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Wednesday, 27 March 2019 15:42

Thrifty and Thriving: Budget-Friendly Devices that Won't Break the Bank

Written by   Gina Thompson

In the age of technology, it is easy to become captivated by the sexy, innovative devices that have become commonplace in the modern medical spa culture. Lasers, machines, and devices were not the primary modalities used to deliver aesthetic benefits back in the mid 1990s, but today, if professionals are not able to provide skin care clients with procedures that are state-of-the-art, high technology, and contemporary, then they might not believe that they will receive optimal benefits for their aesthetic concerns. It is important to remember that, although it is not always necessary to utilize expensive equipment to generate effective results, clients still want to feel confident that they are receiving the latest and greatest solutions to look their best.


Before reviewing some of the specific devices that can be useful, especially if on a budget and space is limited, it is beneficial to discuss why professionals might consider using devices in the first place. Regardless of the skin type, condition, or concerns of the client, most of the time, the primary objectives of an aesthetic provider who is attempting to create healthy and more beautiful skin are to exfoliate the skin to remove the debris, dirt, oil, dead skin, and whatever additional barriers are sitting on the surface of the skin; treat specific concerns that may include acne lesions, uneven tone and texture, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, excess oil production, dry skin, or fine lines; and nourish and replenish the skin for a balanced overall treatment.


In 1998, professionals used what they had at their disposal, like their hands, hot towels, chemical peels, masks, scrubs, serums, and moisturizers, to accomplish all of the aforementioned steps and still got pretty great results. But, how should professionals step it up to please technology-savvy clients without breaking the bank? Here are a few device technologies in particular that are affordable, efficacious,
and profitable.


Ultrasound is not a new technology, but it keeps popping up in interesting ways to improve the appearance of the skin. Some ultrasonic devices are more powerful than others, ranging from aggressive medical units that can be upwards of $80,000 and home units that can cost as little as $29.99. Fortunately, there are also units that fall somewhere in the middle of that range that are perfect for aesthetic professionals looking to enhance their existing service offerings.


A preferable ultrasonic device might provide a combination of three modalities: cavitation, sonophoresis, and micro-amp therapy. Ultrasonic cavitation (also know as ultrasonic peeling) will gently, but effectively exfoliate the skin, like power washing a car where the ultrasonic waves plus water will spin the dirt and debris off the surface of the skin. This process also creates permeability on the surface of the skin for enhanced absorption of whatever treatment products are applied after this step. This type of exfoliation is particularly useful in removing stubborn blackheads and it is perfect for even the most sensitive skin types. Cavitation technology is available in single modality devices from $69 to $275 and may be referred to as an ultrasonic skin spatula or ultrasonic skin scrubber.


Sonophoresis is a mechanism that uses ultrasonic frequencies to drive key ingredients comfortably into the skin without the use of acids or enzymes, which can be irritating for some clients. In fact, it can enhance the penetration of high molecular weight substances up to 4,000 times more than a manual application. This technology works beautifully on skin that might be sensitive to traditional treatment products used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Multiple passes of sonophoresis with a combination of products will hydrate, nourish, balance, firm, and calm the skin.


The third modality preferred in the ultrasonic triad is micro-amp therapy. This phase of pulsating, electrical current helps to reestablish cellular function, which leads to cellular repair and healthier skin. Sometimes referred to as microcurrent therapy, handheld devices that deliver this technology cost between $199 and $399. As most professionals know, the power of a handheld device that is available to the general public is probably not going to be as effective as a professional device intended for professional use, which will probably cost more. But, an ultrasonic device used clinically (priced between $4,000 and $5,000) that provides three modalities (cavitation, sonophoresis, and micro-amp therapy) will pay for itself multiple times over and, often, requires only distilled water for use of the cavitation mode and a conductive gel for microcurrent or micro-amp therapy. Otherwise, there are no other disposable costs besides the preferred topical skin care products.


Ultrasonic facial treatments effectively treat active acne, brighten tired skin, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce redness, rehydrate dry skin, and can create glowing, radiant skin before a special event. This technology can be used for clients who have had a recent facial procedure that produces peeling skin in an effort to safely remove that dead skin (it can be tempting for them to peel it off themselves, which does not always end well) and rehydrate their freshly rejuvenated faces.


Another affordable device worth considering is nanotechnology in the form of a small oscillating device that acts as an infusion catalyst for a variety of serums and peels and generates post-treatment micropeeling. It is like a microneedling pen – just without the needles. Instead, there are flat nano pyramids on each disposable treatment tip (which cost about $9 each) that oscillate at a preferred speed for a controlled treatment when powered up. The way to operate the device is very similar to the way one would operate a microneedling pen and requires the use of a single-use tip and a glide fluid of choice to carefully maneuver the device around the face or targeted treatment area. It can even be used directly on the lips and on the delicate skin under the eyes.


Nanotechnology can be a great alternative to microneedling, which some aestheticians are not legally able to use and some clients simply do not want the downtime or discomfort that can sometimes occur. With nanotechnology, there is no need for a numbing agent, since it is very comfortable; no risk of infection, since there is zero penetration into the skin; and, essentially, no social downtime except for some uniform micropeeling for about a week after the treatment, which most clients actually appreciate. This type of device usually costs around $1,100 and comes in a handy carrying case (about the size of a lunch box) that professionals can take with them to satellite locations or can easily store in a cabinet in the treatment room. The device itself is actually small enough to fit in a pocket.


Nanotechnology is perfect for clients who want visible results without downtime, but also crave the latest technology for healthier skin. Sometimes the buzz of an oscillating pen is all they need to feel good about the cutting-edge services. The results of nanotechnology can include smoother skin texture, seemingly smaller pore size, less redness, a more even and uniform complexion, reduced visible lines, and younger-looking skin.



The addition of LED or low-level light therapy to a clinical practice is one of the smartest investments a professional can make in their career. Polychromatic LED panels can be purchased for around $1,000. LED devices are easy and safe to use; work even if not in the room (multitasking at its best); can treat acne, lines, wrinkles, and pain; can be used on nearly every client who walks into the treatment room (with a few, very rare exceptions); and pay for themselves in less than a week. Now, that is cost effective. The best part is that this type of hands-free device can be stowed it in a travel case, thrown over the shoulder, taken home, and used to treat the professional at home. Not a bad deal.


If an individual researches LED devices, they will find numerous options both in the retail and professional markets. Professionals can find handheld LED devices for as low as $16.99 and full body, light therapy beds for over $50,000. Efficacious light therapy does not have to cost more than a car, but there are four elements that are imperative for successful treatment: specific and discreet wavelengths, energy delivery, treatment time, and proximity of light emission. What this means is that unless the LED device has wavelengths between 400 and 900 nanometers (which are the only wavelengths capable of absorption by the mitochondria to generate a therapeutic benefit, according to clinical literature), has the capacity to deliver that energy, is used for the recommended period of time and frequency (which may vary depending on the device), and can get close enough to the tissue for the wavelengths to reach their intended target, then, no matter how much money a client spends, they will not see noticeable results.


When used appropriately, LED therapy can effectively treat many skin conditions. Blue light, which has a wavelength between 405 and 470 nanometers and is the most superficial light, can trigger a response in more superficial cells, including the P.acnes bacteria. Red light, in contrast, has a wavelength of 630 to 700 nanometers, which can reach down into the dermis and prompt the fibroblast cells that live there to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin fibers. Near-infrared light (which is closer to 900 nanometers) is the longest wavelength and can affect microcirculation for tissue repair and pain management. The color of the light chosen will always depend on the type of cells a professional hopes to reach. Some LED devices are polychromatic, which means they utilize multiple wavelengths at the same time. That is ideal, especially when treating acne, where the blue light can kill the superficial P.acnes bacteria, the red light can knock down the inflammation, and the near-infrared light can minimize discomfort and improve microcirculation simultaneously. There are no disposable costs when using an LED device except for low-alcohol wipes to clean the surface of the panel between clients.


LED therapy is a technology that can be used for most clients, regardless of their present skin condition. It not only enhances the results of treatments, but it also enhances the client experience. For example, if the professional is running late they can give the client a complementary LED treatment for the backs of their aging hands, sore shoulder, or lower back pain (this works beautifully with a hands-free panel) while they are waiting. In the treatment room, integrating LED into every skin care procedure is simple and effective. Just remember that the skin should be clean, dry, and free of any reflective properties before putting the client under the lights. So, cleanse, extract, and exfoliate first, then utilize the lights (blue for acne and red for lines and wrinkles). Make sure the client remains under the lights for the appropriate length of time and, then, complete the treatment. Professionals can even use the time when the lights are on to catch up on charting or post on social media. Professionals can also consider treating another part of the body while treating the face for an additional fee or as a way to introduce the technology to clients. LED therapy not only enhances clinical results and the client experience, but it also reduces social down time following laser resurfacing, microneedling, injectable treatments, and cosmetic surgery.


In the same way professionals might say to clients, “It’s not a single product that is going to produce the best results,” sometimes, it is not a single peel, device, or technology either. That is not to say that each of the technologies mentioned earlier cannot work alone – they absolutely can, but taking the approach of treating the condition of the skin and the stated concerns versus trying to mold a specific device to fit the needs of a client, will infinitely expand treatment options and enhance overall results. For example, a professional could promote and charge for ultrasonic, nanotechnology, and LED treatments separately or could create signature or customized treatments that integrate multiple modalities. This approach can provide more value to the client (which means professionals can charge more) and if the professional already owns the equipment, it will not cost much more to provide a unique twist on a traditional treatment.


If considering purchasing a new device for a small space and on a budget, any of the aforementioned devices would fit the bill. Design a signature skin care cocktail that is unique with new, innovative, buzz-worthy technology. E-mail, post, and share the personal cocktail creation with clients to fill the spa’s schedule, pay off the device quickly, and enjoy
the success.


Gina Thompson2019Gina Thompson has over 20 years of experience in the medical aesthetic industry. Her diverse positions include: aesthetic educator for Celluma Light Therapy, medical skin care specialist, makeup artist, marketing director, business consultant, health coach, researcher, content writer, and public speaker. As a true insider in this industry, Thompson is able to provide unique educational and marketing strategies that are based on her personal experience with skin care, plastic surgery, and dermatology clients. She is passionate about her profession and believes that happy clients lead to financial success.

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