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Monday, December 1, 2008

"How Does It Work, Does It Just Suck Out Your Brain and Take All Your Money?"

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 11:09 AM

The above quote is what my boyfriend said when he came to extract me from Dirty Little Secret salon yesterday afternoon, where they were hosting a presentation of the Nu Skin Galvanic Spa System--those of us who received invitations were shown how to use it, and got to take a crack at it on our own faces over a punchbowl of sangria and cheese and crackers (I wish every party was like this). I will not even attempt to explain the scientific principles of a galvanic facial, but basically it sends electric currents into your skin and makes it easier for products to penetrate the surface. Galvanic facials are usually done in salons by technicians, and among beauty junkies they're highly prized for their efficacy. The Nu Skin system is centered around a much smaller, hand-held machine that can be easily used at home. Basically, you start with a clean face, apply a gel to it, then turn on the machine (which you have to hold with a wet hand so it will conduct the current), rub it all over your face for five minutes (the gadget has a built in timer), then put on a different gel, and do it again. Oh, and then you rub in an ampule of lotion that is supposed to restore the elasticity of your skin to how it was during your early 20s. It has different attachments for your body (it also claims to reduce cellulite, varicose veins, and just generally lift you up wherever you happen to be sagging), hair (to stimulate growth), and a spot treatment attachment if you want to focus intently on just one area.

galvanic.jpg

Now, I love this kind of thing. And I desperately want to live in a world where one can cure aging, acne, cellulite, and baldness all with one little machine and about $350 bucks (plus the cost of refills on product). Incidentally, the Nu Skin system is distributing through multi-level marketing, which may or may not make a difference to you. To me, it makes me cautious. After the party (no I didn't buy the system, but I wanted to), I prowled around on the internets, and called Portland esthetician Jane Cowan, who I trust for BS-free takes on all things skincare, and this is what I learned: This technology is not new or unique (Jane refers to it as "old school"), and if you want to try something like this, there are many different companies producing the same things. It works (sort of). Like I said, the technology has been used for half a century. The variability really seems to rest with the product you use in tandem with it. The advantage of a system like this is not having to think about it. If you just follow their directions, you'll be fine--there are few complaints about the results to be found on the blogosphere, for whatever that's worth. But Cowan stresses that it's not going to replace the importance of genetics or lifestyle in your skin's appearance. (Notably, Cowan has a galvanic system for professional use, but says she rarely uses it because she rarely finds it useful.) Whatever Jane, I still want one. But I'm not $350-curious to see if using it obsessively would produce the kinds of results the company's reps showed me. The fact that you have to keep buying the gels, which are not cheap, puts me off. I'm not spending nearly that much money on my physical appearance on a regular basis as it is, so the argument that it's cheaper than spa visits is kind of moot with me. None of this is money-saving. So here's my cheapskate plan: Buy one of these machines on ebay for far less than the full kit goes for. Buy a bottle of aloe vera gel, and start experimenting. If all it does it make product more bio-available, I should be able to use anything water-soluble, yes? (Erm, I'm not necessarily recommending you adopt my cavalier attitude here, just to be clear.)

We'll see how it goes. If you've ever tried one of these, I'd love to know what your experience was. And even better would be recommendations of things I could slather on my face before zapping it with electrical currents. (What? Don't worry. Research. Lots of research.)

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