Some of these gadgets are so high-tech the Food and Drug Administration considers them medical devices, so approach the world of cosmetic gadgetry with caution. If a gadget has been approved by the FDA, it shouldn't cause damage if used correctly.
UCLA professor and past editor in chief of the Dermatologic Surgery journal; Dr. Edmond R. Hewlett, DDS, UCLA professor and consumer advisor for the American Dental Assn.; Kate Somerville, founder of the skin-care line that bears her name; and Dr. Carolyn Jacob, a cosmetic and laser surgeon, Northwestern University Medical School clinical instructor and director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology.
TRIA Laser Hair Removal System ($395, Triabeauty.com)
What it is: With looks that conjure a hand-held retro sci-fi weapon, this laser takes aim at unwanted body hair by targeting the hair's dark pigment and using heat to disable the follicle so hair doesn't grow back. The device is designed to work only on fair to medium skin tones (there's a skin color chart on the site) because if skin is too dark, a laser potentially could burn. And it doesn't work on gray, blond, or red hair. The TRIA website states that the device is not to be used on neck, face or genitalia.
The claim: "The TRIA Laser Hair Removal System is the only FDA-cleared home laser hair removal system that provides permanent, hair-free results."
Jacob: "The pros are that the diode wavelength has been shown to work. Also, if you're too dark, it won't let you treat yourself — it has a safety mechanism so that you won't be able to hurt yourself. The negatives are that it's a very small applicator size. We call it a spot size. It's pretty darn small, so if you were doing tiny little areas like … your underarm, that would be feasible. But it would really take a very long time to treat, let's say, your legs or your arms because that treatment spot size is so tiny. I prefer [it] as a touch-up device for people to have at home after they've had laser hair reduction at a dermatologist office."
Palovia Skin Renewing Laser ($499, Palovia.com)
What it is: An at-home anti-aging system with a device that pulses laser light into skin around the eyes. The user applies a gel, then holds the laser device to the skin around each eye briefly.
The claim: "The first FDA-cleared, at-home laser clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes."
Jacob: "This is a non-ablative fractional device similar to a very low-level Fraxel. ... The pros are you can stimulate some collagen, and for some people with very fine lines it's probably useful, but it takes many treatments. There is also some swelling after each treatment.... Also, I think that it could cause a lot of pain on the thinner areas of skin.... In the doctor's office, you have to have a topical anesthetic with a non-ablative fractional such as Fraxel. I've had it done on my chest before and, wow! That hurts! And you literally look like you have a light sunburn."
DDF Revolve 400X Micro-Polishing System ($95, DDFskincare.com)
What it is: Included in the box are the hand-held DDF micro-polisher tool, two foam-applicator attachments, a deep cleansing brush attachment, polishing crystals and batteries. For a microdermabrasion treatment, you're instructed to massage the crystals into the face with the micro-polisher tool with the foam applicator, then rinse and wash.
The claim: "A breakthrough device that delivers microdermabrasion results that are as effective as a professional treatment… After just one microdermabrasion treatment, see immediate improvement in pore appearance, skin tone and evenness, fine lines, skin clarity and brightness, and radiance."
Jacob: "I think it would help to unplug pores and remove dead skin cells, however it may be a little too rough for people with very sensitive skin or rosacea."
Somerville warns against possible post-microdermabrasion patches of hyperpigmentation developing with sun exposure.