, an esthetician, and a makeup artist about their experiences with this hi-tech beauty tool.
How does a high frequency wand work?
“The idea is that these devices deliver targeted thermal energy to the skin,” explains NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. “This can increase circulation, decrease inflammation, heat the sebaceous unit and help to kill bacteria that contribute to acne.” Used preventatively or to treat existing pimples — including under-the-skin, cystic acne lesions that are notoriously hard to treat, and take a long time to go away on their own — you can expect a reduction in size and severity of your breakouts with regular use.
“They are also said to have anti-aging potential because the thermal energy increases circulation, which can stimulate collagen production,” King adds. She notes that electrodes with argon gas (i.e., with violet light inside the glass tube) are used for treating acne, while electrodes with neon light are used for anti-aging. Other rumored benefits include the glow of increased oxygenation (due to improved circulation), while electrical stimulation to lymph fluid is said to aid with bodily detox.
Do high frequency wands actually work for acne, though?
“Theoretically, yes, because [they] can help decrease inflammation and kill bacteria that contribute to acne,” King says of high frequency wands’ efficacy. Though published research in peer-reviewed journals on the clinical efficacy of the wands is lacking, in practice, anecdotal evidence of high frequency’s acne-fighting power abounds. Marino assures us that, “It’s incredible for cystic and inflammatory spots [and] also has benefits for normal and dry skin types, like improving tone, increasing circulation, and stimulating collagen production,” she says.
Omayma Ramzy is a Los Angeles-based makeup artist and founder of Omayma Skin. She began experiencing cystic breakouts in 2020 due to the use of masks and PPE donned while working on-set. “Our skin has simply not become accustomed to this environmental [change] and needs some help [to adapt] along the way,” she said of maskne, which she likens to a diaper rash for the face.
After trying skincare masks, changing her skincare regimen, and sympathizing with models on-set that were also suffering from maskne woes, she suddenly remembered the bacteria-killing effects of high frequency tools. “I thought back to my best facials over the years [and] pulled out my high frequency wand that I had bought off Amazon.” After just one use, she noticed an estimated forty percent reduction in the swelling and inflammation associated with her cystic breakout. “Finally,” she thought, “Something to stop the bacteria from going wild.”
Ramzy was so enthused by the results of her wand that she posted an Instagram story about her experience. Forty different people have since reached out to her to tell her of their success treating maskne and breakouts using their own high frequency wands.
How do you use a high frequency wand?
First, you’ll want to cleanse and dry your skin, and remove any facial jewelry. You can optionally apply gauze to the area of your face that you would like to treat, before applying the wand in circular motions — for anywhere from ten seconds to up to three minutes. Treating the entire face should take anywhere from three to ten minutes, and you can incorporate this into your regimen daily.
Skin Gym High-Frequency Wand, $95, comes with three interchangeable electrodes that allow you to customize your treatment depending on whether you would like to kill bacteria to treat acne, or promote collagen and elastin production in the skin. It also features a dial to allow you to moderate the intensity of the frequency, which tingles on the skin.
As with any skincare product, consistency matters. Make the high frequency wand a part of your nightly routine — and prepare for clearer skin days ahead.