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10 Beauty Tools That Really Make a Difference

At-home devices and products that will up your beauty game

Woman using face roller
andreswd/Getty Images

Social media is buzzing with beauty gadgets that are pricey, potentially dangerous or often just plain wacky. And it’s easy to get excited about new DIY options that promise to improve our 50-plus looks or dupe salon, spa and dermatological treatments. But beware: Some beauty hacks and hi-tech tools can lead to infection or skin issues, and others are just a waste of time and money. (They’ll end up in a drawer, trust me.) Ignore the lure. Here are 10 things that can help your looks … with no regrets:

1. Foundation brush and sponge

(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender; Essence Makeup & Baking Sponge; NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation Brush; IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7
(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender; Essence Makeup & Baking Sponge; NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation Brush; IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7
Target; Ulta Beauty; Amazon (2)

You still apply face makeup with your fingers? The skin-on-skin warmth of fingers is ideal for applying moisturizer, serums, sunscreen, eye cream and primers. However, mature skin with all its nooks and crannies and textures needs a makeup brush and sponge to look authentic and fresh. Get a natural or dewy look fast with a rounded teardrop sponge like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender ($5, amazon.com) or Essence Makeup & Baking Sponge ($6, ulta.com). Dampen it, squeeze out the excess water and use it to apply “light” makeups like tinted moisturizer and CC or BB creams, or to sheer out foundation for a lighter look, to blot makeup that’s pooled in lines and creases, soften the edges of blush or bronzer and take the cakey edge off finishing powder. For a more controlled application when using liquid or cream foundation or to build up coverage in thin layers, use a soft dense brush with synthetic bristles such as the NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation Brush ($15, amazon.com) or IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7 ($30, amazon.com). Both are the secret to a pro finish.

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2. Styling dryer and no-heat rollers

(Clockwise from bottom left) Conair Self-Fastening Foam Rollers; DevaCurl DevaDryer and DevaDiffuser; Revlon Oval One Step Volumizer Plus 2.0 Hot Air Brush; Annie International Pillow Rollers-Black
(Clockwise from bottom left) Conair Self-Fastening Foam Rollers; DevaCurl DevaDryer and DevaDiffuser; Revlon Oval One Step Volumizer Plus 2.0 Hot Air Brush; Annie International Pillow Rollers-Black
Amazon; Ulta Beauty; Amazon; Target

Reducing your heat-styling routine with a dryer hybrid and super-soft heat-free rollers can keep dry, fine, thin, damaged, color-treated or chemically treated hair healthy. Choose a dryer/styler that works with your hair texture and style goals. For a sleek blow-out with oomph, opt for a hot air brush such as the Revlon Oval One Step Volumizer Plus 2.0 Hot Air Brush ($60, amazon.com) while those who want texture and curls can choose a dryer with diffuser attachment such as the DevaCurl DevaDryer and DevaDiffuser ($175, ulta.com). Supplement your blow-drys with cushioned no-heat rollers such as the Annie International Pillow Rollers-Black ($10 for a pack of 10, target.com) and Conair Self-Fastening Foam Rollers ($9 for a pack of 48, amazon.com) to restore body, waves or curl as needed … and comfy enough to sleep in overnight too.

3. A lighted magnifying makeup mirror

(Left to right) Flymiro Tri-Fold Lighted Vanity Makeup Mirror; Conair Double-Sided LED Lighted Mirror; Plum Beauty Compact LED Mirror
(Left to right) Flymiro Tri-Fold Lighted Vanity Makeup Mirror; Conair Double-Sided LED Lighted Mirror; Plum Beauty Compact LED Mirror
Amazon; Target (2)

Our faces have never been more visible to others and ourselves thanks to nonstop video calls and a slew of selfies. At 50, a lighted magnifying mirror is your new BFF for everything from whisking on eyeliner to tweezing chin hairs, dabbing concealer on brown spots and circles or slipping in your contacts. Choose a rechargeable or battery-operated style and a size, magnification and price to suit your needs. LED mirrors are more energy-efficient than the old electric plug-ins (though the latter do still exist!) and have a longer lifespan than traditional incandescent bulbs. Trifolds such as the stay-home Flymiro Tri-Fold Lighted Vanity Makeup Mirror ($20, amazon.com) and travel/office friendly Plum Beauty Compact LED Mirror ($8, target.com) have angled mirrors that allow you to see your face from front and side views plus detailed blowups, while large pedestal ovals such as the Conair Double-Sided LED Lighted Mirror ($45, target.com) swivel from 1X to 7X magnification. Don’t get caught up in too many bells and whistles — 10X magnification can be more of a terrifying hindrance than help.

4. Brow and pencil tools

(Clockwise from left) Revlon Brow Set; Anastasia Beverly Hills Makeup Pencil Sharpener; Japonesque Brow & Lash Shaper; Nars Cosmetics Pencil Sharpener
(Clockwise from left) Revlon Brow Set; Anastasia Beverly Hills Makeup Pencil Sharpener; Japonesque Brow & Lash Shaper; Nars Cosmetics Pencil Sharpener
Ulta Beauty (2); Amazon; Sephora

Many women neglect to update, edit or even add the real backbones of good eye makeup — brow groomers and pencil sharpeners. Though a swipe of tinted gel or painterly strokes with pencils and powders can help re-create fuller brows, you still need scissors and a spoolie such as the Revlon Brow Set ($15, ulta.com) to trim and groom hairs (guys can also use them for mustache/beard trims). Another essential is a multi-brush tool such as the Japonesque Brow & Lash Shaper ($11, amazon.com) to blend brow makeup for a natural look and separate mascaraed lashes. A dual sharpener such as the Nars Cosmetics Pencil Sharpener ($7, sephora.com) or Anastasia Beverly Hills Makeup Pencil Sharpener ($6, ulta.com), complete with removable cap to catch shavings, can handle pencils of varying sizes from chunky crayons to slim kohl liners, keeps all hygienic and makes makeup application pristine.

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5. Nail tools

(Clockwise from left) Olive & June The Poppy Manicure Tool; Trim 7-Way Color-Coded Nail Finishing Buffer; OPI Crystal File; Hawatour Nail Clipper Set
(Clockwise from left) Olive & June The Poppy Manicure Tool; Trim 7-Way Color-Coded Nail Finishing Buffer; OPI Crystal File; Hawatour Nail Clipper Set
Target (2); Amazon (2)

The best part of a manicure is the fabulous nail polish color, but what lies beneath? Nails change with age, often becoming prone to dryness, peeling, breakage or discolorations. Skip the gels and acrylics and update your tools to include ergonomically designed clippers such as the Hawatour Nail Clipper Set ($10, amazon.com) with a matte surface and elongated shape (easy to use even for those with arthritis); a glass file such as the OPI Crystal File ($15, amazon.com), which minimizes peeling and chipping; and a multitasking buffer such as the Trim 7-Way Color-Coded Nail Finishing Buffer ($3, target.com) to shape, refine, smooth the nail surface and polish them to a healthy rosy sheen. Want to do polish like a pro? Add Olive & June’s The Poppy Manicure Tool ($16, target.com) to any nail enamel cap to make polishing your “good” hand with the other a snap.

6. Wet hairbrushes and combs

(Left to right) Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross Wide Tooth Comb; Tangle Teezer The Fine and Fragile Ultimate Detangler in Mint; Kitsch Consciously Created Wide Tooth Comb
(Left to right) Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross Wide Tooth Comb; Tangle Teezer The Fine and Fragile Ultimate Detangler in Mint; Kitsch Consciously Created Wide Tooth Comb
Sephora; Ulta Beauty; Target

If a wide-tooth comb and detangling brush are not on your must-list, what are you waiting for? Both deal effectively with the biggest problems for aging hair — breakage, thinning and damage. All are exacerbated when hair is fresh from a shampoo. A wide-tooth comb such as the Pattern by Tracee Ellis Ross Wide Tooth Comb ($15, sephora.com) and Kitsch Consciously Created Wide Tooth Comb ($12, target.com) or a detangling brush such as Tangle Teezer’s The Fine and Fragile Ultimate Detangler in Mint ($15, target.com) gently unsnarl wet hair of any texture. Be sure to use a leave-in conditioner, and starting at the bottom, inch your way up, separating strands as you go. Hold the hair above the comb with the opposite hand to prevent yanking the roots. The result? More hair on your head, less in the drain.

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7. Face rollers and stones

(Left to right) Revlon Cool & Depuff Jade Stone Facial Roller; e.l.f. Skin Jade Roller; Zoe Ayla Gua Sha-Rose Quartz
(Left to right) Revlon Cool & Depuff Jade Stone Facial Roller; e.l.f. Skin Jade Roller; Zoe Ayla Gua Sha-Rose Quartz
Walgreens; Target (2)

These once-trendy tools are now as mainstream as lip balm. Even without the glamour of high-tech devices (see number 10), dual-head rollers such as the Revlon Cool & Depuff Jade Stone Facial Roller ($14, walgreens.com), e.l.f. Skin Jade Roller ($10, target.com) and gua sha stones such as the Zoe Ayla Gua Sha-Rose Quartz ($17, target.com) quietly but efficiently reduce puffiness while boosting your circulation with a rosy glow … especially when chilled in the fridge before use. Though aestheticians swear these facial massagers help with lymphatic drainage, there are more tangible benefits to using them. With a primed base of face cream or serum to enhance the glide, the massage relaxes and de-tenses frown lines, unclenches a jaw and tight facial muscles and produces a soothing, relaxing feeling of well-being.

8. A microfiber towel, silk pillowcase and scrunchies

(Left to right) Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel-Paisley Print; ZimaSilk 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase; Quince 100% Washable Silk Scrunchies
(Left to right) Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel-Paisley Print; ZimaSilk 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase; Quince 100% Washable Silk Scrunchies
Target; Amazon; Quince

Those bothered by frizz, a.m. bedhead and hair elastics that leave dents or require tension to work effectively can stop right there. A trio of tools (yes, these count as tools!) solve all. Use a microfiber towel or turban such as the Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towel-Paisley Print ($7, target.com) after every shampoo to absorb excess water (a regular towel roughs up the cuticle), cut drying time and prevent frizzing between shower and blow-dry. Sleep on a silk pillowcase such as the ZimaSilk 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase ($29, amazon.com) that comes in 32 colors and standard, queen and king sizes to keep hair smooth so no botched blowouts (or sleep creases on your face) by morning. And finally reduce stress and tension on your locks with silk scrunchies such as the Quince 100% Washable Silk Scrunchies ($20 for 3, onequince.com) rather than ordinary hair elastics for no dents, crimps or breakage — especially on fine, thin, processed or fragile hair.

9. Rechargeable electric toothbrush and floss picks

(Left to right) hum by Colgate Electric Toothbrush for Adults; Philips Sonicare 4100 Electric Toothbrush; Oral-B Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush; DenTek Triple Clean Floss Picks in Mouthwash Blast
(Left to right) hum by Colgate Electric Toothbrush for Adults; Philips Sonicare 4100 Electric Toothbrush; Oral-B Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush; DenTek Triple Clean Floss Picks in Mouthwash Blast
Amazon (4)

If you still haven’t upgraded from a manual brush, do it now for better oral health, fresher teeth and gums and an improved smile. Sure, there are cost differences but electric versions such as the hum by Colgate Electric Toothbrush for Adults ($30, amazon.com), the Oral-B Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush ($50, amazon) and Philips Sonicare 4100 Electric Toothbrush ($50, amazon) have automated two-minute timers (so you get back, fronts and tops for the full dentist-suggested interval) and pressure sensors ideal for sensitive mature teeth and gums. The vibrations or rotations do all the work gently but thoroughly, so those with recession or damaged tooth enamel can rest easy. Simply buy a refill head when it becomes frayed or misshapen. Supplement with floss picks such as the DenTek Triple Clean Floss Picks in Mouthwash Blast ($4 for 150, amazon.com) which are easier to manipulate than string floss and won’t snap or shred even between super-tight teeth.

10. High-tech skin devices

(Left to right) Vanity Planet 3-in-1 Sonic Beauty Face Roller; Jillian Dempsey Gold Sculpting Bar; NuFace Mini Facial Toning Device; LightStim for Wrinkles
(Left to right) Vanity Planet 3-in-1 Sonic Beauty Face Roller; Jillian Dempsey Gold Sculpting Bar; NuFace Mini Facial Toning Device; LightStim for Wrinkles
Target; Sephora (3)

Let’s address the elephant in the column — the new at-home tools — which claim to tackle a saggy jawline and wrinkles. Vibrating face rollers such as the rechargeable Vanity Planet 3-in-1 Sonic Beauty Face Roller ($40, target.com) or the battery-powered Jillian Dempsey Gold Sculpting Bar ($195, sephora.com) are great entry-level options with familiar benefits (see number 7). For a next-level upgrade try the NuFace Mini Facial Toning Device ($209, sephora.com), which uses microcurrent technology, or the LightStim for Wrinkles ($249, sephora.com), which uses LED technology. (Microcurrent uses low voltage electrical current to cause facial muscles to contract; LED uses light energy in specific wavelengths to boost collagen.) Consistent use is said to result in a subtle firming, but keep expectations in check — this is not a facelift. Remember that mature skin is typically thinner, drier and more prone to redness and sensitivity, so ask your doctor before diving in.