Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
1. Hair Boosting Inserts
I'm very open to the idea of curve-enhancing prostheses. On more than one occasion I've slipped rubber cutlets into my A cups, and I once test-drove padded underpants. My latest experiment: hair-boosting inserts. The Divado ($25 or $30; DivadoHair.com
) is a rubber dome with a comb on the underside; the Bumpit ($10; Bumpits.com
), a plastic arch (shown here) edged with tiny teeth that latch onto your hair. Both—available in different sizes—are designed to be positioned at the crown of your head to add height. You make a part at the crown from ear to ear, brush the front section over your face, and secure the booster behind the part (a little preliminary teasing helps keep it in place). You then brush the front layer of hair back over the contraption. The problem I encountered with both models was keeping them concealed—even though my hair is relatively thick. After shifting things this way and that over the Bumpit (in its smallest size), I thought I finally had it under wraps. Then a concerned colleague asked how I'd managed to get a Lego stuck in my hair. So I called hairstylist Adrian De Berardinis, owner of De Berardinis Salon in New York City, for some professional input. Back away from the inserts, he said: Good old-fashioned teasing gives the same heightening effect with far less risk of embarrassment. Just spritz sections of hair with hairspray, back-comb each one, then brush out the teased hair on the surface for a smooth finish. For allover volume (a look De Berardinis finds "more modern" than a concentrated protuberance), spray damp roots with a root-lifting product (like Kérastase Expanseur Extra-Corps, $29; Kerastase-USA.com
) and use a flat brush to pull hair away from your scalp as you direct heat at your roots with a blow-dryer. — Jenny Bailly
Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan
2. The Sephora Fragrance Finder
Looking for a way to find the perfect perfume gift? Sephora calls its Scentsa—a wall-mounted, touch-activated screen in all of its U.S. stores—the ultimate fragrance GPS. I challenged the program to guide me to a fragrance that would charm my most discriminating friend. After tapping "discover your signature scent," I channeled her as I went through a seven-question quiz. The Scentsa suggested a dozen options. When I presented them all to my friend, she gave only two a thumbs-up. Although the GPS led me astray as a gift-giving tool, it is certainly a fragrance lover's dream machine. You can also use it to access information about more than 7,000 scents by typing in their names or searching by brand. (If a scent has been discontinued or isn't carried at Sephora, Scentsa suggests similar options.) Details include top, middle, and base notes, perfumer, history, and "scent style" (i.e., sophisticated or romantic). You can search by your favorite notes, too. The results can be overwhelming—"orange blossom" turned up 37 fragrances—but if you're willing to sniff your way through them, you might find a new favorite.
— Jenny Bailly Before you hit the store: Read O's Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Scent
Illustration: Caitlin Kuhwald
3. Workout Gear for Your Face
We've never felt as completely wacko as we did when we slipped on the No!No! FaceTrainer ($200; HSN.com
), a neoprene mask designed to provide resistance training for facial muscles to "smooth wrinkles and lift sagging skin." The mask slides over your face and secures, with Velcro straps, at the back of your head. An accompanying user guide and DVD demonstrate facial exercises to do while wearing the mask, for ten minutes each day. (The core move is called "the surprised puppy dog"; see the illustrations above.) After a month, your face and neck will "look noticeably younger and healthier," the company says. We're not going to lie: We did not test this product for a month, or even a week. We tried the exercises once, started to sweat profusely (neoprene is not particularly breathable), and began clawing at the thing until we pulled it off. Then we picked up the phone to call a dermatologist. "You can't build your facial muscles the way you would your biceps—nor would you want to," said Ranella Hirsch, MD, immediate past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery. "Just think about Botox—it works by weakening
the muscles in your face; contractions form fine lines. I certainly wouldn't recommend trying to make those muscles stronger." So there you have it: Resistance training may sculpt your arms, but your face doesn't need workout gear. — Jenny Bailly
Photo: Christopher Coppola/Studio D
4. Kiss Everlasting French Nails
Clickety-click-click-clickety-click. That's the sound of my nails softly tapping my keyboard as I type this. They're strong and marble-smooth, with milky-white tips. Last week I (reluctantly, in the name of investigative journalism) glued ten Kiss Everlasting French Nails ($6, drugstores) to my own. And, as a woman who generally eschews aesthetic enhancements that won't wash off, I'm shocked to tell you that I can't stop admiring my new look. That's right: I actually like wearing these plastic nails.
The kits come in flat (for women with flat nail beds) or regular (if your beds are more curved), and "real short" or medium length; each box contains two dozen variously sized nails so you can find the perfect fit for each finger. (A mini nail file, tube of glue, and orange stick are also included.) Even the short length is significantly longer than I'm used to, and some maneuvers are definitely tricky with my new nails (slipping a credit card out of my wallet, zipping my pants, unzipping my pants)—but I'm adjusting. And unlike the chunky Lee Press-On generation of fakes, these nails are superthin; even my most eagle-eyed friends haven't questioned their authenticity—just complimented my perfect manicure.
Update: Kiss recommends removing the nails after seven days; although mine were holding up beautifully, I obliged. After soaking my fingertips in a tub of acetone (Kiss All or One Artificial Nail Remover, $7, drugstores)—about 15 minutes for each hand—the plastic became gummy and I could wipe it off each nail. Though my fingers were pruny afterward, my nails appeared no worse for the wear. But I called Nia Terezakis, MD, clinical professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, to make sure I didn't have any surprises in store: "If your skin is sensitive, it could become inflamed if it comes in contact with the glue, but otherwise, these nails shouldn't cause a problem," she assured me. "And the acetone you remove them with isn't permanently damaging to your nails. It's just drying, so you should moisturize a lot after using it." — Jenny Bailly
Photo: Lara Robby/Studio D
If you're the kind of person who likes to bake her own bread, you're going to love L'Occitane Ma Crème Nature ($42, USA.LOccitane.com), a mix-it-yourself certified-organic moisturizer for face and body. The preparation is easy: You add water to a small bottle of concentrated olive tree leaf extract and olive water; stir that into a jar of olive and sunflower oils and olive and shea butters; refrigerate for a couple of hours; and presto! You have your very own rich, preservative-free cream. The mixture starts out liquidy and bubbly, gets creamier as you stir, and thickens as it's chilled. But while there's definitely a lovely back-to-the-land feeling (and a little mad scientist, too) about mixing your own moisturizer, is the stuff really any better for your skin than a factory-made product?
On the one hand, preservatives aren't necessarily bad; their absence doesn't improve a moisturizer's efficiency in delivering beneficial ingredients to your skin, says Ni'Kita Wilson, vice president of Cosmetech Laboratories in Fairfield, New Jersey. On the other hand, some preservatives can cause irritation in sensitive skin, Wilson says. So if you tend toward sensitivity or you have skin allergies, a product without preservatives might be a good idea. As for freshness, mixing the ingredients at home and keeping the product in the fridge will prevent it from spoiling, but that won't make it more effective than a premade cream, says Kenneth Beer, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of Miami. I read Beer the ingredient list and asked him if there were advantages to preparing the cream at home. "Yes," he said. "You can probably fry garlic in it."
— Valerie Monroe
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
6. The R.E.M. Spring Facial Hair Remover
I'm a brunette with fair skin, so any hair on my face is immediately noticeable—especially on my upper lip. I used to wax it, but I always got a telltale red mustache. So I switched to tweezing. But I could never manage to grab every hair. When I was sent this Slinky-like stainless steel coil, I wondered if it might be the answer. After a quick glance at the directions, I bent the spring to form an inverted U-shape, then placed the middle of the coil on my upper lip and started to roll the ends between my thumb and finger while slowly moving the device up and down (this sounds complicated, but it's easy to get the hang of it). The directions also suggested that it would be helpful to stretch the skin around my lips outward with my tongue so that the surface would be flatter and easier to access. As the coil moved, it grabbed and pulled out the hairs. That hurt, of course. But it was also fascinating to see them stuck in the spring…which is why, I guess, I worked the coil down my cheeks and neck as well. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! As I was recovering, I was thinking that what interested me most was the simplicity of the thing. No batteries or electrical cord; no wax strips; no cream, water, or mirror required. And actually, it really hurt for only a few seconds. I'll still use tweezers to clean up my brows—the company warns that you shouldn't try the device on brows since you can inadvertently pull out your lashes, too. But for my upper lip, when I want to make sure I get every single hair, this will be my new go-to device.
— Kate Sandoval
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
7. The iPosture
A same-age friend and I walked down the street recently, we simultaneously noticed that we were hunched over just a tad in a way that might not look remarkable now but that suggested a more acute (and unpleasant) bowed attitude to come. Instantly, I saw myself as one of those doubled-over old ladies, painfully propelling my shopping cart home to a menagerie of stray cats. (And I don't like cats.) That vision got me standing at attention, but for days afterward I noticed that I have developed a propensity to slump. Though slumping is never a good thing, it is especially unhelpful if you want to avoid lower-back problems, which can have a trickle-down effect (and not a pretty one) on the hips, knees, and ankles, says John Giurini, DPM, associate professor in surgery at Harvard Medical School.
So I was glad to find out about the iPosture, ($90; iPosture.com, left), a device the size of a large button you clip to your bra strap, wear on a short chain, or stick to your chest with a mild adhesive patch (this last one won't work so well if you tend to be heavily moisturized). The button, which was developed by a doctor, vibrates to alert you when you're slouching and promises a multitude of benefits, among them, trimming love handles and belly bulges, eliminating common back problems, and making you look younger and sexier. I wore the iPosture for three days and concluded that it was very helpful—and also increasingly annoying—to be constantly reminded to sit and stand up straight. (Kind of like being followed around by your mother; at least it doesn't also remind you to get the hair off your face.) I don't know if I looked younger and sexier, being too shy to ask, though I did feel taller and somehow more in command of my body. I had to stop wearing the device every day simply because it exhausted me; I was surprised to discover that it can be wretchedly tiring to be erect all the time if you're not used to it. But I put it on occasionally as a reminder that I want to make my way into old age slump- (and feline-) free.
— Val Monroe
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
8. Wrinkle Erasers
Among a certain population—one that includes me, as it happens—the notion of applying an elixir that instantly smooths away lines can precipitate the kind of thrill once reserved for a long-awaited pregnancy (or job offer). Which is why I was keen to test several wrinkle erasers. The balms (Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch, $28, and Sephora Immediate Wrinkle Filler, $20, for example) come in little pots and are the consistency of softened butter; the lotions (like Fresh Anise Wrinkle Eraser, $55, and Cosmedicine Instant Wrinkle Write Off, $25) come in a tube or a pen that you use to "draw" the product on the wrinkle.
Because for the past seven years I've had a serious love relationship with a prescription retinoid (Tazorac, and it's an every-night affair), I don't have a lot of wrinkles on my face, except around my mouth, where those annoying little lip lines persist. So that seemed the perfect spot to see what a wrinkle eraser could do. I have to tell you (pursing my lips) that my hopes were not high, in spite of the tantalizing promise, because one of the hard truths I've learned as a beauty editor is that there is no such thing as a cream or lotion that works as well as Photoshop.
Also, whatever the results, they were going to be temporary—the silicones in these products cover the skin with a matte film, hiding fine lines.
When I applied the Clarins balm—my experience was pretty much the same with all four erasers—I immediately received a lesson in what it really means to have a stiff upper lip. After I became accustomed to the tightening effect (it felt something like wearing a dried milk mustache), I took a trip to the office bathroom, proud home of the World's Most Unflattering Mirror, to check out the results. If you don't know me, you might think I'm making this up, but I'm not: The lines on my lip seemed to have disappeared. I peered closer. Seriously: no lines. Then I started making monkey faces to see if I could get them to appear again—how good was this stuff? After a couple of minutes of intense puckering followed by intense scrutiny, I began to see the faint traces of my old problem. I don't think you'd want to use one of these products every day (that dried milk mustache), but for special occasions when you want your face to look smooth and polished, a wrinkle eraser can give you a nice assist till you wash it off.
— Val Monroe
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
9. The Blo & Go
I once set a comforter on fire while styling my hair. Because I couldn't maneuver a round brush and a blow-dryer (I'm not ambidextrous or, frankly, even particularly dexterous), I'd tossed the dryer, still whirring, on the bed—just for a second. Fast-forward to an acrid smell, blaring smoke alarm, and feathers everywhere.
So when I recently came across a contraption called the Blo & Go ($30), a sort of hair-dryer harness, I thought—for the safety of my home at the very least—I should give it a shot. The device suspends the dryer so your hands are free for styling. A hard-core suction cup (a lever locks it in place) secures the adjustable arm to a flat surface, preferably a mirror; you slip the handle of your dryer through the holster and secure it with a bungee cord.
Rigging the Blo & Go to my bedroom mirror was surprisingly easy. I positioned it about 6 inches above the top of my head, so the dryer's nozzle pointed down at my hair (like any beauty editor worth her salt, I knew this vertical placement would help flatten the cuticle to make my hair look smoother).
I turned on the dryer and stood below it as if I were in the shower, but under a stream of hot air. At first, it was a thrill to be able to use two hands to work through each section of hair. But what I gained in manual dexterity, I lost in air control. Since the dryer remains static—the arm can be adjusted, but only to a certain extent, and not without a little elbow grease—I had to keep moving around to get the heat to hit exactly where I wanted it. Also, I usually blast my ends from underneath for a few seconds to get a soft curl, but I couldn't with this setup; it isn't ideal if you're trying to achieve a meticulous style or straighten really curly hair. But I'm keeping it around for days when I want to avoid arm fatigue—or potential pyrotechnics.
— Jenny Bailly
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
10. Avon's In a Wink Instant Eyeshadow Sheets
The only time I wear eyeshadow is…come to think of it, never. "And why not?" I can hear you saying. Or, conversely, "Me neither." (Or, from that cranky reader in the back, "Who cares?") The point is, though I can appreciate the sultry look of a smoky eye, I haven't had the urge or the skill or a good enough reason to wear one. But recently, in the spirit of trying-something-different-because-what-the-heck, I took home a couple of Avon's new In a Wink Instant Eyeshadow Sheets ($10 for 14). They're a little like those instant, wash-off tattoos I used to love as kid: You place one of the sheets over your eyelid, rub to transfer the shadow, and then blend. The sheets come in eight different sets of colors, and each sheet holds three coordinated shades: lid color, contour color, and a highlighter. Thinking it might be safest to start slow, I chose the neutral (brown, copper, beige) and the pink (light pink, gray, mauve).
What with my lack of experience in the eyeshadow department and the fact that the sheets are all one size (about a medium, and my eyes are a small), I was pretty sure my experiment was going to be something less than successful. Because I was in for the night, with no desire to get out there and scare people, I tried the neutral shadow on one eye and the pink on the other. I definitely had some cleaning up to do, as I managed to get the color under my eyes and on the bridge of my nose—rather as if I'd bumped into a swinging bucket of eyeshadow than delicately pressed it on—but after a few minutes of assiduous work with the Q-tips, I actually thought I looked pretty good. If Avon asked for my opinion (they haven't), I'd say, make the sheets a tiny bit smaller so there's less chance of overage, and maybe I'd try them for real.
— Val Monroe
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
11. Diana B. 60 Second Miracle Tan Self-Tanner
When I told Val that I was going to spend the weekend in Puerto Rico with a few friends, she handed me the Diana B. 60 Second Instant Miracle Tan ($60) and said, "Have fun self-tanning." (Translation: "Don't come back with a real tan.") So, on the first morning of my trip, I broke open the box, pulled out the rubber gloves, and quickly realized this was no typical self-tanner: It's activated by water. I stepped into the shower, got myself soaking wet, turned off the water, and pumped what looked and smelled like foamy chocolate sauce all over my body. I thought the stuff would be sticky and hard to spread evenly, but it was easy to apply. The directions say to continuously work the product into the skin while counting to 60, then rinse. Later that day, while lounging by the pool (under an umbrella, wearing a wide-brimmed hat), I glanced down and saw that my skin had a very subtle, natural-looking tint—and a light gleam, as if I'd spent a little time in the sun.
It's a first: A self-tanner you apply in the shower.
The verdict: The process can be messy—I stained the shower curtain liner and the white towel I used to dry off. But it works. When I left the formula on a little longer, I turned a pretty, darker shade (not orange or streaky), and there was no self-tanner smell or tackiness.
— Kate Sandoval
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
12. Brown Betty, Color for the Hair Down There
I put it off and off, till the deadline for this story forced me to turn my attention to the box of Betty, Color for the Hair Down There ($20), which had been hanging around my apartment, like a neglected lover, for weeks. So, deadline looming, one lazy Saturday morning I mixed up a batch of dye (ammonia- and paraben-free), and, with the mascara-like wand provided, applied it to my hair, down there. Oh, for Pete's sake, it's called pubic hair. I applied it to my pubic hair, carefully avoiding—if you are a very private person, or my son, please stop reading right now—the labia, as directed. A half-hour later, I jumped into the shower to rinse off the dye. I could hardly contain my surprise and delight when, after toweling off, I looked in the mirror: The faded, nondescript patch I was accustomed to had been transformed. It was dark, richly pigmented, a shock of mahogany mink.
Now, I want to tell you that I had put off doing this experiment because I thought the whole idea of dyeing your pubic hair was stupid. Who cares if the drapes don't match the rug (or whatever)? Who cares if you're going gray? Because when it comes to certain issues having to do with appearance, I believe distraction is by far the best solution. If the shade of your pubic hair seems to be getting seriously in the way of a good time, you might want to consider that it's not the real (or the only) obstacle for you.
On the other hand. In spite of my original aversion to the idea, as I said, I was inordinately pleased with my new look. I had that refreshed, slightly uplifted feeling you get when you've just had highlights, or your teeth whitened—not too much, but just enough to add a little zing!
The dye is available in five "classic" colors—blonde, auburn, black, brown, and something called fun ("a hot pink party in a box")—and four "specialty" colors—blue, green, orange, and rose red. I know I'll never go Bozo down there (or anywhere), but I'm reserving judgment on that hot pink party in a box.
— Val Monroe
13. O Gizmo Test: The No!No! and The Marvel-Mini
The last time our executive beauty editor, Jenny Bailly, tried to give herself a treatment—beyond the basic cleansing, sloughing, filing—at home, things didn't end well. (How tough could it be to give yourself a bikini wax? Very.) Since then, she's left the hard (and hot) stuff to the pros. But two new, intriguing little gadgets caught her eye recently, so she gave them a shot.
1. The No!No!
What it is: A rectangular device, smaller than a cell phone, that's billed as "a professional treatment for hair density reduction."
How it works: As you slowly roll it along your leg, the pressure activates the No!No! and warms it up. "The heat kills the cells of the hair follicle," explains Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
How it feels: You can definitely feel the heat, but it's comfortable. (The smell of burning hair, on the other hand, can be slightly disconcerting.) Afterward, Jenny's skin was a little tingly, as if she had a slight sunburn, for an hour or so.
Why it might be worth trying: A study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that women who used the device twice a week for six weeks had a 64 percent reduction in hair six weeks after treatment. After 12 weeks, they still had 43 percent less hair. "That's about comparable to what you see with laser hair removal," says Fusco. "And since this treatment is heat, not light, based, it's safe for all skin colors."
Why it might not: Treating both legs takes about 30 minutes (and you have to do it twice a week to see results). The reduction isn't permanent—if you stop using the No!No!, the hair will slowly return.
What it costs: $250.
2. The Marvel-Mini
What it is: A device, about the size and shape of a hairbrush, that uses LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to reduce wrinkles, acne, and hyperpigmentation.
How it works: You hold the light panel to a portion of your face; after three minutes, the machine beeps to tell you that it's time to shift it to another area. The company recommends using it twice a week, for 24 minutes total each time.
How it feels: Like nothing. Jenny had slight discomfort in her arm from holding the device up, though.
Why we thought it might be worth trying: Studies have shown that professional LED treatments (the most common brand names are GentleWaves and Ominlux) stimulate skin cells to produce new collagen and even out skin tone. "After five or six treatments with Omnilux, a patient's skin looks more luminous and less tired," says David J. Goldberg, MD, director of laser research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Why we decided it wasn't worth the money: There is no clinical evidence that the Marvel-Mini compares to a pro treatment. Jenny counted 37 diodes (or bulbs) in Marvel-Mini; the LED machines in Goldberg's office contain "hundreds."
What it costs: $225.