The Best Beauty Gadgets That Are Worth the Money

Clarisonic, Silk'n, Chi, T3 and more.

Last year—inspired by Hadley Freeman's brilliant book The Meaning of Sunglasses: And a Guide to Almost All Things Fashionable—I wrote about Beauty Therapist Judgement. You know: it's the well-meaning but mildly insulting evaluation of your skin, feet, nails, hair or whatever body part your beauty professional is treating—usually accompanied by some stupidly obvious advice about what you SHOULD be doing, such as drinking more water or using foot cream.

If you hate this kind of thing, as I do—and yet still require some high-tech beauty maintenance—then you're probably a good candidate for one (or more) at-home beauty gadgets. Inspired by the devices used by dermatologists, hairdressers and other pros, you can now treat all kinds of beauty issues in the privacy of your own home, whether it's removing unwanted hair, smoothing out your locks or giving yourself an anti-aging light therapy treatment. Sure, it might take a bit longer to get the results you would from a professional visit, but they're definitely more affordable. Plus, you can maintain results yourself.

I've also gotta say: out of all the beauty swag I've tried and tested over the years, I freakin' LOVE my beauty gadgets. They've changed my life and I'm really not kidding. Here's the lowdown on which ones I recommend investing in—and then a few honourable mentions to consider.

The Best Beauty Gadgets: Worth Every Penny

Clarisonic Classic Sonic Skin Cleansing System

This puppy runs around $200 or so, but I swear it's a bargain. Hear me out: you'll never need to buy an exfoliator again (unless you want to top this up with a gentle hydroxy-acid one, possibly). Nor would you really need microdermabrasion (which I don't think is that great for your skin anyway, but that's another post for another day). It's basically like a giant electric toothbrush for your face, and MAN does it leave your skin clean and soft. I especially enjoy it when I need to remove copious amounts of makeup, or anything with silicone, which can clog your pores. In fact, it's advisable if you're prone to any pore-clogging or breakouts in general.

Fun facts: it's twice as effective as manual cleansing and six times as effective as manual cleansing at removing makeup. It will also help any topicals you're applying after cleansing (eg. retinol) to penetrate better, as they won't get shut out by a leftover layer of dead skin cells, oil or makeup. More info here. You can buy it at Holt Renfrew.

UPDATE: Clarisonic Mia Sonic Skin Cleansing System

A Twitter question (a Twestion) just came through asking about the Clarisonic Mia, which is a smaller (and cheaper—by about $50) version of the Classic. (See here.) I've never tried the Mia, but as far as I can tell, the only difference is the size, amount of charge it holds and the fact that it only has one speed instead of two. I never even use the two different speeds on my Classic, so if I were buying one now? I'd go for the Mia. Plus it comes in pink and yellow...

Silk'n Home Hair Removal System

I won't lie: this one costs a lot. About $800. BUT... so does laser hair removal, and so does waxing. I've dabbled in both over the years with mixed results. (Although if you're in the Toronto area and are looking for a good waxing lady, I have to send you to Beauté Par Zai, who I adore and who also has the best prices in town, hands down. Tell her Michelle sent you.) Anyway, as much as it hurt me to break up with Zai after years of bonding over hot wax, I had to try this device over the winter. (You can't use it when you have a tan.) You're supposed to use it every couple of weeks initially, and it works the same as a laser treatment—you just put the device on the treatment area and press a button to release pulses of light.

The verdict? Impressive. I'm still doing sessions—I've maybe done four on my legs and underarms so far—but the hair is now MUCH finer and softer, and takes way longer to grow in. I never experienced these results with waxing. And laser hair removal at the derm's office? No thank you. The last time I did it, back in '06, I nearly fainted. More info here. You can buy the device at SpaMedica in Toronto.

Chi Ceramic Straightening Iron

Okay, I know just about everyone has a flat iron by now—even though we're using them to curl instead of straighten these days. But I can't resist recommending my favourite. Chi was the original ceramic one and is still the very best, in my opinion. I've had mine for about six years now and it's still going strong. Get it at Trade Secrets.

NB: Another beauty editor fave (well, specifically my friend J.'s) is T3's version... but I find the temperature a bit too hot (although it's adjustable, I can never figure it out).

T3 Tourmaline Evolution Hair Dryer

Until I found this hair dryer, I struggled with various cheap-o versions that tended to emit l'eau de burning hair rather too frequently, and usually had a lifespan of about six months. Like my Chi, I've had this T3 dryer for at least five years now and I have no complaints. The main benefit of tourmaline dryers is that they reduce drying time (apparently by up to 60 percent), are less damaging and instead of roughing up your hair cuticle, leave your hair silky and smooth. More info here. Buy one at Holt Renfrew or Sephora.

Oral-B Electric Toothbrush

What's a gadget story without mentioning electric toothbrushes? What an invention. They just don't compare with manual toothbrushes: you get such a lovely thorough clean feeling when you use one of these, there's no going back once you've tried one. Oral-B makes a version with a built-in timer (you know you're supposed to brush for at least two minutes each time, right?). At drugstores.

The Best Beauty Gadgets: Honourable Mentions

Zeno Blemish Clearing Device

As I mentioned in this post, Zeno has since introduced a 2.0 version of their original zit-zapping device, but they both work along the same premise: you hold it to the pimple for 2.5 minutes while it heats up to destroy bacteria. (There's also a cold sore version.) Note, however, that you need to use it at the first sign of the pimple, and it might not work on all types of acne (eg. cystic acne). It's worth checking out if you need to deal with the occasional pimple... but to be completely honest, I prefer this next product:


This is another acne-clearing device, and it works similarly to Zeno. Why do I like it better? Because you only have to hold it to your skin for a second or two, versus 2.5 minutes per pimple with Zeno. (The zap is a bit intense, but nothing unbearable.) It also doesn't require replacement cartridges—while the Zeno does (and they can get really expensive). Again, try it with the caution that it might not work on severe types of acne. More details here. At Sephora.

Baby Quasar LED Light Therapy

This is a light therapy device that treats your skin with various wavelengths of light in order to help with concerns like fine lines, skin tone and acne. It takes a good half hour to complete a treatment as you pass the device over the various quadrants of your face. (It doesn't hurt at all though.) When you're first starting out with it, you're supposed to do the treatment every day and then gradually move to maintenance sessions once or twice a week. But that's been my downfall: I just haven't been able to make the time commitment yet to using this often enough to see results. Yep, I'm a slacker. If you've tried it, let me know! The device is $400+ and you can buy it here.

Tanda Skincare System

This one—which I do have at home...somewhere—is similar to the Baby Quasar in that it treats with different wavelengths of light. There are actually two heads: blue for acne and red for anti-aging. I must confess that I haven't got around to trying this one yet either. Have you? Let me know! It's available at Shoppers Drug Mart and Sephora.

So tell me: what's YOUR favourite beauty gadget? I'd love to hear if you've had any successes with any of these... or if there's anything you're dying to try!

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