Written for DERMASCOPE Magazine, February 2022
With the many stipulations placed on skin care professionals and their ability to perform micro-needling services, some spas may be on the lookout for alternatives that comes directly from nature. Micro-crystals (also known as "spicules"), extracted from several types of freshwater and marine sponges and enriched with their bio-active extracts, can deliver rapid and visible skin restoring results for a variety of complexions.
Skin care treatments with natural micro-crystals of different sizes not only resurface and polish skin but also create passages and multiple channels into deeper skin layers. Micro-crystals penetrate skin through the stratum corneum barrier, causing the percutaneous absorption of naturally rejuvenating and skin protecting nutrients. They can stay in skin for up to three to four days to continuously deliver deep skin restoring results. Like micro-needling, they create a controlled injury which helps to increase collagen and elastin regeneration and stimulate microcirculation and other self-repair mechanisms of skin.
Spicules are formed organically in a genetically controlled way. They are usually between 150 microns to 250 microns long and 20 microns to 35 microns wide. Some are even visible to the naked eye. These spicules are needle-like shaped cylinders with pointed sharp ends made of biosilica and the binding protein spongin. The spicules are extracted, purified, and processed into micro-crystals. Spongin is a type of collagen protein which gives sponges their flexibility. When used in skincare, spongin can rejuvenate, firm, and soothe skin.
SPONGES & SKIN CARE
Sponges (phylum Porifera) are among the oldest animals on earth. Over 5,000 species live around the world in oceans, lakes, and calm rivers. Most freshwater and marine sponges are composed of mesohyl, a jelly-like substance made mostly of collagen and structured by spicules. Most sponges are filter feeders and have developed a strong natural defense against pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms. Ongoing research on different bioactive substances extracted from marine and freshwater sponges has demonstrated significant anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and microbiome enhancing properties. Constituents derived from a marine sponge called Aurora globostellata show strong immunomodulatory potential, which can prevent skin reactions and sensitivity when used in skin care.
The freshwater sponge, Lubomirskia baicalensis can only be found in Russia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume. “The water is crystal-clear, the salt and nutrient content is low, and it is extremely oxygen-rich, even at the very bottom of the lake,” says Dr. Till Luckenbach, an ecotoxicologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The sponge has been extensively studied for its unique cold stress defense mechanism.
For centuries, infusions of L. baicalensis and other sponges from Lake Baikal have served as remedies for inflamed, damaged, and bruised skin. They have also been used in many Russian medicinal preparations. Traditionally, these sponges have been dried and ground for use as an effective exfoliant and skin resurfacing agent for scars and hyperpigmentation. Compresses and face masks made with L. baicalensis and other sponges can regulate the secretion of sebum, increase fibroblast regeneration, and aid overall skin resiliency.
PRACTICE PROTOCOL: For an in-depth look at what a treatment involves utilizing these types of micro-crystals, please see the following steps.
1. Gently steam and cleanse skin with a botanical cleanser. If the complexion is congested, gently vacuum skin to purify pores.
2. Apply a gentle peel with cotton pads. Mix micro-crystals and a collagen-promoting serum together in equal amounts to create a micro-crystal solution. Using a pointed facial brush, apply the micro-crystal solution onto deep lines, depressed or elevated scars, and areas of hyperpigmentation or melasma. Then, gently and repeatedly, press the crystals into the targeted areas using a gua sha stone or gemstone wand.
3. Next, mix the micro-crystal solution in equal parts with a hydrating serum. Using a wider facial brush, apply it to the rest of the face and neck as desired. Proceed with a gentle gua sha massage over the face.
4. Proceed with the application of a skin-nourishing mask made with spongin and hyaluronic acid. Leave the mask on the client’s face for at least five minutes before removing it with room temperature compresses.
5. To support skin’s microbiome after this deep exfoliating treatment, mix one part of a probiotic mask with one part purified lukewarm water. Then, gently massage it over skin for one to two minutes. When dealing with aged complexions, it is highly beneficial to use a bio-adaptive microcurrent device over the mask for three to four minutes on each side of the face.
6. Remove the mask with cotton pads soaked in purified water. Spray skin with a hydrating mist enriched with hyaluronic acid. Complete the procedure by applying a hydrating serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Additionally, treat the eye area with a specialty formulation that revitalizes. Hydrate and nourish the lips with plumping gel or balm.
This micro-crystal derma-infusion treatment is recommended for resilient, aging, scarred, and discolored complexions. It may be too intense for extremely sensitive or rosacea-prone skin. Clients may also notice that their skin will start peeling two to three days after the treatment. For this reason, it is recommended to perform this treatment at least seven to 10 days before any special events.
Depending on the correlating state of practice, many spas may be on the hunt for the perfect, natural alternative to a game changing treatment like micro-needling. Comprised of the very best of Lake Baikal, this micro-crystal treatment may be the key to healthier, clearer complexions.