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PHOTO BY: David Crockett/Getty Images
En español | How many beauty gadgets and gizmos — aside from the glam makeup, creams and perfumes part — do you use every day? Two? Ten?
Whether you’re a low- or high-maintenance type, I’m betting that despicable square sitting on your bathroom floor is the beauty tool you use most. In my opinion, a scale is the one piece of equipment you need least. Why not let how your clothes fit take over weight-watching duty? Then skip straight to updating or adding a few truly beneficial game changers.
Ignore the social media hype: You do not need a $400 supersonic blow-dryer or an at-home microneedling device. Just review this checklist of 10 trusty helpers you may be ignoring and find the ones that will make every day a “looking good” one for you.
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PHOTO BY: Target/Tweezerman; Sephora/Kevyn Aucoin
1. A Really Good Eyelash Curler
If you’ve been skipping this extra step or are still using a vintage curler from 1995, stop and splurge on a new ergonomic one with cushy silicone pads (most brands come with replacement pads) and an extra wide opening that won’t pinch even hooded, deepest eyes or saggy, crepey lids. Look for a shallow arc rather than a very rounded lash bed that swoops the lash up for a natural wide-awake look. The design prevents that awful 90-degree crimp and lash breakage. One reminder: Always use a curler before mascara, never after, to avoid damage and a clumped look.
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PHOTO BY: Target: Tweezerman, Japonesque
2. Slant Tip Tweezers
Even if you use a magnifying mirror (hopefully, you do) or have the dexterity of a plastic surgeon, you need a tweezers upgrade. This handy tool is not so much for shaping and plucking anymore (we need every brow hair we can get at this point), but for nipping ingrown hairs, strays or icky random “mustache” or chin hairs. Modern tweezers have an upgraded grip, precision aligned angled tips and light-touch tension that makes grabbing stubble, invisible white hairs on the brow bone or downward draggy hairs at the outer brow a cinch.
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PHOTO BY: Urban Outfitters; Lululemon
Yep, these shirred fabric hair accessories are back and updated in softer, plusher versions that don’t leave ridges or apply dangerous tension to thinning, damaged or chemically processed locks. They also don’t leave us with a headache like skinny elastics often do. Best of all: They now come in chic neutrals, but also in sequin-studded silk, velvet, sophisticated bow-adorned versions, black leather and leopard prints! Scrunchies make even the thinnest, shortest ponytail or bun at the nape look chic … and Ruth Bader Ginsburg loves them!
My pro picks: Lululemon Uplifting Scrunchie Bow ($12, lululemon.com), Urban Outfitters Perfect 10 Scrunchie Set ($18, urbanoutfitters.com) and Scunci Soft Hold Mini Fabric Ponytailers in black ($5 for 6, cvs.com).
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PHOTO BY: Ulta/Tangle Teezer; Target/Wet Brush
4. A Detangling Hairbrush
No one likes seeing hair in their brush or drain, and hair washing days are the worst for this. Of course, the classic wide-tooth comb method still works, but combs take time and can snarl in curly, textured or wavy hair. The update is a “wet” brush designed to remove knots with no pulling or tugging, no breakage. Use the brush in the shower to distribute conditioner or a hair mask evenly after your final rinse. At the beach, you’ll love it post-swim. As always, start at the bottom and slowly work your way up.
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PHOTO BY: Target/Sonia Kashuk; Walmart/L'Oreal Paris
5. Makeup Pencil Sharpeners
Most of us wait until the pencil is a dull dud before panicking and looking for our ancient sharpener. If you use any makeup pencil that’s not a retractable rollup — for brows, shadows, eye and lips — you need new sharpeners. It’s a good idea to have separate sharpeners for lip and eye pencils to avoid muddying the colors and because the blades dull with age. The best ones now come with plastic caps that catch the peel shavings (they slip off to empty) and avoid a mess or finger cuts when you throw them in your makeup bag. Look for sharpeners with dual-size holes for regular and chubby pencils.
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PHOTO BY: Target/Lulu Beauty; Amazon/Esarora
6. A Cool Shower Cap
I know you’re thinking stinky, dated and not sexy, but we are washing our hair less often. Sometimes we want to protect a fresh blowout but also step into a quickie shower or take a long tub soak without worrying about the accompanying humidity and frizz. Shower caps have wised up from the old days. Look for fashionable turbans and caps in leopard, zebra, modern artsy prints and splashy florals with waterproof outsides and mildew-resistant linings.
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PHOTO BY: Target: EcoTools, Sonia Kashuk (2) ; Ulta: Real Techniques
7. 2 Makeup Brushes
Even if — like me — you prefer fingers for applying foundation, a classic foundation and concealer brush is a must. Look for synthetic bristles with a silky “wet” feel (not fluffy) that are tapered at the edge for blending makeup in crevices and creases like the inner eye corner, around the nose and in expression lines. A good concealer brush will have firm flat bristles and a smaller head of course. Avoid full flat-topped foundation brushes. Those are better for buffing broad areas if you tend to be heavy handed or use a full-coverage makeup that requires serious layering. My pro picks: EcoTools Classic Foundation Brush ($6, target.com), Sonia Kashuk Paddle Foundation Makeup Brush ($9, target.com), Sonia Kashuk Essential Precision Concealer Brush Gold ($7, target.com) and Real Techniques Expert Concealer Brush ($7, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Bed Bath and Beyond(2): J&D, Hot Tools; Amazon
8. A Smaller Round Blow-Dry Brush
Aside from the fact that your oldies probably have bent and missing bristles, they’re probably also too large in diameter for your current hair. If you had long hair and have chopped to a lob, bob or layered shag, it’s time to downsize to a 1.8-inch to 2-inch circumference brush that combines the best of old and new features. Those with boar bristles or a mix of natural and synthetic bristles and high-tech ceramic ionic technology (for faster safer drying) are lightweight and make blow-drying straight, wavy or curly styles with volume a snap.
picks:J&D Small Round Tourmaline Brush with boar bristles ($10, bedbathandbeyond.com), Hot Tools Pink Titanium Medium Porcupine Brush with boar/nylon bristles ($13, bedbathandbeyond.com), Care Me Round Hairbrush with boar/nylon bristles ($13, amazon.com).
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PHOTO BY: Sephora; Ulta
9. A Crystal Nail File
Still hanging on to those sandpapery emery boards? They are, in fact, cardboard with a sand coating, and they make filing in one direction mandatory and create rough jagged nail edges! Upgrade to an effective but gentle crystal file made from textured glass. Even fragile nails won’t peel, split or break easily, and the fine grit makes filing in both directions OK. Crystal files are nonporous and more sanitary than boards or metal files, they last forever, and they're made from recycled material. So, you’re good on the green-o-meter.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta/BaBylissPro; Nordstrom/Drybar; Bed Bath and Beyond/Conair
10. A Mini Detailing Flat Iron
Why expose your hair to a big hot flat iron — when all you need is a touch-up? If you have bangs, short hair, layers around the face or hair that goes wiggly at the roots (like it will if you have
a salonkeratin straightening treatment) put a 6- to 9-inch ceramic titanium baby version on your to-buy list.
picks:BaByliss Pro Mini Straightening Iron With Traveling Pouch ($30, ulta.com ), Drybar's the Tiny Press Compact Detailing Iron ($49, nordstrom.com), Conair True Glow Glam 0.05-Inch Ceramic Flat Iron With Pouch ($20, bedbathandbeyond.com).
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson.