In this age of technology, it feels like there’s an option out there to meet anyone’s needs at any time. Our entire identities are in a cell phone and you can get salads from a vending machine at the airport — the machines are beep-booping harder than ever, and no corner of the beauty world has seen that more than skin care. More than a decade after Clarisonic (RIP) meant we didn’t have to use our hands to wash our face, there’s pretty much a technological device for everything: serums, dermaplaning, microcurrents, and more.
Of course, technology has never been cheap, and buying a device that may not even work for you can be an expensive risk to take. With the market becoming more saturated than ever, it’s fair to wonder which ones are worth the run to Sephora, and which ones are fine to keep on your wish list. Here, I tested six skin-care tools to help you decide if they’re worth your hard-earned money (and having yet another power cord to add to your collection).
Before I began testing, I created a five-point scale of four main factors on which to judge each device: Price, Convenience, Ease of Use, and Efficacy/Results.
Price is rather obvious (some of these tools are mad expensive), while Convenience is about the extra stuff that comes with it — what is the charger like? Does it come with its own cube/charging port? USB or magnets? USB-C or a little pokey thing? All important considerations. Ease of use is, essentially, could a caveman figure out how to use this at first glance, and what is the friction that may cause a user to find it too much of a hassle, (like single-use capsules)? Lastly, efficacy: Does it actually work as it claims, when do you see effects, how long do they last? All four of these scores, on a scale from 1-5, are added up to a score out of 20 beep-boop machines.
So, How Are These Skin-Care Tools, Really?
Recommended for: Facial contouring, tightening, and lifting.
My thoughts: I had the original NuFace for years and left it charging on my desk for so long I’m pretty sure it just ceased to exist, because I can’t find it anywhere. I was skeptical when I used it in the past, but honestly, this tool is dope. Basically, the NuFace Mini+ Facial Toning Device uses microcurrents (tiny currents of electricity) to reach three depths of skin and muscle to help visibly tighten and lift your skin. The brand promises a visibly defined facial contour within two months of continued use.
I tested one side of my face with this device, walked away, and came back to look in the mirror visibly stricken by the difference in the sides after just one use. And I was using it on the lowest setting and admittedly kind of half-assing my application — I can likely use a higher one next time because my skin is somewhat resilient. Is it expensive? Yes, and I would only recommend it to someone who will both use it on a regular basis and has specific skin appearance goals in mind. I wouldn’t call this the device for beginners to skin care, but I would absolutely recommend it for someone who wants to upgrade from their gua sha and facial sculpting tool to something a little more high-tech, or if someone wants a sculpted look but isn’t into a procedure like fillers or Botox to get there.
Scoring: Price, 2/5; Convenience, 4/5 (comes with its own charger, but that charger is clunky — though it’s easy to find because it’s brand-labeled instead of just another random USB cord!); Ease of Use, 2/5 (you must use a microcurrent activating serum that the brand sells with the product); Efficacy/Results, 4.5/5 (both instantaneous and long-term? Dope.)
Total Score: 12.5/20
Recommended for: True skin-care nerds who want a glimpse of the future.
My thoughts: Refinery29's beauty director, Sara Tan, loves her Droplette so much I had to try it out myself. The Droplette looks kind of like a computer mouse or a Bluetooth speaker, but it’s actually a device that turns serums into a micro mist to penetrate deeper into the skin than a topical application usually would, without the use of needles.
It admittedly took a few uses for me to really understand how the Droplette worked and what it was doing. My instant-gratification brain expected to feel more product, or to feel some sort of moisture from the mist, but I really didn’t. However, one three-martini night led to me only washing my face and brushing my teeth — I couldn’t be bothered to get into applying all of my serums and whatnot (I keep a moisturizer next to my bed, calm down). But I did have the energy to mist my face with the Droplette collagen capsules before bed, and that’s when I got it. The next day my skin not only looked amazing, but was pillowy soft to the touch.
This hasn’t replaced my active skin-touching routine every night, but for those nights when I just want to faceplant into bed, it’s perfect. It’s pricey, however — the second most expensive product I tried — so this is absolutely a tool for someone who will use it. I haven’t tried the lip capsules yet, but as someone with nearly perpetually dry lips, I can’t wait.
Scoring: Price, 1/5; Convenience, 3/5 (comes with its own home base and charger, but this absolutely is a display piece and takes up space); Ease of Use, 3/5 (you must use the brand’s proprietary capsule serums, but they’re refillable and come with a cleaning capsule as well); Efficacy/Results: 4/5
Total Score: 11/20
Recommended for: People who want to freak out their family members while also improving their skin.
My thoughts: Everyone knows this LED mask, but I don’t think I know anyone who has tried it for long enough to have a broad statement on it. I love Dr. Dennis Gross peel pads (especially the body ones), so I was excited to see how this LED device targets wrinkles and blemishes on the face in apparently just three minutes. The mask uses 100 red LED lights to support the production of collagen and visibly reduce wrinkles and 62 blue LED lights to target acne-causing bacteria and help prevent future breakouts, with most effects being shown after ten weeks.
I don’t have 1/5th of a year to show my full results, but I used this once a day for about two weeks on the third setting — the pink, which mixes the red and blue LED lights — and I can say I definitely saw… something. Not a lot, but something. I had my yearly pimple attempt to show its ugly head, and after sitting under these lights, it scurried away like a groundhog. That said, I had to charge it constantly, and don’t even get me started on the head strap because I gave up on it so fast. I have a small head and even then it was a bit claustrophobic, so this may not be for my big-headed friends.
Scoring: Price, 1/5; Convenience, 2/5 (head strap + charger + carrying case is a lot); Ease of Use, 4/5 (the auto shut-off after the three minutes is nice, plus you can pretty much do use this anywhere); Efficacy/Results, 2/5
Total Score: 9/20
Recommended for: Everyone. Literally.
My thoughts: If you want a Droplette but don’t necessarily need the serums (or have the funds), or are just looking for an on-the-go mist option that isn’t in a bottle, I give you Jenny Patinkin. This Facial Hydration Tool is basically an auto-mister: You fill it with distilled water with a provided dropper and then it slides open and shut, giving you a light micro-mist of moisture. It’s great for just dropping in your purse and having it on hand any time. Because the molecules are so tiny, you don’t have to worry about looking like a drowned rat if you’re using it in public, or even accidentally misting the row of seats behind if you use it on a plane — you’ll just feel hydrated.
It’s easily the most simple and straightforward of all the items I tried here, but sometimes simple is best, even when it comes to tech. I can’t wait to give this as a gift for the holidays to my friends who constantly complain about their dry skin.
Scoring: Price, 5/5; Convenience, 4/5 (it’s basically the size of a TV remote, therefore as easy to lose as a TV remote, and requires you to provide your own charging brick); Ease of Use, 4/5 (you can only use distilled water but it comes with a tiny dropper with a cap for both easy filling and to store extra water for later); Efficacy/Results, 4/5
Total Score: 17/20
Recommended for: Dermaplaning lovers and those who want smooth skin texture.
My thoughts: Up until recently, I was terrified of dermaplaning. I even met with the Dermaflash team, who walked me through how to use the tool, and it still sat in my closet for months because I was so scared of destroying a layer of my skin. But one day, I finally got around to it, and now my bi-weekly dermaplane/brow tint sessions are my favorite part of Sunday (other than the time I get to spend with my husband Kendall Roy on Succession).
I’ll say this: DERMAFLASH is very good at what it does, but it’s almost like a rice cooker. If you’re not making a ton of rice all the time, you can likely just make rice in a pot, but damn, does a rice cooker make things just a bit more convenient. DERMAFLASH makes a point to say that this is more than just a facial razor or a professional-grade scalpel, but a tool designed to exfoliate the skin while removing peach fuzz and dead skin. The DERMAFLASH Luxe+ comes with a USB charging cable and charging base, four single-use blades, and a LUXE+ Replenishment kit with a cleanser and moisturizer. The most difficulty I had was with actually getting the razor onto the silicone handle — it did not want to come out of its carrying case. But once I figured it out, I got to my feather-light scraping, and 10 minutes later had a new face (kind of).
This can definitely replace your other physical exfoliators, but what I really balk at is the price. The device itself, with all the essential tools, is $199, and the brand recommends using it once a week — meaning you need a replacement blade once every four weeks, which is $29 for a pack of four, or $26.10 for a subscription. That is basically more than the device itself if used for a year. But in the same vein, if you’re spending $70 extra on average for a dermaplaning upgrade on your monthly facial, this is still a cheaper deal.
Scoring: Price, 2/5 (you can get 40 5-packs of facial razors for the same amount); Convenience, 3/5 (it comes with its own charger and home base, but someone in your life is going to think this is a vibrator); Ease of Use, 4/5 (it’s relatively straightforward, but still a bit confusing at first glance); Efficacy/Results, 4.5/5
Total Score: 13.5/20
My thoughts: When it comes to the most viral skin-care products, I am always a skeptic. Knowing what is good (for me) and what is the hive mind really takes a lot of discernment. I wanted so deeply to not love the Solawave, but the hype is real. If you want something between the Nuface and the DDG mask, this hits on the best of both worlds. Promising to reduce the appearance of fine lines, blemishes, and puffiness in two weeks, this tool (which kind of looks like a giant IUD) really does the work.
My main issue is that the Solawave is a little too easy to use: Gliding the vibrating wand with the conductor gel across your face in an upward motion is fun. The brand recommended to use it for five minutes a day three times a week — using too much red light therapy isn’t a bad thing, but I’m a rule follower, and it is so tactically satisfying, you’ll want to do it all day.
Scoring: Price, 3/5; Convenience, 3/5 (it doesn’t use a universal charging USB port like some of the others I tried, meaning if you lose that charger cord, you have to buy a replacement); Ease of Use, 4/5: Efficacy/Results, 4.5/5
Total Score: 14.5/20
shop 6 products
My big takeaway is that, even when it comes to technological advancements for better skin, it’s still best to keep things simple and effective, which is why the Jenny Patinkin Facial Hydration Tool got the highest score. If you’re not going to commit to using a facial tool regularly, it’s probably not worth your money or time. But if you are, there are so many options for a wide array of people to achieve their skin-care goals — especially if you’re a misting fiend.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.