Fashion says "look at me," in a voice that can range from a whisper to a roar. The message of beautiful skin is more subtle. "Look at me," it purrs, "and touch me, too." This seductive promise speaks to a basic human desire for contact, and it's part of what makes babies, and supermodels, so very difficult to resist. It's also an example of nature's casual cruelty: most of us are granted our prettiest, freshest complexion at precisely the age we're least prepared to enjoy, or take advantage of, such an extraordinary gift.
Then we grow up, grow older, realize what's been lost (or squandered), and set about trying to reclaim that sweet bloom of youth. Lotions and potions are slathered on the skin to improve its color, tone and texture. Vitamins are downed. Strange brews are imbibed. Specialists are consulted. Some of these things actually help (a good dermatologist, for one). Most, alas, do not.
I'm a lucky man. Adolescence did not wreak havoc on my complexion. I used sunscreen, even as a child, and the deep lines and wrinkles that plague some of my friends have yet to bother me. That said, my skin is far from perfect. It often looks..tired, and lacks clarity and radiance (to use classic beauty parlance). My skincare routine isn't rigorous: I keep my face clean, moisturize when I think about it, and, for special occasions, dip into things like Crème de la Mer, La Prairie, Darphin, or one of Dr. N.V. Perricone's cosmeceuticals. The last time I looked really great, however, was after one of Tracie Martyn's famous "resculpting" facials, which used electrostimulation to firm and tighten my face. Electricity, I decided, was the secret ingredient of effective skincare. So when a knowledgeable friend raved about Nu Skin's Galvanic Spa System II, designed for at-home use, I wanted to try it myself.
My guide was Terri Apanasewicz, celebrity makeup artist (with clients like Cindy Crawford) and founder of P3 Beauty, a network of beauty advisors providing personalized products and services. When it comes to skincare, Apanasewicz has seen it all. She's not easily impressed, but she was definitely enthusiastic about the Galvanic. We were getting ready for the opening of TONYS steakhouse in West Hollywood, a few nights before the Grammys. It was going to be a big party, with plenty of young, talented, and gorgeous performers on hand. Apanasewicz took me through the process, step by step: cleaning the face; coating it with Pre-Treat Gel; gently pressing the broad metal tip of the Galvanic Spa II against the skin and massaging it across the forehead, around the eyes, over the cheekbones and jawline; rinsing the face; and then repeating the steps with Treatment Gel. We were a little rushed, so there was a lot of laughter and jostling to distract me; however, as I patted on Nu Skin's finishing cream and looked at myself in the mirror, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I looked better. Not Tracie Martyn better, unfortunately, but better nonetheless.
To learn more about the science behind the Galvanic, I spoke to a Nu Skin representative. The system's basic premise is simple enough: "pre-treatment" requires a gel that's been engineered to carry a negative charge, and the handheld device is set to emit a negatively-charged, low-level galvanic current. As with magnets, like repels like, so--ostensibly--key ingredients in the gel are driven deeper into the skin and pores than would be accomplished by merely smoothing them on the surface. At the same time, the Pre-Treat Gel binds to impurities. During the "treatment" phase the charges are reversed, and ingredients in the positively-charged Treatment Gel are ferried into the skin by the positive current of the reset device. At the same time, impurities caught in the negatively-charged Pre-Treat Gel are attracted by the positively-charged device and drawn out of the skin.
Nu Skin claims that regular use of the Galvanic Spa II and proprietary gels renders any skincare regimen 70% more effective, but strongly recommends its own 180 Anti-Aging Skin Therapy. The device comes in black (the EX, for "executive") or white, with four interchangeable heads: a broad facial tip; a flat metal disc, or Spot Corrector, to smooth wrinkles; one with multiple nodes, for the body; and a comb-like attachment for scalp and hair. My self-administered facial was my only experience with the product, but further reading suggests galvanic currents are, in fact, legitimate therapy for improving the skin (although most doctors stress the importance of calibrating treatment to the individual, which is only partially addressed by the Galvanic's ability to self-adjust). Apanasewicz, however, has become a habitual user and now swears by it. I can't deny feeling good about my galvanized self as we headed out for a night on the Sunset Strip. On the other hand, I also know (and often quote) fashion oracle Diana Vreeland's pithy observation: "What sells is hope."