2014 Beauty Breakthroughs

2014 Beauty Breakthroughs

A potion that makes eye bags disappear. A lotion that makes you look younger in minutes. Self-tanner that delivers the shade you want on command. This isn’t a list of magic wishes being granted—it’s just a few of this year’s most exciting beauty innovations.

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Conair Infiniti Pro Curl Secret:

Pro Curl Secret

We thought it was a pretty big leap when curling-iron designers removed the clamp to allow us to wind hair around the wand by hand. Silly us: Conair has now changed the game by replacing the cylinder altogether with a rotating barrel that gently draws in hair and releases a perfectly sculpted curl seconds later.


First, set the temperature and time depending on your hair type: high (400 degrees) or low (365 degrees) and then 8, 10, or 12 seconds (depending on whether you want loose, medium, or tight curls). Next, clamp a small section of hair (up to one inch) at least an inch from the scalp, wherever you’d like the curl to start. A squeeze-activated motor then slowly feeds the hair around a heated ceramic chamber inside the tool. When you hear four rapid beeps, you’re done; release the handle and a curl drops down. (We recommend using the lowest heat and shortest time you can get away with, to avoid prom-ready spirals.) And there’s no need to worry about your hair getting caught: Try to feed in tangled hair or too big a section and you get an angry beep and the handles open up so you can remove the hair and try again.

Eau Thermale Avène XeraCalm A.D. Lipid:

Eau Thermale Avène XeraCalm A.D. Lipid

Most of us know what dry skin feels like: tight, a little rough, and begging for a good moisturizer. Then there’s atopic dermatitis. This condition, which causes chronically, catastrophically dry skin—think flaking, redness, and maddening itching—is caused by epidermal cells that can’t stop overreacting to environmental enemies, real and imagined. Sufferers never know when a flare-up will hit or how long it will last, and because it’s genetic, it’s hard to relieve no matter what they do (avoid the sun, skip fragrance, live in a bubble). Avène scientists discovered a microorganism in the mineral-rich spring water in all their products that not only calms flare-ups but reduces their frequency—something only a prescription drug has done before.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel:

Miracle Gel

Proving that laziness—not necessity—may be the mother of invention, Sally Hansen has developed a polish that addresses our laundry list of complaints about gel manicures. Long-wearing, chip-proof, and blindingly shiny they may be, but both salon and at-home versions have too many steps, require a tedious wait under special lights, and can be a bitch to scrape off. (We know, wah wah.) Sally Hansen’s new Miracle Gel goes on in two coats, dries in regular old daylight, and can be removed with the polish remover already in your medicine cabinet. Check, check, and check.


Like everyday nail polish, apply the two-in-one basecoat plus color and then follow with the topcoat. When daylight—or just the artificial light in your cubicle, for that matter—hits your nail, a chemical compound called a photoinitiator works like a teeny solar panel to capture the light and convert it into energy, says Ralph Macchio, chief scientific officer for global research and development at Coty, which owns Sally Hansen. This energy causes another molecule, an oligomer, to spring into action, linking the color pigments and topcoat together into one solid layer with a smooth, shiny surface. The polish is dry enough to let you dig around in your purse after five minutes, but the curing process continues for several hours, forming a far harder, stronger surface than regular polish. (The results are akin to firing clay in a kiln versus leaving it out in the sun to dry.) The superb color and shine last for up to two weeks; when we tested it head-to-head—or rather, hand-to-hand—the Miracle Gel manicure on one hand actually lasted longer than the salon gel on the other. And you simply remove it with regular polish remover, no nasty acetone soak necessary.

CoverGirl UltraSmooth Hair Smoothing Foundation:

UltraSmooth Hair Smoothing Foundation

Peach fuzz, baby hairs, down—there are ways to make a halo of fine facial hair sound better, but there are precious few ways to make it look better that don’t involve monthly trips to the waxing salon (or surreptitious passes with a razor). That is, until CoverGirl created UltraSmooth: a foundation that combines medium-coverage makeup with ingredients that soften and tamp down those pesky hairs so they lie flat against your face until you wash it off.

HOW IT WORKS: Wherever you aren’t hairy, rub it on like a regular base (fingertips or a sponge is fine). On areas with peach fuzz, smooth it on with the silicone disk provided—this gets the hairs ironed down in one uniform direction. Then the real magic begins: Glycerin in the formula attracts water into the hair shaft, causing it to soften and bend. (CoverGirl chemists liken this to uncooked versus cooked spaghetti; rigid strands stick out, but softened hair can lie flat against the face.) The next step is to glue those little guys down—and, more important, make sure they don’t spring back up—with a resin that forms a very thin film between the hair and skin. The resin also helps adhere pigment and spherical silicone particles (which throw light, and the eye, away from the fuzz) to the hairs, so they’re nicely concealed. The smoothing and blurring happen right away, so there’s no wait time, and it washes off as easily as any foundation.

M.A.C. Masterclass Oval 6 Brush:

Masterclass Oval 6 Brush

Don’t be put off by the fact that M.A.C.’s new tool for applying blush, bronzer, and even cream foundations looks like a big, hairy toothbrush. The silky synthetic bristles protrude at right angles from the handle so your hand is hovering below the area where you’re applying rather than obscuring your view of it.

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“This brush makes it effortless to see what you’re doing and how well you’re blending—or not,” says makeup artist Maria Verel. “No stripes or lines applying anything. It’s my new best friend.”

Julep Plié Wand:

Julep Plié Wand

Polishes get fancier every year, but until now, the bottle-top brush was always the same. Everything about Julep’s new wand gives you more control and stability: The long, tapered handle that rests in the crook of the hand is heavier than a regular polish cap; the brush stem is slightly shorter (so fingers holding the cap are closer to the nails); and there’s a joint about one inch from the base that changes the angle of the brush, so it can stick straight out or turn at a right angle to the wand—an option that makes painting with your nondominant hand dramatically easier. The brush is simplest to use with Julep polishes—a magnet clicks right into the tops—but you can also buy refill caps that fit in many other companies’ bottles, including Essie, Lancôme, and Deborah Lippman.

Formula X Press Pods:

Formula X Press Pods

Each of these travel-friendly, single-use polish capsules (about the size of a nickel) contains just the right amount of color for you to paint ten fingers or toes with two coats. Simply twist off the top, squeeze the bottle until enough lacquer soaks into the built-in brush, and get to work.

St. Tropez Self Tan Express:

St. Tropez Self Tan Express

One of the underlying principles of self-tanner has always been “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Wait however many long, sticky hours dictated on the bottle and you will end up with one particular shade of faux bronze. That’s it: Leave it on for a week and you won’t get any darker; wash it off early and your tan won’t be lighter—it’ll just be blotchy and short-lived. Control freaks, rejoice: St. Tropez’s new Self Tan Express lets you customize the depth of color for the first time. And you can rinse it off in as little as one hour.

HOW IT WORKS: The usual rules apply. Exfoliate, moisturize, apply. Now for the part that had chemists high-fiving each other: When the formula hits your skin, a thin solvent called dimethyl isosorbide does three novel things. First, it penetrates the epidermis layer very quickly, giving the active tanning ingredient (DHA) a piggyback ride into the skin so it can get right to work interacting with certain amino acids to produce a darkening effect. It also protects the DHA from breaking down, so more of it is available to get absorbed. And finally, the solvent helps the tanning ingredient disperse as evenly as possible. What this means is whether you choose a light tan (rinse it off after one hour), a medium one (shower after two), or the darkest option (step in after three), the results are consistent, predictable, and exactly what you ordered.

Jergens BB Body Perfecting Skin Cream:

Body Perfecting Skin Cream

If this isn’t the first time you’ve ever picked up Allure, then you probably already know a thing or two about BB creams. A quick refresher: They’re supercharged tinted moisturizers that hydrate, even out skin tone, protect from environmental damage, and usually treat a problem like dark spots, fine lines, or sagging while they’re at it. Jergens scientists figured out that the large swaths of skin south of our chin could use the same coddling and perfecting—and made a BB that does these things for the body.

HOW IT WORKS: Smooth it all over like a regular moisturizer, but don’t expect the same old boring results. Right away, hydrating ingredients like glycerin and petrolatum make skin softer, while shea and mango-seed butter moisturize and add a reflective sheen. A slight tint in the formula acts more like a highlighter than a body makeup (Light warms up skin with a peachy beige; Medium to Deep flatters with a rosy caramel hue). And once applied, it isn’t going anywhere: We rubbed a white cotton T-shirt on our arms to make sure. Tiny particles of silicone temporarily fill in imperfections like fine lines, small scars, and old blemish marks and scatter light to create a soft blurring effect. There’s also just enough DHA (even less of the active ingredient in self-tanners than what’s found in gradual formulas) to even out skin tone and give it a subtle glow. And Jergens’s chemists also added the firming ingredients found in their Natural Glow + Firming tanners, which may help boost collagen production over time.

Living Proof Neotensil:

Living Proof Neotensil

There are about a zillion eye creams out there to help with fine lines, circles, and dryness—but they all do exactly nothing for serious bags. We’re not talking about the tired-looking puffiness that can follow an all-nighter. Major eye bags are usually caused by fat pads that start to bulge as our facial muscles weaken with age. These suckers could only be disguised with injectable fillers or removed by a plastic surgeon—until scientists at Living Proof found a noninvasive way to flatten them out for up to 16 hours.

HOW IT WORKS: We’re not going to sugarcoat this: Getting these remarkable results is kind of a pain in the ass. First, you have to buy the Neotensil kit at a dermatologist’s office—$500 for a seven-week supply—so she can give you a demo of how to apply it. (If you don’t smooth it on correctly, it won’t last for the day.) At home, you prep under the eyes with a disposable wipe from the kit and use the applicator to smooth on a thin layer of the base followed by a layer of activator. Then you play statue for five minutes while it dries. A new technology with the space-age-sounding name Strateris starts linking polymers together to form a stretchy, invisible membrane like one of your great aunt’s doilies. As water evaporates from the formula, this film adheres to the skin over the fat pad and sets, continuing to cross-link and contract as it dries, flattening the puffy area. You’ll feel a subtle tightening immediately and have visible results in one to three hours. However, the formula really only works on mild to moderate fat pads—meaning they’re popping out but haven’t started to seriously droop yet—and you can’t use your regular concealer on top because it won’t stick. (There’s a Living Proof powder, available in five shades, that’s sold separately.) When you’re ready, you remove the whole extravaganza with the liquid and pads included in the kit, or you can wait for it to flake off after about 16 hours. Then there’s this little bonus: “We discovered that because the membrane forms a skinlike barrier, the dermis remains hydrated until you remove it,” says Betty Yu, vice president of skin and new-materials discovery at Living Proof. Clinical tests comparing Neotensil to the (heavy and often greasy) gold standard of moisturization, petrolatum, found that the hydration lasted a whopping 12 times longer.

Benefit They’re Real Push-up Liner:

Real Push-up Liner

There’s a reason makeup artists favor gel formulas when they want to create perfect winged eyeliner: They offer the densest color, have a lush, creamy finish, and stay on practically forever. Then there’s the reason we don’t: One false move with that tricky little brush you dip in a pot and you have what looks like a prison tattoo on your face (and it’ll be there until you scrub it off and start all over again). Benefit found a way to cram gel liner into the barrel of a klutzproof rubber-tipped pen that makes applying it foolproof for everyone.

HOW IT WORKS: At first glance, it’s just a liner with a pen nib. Big whoop. But there’s a reason it took five years to develop. Once chemists filled the barrel of the pen with waterproof gel liner (kind of easy) and fit the base of the pen with a small dial that twists to slowly ease the perfect amount of gel into the tip (a little tougher), the real challenge remained. Gel liner is much thicker than liquid, which is why you ordinarily need a brush to blend it along the lashes. Benefit’s engineers designed a latex-free rubber nib that spreads the formula just as effectively but allows for better control.

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The gel oozes out of a narrow slit in the skinny end of the tip; the wider base pushes lashes out of the way so you can get as close to the lash line as possible; and the rubber gives just enough drag to keep your hand steady. There are no rules about how to hold the pen, but in our experience, horizontal to the lash line gives a thinner line, while a more perpendicular angle makes it fatter. Either way, the payoff is excellent: It dries to a matte, pigment-dense finish within seconds and doesn’t budge. And although Benefit formulated a remover to take it off, we found that a cleansing wipe also does the job.


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