8 Beauty Experiments Worth Trying (and 1 to Definitely Skip)
Verdict: Do it!
—Jihan Thompson, health editor
Verdict: Do it if you don't have sensitive skin or rosacea. —Jenny Bailly, executive beauty editor
Maybe that's why my first visit to Drybar (the rapidly multiplying salon chain with the tagline "No cuts. No color. Just blow-outs") makes me feel nostalgic. My hair has lately been relegated to a wiry braid that I wash only when the buildup of oil and dry shampoo makes it itch. Deep down, I know this has to do with age-related defensiveness. (I'm getting older, but as you can see, I don't care.) If I preemptively bow out of the game, I can't lose, right?
After 45 minutes of my stylist's deft round-brush maneuvers, I've sunk into a meditative state. And my hair! It's dancing on my shoulders, a soft cascade of movie-star curls. I don't look like the 16-year-old I once was, with boundless hope (and more collagen), but as I walk out onto the street, I realize there's no one I need to impress. It's just me and my hair, greeting the day with all we've got. ($40; TheDryBar.com)
Verdict: Do it!
—Meredith Bryan, articles editor
My problem: keratosis pilaris. In addition to the annoying bumps—caused when skin cells called keratinocytes accumulate and plug hair follicles—I had developed noticeable dark patches.
O'Brien suggested a chemical peel to lift away the upper layers of skin, clearing out the hair follicles and removing excess pigment. She used a mix of trichloroacetic, retinoic and salicylic acids called VI Peel (a good choice for darker skin tones like mine). After she wiped on the mildly tingly acid solution, she waited two minutes before neutralizing it with a towelette soaked in retinoic acid and vitamin C.
Within hours, the skin turned alarmingly dark and started flaking. By day four, it was coming off in sheets. But finally, after ten days of intense peeling, my arms were smooth, even-toned, and tank-top-ready. The doctor says I may be bump-free for months—possibly longer if I use a prescription 40 percent urea foam lotion daily and a retinoid cream twice a week. ($300 to $500 per treatment; vipeel.com for physicians)
Verdict: Do it if you have tried at-home exfoliation to no avail (and are prepared for serious molting).
—Alessandra Foresto, associate beauty editor
According to the package, the BioBliss Anti-Wrinkle Patch System contains micro-current technology that infuses the skin with hyaluronic acid, peptides and other plumping ingredients to reduce the appearance of fine lines. I used both the forehead and eye-area patches. When I peeled off the thick, rubbery pads after 30 minutes, my pesky frown lines did appear less deep. By the end of the day, though, I looked as fine-lined and unplumped as ever. The directions suggest using the system weekly for more lasting results; I think I'll just cross my fingers and wait for next year's beauty adventures. ($25 each; biobliss.com)
Verdict: Skip it!
—Naomi Barr, research chief
Verdict: Do it!
—Katie Arnold-Ratliff, senior editor
"I need a little oomph," I tell the makeup artist–salesperson. She springs into action, uttering just two words: "smoky eyes." So authoritative is her conviction that I find myself nodding in complete agreement. Over the next half hour, a grand total of 21 products are smudged, smeared and dabbed from my throat to my hairline—apparently I require smokiness from the neck up. For reasons I will never comprehend, she lines the inside rims of my upper eyelids, commanding me to breathe as she scratches away. "Breathing keeps you from tearing uncontrollably," she assures me as I tear uncontrollably. After five minutes, she pronounces me fabulous and hands me a mirror.
"I hope you're going somewhere very special tonight," she says. I don't have the heart to tell her I have a date with a fourth grader whose math homework neither of us understands. Or that the face she's created for me does not go with the life I've created for myself. Instead, I buy tinted moisturizer and lipstick and brace for a very special night of long division.
The next day, after two hot showers and 11,000 baby wipes, the black liner that refuses to budge from my eyes has actually left them subtly defined. It's a morning-after makeup miracle! I use the tinted moisturizer to even out my skin tone and apply the soft, pinky beige lipstick. I may not feel well-rested, but I look it—and that's a pretty nice start.
Verdict: Do it!
—Lisa Kogan, writer at large
"Now close your eyes!" she said, before using another applicator to cover my brows with an auburn-brown vegetable dye, followed by a bare mascara wand to brush the dye through. This color she left on for only about two minutes because she wanted to keep my brows a natural shade and because they were flecked with just a few gray hairs. (If I'd had more of those, she would have left the dye on a minute or two longer.) To be sure she wouldn't stain the skin around my brows, she wiped the area with a mixture of toner and almond oil. Then she passed me a mirror so I could evaluate her handiwork. Blue-black lashes! Distinctive brows! And a greatly increased appreciation of a skilled aesthetician. ($65 for lash tint, $45 for brow tint; elizaseyes.com)
Verdict: Do it if you have some gray in your brows or pale lashes.
—Valerie Monroe, beauty director
1. Apply base coat.
2. Put your foot (or hand) inside the LED light box for 30 seconds (it automatically turns off when time is up). This sets (or "cures") the polish.
3. Apply two coats of color. The key to success: very thin coats. My first time around, I painted the polish on too thick and it peeled right off.
4. Cure color with the light for 30 seconds after each coat.
5. Apply top coat; cure for 30 seconds. Use an alcohol-soaked pad (included in the kit) to wipe away the sticky residue on the surface of your nails. They're instantly dry!
6. A perfect (DIY) ten.
($70 for starter kit, $20 for refill kit of base and top coats and cleanser pads; drugstores)
—Gayle King, editor-at-large
Next: 18 outstanding doctor-recommended anti-aging products