Ask an Esthetician: Using High Frequency for Acne

woman with acne and silver hoop earrings looking into camera


My favorite part of any facial is not the masks, the peels, or the extractions (OK, maybe a bit), but the devices. When an esthetician comes at me with any sort of futuristic tool (like microcurrent, radio frequency, or bio brasion), I can’t help but feel giddy. As a frequent sufferer of hormonal breakouts, most of my facials end with a dose of high frequency.

It all happens so fast, but when the esthetician runs that humming rod across my skin, I know I’ve had a successful treatment. In fact, I’ve often felt that if I could take that magical tool home, I wouldn’t need professional facials at all. (Sorry, estheticians—you know I love you.) Little did I know I could keep that acne-ending gadget right in my medicine cabinet.

Intrigued? Keep reading.

The Purported Benefits of High-Frequency Treatments

While I personally see reduced breakouts when I use high-frequency, be forewarned that, according to dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, "there are no specific studies that would suggest using microcurrent to treat acne." High-frequency treatments are meant to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, hence the apparent acne-fighting benefits. The treatments also increase circulation to stimulate collagen, making the treatment an effective anti-aging and glow-boosting tool, too.

In the past, you’d have to go to a spa to experience a high-frequency facial for acne, but there have been a number of at-home device launches that allow you to achieve the spa-like results from the comfort of your own bathroom. Case in point: the StackedSkincare device. To learn more about how it works, keep scrolling.

Stacked Skincare High Frequency Device on a white background.
StackedSkincare High Frequency Device $149

How It Works

The tool itself looks like a stick with a little bubble on the end—that bubble is the electrode. The electrode produces argon gas and emits a small electrical current. When applied to the skin, professional esthetician Kerry Benjamin says it generates oxygen, kills bacteria, and calms inflamed skin for the high-frequency home facial of your dreams.

Meet the Expert

Kerry Benjamin is an L.A.-based esthetician. She is the founder of StackedSkincare and the StackedSkincare spa in Santa Monica, CA.

How to Use It

In order to achieve the stellar results that the StackedSkincare device is known for, you have to know how to properly wield it. Benjamin explains how, below.

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your face, and apply your serum. Benjamin suggests one with epidermal growth factors (like her StackedSkincare EGF Activating Serum, $150, or Nurse Jamie EGF Platinum 3 Restorative Facial Elixir, $198) because growth factors speed up healing.
  2. Cut a small piece of gauze, and place it on your face.
  3. Insert the electrode into the wand, place over the gauze, and turn it on.
  4. Turn the dial up on the wand until you feel a slight tingling sensation. “You should feel it, but it should not be painful,” Benjamin says. “Don’t crank it on too high, or you will dry out the acne too much.”
  5. Move the wand over the acne lesion in circular motions, working on each area for no more than three to five minutes. “You can also ‘spark’ the acne by tapping the tip of the wand on the acne a few times, and then move in a circular motion again,” Benjamin says.
  6. Once you’ve hit all the spots, your high-frequency facial is officially over and you can finish by applying your moisturizer.

The Takeaway

While I personally notice a significant difference in my skin when using high-frequency, note that using high-frequency specifically for breakouts is a bit controversial. Some estheticians and dermatologists back the treatment for breakouts, but there haven't been any scientific studies to prove the treatment effectiveness. Consult your dermatologist before getting high-frequency to treat any form of acne, especially if you plan to use an at-home tool.

High Frequency Products You Can Use at Home

New Spa High Frequency D'arsonval Professional Grade Device $139
Lift Wand 2.0
Lift Care Lift Wand 2.0 $74
High frequency device with multiple heads.
Signstek Portable High Frequency Face Wand Facial Machine $36

Next up: If you have trouble keeping your hands off your skin, discover the real reason why you can't stop picking.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Skin tightening.

Related Stories