Skin care is complicated: Women’s beauty routines include an average of 12 products every day (or more, if you’re like me). And still, there’s a whole world of items beyond spritzes and serums that’s often left unexplored. I’m talking about beauty devices—the kinds that whir, burr, and need a charge in order to work their magic.
“The right tools can be fun and a great asset in your beauty routine,” says Kathryn Dickinson, founder of Aillea, an online clean beauty shop that also has stores in Colorado. “Especially if it helps you take the time to focus on self care and skin care.” Truth—that time is precious.
“The right tools can be fun and a great asset in your beauty routine.”
Dickinson notes that no gadget can overcome bad beauty habits: “At the end of the day, nothing replaces the results of a simple and effective skin-care routine that works for you and is performed consistently.” Still, it can be exciting to go all Star Wars on your routine once in a while.
I asked for expert opinions from Dickinson and other beauty pros on a handful of devices—and put them to the test myself—to see if they’re worth the investment (both in terms of minutes and dollars).
Keep reading for the scoop on six (literally) buzzy beauty gadgets.
The lowdown: The Clarisonic is arguably the OG of skin-care devices—it’s been around since 2004. Basically, the product uses “sonic” technology (AKA it vibrates at a high frequency) and a round, bristle head to clear your pores. To use it, you put your go-to cleanser on the brush itself, then move it slowly around your face. The pulsation is supposed to massage the nutrients deep into your dermis for a super-thorough clean.
Expert’s take: “This is a great tool to use two or three times a week, depending on your skin’s sensitivity,” says Dickinson. “It gives an added exfoliation and a deeper cleansing. It’s especially great for keeping breakouts at bay and for its anti-aging benefits, since it helps with cell turnover.” She just notes that if you have a skin condition like rosacea, you should steer clear.
My experience: I put my cleanser on the brush and ran it across my face…and didn’t notice any real improvement over my usual (low-tech) face-washing routine.
The lowdown: By using ultrasound technology—which is totally noninvasive and uses high-frequency waves to penetrate the second layer of your skin—this handheld device reputedly stimulates your collagen, elastin, and circulation to firm your complexion. It’s essentially a face workout without the reps—the machine does the toning and lifting for you.
Expert’s take: The frequency is probably too low to show true results. “This uses 1 MHz, and professional ultrasound therapy uses 4–7 MHz,” says Sonia Keu, a natural beauty blogger. “When ultrasound waves are micro-focused on a single point of your skin tissue, the molecular vibration generates heat and stimulates collagen production—but this device shouldn’t make much of a difference.”
My experience: I didn’t feel or notice much of a change, but the device’s sleek look was definitely impressive.
The lowdown: As far as DIY microneedling goes, aestheticians’ opinions are varied—some think it’s a great treatment to do at home, while others firmly believe it’s something you should leave in the hands of professionals. Either way, the act of poking tiny holes in your face (literally, but it’s not as scary as it sounds) is supposed to improve your skin’s texture, reduce the appearance of your pores, and help with hyperpigmentation and acne scars. The penetrating action also makes it so your other skin-care products can work their way deep into your complexion.
Expert’s take: Dickinson’s a big fan of microneedling—she used a similar product on herself, and found that it helped with her fine lines. “You only need to [roll it over your skin] for a few minutes,” she says. “I believe in LED technology, which the GloPro has, but the impact from this one is minimal. Clinical-grade LED treatment is done at much higher levels and for longer periods of time.” she adds.
My experience: After using it for a week, I had seriously glowy results.
The lowdown: The pulsating head of this super-cute cleanser makes for a deep clean—while still being gentle. Its silicone bristles are designed to remove gunk from your pores, smooth your complexion, and enhance your usual serums’ powers for a more even glow.
Expert’s take: The fact that it uses silicone bristles instead of fiber (like the Clarisonic) makes it better for sensitive skin, according to Dickinson. “The Foreo also has the added benefit of being more hygienic, since bacteria can’t grow on silicone,” she says. But if you’re allergic to silicone, you should stick with a different cleansing method.
My experience: I find it more satisfying than the Clarisonic—it’s softer on my face and I can feel the vibrations more. The fact that the device is all one piece (you don’t have to deal with a replaceable head) also makes it easier to use.
The lowdown: Like a vacuum for your face, this tool uses air suction to remove buildup from your skin. It’s also supposed to gently exfoliate for a radiant complexion.
Expert’s take: Dickinson was skeptical. “I’ve never tried it myself, but the crystal head could be potentially abrasive and irritating to your skin’s barrier,” she says. “It essentially uses weak air to suck your skin into the little crystal-lined hole. I don’t think it’s strong enough to be damaging, but you might want to reconsider it—especially around thinner areas of the skin, like around the eyes.”
My experience: After using the Korean beauty product, my skin was definitely glowy and less red—but I needed to load up on moisturizer to counteract the vacuum’s strong sucking abilities.
The lowdown: Okay, so this one’s not about your complexion—at least, not in the traditional way. If you’re looking to get rid of that ever-so-common upper lip hair, this is the gadget for you. The brand advertises it as the quickest and most painless way to remove facial hair—in fact, it’s so gentle that you can supposedly use it daily (if you find shaving that much fun).
Expert’s take: “This is basically an electric razor for women,” says Dickinson. “It can work in a pinch, but it isn’t the long-term hair removal system I’m looking for. It works better for longer hair than stubble, so I’d stick to waxing or use a razor for a last-minute touchup.”
My experience: It’s chic, and it truly got rid of my peach fuzz in one fell swoop, with no redness or irritation afterwards. I find it to be a miracle worker.
If you’d rather stick with the professionals for your next-level treatments, here are the 10 thoughts you always have when getting a facial. And here’s the ultra-detoxifying facial treatment that celebs are obsessed with.