UW News

February 16, 2006

Face it: Electrical ‘facial stimulators’ don’t really work

Devices sold over the counter to consumers as facial stimulators, claiming to produce results similar to those of a traditional face-lift, provide little, if any improvement to aging skin, according to a new study conducted at UW Medical Center’s Cosmetic Surgery Center and published in the January/February issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.

“We were unable to detect any improvement in signs of facial aging from the use of these devices,” said Dr. Sam Most, assistant professor of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery in the UW School of Medicine. “There are more than 50 of these types of devices being sold over the counter and on the Internet.”

In the study, Most chose to examine two of these facial stimulator devices. These devices work on the medically unproven principle that electrical stimulation of the facial muscles results in improved facial tone, and thus reduces the signs of facial aging.

Study participants were instructed to use the device for four months.

Two facial plastic surgeons who checked the study participants were unable to detect any improvement in signs of facial aging. Participants rated the devices as minimally effective at best, and reported mild discomfort with both devices.

This is the second study in the past year in which Most has tested an over-the-counter facial enhancement product.

In a study published in the May/June 2005 issue of Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, Most showed that particular lip-enhancement products also do not meet their claims to consumers.

“The demand for facial plastic surgical procedures has increased steadily over the past decade,” Most said. “But at the same time, consumers are seeking more minimally invasive treatments such as these facial stimulator devices. Facial plastic surgeons have a responsibility to determine the efficacy of such unregulated products to provide unbiased, evidence-based advice to our patients.”