I just discovered that I have something in common with Meryl Streep – we are both devotees of microcurrent facials. Sixty-something Ms. Streep has the Resculpting Facial  with Tracie Martyn. I had to smile when I read this in the midst of the media hoopla coinciding with Meryl Streep’s latest movie, Hope Springs. As it happens, I visited Tracie Martyn’s New York salon when I first arrived in New York and kept going back once a month for the Resculpting Facial. These days, I go to Ildi Pekar’s salon – she used to work for Tracie Martyn.

The Resculpting Facial typically starts with a little microdermabrasion and ends with a blast of cooling oxygen. Mostly though it is microcurrent. Looking back on this, I am struck that I have been having microcurrent treatments with Ildi for about 10 years and I still swear by them. So what is microcurrent and why has it got me and Ms. Streep hooked?

Microcurrent uses a subsensory electric current that delivers a pulse to the facial muscles and stimulates them and the surrounding tissue. The esthetician’s skill is in manipulating two probes to massage the muscles whilst the current is being delivered to them. This stimulates the muscle fibers and they can be gently (this is not something you can really feel happening) toned or shortened.

The theory is that microcurrent improves the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical in muscles that provides energy. However, there only seems to be one study backing this up and it goes back to the late 1980s – however, the results were an impressive 500% increase in ATP. Anyway, ATP is stored and so the effects of microcurrent treatments over time are cumulative.

I believe that microcurrent inherently appeals to people who really don’t like the idea of Botox. Indeed, I  would say it works in the opposite way to Botox, which inhibits muscle movement in order to relax wrinkles. A muscle that doesn’t move will atrophy and the result (without more treatments) would be increased sagging. Microcurrent, on the other hand, is like giving the muscles in your face the equivalent of a bicep curl. Much more my kind of thing. Plus, it isn’t toxic.

Microcurrent is not a new technology (in the UK, the machines are called CACI) and it was originally developed to restore muscular functions for stroke patients. However, the machines have become more sophisticated over the last couple of decades with more sensitive controls that allow a good esthetician to really “sculpt” facial contours.

Which brings me to another point. I do not think that microcurrent is an effective DIY treatment. The efficacy really depends on the skill of the esthetician and how the “prongs” are manipulated around the muscle. I have tried out at-home devices such as Nu-Face and FaceMaster and have not been very impressed by them (click here for my review).

Anyway, back to Meryl Streep and Tracie Martyn. Apparently Meryl likes Tracie’s Enzyme Exfoliant ($90). This is a mask and like all Tracie Martyn’s products (there’s a serum, cleanser and body lotion) it is based on natural ingredients. It exfoliates using pineapple enzymes and brightens with kojic acid. It is a nice enough product, but I found that it didn’t do much for me. Ditto with the serum, supposedly beloved by Kate Winslet. I will, however, be eternally grateful for the introduction to microcurrent – a decade later it has very much stood the test of time.

Ingredients in Tracie Martyn’s Exfoliating Enzyme Mask: Aqua (purified water), pineapple enzymes, glycerin, caprilic/capric triglycerides, diatomaceous earth, cetyl octanoate, kaolin, kojic acid dipalmitate, gallic acid, squalane, albumin, silicone dioxide, titanium dioxide, salicylic acid, malic acid hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) extract, gamma aminobutyric acid (gaba), menthol lactic acid. D-alpha tocopherol (vitamin e), jasmine extract, xantham gum, mexican tea extract, algae extract, azulene, vitamin c ester, amla extract, blend of natural essential oils