Let’s start with the obvious: The NuFace Mini is not exactly a new device. Sure, I’d heard of it and read all the glowing NuFace reviews on the internet. But I’m one of those people who tries something cool a few times and then eventually buries it in the graveyard under my sink, where it enters the afterlife alongside a facial cleansing brush, five body brushes, a tooth-whitening system, a dermaroller, and all of their respective cords.
Under lockdown, though, skin-care devices have had something of a revival. Have you heard of that one study that found people would rather give themselves electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts? I’ve been feeling like that, but for my face. And while I’m not saying that I can’t sit still for 20 minutes, it has been a long five months. What else do I have to do besides electrocute myself to perfection?
How does NuFace work?
Fortunately, the NuFace Mini doesn’t actually feel like an electric shock. Rather, it uses gentle microcurrent technology to offer legitimate skin benefits. “Microcurrent units stimulate muscles and tighten skin, giving a lifted effect to brows, eyes, jawline, cheeks, and neck,” says Francesca Fusco, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City, who’s not affiliated with the brand. “It stimulates collagen, circulation, and wound healing.”
The initial investment is large—at $199, it’s not exactly cheap. However, when you consider the payoff if you actually use it versus procedures down the road (injectables, lasers, that sort of thing), the cost doesn’t seem so steep. However, you’ll also need a NuFace gel primer to make it worthwhile—more on that later—so keep that in mind.
Back to the NuFace. I had some specific goals in mind: I wanted to keep my forehead smooth, tighten my jawline, and lift my cheeks enough that my smile lines disappeared. That’s a tall order for a noninvasive skin-care device—and one that is supposedly painless, no less. Still, when I was first learning how to use NuFace Mini, I was pretty skittish about the potential discomfort, as I’d read about heat and tingling in some of the NuFace reviews I’d come across. And since I once passed out at the sound of a nurse unwrapping an IV…let’s just say my pain threshold is very low.
How do you use the NuFace Mini?
The first few times I tried it, I followed the instructions for NuFace Mini found on the included pamphlet to the letter: three glides on one side of my neck three times, three glides on one cheek three times, three swipes up one side of my forehead three times—then repeat it all on the other side of your face. Each swipe lasts a few seconds and ends in an automated beep.
Every time I moved the NuFace Mini up my forehead, I could feel a few hairs on my head prickling a little bit. It didn’t hurt so much as feel weird, but it made me nervous enough that I switched it to its lowest setting (out of low, medium, and high). I may be a baby, but I’d at least like to look the part.
A few nights into my routine, I was able to snag a NuFace tutorial from esthetician and NuFace cofounder Tera Peterson, who did the treatment along with me over Zoom. First, she instructed me to apply the gel primer to one area at a time (as I enthusiastically slathered it onto my whole face on the other side of screen). The gel primer is necessary for the treatment, as it transfers the microcurrents from the NuFace Mini to your face. “Polymers are needed to direct the current directly to the muscles,” she said. “Just because it looks like aloe vera does not mean aloe vera is going to conduct your microcurrent.”
Immediately, she told me to put it on the highest setting. “Don”t be scared,” said Peterson when I tried to talk my way out of it. “Your gel started to dry, I bet.” The gel, apparently, is not only important for performance; it’s also key for minimizing any incidental sensations. Since I’d been applying it entirely before starting the five-minute routine, most of it sank into my skin before I had a chance to use the NuFace Mini on it—hence the tingling. Consider any sensation a cue to layer on some more primer. “It should be like frosting a cake,” she explained.
During our NuFace tutorial, Peterson also taught me how to freestyle. Instead of following the exact order shown in the instructions, I can focus on my specific needs. For my nasolabial folds, she recommended pushing the device upwards, from my jawline up to my cheek muscle, and holding it there for two or three beeps. These days I do my cheek both ways—starting at the jawline and working my way up in horizontal swipes, then going vertically on the same area—and finish with my forehead.
NuFace before and after
There’s a visible difference immediately afterward. After doing half my face with Peterson’s guidance, I could see my brow looked more lifted, and my cheek, less puffy. I have more definition along my cheekbones and jawline too. But what has really impressed me is that after 10 or so days of consistent use, my nasolabial folds look less noticeable.
It’s been surprisingly easy to keep up with, which is half the battle. “Like exercise, the best results are achieved from regular use,” says Fusco. “During the COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve encouraged patients to use the downtime to stick to a routine with NuFace for maintenance until they could return for their liquid lifts with fillers and neuromodulators.” To maintain the results, I only need to use it two or three times a week—easy.
Will I go back to my regular tweakments once I feel comfortable being close enough to another person to speak to them without yelling? Probably. However, the NuFace proved itself capable of doing things that injectables just can’t, like smoothing and lifting without needles or an hour in a waiting room. And if that’s not a compelling selling point for me, I don’t know what is.
NuFace Mini Facial Toning Device
Deanna Pai is a beauty writer in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @deannapai.