Vending beauty machine

Photo: Michael Jacobson

Automated Retail Outlets
We know all about machines that dispense sodas, candy, condoms, fishing bait, DVDs, and Buddhist prayer beads (in Nagano, Japan). But antioxidant moisturizer? That's a first. The contraption above accepts money in exchange for high-end beauty products from brands like Lancôme, Chantecaille, and C.O. Bigelow. Just don't call it a vending machine. "This is automated retail," says Mara Segal, CEO of Utique, the company behind the technology. "A touch screen gives you information about each product, even lets you watch video demonstrations before you purchase." And your eyeshadow palette won't come tumbling down from the top shelf—a little robot inside the machine places fragile products in your hands. Utique currently has a vending machine—er, automated retail outlet—at Studio BeautyMix at Fred Segal in Santa Monica and hopes to install more, mostly in airports and hotels, by the end of the year. — Jenny Bailly
Do My Back

Photo: Jens Mortensen

Bright Idea!
Remember the old remark popularized by Gloria Steinem, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle?" Having deep fondness, myself, for both men and bicycles (also Gloria Steinem), I've always felt kind of uncomfortable with that statement. I suppose I don't need a man, or a bicycle (or Gloria, either), but the world is definitely a better, richer place with them in it.

However, if you do happen to find yourself without a man (forget the bike for a minute) or a helpful, sisterly presence, you might like the Do My Back ($22;, an ingenious contraption that allows you to easily apply body lotion, self-tanner, or sunscreen to hard-to-reach spots, dorsal-wise. The handle extends, the head swivels, the whole device folds to fit into a drawer or a beach bag, and it comes with four foam pads (which can be rinsed and reused). Pour the lotion onto the pad, and know what it feels like to have your own back—a good thing, whether you've got company or not. —Valerie Monroe
Woman sleeping

Photo: Courtesy of SkinGlow

Bedding That Improves Your Skin?
Six months ago we predicted that your sheets would one day be infused with skin-smoothing ingredients. Our prescience was impressive (if we say so ourselves) because souped-up bed linens have already arrived. SkinGlow bedding ($20 to $250; has copper ions woven into its pillow covers and comforters to supposedly smooth and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, crow's feet and other skin imperfections. "The copper is released when it makes contact with the moisture on your skin as you sleep," says Anna Faktorovich, the manufacturer's director of strategic development. A study commissioned by two independent labs showed a "statistically significant reduction of the appearance of facial wrinkles and crow's-feet/fine lines" in subjects who slept on one of their pillowcases for four weeks. But while certain topical copper formulations have been shown to enhance collagen production, "without any independent research, these claims are very generous," warns Patricia Farris, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University. Farris believes a more effective line smoother would be a pillow that keeps you on your back all night, "because sleeping on your face can cause wrinkling." — Jenny Bailly

Allergan's Latisse lash growth before and after

Photo: Courtesy of Allergan

Chemically Grown Lashes
The lash-obsessed among you can call off your countdown: Allergan's hotly anticipated lash-growth product is now FDA approved and available by prescription. Called Latisse, it contains bimatoprost, the same synthetic prostaglandin (a hormone-like substance) in the pharmaceutical company's glaucoma drug Lumigan that is known to have the (very pleasant) side effect of longer, thicker lashes. (Doctors theorize that bimatoprost stimulates an enzyme in the hair follicle.) Lush, brow-grazing lashes won't come cheap, though: Latisse's suggested retail price is $120 for a 30-day supply that includes 60 single-use applicators (you place a drop of the liquid formula on a brush and draw it along the upper lashline). It takes eight weeks to see a significant change in your lashes, says Allergan; count on 16 weeks—and an expenditure of $480—before you experience the full results. And if you stop using Latisse, your lashes gradually return to their natural state. Luckily, there's always mascara—which can still be had for less than $10 a tube. — Jenny Bailly
Find the right foundation

Illustration: Silja Goetz

A Mobile Makeup Matcher
Picture this: You're standing before a drugstore wall of foundations wondering, "Buff Beige or Bare Buff?" and you turn to your cell phone for the answer. Simply snap a shot of yourself with its camera, send it to a virtual beauty adviser, and get back a text message (within seconds) that tells you the most flattering shade for your skin. Hewlett-Packard has already developed the technology, called Color Match. It would take a kind of geek we definitely are not to understand exactly how it works, but the system color-corrects each picture for camera and lighting discrepancies and then compares the shot to a database of skin tones to recommend the best match. HP is working to find makeup brands that can help bring the prototype to life. — Jenny Bailly
Female robot

Photo: © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation

Shampoo Robots
Whirpool bath? Check. Heated tiles? Check. Shampoo robot? Yep, that's right. Tricked-out bathrooms may soon include mechanized hair-washers. "Some salons already have them," says trend forecaster and beauty "futurologist" Jeanine Recckio. "You lean your head back into a basin equipped with nozzles that wash your hair and massage your scalp. There's even a spin-dry." (Ouch! It's actually just circulating hot air, though, no spinning.) The current incarnations of the machines, which are made in Japan, are too bulky—and pricey—for home bathrooms, "but in 10 years...who knows?" says Recckio. "Not very long ago you'd probably see a GPS only in a cockpit; now we have then in our cars. — Jenny Bailly

Now, why would you want a...?