Do They Really Work?
Do They Really Work?
Do They Really Work?
That's what we ask ourselves every time we plunk down money for a beauty product. But you won't have to wonder about these new finds. With help from our team of experts-a dermatologist, makeup artist, stylist, dentist, manicurist, and chemist-we separated the so-so from the sensational.
At-Home Gel Mani
Here's a kit with everything you need to create-and remove-a long-lasting (14 days!) manicure, including several shades of pink polish and an LED box that sets (or "cures") the color. Easy-to-follow instructions and a DVD help you navigate through the cleansing, filing, priming, curing, and painting-all with makeup artist Mally Roncal's infectious "you can do it, girl" enthusiasm.
Expert opinion: "I like the look and durability, but compared with regular polish, gels require a lot of steps and skill to apply," says N.Y.C. manicurist Jin Soon Choi. The acetone-based removal process can also dry nails, she says, "so take up to a two-week break in between wears."
OUR TAKE: Love it! Sure, there are lots of steps, but one staffer found it "only slightly more difficult to apply than regular polish, and it lasts a full two weeks." The downside? "It's hard to get off and can weaken nails, especially if it's not removed properly."
Waterproof Lip Gloss
Sip, sip, smooch, smooch-there goes your gloss! That is, unless you're wearing these lightweight sheens. Made with manuka honey (which comes from the nectar of manuka plants), and other emollients, they hold onto moisture and stay put for eight hours.
Expert opinion: "I'm obsessed!" says N.Y.C. makeup artist Anthea King. "They moisturize like balm, shine like gloss, and wear down to a stain. And there's zero tackiness."
OUR TAKE: Say ahhh-men! The wet look lasts for hours (and through a couple of drinks). Even as the shine dulls, there's so much color left behind, you can put off touching up until after a meal.
Bite Beauty Honey Lip lacquer in Ruby and Valencia, $24 each; sephora.com.
Holographic Nail Polish
You don't need goofy glasses to see 3-D effects on your fingers. All you need are three simple tools: a nail file, polish, and finishing top coat. First, rub nails with the file to rough up surfaces and make them more absorbent, then file with the flip side, which deposits a resin that makes nails shiny. Top with two layers of colored polish, seal with their protective top coat, and ta-da! Made with lightweight materials, this polish should last for days.
Expert opinion: It's easy to apply and dries quickly, says Jin Soon Choi, who loves how "the hologram effect blurs the line between nail polish and nail art."
OUR TAKE: As it dried, the polish felt tingly. While cool to look at, it also chipped after one day.
Layla Cosmetics Hologram Effect nail polish in Ultra Violet ($16) and Brilliant Due nail polish protector ($19) at zappos.com
Pre-Wax Skin Soother
This foamy lidocaine-fueled numbing solution brings down the skin's temperature 10 to 20 percent, so you don't feel the agony of a wax.
Expert opinion: "Lidocaine is a very effective and safe topical anesthetic," says N.Y.C. dermatologist Francesca Fusco. Cooling the skin is also smart: "It confuses the sensory nerve fibers so they don't transmit pain as well as they normally would."
OUR TAKE: We sprayed one underarm, left the other bare, and held our breath. The fizzy formula felt downright icy and stung a bit when touched by hot wax, but it made ripping out hair slightly less painful.
Completely Bare Not Feeling It Numbing & Cooling Spray, $10; at CVS.
The moisturizing star ingredient in these undereye pads? Chitosan, which comes from shrimp shells. Once these pads are wet with neroli water (included in the kit), they soften and smooth skin in 15 minutes.
Expert opinion: "Chitosan is very good at hydrating, so wrinkles can appear diminished because of the plumping effect," says Dr. Fusco, who adds that neroli water is an anti-inflammatory.
OUR TAKE: After 15 minutes under eyes, they left our skin plump, dewy, and totally refreshed. Tip: Be generous with your spritzing to really moisten the delicate pads.
Kerstin Florian Correcting Eye Rescue (1 fl. oz. neroli water and pads/5 pairs), $100; kerstinflorian.com.
A high-tech lining traps heat, ups your body temp, and makes you sweat (a lot!), so you drop the pounds.
Expert opinion: "This compression fabric raises the body's core temperature to help you shed more water weight, and gives you a temporary slimming effect," says cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer. "The idea of exercising in tight garments is nothing new."
OUR TAKE: One tester felt the burn on the treadmill: "In five minutes I could feel my body temperature rise-I was hot!" Not so cool? The thick leggings cling to you like a needy boyfriend, so you may want to dump them after the first outing.
Zaggora Viva hot pants, $80; zaggora.com.
There's one ingredient: qasil powder, made from crushed tree leaves. Mix half a teaspoon with several drops of water, and it becomes an exfoliating skin cleanser.
Expert opinion: Ever step foot on a farm? "It smells like fertilizer," says dermatologist Francesca Fusco. Though the scent can be off-putting, she found it cleanses the face in a gentle way. "I gave it to a friend with highly sensitive skin, and it didn't irritate her at all."
OUR TAKE: Our noses were less offended ("smells like green tea," said one tester). And another one was shocked at how well the natural stuff removed all makeup, even mascara.
Shea Terra Organics Qasil Soap-Free Facial Cleansing Herb, $22; sheaterra organics.com.
A generator sits beneath the bristles and releases negative ions to neutralize positively charged frizz.
Expert opinion: "I don't think it's especially great for styling, but if you're getting flyaways, you can reach for this instead of oil to tame them," says N.Y.C. stylist Matt Fugate. And that's really good news for girls with fine hair.
OUR TAKE: One tester roughed up her strands to create massive static and frizz, then combed through them with this tool. The verdict was positively charged. "It definitely worked, leaving my medium-fine hair sleek and flyaway-free," she said.
John Frieda Styling Tools by Conair ionic brush, $20; at select Walgreens stores.
Instant Hair Highlighter
A solution of hydrogen peroxide and chamomile flower lifts your hair color to a lighter hue. Spray it on sections, run a flat iron over each to open cuticles, then watch streaks appear. Don't expect a radical change. "It's designed to give you the kind of highlights you'd get naturally from the sun," says creator Marc Anthony.
Expert opinion: It's fun, especially if you want to add ombré effects on your ends, says Fugate. Just avoid the hairline. "It can run," he says.
OUR TAKE: After misting and ironing all over, a brunette who already had blond streaks didn't see a big difference. But post-shower she noticed "the brown hairs lightened nicely, while the blond highlights got subtly brighter."
Marc Anthony Easy-Lites, $9; at ulta.com.
This mouthwash brightens teeth with Bluverite (blue colorants that temporarily stick on the surface for a subtle brightening effect) and hydrogen peroxide, which whitens over time.
Expert opinion: Hydrogen peroxide can whiten teeth, says N.Y.C. dentist Pia Lieb, but there's not enough here to do it. Emanuel Layliev, an N.Y.C dentist, sees some brightening benefits, saying "it may not be as effective as inoffice bleaching, but it can help maintain a white smile if used with more concentrated methods."
OUR TAKE: The slightly Smurfy cast fades (in seconds) to a tone that flatters but hardly gleams.
Luster Now! mouth rinse, $7; at Walgreens.
Anti-Aging Eye Shadow
Pigments inside these pretty powders are coated with silicone, so they glide on skin without settling in fine lines. What's more, thanks to retinyl-linoleate and vitamins C and E, they help make lids look firmer over time.
Expert opinion: The product does go on very smoothly, says makeup artist Anthea King. Jim Hammer adds, "Vitamins A and E are effective at extremely low levels, so it's possible these contain enough to make a difference, especially with repeated application. But most of the wrinkle reduction comes from the camouflaging effect created by those clever pigments."
OUR TAKE: The texture is velvety, and the color lasts, says a woman who after two weeks of wear believed her lids were a bit "smoother and firmer-looking."
Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color eye shadows in Sky, Blonde, and Spice, $19 each; elizabetharden.com.
Shaving can inflame skin, prompting more melanin production and causing the surface to darken. That's where this formula comes in. It keeps skin hydrated with calendula, sunflower seed extract, and other soothing moisturizers so it maintains an even tone.
Expert opinion: It's true that hyperpigmentation can occur after shaving due to inflammation. "Keeping skin moisturized after shaving will help prevent it," says Dr. Fusco, who notes the hot, moist area under your arms will naturally help "drive the ingredients deep into skin. I would recommend this to anyone."
OUR TAKE: Says one volunteer with caramel-colored skin, "When I shave every other day in the summer, my skin gets darker, but it looks lighter in the winter, when I use a razor less often." After using the stick for two weeks, "I noticed my skin looked brighter and lighter."
Dove Clear Tone antiperspirant deodorant in Sheer Touch, $5; cvs.com.
Adaptable Lip Color
It's clear in the tube. On lips, though, this gloss transforms into a truly personal shade of pink.
Expert opinion: Magic? Not really. "It contains Red 21, a colorant that produces subtle color changes based on the skin's natural pH," says Hammer. "It's also long-lasting, moisturizing, and high-gloss."
OUR TAKE: For beauty-obsessed control freaks, the unpredictable shade might be a turn-off. "It became a hot fuchsia and stayed that way for a couple of hours," reported one tester. But on another, it produced "a very natural-looking pink."
Givenchy Le Gloss Revelateur De Liv, $28; sephora.com.
Natural Wrinkle Fighter
The label brags about this night cream's 99 percent natural contents, including wild acacia to soften lines and cupuacu seed butter to plump. In seven days it leaves skin hydrated and less crepey.
Expert opinion: A mixed bag. Dr. Fusco says the emollient acacia (derived from an African tree) can hold moisture, and cupuacu is rich in B vitamins and fatty acids. "In the mornings my face was smooth," she says. After applying the cream each night, "I felt instant tightening, but my skin was tacky. There was no way I could apply any products over it."
OUR TAKE: So heavy it felt like we were wearing a full-on face mask. But it might be worth the weight. Likely due to all the hydration, on the seventh day we squinted in the mirror and could swear our forehead lines weren't as visible.
Yes to Blueberries Deep Wrinkle night cream, $20; at Target.
This cover-up brightens and plumps the complexion with an "Oxygen Wow Hydrating Complex," a mix of vitamin C and E derivatives, hydrating minerals from sea-water, and a peptide that traps moisture and helps skin take in more O2.
Expert opinion: Makeup pro Anthea King attributes the plumping effects of this formula to the hydration it offers. "With just a little you can get a natural, glowy look."
OUR TAKE: If, uh, theft is any indication, it's a winner. Tubes of the stuff kept vanishing from our office shelves! Editors, interns, and friends raved about its "lightweight, flawless coverage." Offered one: "It made me look like I had no makeup on at all!"
Benefit Cosmetics Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow Brightening Makeup in Ivory, $34; sephora.com.
Weakening muscles contribute to the loss of facial volume as we age, but this gadget delivers gentle jolts through gel pads, which you place just behind upper cheekbones, to stimulate and tone those muscles. It's like exercising your biceps, only instead of your lifting dumbbells, this machine relies on electrical pulses to make your muscles contract and relax-so you don't have to lift a finger! Using it 20 minutes a day, 5 times a week, for 12 weeks will get you a more youthful-looking face.
Expert opinion: It does stimulate muscles, says Dr. Fusco, who likes that you can use this while watching TV. "It may minimally help firm the jawline and neck, but it won't get rid of lines. Also, it requires consistent maintenance to get results."
OUR TAKE: Feeling our faces twitch was bizarre, and while the pulses are gentle, they're not exactly pleasant. We couldn't detect much of a long-term difference, but the device did leave our faces looking more tightened (albeit temporarily) after each use.
BMR Facial Toner, $395; at Neiman Marcus.
Two-Day Hair Plumper
A few pumps of this mist will double the thickness of hair for 48 hours straight. Light, flexible, volumizing polymers stick to strands so they look chubbier, while nutrient-filled maca root extract helps keep them healthy and strong.
Expert opinion: "I used this on my fine-haired clients, and they were blown away," says stylist Matt Fugate. "I really noticed a difference. Girls with natural curls loved it too."
OUR TAKE: It made wet hair feel a little sticky but did offer a boost. One woman couldn't resist swinging around her newly thick, voluminous beach waves for two days!
Alterna Bamboo Volume 48-Hour Sustainable Volume spray, $24; at Sephora.
It makes a perfect round bun in minutes. Pull hair into a pony, slip the tail through the center opening of the tool, then slide it down to just above the ends before rolling up your hair (as you would a Velcro roller). Press the roll in front of the elastic and twist the flexible ends around the back to secure.
Expert opinion: Everyone is wearing chignons and top-knots these days, and this is an easy way to re-create those looks, says Fugate, who suggests using pins to secure and hide the styler: "It may be easy to detect on those with fine blond hair."
OUR TAKE: One tester didn't have time for a blowout before a big event, so she wrapped her pony into a side bun in minutes. Top that!
The Wrap-Up by Sarah Potempa, $12; sarahpotempa.com.