This past March I entered a new, terrifying yet empowering era: My 40s. You often hear about this age as the time when women stop caring so much about other people’s opinions — including how they’re supposed to look — and while I cannot yet confirm nor deny this theory, I can say that I’m trying to embrace the literal skin I’m in while allowing myself to partake in beauty rituals and regimens that make me feel good. For my latest experiment, I tried the SolaWave Wand: One of the buzziest beauty tools around right now and something that’s likely already inundated your Instagram feed.
Before getting into the technicalities of this device, I’ll share a bit of background. I’ve always been skin care and beauty product obsessed (I’d save my allowance or babysitting money to splurge on Japanese Washing Grains and Cucumber Toner from The Body Shop) and I’m diligent about my current routine: A mild cleanser, AHA/BHA toner, lightweight moisturizer, and facial oil, plus the rotation of facial cupping, gua sha, or microcurrent home treatments (I’ve been using the NuFace for a couple years). My main skin care goals are improved tone and texture and reduced irritation, specifically around my chin where I can be prone to bouts of hormonal acne. And while I’ll never say never, I haven’t yet been ready to pull the trigger on trying injectables, so this fit my criteria for a non-invasive and low-level commitment treatment.
A few things about the SolaWave appealed to me, but primarily its claims as a multifunctional tool that clocks in at under $150 (however I was gifted mine). The device boasts four types of treatments in one slim, lightweight, USB-charged wand: Red light therapy, microcurrent, massage, and heat. According to the brand’s website, results can include an improved glow, minimized acne and fine lines, more toned facial muscles, reduced puffiness, and better product absorption, and you can see results with just five minutes of use per day within two weeks. Specifically, 93% of users noticed “more vibrant and lifted skin” in this timeframe, according to the brand’s research.
About those claims: I chatted with a few skin care experts about the potential effectiveness, and overall the consensus was that a low-level light and microcurrent device like this has some benefits, but shouldn’t be expected to replace in-office treatments that are higher powered, or injectables like Botox and filler — but it might help you maintain your results. “In my professional opinion, if someone elects to use an at-home microcurrent device, it should be with the idea in mind that it is best as a maintenance modality,” says Dr. Rachel Maiman, dermatologist at Marmur Medical. “For example, if someone received an in-office treatment and wants to keep their skin toned and preserve their result as long as possible, it may help with this. When used alone, however, results are unlikely to meet expectations.”
Let me also break down what they said about the individual benefits, starting with red light therapy. “Some experts believe that red LED light acts on fibroblast cells in the skin, which play a role in collagen production,” NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King explains. “So, in theory, red light could help to reverse some signs related to photoaging in the skin, but in reality we don’t yet have enough scientific evidence to prove effectiveness.” However, Dr. David Goldberg, dermatologist and co-author of Light Years Younger and Secrets of Great Skin, is a little more confident about the potential of LED treatments, but notes you may get more dramatic results if you book a session with your dermatologist. “I have done several of the published studies on the use of high-powered, in-office, low-level light treatment for both acne and healthier skin — it works,” he says. “[The caveat] is SolaWave is nowhere near as powerful as our in-office treatments and will never work as well.”
As for the microcurrent, there is a similar lack of evidence, but dermatologists believe that it can promote muscle tone, giving your skin a more tightened appearance, but Dr. Goldberg mentions that it may be more useful on some parts of the face than others. “It is the opposite of Botox, which softens muscle tone,” he explains. “It can temporarily tighten cheek and jaw skin. Don’t use this on forehead and crow’s feet where you want to soften wrinkles, not tighten them.” Additionally, he says these types of devices require consistent use to maintain your results and at-home versions are significantly weaker than those you’d get in an office visit.
While Dr. King believes the massage benefits (to slow breath and stimulate the lymphatic system) can be achieved with a variety of tools or your hands, the SolaWave has an advantage. “When used properly, narrow tools may accomplish a lymphatic drainage massage that can decrease facial puffiness for up to 24 hours,” she says. “Haphazard rubbing won’t accomplish this and the wide rolling pin shape of the jade roller is less likely to be able to allow for true drainage to de-puff the face.”
The tool also warms up pleasantly (just slightly above body temperature) when you use it, which Dr. Maiman says may allow for better product absorption and a healthy glow. “Exposure of the skin to increased temperatures promotes vasodilation of blood vessels, improving delivery of oxygen and nutrients,” she explains. “With greater availability of vital substrates for cellular activity, the functioning of tissues is optimized.” That said, she adds that the vasodilatory effects are likely no different from what you’d notice after a good workout session.
A few other notes: The SolaWave wand is not recommended for those who are pregnant, are living with cancer, have a pacemaker, or are under 18. It’s also not intended to be used on the chest, breasts, the center of the throat, groin, or over eyeballs and you should skip over broken or bruised skin. That said, the wand may be used in conjunction with injectables and retinol products — just don’t use the latter with your tool in the same session.
The SolaWave is meant to be used immediately after some type of conductive product, and the brand offers a few serums for this purpose. I, however, raided my cabinet for a similar aloe-based product (anything oily won’t be as conductive) and after my morning cleansing and application of said serum, spent five minutes daily sweeping the device upward and outward, starting with my neck and finishing at my forehead — with a little extra TLC under my chin and eyes. I’d then apply my moisturizer and any other skin care or makeup for the day and went on about my business.
I must admit that it’s compelling to use. With a slight vibration and added warmth, it felt like a decidedly luxe upgrade to my regimen. In fact, I had to remind myself when the five minutes was up — or I could have kept gliding it over my face all day.
At the start of my two weeks, my chin was inflamed and I had just spotted my very first melasma spot on my right cheek (I’m prone to freckles, so it seemed like only a matter of time before one surfaced). By the end of my experiment, I’d noticed I felt more confident going makeup-free due to a more even complexion and a boosted glow that was even remarked upon in Zoom meetings and Instagram stories (from those who didn’t know I’d started using anything new!). As predicted by the derms, the results were not exactly wow-inducing, but I noticed a difference and so did others. And considering the price, portability, and ease and pleasure of use, my two cents is that the SolaWave wand is a great starter tool for those who want something that’s an affordable and simple addition to their current skin care routine.
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