Nearly a year into the pandemic, our beauty routines have undergone a cataclysmic shift. As people shy away from elective cosmetic dermatology treatments and medi-spas, we’ve seen a boom in at-home devices claiming to deliver comparable results for a variety of skin concerns, from acne to visible signs of aging. But what are reasonable expectations for an at-home beauty device? That all depends on the clinical research behind the product — and these days, the bar is high.
“Consumers are getting smarter,” Rathi Srinivas, an MIT biotech engineer and one of the founders of Droplette, one of the buzziest beauty devices to hit the recent market, told HuffPost. “They want technology that holds up to claims as well as efficacy in engineering.”
Her Droplette co-founder, Madhavi Gavini, an MIT-trained therapeutics designer, agreed. “People want things that are painless and easy to use,” she said. “The adage that beauty requires pain is outdated.”
As people strive to replicate in-office or medi-spa treatments from their bathrooms, expect to see scientifically engineered products reshaping the market. But the question remains: Can at-home beauty deliver noticeable results? And with items costing up to thousands of dollars, are they worth your money?
Ahead, renowned dermatologists offer honest opinions on a range of innovative beauty devices at a variety of price points, from the accessible to the extravagant.
Claim: This device shrinks the molecular size of skin care ingredients into a micro-mist so they can better penetrate the skin. Addresses complexion woes like signs of aging, hyperpigmentation and texture. (The device works exclusively with Droplette capsules.)
Price: $299. Ingredient capsules sold separately.
Expert opinion: “I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t love at-home devices. There’s a lot of charlatanism preying on a vulnerable demographic, which makes me cringe. That being said, I like this device! It infuses active skin care ingredients into the skin rather than onto the skin, so they can exert maximal effect.” — Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a leading board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist in New York City
Claim: An at-home laser that uses clinical-grade light therapy to address acne, fine lines, pigmentation, scarring and reduce the signs of rosacea.
Expert opinion: “I like this one and have it in my home! It uses 500W infrared laser and blue LEDs, which kills bacteria. LYMA is different because of its breakthrough technology that diffuses the energy over a wider area, which makes it safe to use at home, even around the eye area, yet it’s strong enough to penetrate the skin and stimulate cell function.” — Dendy Engelman, a nationally recognized board-certified dermatologist and celebrity skin expert in New York City
Claim: An appliance from the creator of the Clarisonic, Dr. Robb Akridge, Opulus is designed to deliver packageless, single-dose skin care at high potency. (The appliance works exclusively with Opoule treatment and Opulus Activator.)
Price: Expected to be around $300. Ingredient capsules sold separately.
Expert opinion: “This device heats up capsules of retinol and increases dose strength daily. After a month, the skin should be ‘retinized,’ meaning that you are able to tolerate Vitamin A derivatives. This delivery system improves product absorption and also eliminates transfer of bacteria with the single dose approach.” — Engelman
“This brand-new device is a great tool, also known as the first beauty appliance that serves up freshly activated beauty ingredients at their peak potency.”— Michele Green, a leading board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City
Claim: A device that uses electrical currents to jumpstart skin’s healing properties, addressing fine lines, texture, elasticity and acne. (ZIIP recommends using ZIIP conductive gels with the device, but it is not mandatory.)
Price: $480, includes one bottle of crystal gel
Expert opinion: “This is a microcurrent massager which improves muscle tone, improves facial circulation, aids in lymphatic drainage and enhances product penetration by using a low level of electrical current to stimulate the muscles underneath the skin. You won’t see results from this like you would from a professional treatment, but it will help to maintain results between appointments.” — Engelman
“A great preventative and restorative product which can be used at home to maintain the results of in-office treatments such as Fraxel.”— Green
Claim: Using different types of LED light technology, this device targets a variety of skin concerns from acne to dull complexion and wrinkles.
Expert opinion: “LED has lots of research to support its effectiveness. This device specifically uses blue, red and near-infared. LEDs send these light waves deep into the skin to trigger natural intracellular reactions. Your skin responds to the wavelengths depending on what light wave you shine at it. If red, your skin responds by building, strengthening and maximizing cellular structure. Red light is also believed to target oil glands to reduce cytokines, which cause inflammation and play a role in chronic acne. In the case of blue light, specific wavelengths stimulate production of oxygen radicals that kill P. Acnes bacteria, all without damaging skin.” — Engelman
Claim: Delivers hydration to skin through a carbonated atomizer.
Price: $380, includes one skin mask and one gas cartridge. (The device works exclusively with the ReFa Jewel mask.)
Expert opinion: “This device is interesting and I’d love to see more evidence of the delivery system. We do know that carbonated water can help cleanse better than tap water because not only does nitrous oxide increase blood flow and nutrient delivery, it also better aligns with our skin’s pH. In theory, it may help with topical product application, but again, I would need to see the science.” — Engelman
“A great device that would complement in-office treatments such as Aquagold (a facial where a pro delivers a cocktail of Botox, filler and vitamins to the skin with needles) to help maintain results at home when you can’t see a dermatologist.”— Green
Claim: Uses microcurrent energy to plump, smooth and tighten skin.
Expert Opinion: “The technology is impressive and can be beneficial when used in conjunction with other treatments. NuFace Fix uses red LED light, which provides minimal heating which can stimulate collagen and is the next best thing if you can’t make it into the office for a treatment like Thermage.” — Green
Claim: Gently tones skin to target texture, fine lines and wrinkles.
Expert opinion: “According to reviews, this device gives the skin a nice glow. Its technology uses suction, pulling on the skin therefore increasing blood flow. The issue is if used incorrectly, this can also cause premature aging by pulling on the skin too much. You can destroy the fibrous band causing loss of elasticity.” — Green
Claim: Brightens skin for increased glow and reduction of hyperpigmentation as well as fine lines.
Expert opinion: “This product uses ascorbic acid and other free radical fighting agents, like glutathione and idebenone to brighten skin and reduce hyperpigmentation. These ingredients are anti-oxidant powerhouses. However, I am disappointed that I don’t see clinicals or research to back up the claims for the wand.” — Engelman