Three intrepid beauty editors submit to lasers, lash glue, and assorted needles (happily, not all at once) so that they could report back to you. Which products and procedures worked? Read on to find out!
Valerie Monroe, Jenny Bailly, Alessandra Forresto


The Art Of The Needle

Who wants to look like a pincushion? Not me, but I agreed to let certified MeiZen acupuncture practitioner Melinda Mingus, MD, give me a cosmetic acupuncture treatment in her New York City office because she spoke so knowledgeably about the effects. (Though Mingus suggests a series of ten treatments, I had time for only one.)

The sterilized, stainless steel acupuncture needles, as thin as a human hair, cause microtrauma in the skin, which increases blood flow and the production of collagen and elastin, says Mingus. She believes that the treatments can result in firmer skin, a reduction of wrinkles, and a tightening of the jowls. Her patients have reported healthy side effects, such as improved digestion, better-quality sleep, increased energy, and a sense of overall well-being. Hey, doc, sign me up! Stick a thousand needles in my face!

Well, not just my face. Mingus needled other body parts as well (my hands, legs, feet, ears, and scalp) in order to stimulate various nerves. She's an extremely skilled acupuncturist; I couldn't feel the needles going in. I lay still for about a half hour, deeply relaxed. After I had been successfully de-needled, I examined my face in a 7X magnifying mirror for holes or red dots—I couldn't find a single one. And my skin was glowing. But I'd have to take it on faith that my improved complexion had anything to do with the treatment; there's no scientific evidence that cosmetic acupuncture works.
Beauty director Valerie Monroe

Next: Does snake venom really eliminate wrinkles?
Photo: Jim Fiscus
If Val is brave enough to have botulinum injected into her face, the least I could do was rub a little snake venom on mine. Several skin serums—Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle ($120;, Rodial Glamoxy Snake Serum ($160;, and Dianne Brill All Day Temptation ($82; for stores)—contain a synthetic peptide called Syn-ake that was designed to relax lines by mimicking the expression-paralyzing effect of an enzyme found in the venom of the Brazilian temple viper. When I blended the serums over the lines on my forehead, my skin, mercifully, did not become paralyzed. (Nor did the concoctions cause any burning, stinging, or otherwise rattling effects.) The horizontal grooves were, however, slightly smoothed for the next several hours—a result I credit more to the line-filling silicone in the products than any pricey pseudo-venom.
Executive beauty editor Jenny Bailly

Next: A facelift without surgery?
Instant Facelift
Photo: Olivia Barr
A facelift without surgery? I like the concept! The Bring It Up Instant Face Lift! ($20; promises to tighten and tone facial sagging with invisible tape applied deftly around the hairline. The backing on the tape is labeled with placement directions. You peel off the backing to reveal the adhesive, stick one end of the tape to clean, dry skin, and then, gathering the loose skin you want to tighten, pull it up under the tape.

The (main) problem: Unless your closest relative is a Shar-Pei, you probably won't have enough skin to gather. I went ahead anyway; I wanted to know if the tape could be seen under my hair. It couldn't. Unless there were a breeze. Or I were on a date and things were progressing in such a way that I might want to lie down. That, my friends, would be a very sticky situation indeed. — VM

Next: Highlights for less than $15
Jenny Bailly dyeing hair
With beauty editors everywhere reporting on exciting innovations in home haircolor technology, Jenny decided to do a little experimenting with the latest L'Oréal Paris highlighting kit, Touch-On Highlights ($13; drugstores). It comes with a bristled thimble that you use to apply the dye along thin strips of hair. The process is simple:

hair dye powder into mixing bowl 1. Shake the highlighting powder into a mixing bowl.

hair dye developer adding to powder 2. Pour the peroxide developer into the bowl.

hair dye developer and powder mixing and turning blue 3. Stir together peroxide developer and highlighting powder and watch mixture turn blue (the better to see where you're applying it).

stirring hair dye with thimbled index finger 4. Dip thimbled index finger into mixture.

running hair dye through strands of hair 5. Slowly draw bristles through dry, tangle-free hair.

I highlighted six sections of hair—three on each side of my natural part—and overall was rather pleased with my handiwork. The color I chose (Toasted Almond) came out a touch brassier than I would have liked, though. I'd neglected to do a strand test (always do a strand test!), so I didn't know exactly how long to let the dye process, and probably waited a bit too long to rinse it out. But with a little luck, practice should make perfectly sun-kissed. — JB

Next: The at-home laser hair removal adventure
laser hair removal
Photo: Donna Alberico
Aaack! Eeep! Owww! That's the audio version of my at-home laser hair removal adventure. I held the Tria Laser Hair Removal System ($595; to my armpit so it could zap away the fuzz there. And by "zap" I mean beam laser energy into the pigment of the hair, damaging the follicle so it can no longer function. Why the sound effects? Because the process hurts. Every time you press the Tria to a new patch of skin, a beep is accompanied by a hot snapping sensation. But as a longtime subscriber to the "no pain, no gain" school of hair removal (why bleach when you can pluck? shave when you can wax?), I persisted with my snappy treatments (on the most powerful setting) every two weeks for three months, then monthly for five more (as stipulated by the directions). And now my right armpit is practically hairless. I shave any remaining fuzz about every two weeks (and do a touch-up laser treatment about every four). The only problem: I still have to shave my left "control" armpit every day. I've now started treatments on it, though, and I look forward to having two silky smooth pits by 2011. (Find out if you're a good candidate for this treatment.)

Next: Wish your nail color could last at least two weeks?
manicured hand holding nails
Photo: Jim Fiscus
I didn't need much convincing to try OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquers ($30 to $50), a nail color applied in the salon that lasts at least two weeks. I picked one of the 34 shades (Bastille My Heart), and sat back as the manicurist painted my nails with gel base, polish, and top coat, using a UV light to set each layer. After about an hour, my nails were crimson, glossy, and impervious to purse riffling and BlackBerry tapping (not to mention nibbling). Once I notice chips, I'll head back to the salon to have my nails soaked in an acetone-based remover that lets the polish peel right off; but for now, three weeks later, the color is still beautifully intact.
Contributing assistant beauty editor Alessandra Foresto

Next: How to whiten your teeth at home
As an avid consumer of all things teeth-staining—lattes, soda, blueberry pie—I could use some smile brightening. But I've always found the options too pricey (about $500 for a one-hour whitening treatment at the dentist's office) or too time-consuming (two weeks of daily whitening strips). So Luster 1 Hour White ($40;, an at-home kit that comes with a promise to get teeth "up to six shades brighter in only 60 minutes," intrigued me. Like all drugstore teeth-whitening products, Luster's active ingredient is a form of hydrogen peroxide—but the company says its battery-operated "whitening light" (a less powerful version of the blue light dentists use in their bleaching treatments) helps the peroxide penetrate more effectively. Here's how the kit works:

teeth whitening 1. Rinse with the included mouthwash, which contains a disinfectant that washes away bacteria that can dissolve peroxide.

teeth whitening 2. Brush peroxide solution on all visible front teeth; let dry for 20 seconds.

teeth whitening 3. Hold light up to teeth for two minutes.

4. Repeat all three steps. Ten to 20 times. In a row.

After almost an hour, and ten treatments, I was exhausted and bored, so I gave up. But I'd done enough to get my teeth noticeably whiter. Six shades whiter? No. Maybe three. Not dazzling, but definitely undimmed. — AF

Next: How to get longer, fuller lashes
fake eyelashes 1 On a quest for longer lashes, I let Soul Lee, lash extension whiz at the beauty company Shu Uemura, lead me into a tiny room tucked behind the labyrinthine makeup area of Barneys New York department store in New York City. I lay on a table; Lee covered my lower lashes with a spongy gel pad. "So they don't get glued to your upper ones while I'm doing the extensions," she explained. Good call.

fake eyelashes 2 I then closed my eyes so the master could begin her painstaking work: gluing synthetic fibers to the roots of my natural lashes—one at a time (a process that costs $400).

Over the course of an hour and a half, Lee attached about 120 new lashes. I learned all this later, though: Since I am utterly incapable of remaining conscious when my eyes are closed, I slept through the whole process. And I awoke to find myself, in a word, stunning!

fake eyelashes 3 Without a speck of makeup on, I looked as if I had just arisen from a wonderful beauty sleep. Well, okay, I had. I have continued looking that way, though, at all hours of the day, for two weeks now. But while mascara is no longer part of my routine, a tiny lash comb is: With lashes this long, tangling can be an issue. And they take a couple extra minutes to dry after a shower (I haven't yet found an itty-bitty lash towel).

fake eyelashes 4 A few of them have started falling out, and I plan to walk (maybe even skip) back to Lee's soon for a touch-up. Here's to a long, hot summer free of mascara smudges. — JB

Next: What you need to know about Botox
botox needle
Photo: Jim Fiscus
All I could think about was what could go wrong: a droopy eyelid, a permanent expression of extreme surprise or beetle-browed consternation. That's why I'd never tried Botox, the botulinum toxin that's used to reduce facial wrinkling. Also: I was philosophically opposed to shooting anything into my face. "I love my face," I'd declare to anyone who suggested I might enjoy a light arpeggio of cosmetic fiddling.

Then one morning I looked in the mirror and noticed (I thought) that the little lines between my eyebrows had deepened. I could see where my face was going, but I liked it where it was. So I made an appointment with New York City dermatologist Cheryl Karcher, MD, to ask her whether she thought I might benefit from just the teeniest grace note of Botox. At her office a few days later, I sat under a very bright light and pointed to my concerns. "Ha! Easy to fix," she said. Then she took a step back and looked at me studiously. "Big frown," she said. I made a doleful face. "Okay," she said. "Relax." And before I knew it, she had administered five quick shots of Botox above and between my eyebrows. "Fini!" said the doctor. A physician's assistant held an ice pack to my forehead to prevent bruising. "Bravo!" I said.

It took about a week for me to get used to not being able to wiggle my eyebrows the way I used to. ("Wiggle my eyebrows" doesn't adequately describe what I could do; if there is such a thing as double-jointed eyebrows, I had them. But I don't have them anymore, at least till the toxin wears off in a few months.) I don't like the paralyzed feeling at all; it's as if I'm wearing a cap that fits too tightly around my forehead. But recently a friend said to me, "What's going on with you? You look...bright-eyed and rested!"

So despite the unpleasantness, I'm afraid I'm hooked: An encore is definitely on the program. — VM

Age spots? lines? dullness? Here's how pricey treatments stack up against over-the-counter treatments
Photos: Donna Alberico
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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