In the wake of the FitBits, the Apple Watches, and a craze for wellness tech in which every aspect of our lives is measured step by step, the beauty gadget revolution has finally taken off. Demand in Asia is now so great for the latest in high-spec, space-age-designed new tools that the Foreo Luna Mini 2 (£119), a small, round silicone cleansing tool, was recently number two on the Chinese shopping site Tmall’s wishlist — beaten only by the iPhone 8.
Racking up sales of more than $15m in one day, Foreo’s rapid success (the Swedish design brand is only four years old) is typical of the new beauty-tech landscape. “Electronic gadgets never used to be so popular,” says Alexia Inge, co-founder of the British-based website CultBeauty, an online retailer that has seen a spike in tech-based beauty tools. “It’s a trend that’s come from Asia, where consumers are much more used to turning to gadgets to answer their needs.”
Her current favourite is the Korean WaySkin, which she will launch on her site in 2018. A palm-sized diagnostic tool, it contains a sensor that measures your skin’s moisture levels and shares them with your mobile so that you can drink more water, or apply moisturiser or sunscreen, accordingly. “It doesn’t get more personalised than this,” says Inge.
Many of the new gadgets are popular because they are designed to recreate clinic treatments at home, albeit in a less extreme manner. The GloPro MicroStimulation tool (£199), a DIY version of micro-needling (which pushes small needles into the skin via a roller to encourage it to produce extra collagen and elastin) relies on needles that are much smaller than those used in the salon. Likewise, with the at-home version of microdermabrasion, a salon treatment where the skin is buffed and polished with crystals to remove dead skin cells. The PMD Personal Microderm (£135) uses the same crystals used by professionals for salon microdermabrasion, but requires less recovery time.
A confirmed scaredy-cat when it comes to gadgets, I nonetheless put some to the test. The Ziip Beauty Nano Current Device (£425) is an innocuous-looking white plastic gadget that emits nano-currents measuring one billionth of an amp via a white light, to boost the production of collagen and elastin. It’s one of CultBeauty’s bestsellers.
Although slightly perturbed by the warning not to apply the device across the chest — as this could be lethal (!) — and that “the long-term effects of stimulation are not known” (both fairly standard disclaimers, it transpires), I am impressed. After using it for the recommended 12 minutes, my skin feels super-soft, and while 12 minutes is quite a commitment, you only need to use it once a week. Massaged over the face with a conductive gel, the device also claims to be able to eradicate acne-causing bacteria at a cellular level and give your circulation a boost.
The SpectraLite EyeCare Pro eye mask from Space NK (£168) only takes three minutes to use each day. Created by dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross, it uses LED technology to stimulate the production of collagen and reduce wrinkles. In a 10-week daily-use clinical study, 97 per cent of subjects showed visible improvement. I didn’t have the luxury of 10 weeks, so the jury’s still out, but it’s so easy to use I know there’s less chance it will be left to gather dust.
As much as I wanted to love the new Clarisonic Smart Profile Uplift (£300), a two-in-one vibrating sonic cleanser and massage tool, I wasn’t convinced the massage attachment was doing much. The cleansing brush uses sonic energy to oscillate the skin, and is brilliant when used once-weekly. The new version allows you to swap the brush attachment for a massage tool. Clarisonic’s own clinical tests show impressive results over a 12-week period, so I will persevere, but if it’s massage you’re after, you might prefer the travel-sized Nurse Jamie Eyeonix Eye Massaging Beauty Tool (pictured above, £80), which is designed to be used with your eye cream to help it get deeper into the skin.
Less satisfying was the mess of wires lying about the house, which is perhaps why I still gravitate toward the more low-tech devices on the market. There’s something to be said for the peace and ease of the Tweezerman Bright Complexion Dermaplaner (£33), a pink plastic tool that exfoliates dull skin by removing fine hairs, leaving skin soft and smooth. Then there’s the rather beautiful Elequra Rose Quartz Sculpting Tool (£25), a kidney-bean-shaped non-electronic facial massage tool that promotes lymph drainage. It was similarly calming and soothing to massage the face without the throb of an electric tool buzzing away in the background, and my skin looked smoother and less puffy afterwards.
As compromises go, this might just be my halfway measure, less scary than the electronic devices and slightly more sophisticated than that ultimate classic beauty tool: the flannel.
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