Beauty... batteries included
The calm of the dressing table is soon to be disturbed by a new generation of gadgets, says Rachel Shields
Sunday 22 June 2008
With even the most gadget-shy among us now living with a slew of microtechnology, ranging from DAB radios to iPods and satellite navigation systems, it was only a matter of time before the beauty industry followed suit. Recent excitement about the latest batch of beauty gadgets – including the world's first battery-operated mascara – suggests that the average dressing table might soon come to resemble a laboratory test bench.
News that Estée Lauder and Lancôme have created a vibrating mascara has generated huge curiosity here and in the US. Meanwhile, electric headbands that claim to smooth wrinkles as effectively as Botox are proving a sell-out at Selfridges in London.
Firms insist that these beauty gadgets are not just labour-saving devices for women too lazy to wield a mascara wand unaided: they claim that cutting-edge technology has been used to give unprecedented results, justifying sky-high prices.
Estée Lauder's new mascara makes the vague promise of "a relationship between vibration, length, volume, separation and curl"; the makers of the Safetox headband claim that it reduces wrinkles by up to 83.3 per cent. Meanwhile, the Wellbox home massage system is being billed as a virtual elixir of youth, claiming to combat cellulite, erase wrinkles, perk up dull skin, and reduce sagging skin with just six minutes of massage a day.
While some may be sceptical about such promises, there are many who welcome these changes as the way forward for the beauty industry.
"You can't stand still in the beauty industry, and I'm certainly up for trying this vibrating mascara. It sounds fantastic – if it is battery-operated it might be able to wiggle along the lashes more and give a better effect," said Mary Greenwell, a leading make-up artist who has powdered the noses of the likes of Sienna Miller and Gwyneth Paltrow.
"Technology in make-up and skincare just gets better all the time – in the past 20 years it has been like going from night to day. People were shocked by things like Botox at first, but then they become the norm," she added.
With 6 per cent of UK women now opting for "preventive" procedures such as Botox every year, and society becoming less willing to accept physical imperfections or the ageing process, the development of extreme at-home treatments could be a natural next step for the beauty industry.
Impressive sales figures point to a growing confidence in high-end beauty treatments. The £1,000 Wellbox home system sold out in four days when it was launched in Harrods, despite receiving little publicity, and Safetox has been equally sought after following its launch in Selfridges eight days ago, with 17 of the £200 wrinkle-busters sold every day.
However,some medical professionals are sceptical about the effectiveness of such products.
"I doubt it would have a long-term effect. It would only work very short-term because your muscles would then return to normal," said Dr Nick Lowe, a consultant dermatologist.
"There is underwhelming data to suggest these things work. It is a trade-off – if they were more effective, then they wouldn't be safe to use at home," he explained.
Other popular products that have been launched recently include the £150 Zeno Spot Zapper, which claims to remove 90 per cent of pimples using infra-red heat, and numerous microdermabrasion kits, which can slough off the top layers of skin to reveal the peachy-soft complexion beneath.
Dr Lowe added: "Home chemical peels and microdermabrasion are growing in popularity at the moment, but the danger with these is that there is no way a person can know if they need it or not, and they could react badly to it, damaging their skin."
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