Wednesday, 22 January 2020 12:54

Going Galvanic: An overview of galvanic therapy and its use in the spa

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Thinking back to your days in aesthetics school, were you taught galvanic current and how to incorporate it into treatments? Remember the metal roller your partner would roll across your face after handing you a metal rod covered in wet cotton to hold? After school, some may have run right out and purchased their own machine. But a majority probably did not, unless they went to school before the 90s – with the exception, perhaps, of those big 5-in-1 machines with galvanic attached. Even if that was the case, after talking to a number of professionals in the industry, most rarely or never use it.


 “The very few who incorporate galvanic in treatments, distinguish themselves,” says Nondy Llewellyn or Bakersfield Acnecare in Bakersfield, California.


Galvanic is a safe, painless, electrical therapy that integrates easily with other treatments to deliver effective, long-lasting results for all skin types.





Galvanic is derived from Italian born Luigi Galvani, known for discovering animal electricity. In 1780, he found that the muscles of dead frog legs twitched when touched by an electrical spark. This was one of the first forays into the study of bioelectricity, a field that still studies the electrical signals and patterns from nerves and muscles.





The galvanic machine converts the alternating current received from an electrical outlet into one direct current (direct current is just like the electricity from a battery). Electrons are then allowed to flow continuously in the same direction. This creates a relaxation response that can be regulated to target specific nerve endings in the epidermis. During this time, the client may have a metallic taste in their mouth. This is totally normal and completely safe.


Galvanic treatments use low-level current to prepare the skin for a myriad of skin benefits like softening tissue, softening blackheads by dilating the pores, stimulating cells, and driving ingredients deeply into the epidermis.





There are two major types of direct current aestheticians use: desincrustation and iontophoresis.





Galvanic desincrustation is a deep cleansing process, done before extractions that softens and emulsifies sebum and keratin in the follicle. Seasoned aestheticians know it is one of the greatest tools in their treatment room. “Galvanic desincrustation works amazingly to loosen clogged pores,” says Robbie Chamberlin of The Renegade Esthetician. “Acne specialists wouldn’t have such a hard time with noninflamed acne if they used it.”


If the treatment room is equipped with a steamer, using it during this step softens the tissue even further. This step prepares clients’ skin for easier and less painful removal of comedones, open and closed, and even those pesky microcomedones. The ease of extraction when using galvanic is many skin care professionals’ favorite part of the facial.


Professionals must use a desincrustation product that is negatively charged and has an alkaline pH, so the direct current continues to hold its negative charge. At this point, the client holds the positive electrode that has been wrapped in wet cotton or a wet facial sponge. The aesthetician has direct contact with the desincrustation tool that is set to negative polarity (the working electrode).


The desincrustation solution is applied to the skin and then the active electrode is moved over the area to be treated. “The alkaline solution is drawn to the positive electrode in the client’s hand or placed under their bare shoulder, and the negative ions in the solution are repelled by the negative electrode, causing an alkaline reaction in the skin,” says Annet King, vice president of business development at Bio-Therapeutic. “Here comes another bit of science for you. This works on the theory that like poles repel and opposite poles attract. The desincrustation solution, combined with the action of the active negative electrode, results in the saponification of sebum. This alkali and sebum reaction forms sodium hydroxide (lye) due to the fatty stearic acids in sebum, reacting with the alkali to form soap. In the skin, the reaction softens and liquefies sebum, and this facilitates the easier (and highly-satisfying) release of even the most resistant blackhead, especially in hard-to-extract, tight, finely textured, sometimes dehydrated skin.”1 Of course, after extractions, apply a purifying toner and a calming serum. Switch the polarity back to positive in order to bring the client’s skin to an acidic pH, soothe and calm the skin, and close the follicles that have just been extracted.


Benefits of galvanic desincrustation include softened skin and tissues, softened compactions and keratin within the follicle, and increased lymph and blood circulation.



Desincrustation Products


There are multiple desincrustation solutions on the market these days. But, beware of making one from a recipe found online or professional solutions with sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, and sodium (salt). Precautions need to be taken if these solutions with the ingredients listed above are not removed fully. If left on, the skin is not able to return to its normal acidic pH state, which will compromise its health.


Look for professional products with sodium bicarbonate listed further down on the ingredient list, and herbs, essential oils, and aloe vera listed near the top of the list.





Using galvanic current on the positive polarity is referred to as iontophoresis. During an iontophoresis treatment, a product that has an acidic pH and is water-soluble can be used. Gels, serums, or even a mask can be applied all over the area to be treated. Next, an inactive (negative) electrode is placed in the client’s hand or under their shoulder, while a positive current is delivered quickly and deeply into the skin via positively charged ions.


This setting is ideal for treating hyperpigmentation and antiaging because it carries active pigment lightening and antiaging ingredients deep into the stratum germinativum where they can have the biggest impact on cells.


It may come as a surprise, but on the positive polarity setting, galvanic has a vasoconstrictive and calming effect on the skin, which helps to reduce redness and sensitivity, making this an ideal treatment for sensitive skin and rosacea clients.        


Iontophoresis Benefits:

  • Deeply delivers products into the skin
  • Balances skin’s pH
  • Tightens and firms tissue
  • Tightens muscles and smoothes fine lines
  • Reduces edema
  • Constricts large follicles
  • Improves skin’s texture
  • Soothes nerve endings
  • Decreases sensitivity and blood flow
  • Increases skin’s capacity to absorb nutrients.
  • Gives skin a beautiful healthy glow



Adding Iontophoresis into Treatments


Iontophoresis can be implemented at different times during a treatment – before or after cleansing or before or after a facial massage, as well as before and after a mask. Typically performed for four to seven minutes, galvanic iontophoresis assists in the penetration of any water-based products into the skin for any skin issue, even sunburned or recently resurfaced skin.


Performed immediately after extractions, it soothes and constricts follicles. It can be used on a specific area, like around the lips with a plumping peptide, to smooth out wrinkles, or under the eye area with a collagen-boosting peptide, or it can be focused on a stubborn area of hyperpigmentation with a favorite lightening serum. Visible results can be long-lasting, so get creative and incorporate it for the short time it takes into all skin treatments.





Before offering a galvanic treatment, do an in-depth consultation, including filling out a client history and having the client sign an appropriate consent form. Clients should not have received injectables or had a chemical peel, facial waxing, or microdermabrasion in the past one to two weeks.


Take caution – even though this is an extremely safe procedure with a very low level of current (tingling can be felt at times), it is not recommended for clients who are pregnant or with:

  • epilepsy
  • diabetes
  • a pacemaker
  • heart conditions
  • metal implants
  • body piercings





There is a galvanic machine out there for every skin care professional at a price point they can afford, and one that suites the size needed for their treatment room – from the small handheld devices that can be tucked away in a drawer, and could even be retailed to clients for home use, to the largely popular 3-in-1, or even 18-in-1 machines ,which are on wheels and can be rolled out of the way. These machines will have other machines incorporated such as a steamer, magnifying lamp, and even a microdermabrasion machine. Other popular galvanic devices are the standalone machines that are typically square or rectangular in shape and can be easily tucked away on an aesthetics cart or on a shelf.



In this industry, skin care professionals are fortunate to have hundreds of choices when it comes to exciting, results-driven machines to choose from. Let this article be a reminder to take a look at some of the old tried and true machines and techniques that have been around for decades – the ones that do not require months and months of saving or taking out a loan. Galvanic machines are affordable and reliable and give noticeable long-lasting results. Create unique offerings and be set apart from competition by incorporating galvanic into treatments. If training on this machine was not received during school or an already purchased machine has not been used in a while, there are many great videos out there to learn from.




1 King, Annet. “The Power of Galvanic Treatments in Your Spa.” Les Nouvelles Esthetices &

Spa. Apr 2019.







Jessica White Slorah is a licensed master aesthetician who practices solo and is the owner of illume Skin Care in Holladay, Utah. She was voted Favorite Licensed Master Aesthetician in DERMASCOPE’s 2019 Aestheticians’ Choice Awards.

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