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Review

Do beauty tools and tech make our lives easier?

November 12th 2017 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment

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We put new beauty gadgets and gizmos to the test to see if they beat the old-skool ways of doing things. From electric makeup brush cleaners to whizzy foot files, here are the verdicts…

We’ve not all been replaced by cyborgs quite yet, but it’s undeniable that tech wizardry is replacing some of the more laborious jobs and processes in modern life. The beauty industry is no different, and there’s an innovation a minute promising to not only save us time, but help us to achieve slick and professional results, from teeth-cleaning to hair removal to face washing. Does the extra investment and gadgetry always pay off, or is it sometimes better to be old fashioned about grooming and beauty? We put some of the latest tech through its paces, comparing it to ye olde methods to see which wins out in terms of ease and efficiency.

Foreo Luna Mini 2, £92.80 vs hot cloth cleansing

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“I’ve always been an advocate for hot cloth cleansing ever since I was given a Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish gift set for Christmas in my teens. In fact, ever since then, specific cleansers seem to come and go but my cotton cloths have remained a permanent fixture in my skincare routine – my beauty cupboard is filled to the brim with them! Despite this, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about cleansing brushes, most notably people singing the praises of the Clarisonic, but I’ve yet to be convinced to try them out myself. Until now of course.

When the Foreo Luna Mini landed on my desk I must admit that I was quite excited to test it out, in the hope that I might have found something to finally shake up my cleansing routine. It has some pretty big claims: ‘healthier, clearer and a more luminous complexion’. I am all about the deep cleanse and this promised to do just that, with the added bonus of being completely waterproof and hygienic due to the silicone material. Despite the impressive promises, unfortunately I wasn’t blown away. While I did feel that the device performed well and worked in harmony with my cleanser, I didn’t feel as though it exfoliated my skin or cleansed any more effectively than my usual cloth or flannel. There are different functionalities of this device depending on your skin’s needs, for instance there is a side with broader touch points aimed at people with oily skin (that’ll be me), a side with softer touch points for sensitive skin and then another texture for “precision cleansing”. The options are welcome and give you a good amount of control to adapt your routine to your skincare needs, and use different sections on the different parts of your face, but I still I missed the thoroughly clean feeling that my cotton cloth delivers. With a cloth I can get into all the little nooks and crannies of my face to give it a complete going over, whereas the Foreo is limited in this respect. I feel as though it doesn’t match up in terms of performance, which makes the price tag hard to justify.”

Verdict: Stick to the old school muslin cloths – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Reviewer: Alexandra Harrison, Administration Assistant

Carnation Footcare Silky Feet Hard Skin Remover, RRP £14.99, vs. a foot file

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“It’s fair to say that winter is not the season for “feet out” (for all sorts of reasons), but that shouldn’t mean we abandon footcare altogether until the sun peeps through come spring. For me, there’s nothing worse then feeling hard skin on my feet which is why I’m an avid fan of the trusty foot scraper - the Vitry foot rasp (RRP £14.95) to be precise. Until now this old school tool has been my weapon of choice - quite literally a long handled ceramic paddle with a double sided rasp at one end - one with coarse grains for tackling hard callouses and the other more fine for a gentler exfoliation and massage. The final accoutrement? A large dollop of elbow grease!”

“This has always served me well, but I was recently challenged to pit this against the all new Carnation Footcare Silky Feet Hard Skin Remover. A motorised rotating device that buffs away hard skin with the click the button.. a far cry from the unladylike huffing and puffing required with the manual alternative and certainly easier on the skin. The abrasive roller rotates at 40 revolutions per second (again, more than I can manage with my manual version!) and does a decent job of gently exfoliating hard skin away. All of this is fine if you’re using it on a regular basis, but if it’s been awhile you’re likely to need something with a little more power. The Carnation rotator stops every time it feels too much pressure is applied, which can be frustrating, especially when your feet are as capable as mine are at withstanding some serious abrasion. For me nothing beats the Vitry rasp, with its simple ergonomic handle, well angled head, choice of grain and, importantly, my very own pressure gauge.”

Verdict: Nothing beats a good old fashioned manual foot scraper (+ some elbow grease)

Reviewer: Gemma Bellman, Managing Director

Philips DiamondClean Sonic electric toothbrush, £299, vs a manual toothbrush

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“Firstly, to point out the obvious, this is a very expensive toothbrush. I'm considering it a long-term an investment in my dental health and not a piece of beauty tech per se. This isn’t the kind of device you want to have to replace often, that’s for sure. I have always used a manual toothbrush and never had an issue, and my dentist even tells me that as long as you are using it properly, a manual toothbrush does the job just as well, as you have more control of the brush head. Despite this, I decided to put this electric version to the test to see if it would sway me.

“This toothbrush provides you with a complete selection of brushing options from straight up cleaning, whitening, polishing, gum care and a sensitive mode - who knew you could set your toothbrush to target certain areas? So far, so impressed. There’s also an automatic timer which buzzes after 30 seconds to prompt you to move on to the next section of teeth cleaning- pretty cutting edge. I actually started on the sensitive mode as the change of pressure from manual took a little getting used too, but now I mainly use the clean mode, and I can honestly say that my teeth feel as though every inch of build up has been blasted away. The one thing I used to hate the thought of was having to charge the toothbrush and what happens when you go away - do you lug everything with you? Philips has in fact nailed this concern by giving the toothbrush a good three week ‘lifespan’ after a single charge, plus it comes with a high quality case, which both stores your toothbrush and also doubles up as a charger. There is no denying that this is the top end of tech for your teeth and my teeth feel smoother, cleaner and thoroughly brushed after each use. Do you really need to shell out that much for an electric toothbrush? I'm not convinced that you can't get cheaper ones that do the job just as well, but this does live up to its claims, and then some.”

Verdict: I'm slowly using my manual brush less and less thanks to this powerhouse….

Reviewer: Sarah McGinnis, Art Editor

StylPro Makeup Brush Cleaner and Dryer, £39.99, vs washing makeup brushes by hand

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“If you remember Tom Pellereau from series seven of The Apprentice, you’ll probably be familiar with that curvy nail file he invented way back when, and as it turns out he’s still putting Sir Alan Sugar’s £250,000 business investment to good use. I’m imagining some kind of eccentric Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-esque toot-sweet factory set-up for beauty gadgetry, and this latest innovation is certainly pioneering. Essentially a kind of washing machine/tumble drier for your makeup brushes, the concept is based around a fishbowl and electric whizzer with attachments for different brush sizes. Add the supplied cleanser to the bowl alone to tackle foundation brush grime, or soap and water to clean powder brushes, slot the brush in question into a silicone ‘handle’ and attach that to the whizzy thing (technical term). Then slosh your brush about in the cleanser for five seconds, before turning on the whizzer and working out the dirt for ten seconds. After that, lift your brush above the liquid and turn the whizz thing back on for five seconds or so to turbo dry your brush. Et voilà, fluffy, clean and soft brushes in less than a minute.

“When you consider the time, manual labour and drying period involved in regular makeup brush washing, it’s nothing short of a miracle device, but there are a few glitches and hitches to consider. Some of my favourite brushes didn’t accommodate the rubber brush attachments, therefore the cleaning ‘power’ was greatly reduced and they kind of careered around the bowl with very little control. These brushes also didn’t get the blast dry treatment as the whizzer didn’t have as powerful an effect. There’s also a lot of bibs and bobs going on here- I can imagine them going walkies in my flat and then realising that I’ve lost a key Style pro component so will be compelled to use the cleaning bowl for actual fish or soup as it would otherwise be rendered redundant. Otherwise, if you’re organised yet time poor, and want instantly clean and fresh brushes, like, now, the StylPro beats the old skool, conventional method hands-down (technically hands free really).”

Verdict: For the brushes that fit, I’ll be converting to this for reduced brush washing faff. For those that don’t, I’ll continue with my usual Chinese laundry system of makeup brush washing (I’m a brush hoarder).

Reviewer: Anna Hunter, Senior Features Writer

Philips SC5370/10 VisaPure Advanced 3-in-1 At-Home Facial £199, vs the Hayou ancient Chinese jade Beauty Restorer

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“Even before I hit my 40s, I had quite deep frown lines – a classic case of stress face/screenface. No surprises either that I clench my jaw at night and grind my teeth. Being a scaredy pants, who has never had any kind of injectable, I have always found that a facial which uses quite strong massage the best thing for plumping and lifting. But in the absence of a facial masseuse on tap, I have turned to an ancient Chinese healing method called Gua Sha, which can be done on the face with a beautiful and cooling specially-shaped flat jade stone. I use the Hayou Beauty Restorer £35, a one-minute ritual that can be done morning and night with your face oil or serum (see video here ) and has been dubbed the “Asian face lift”.

By drawing a beautiful heart-shaped jade tool along the cheeks, forehead and chin, you create slight redness, which is said to be heat (stress) escaping from the body, but which also stimulates blood flow, massages muscles and drains away puffiness and toxins. In six months of use the tone of my skin has noticeably improved and my jaw muscles get their daily TLC, plus the hormonal spots on my chin just don’t appear any more, unless I stop doing it.

When I tried the newly-launched VisaPure Advance, developed by Philips in conjunction with facialist Chico Shigeta, it seemed to offer something very similar, the massage attachment mimicking the petrissage (finger tapping) technique she uses on her celebrity clients. The massage head, used for three minutes on the cheeks, gives you a lovely relaxing buzzy feeling that you don’t get with the Gua Sha, and the vibrating and cooling eye attachment (used for 15 seconds on each eye) produced a quite noticeable brow lift when Chico demonstrated it on one side of the face. She explained that it drains away the fluid that can make eyes heavy and droop. It’s brilliant for refreshing tired eyes.

Does tech trump ancient beauty tool for me? The fact that the VisaPure Advanced vibrates intensifies the effects, but the Hayou is something that I can have in my handbag if I need a midday refresh. Jade is naturally a cooling stone and resting it for a couple of seconds over the eyelids and under to eye is extremely relaxing. It’s shaped so that you can use it to rest on the pressure points between the eyebrows. Having spent all day on a screen, turning to something ancient and natural is a lovely antidote.

Verdict: I have both bits of kit in my bathroom, but I find I use the Hayou more (and I always take it travelling). I love the non-techy feel of it, the ritual, and used with a lovely face oil just makes you want to exhale and relax. But the VisaPure Advanced is definitely part of my beauty arsenal too and I was impressed, especially with its brow lifting powers.

Reviewer: Victoria Woodhall, Editor

Braun Silk Epil 9 Skin Spa, £197.99 vs a manual razor or waxing

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This is quite the sparkly multitasker: epilator, shaver, trimmer, exfoliator and body massage tool in one, it really is a 'skin spa'. As a high maintenance (beauty wise) woman who hates the admin of hair removal (but needs must) I wasn't sure I'd be sold on this. My usual regime is to rely on a Venus razor for legs, a Ministry of Waxing bikini wax and a bit of fragrance-free body lotion for my sensitive skin to keep dryness and irritation at bay. However, my legs could definitely do with a bit of TLC and actually testing this has made me realise I am guilty of neglecting them when it comes to looking after my skin.

Full disclosure, I decided years ago that epilators were the agonising work of the devil and something never to be repeated (bought one, tried it once, starting with the bikini line - I know, I know - and promptly ditched the idea) but, well, here I am... and I might just have had my mind changed. The epilator head on this is so fast and efficient that it really does not hurt (on the legs, that is - fool me once etc). It's like a fast but gentle tweezer and highly effective, especially with the help of the super bright light so you can see where you've missed anything. The razor, though, is probably my favourite part - so much easier to dry shave, without any irritation, if you're short on time; although it's worth pointing out the gadget can be used wet or dry. The shaver is brilliant for smoothing away any unwanted hairs and though it’s maybe not as close a shave as my trusty Venus razor, it didn't leave a stubble like I'd expected; in fact, I couldn’t tell the difference.

The real selling point with this is the 'spa' side, i.e. the exfoliating and massage heads. The exfoliation brushes are a good idea in terms of helping to keep ingrown hairs at bay (I’ll use them as weekly aftercare post-wax from now on), and they're not nearly as tough as they look - used wet with a shower gel it's as gentle as a light body brush, only less manual thanks to the spinning action. My skin was looking incredibly dry thanks to the change in weather and this really helped buff away any scaly patches, while the massage pad helped boost the circulation a little - I can't say I noticed a huge difference after use but I'd still use it just to treat the skin after all that buffing and smoothing.

Verdict: All in all, I'd use this for a more effective and faff-free hair removal method when it comes to my legs and enjoy the added skin benefits in between, though I’m keeping hold of my Venus for when I want a more precise shave. I’m definitely sticking to a wax when it comes to the bikini line, though. No epilator could convince me otherwise, even if it is sparkly and much cheaper in the long run. Once bitten…

Reviewer: Judy Johnson, Digital Editor

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