Our second year of making the most of too-much time spent at home has yielded countless products that promise to sooth our stressed minds and bodies. But the marketing around such spaces—cosmetics, skin- and haircare, and fitness, to name a few—is a minefield of meaningless buzzwords and pseudoscientific solutions. Our Personal Care winners represent some of our favorite exceptions to that woeful rule: These products harness everything from space-age physics to basic magnetism to offer genuinely innovative improvements to everyday life.
Grand Award Winner: A gym and personal trainer in an end table
Sound familiar? In 2019, we awarded Mirror for ushering in a new era of at-home fitness, with its luxe, reflective workout screen and the promise of personal training via its built-in camera. In 2020, we spotlighted the Tempo Studio mirror-and-weights system for fulfilling that potential first—providing targeted, AI-driven strength training for folks stuck at home. In 2021, Tempo slid the needle forward yet again with Move, a weight-training setup with a footprint small enough to be practical in even wee domiciles. Move replaces a pricey mirror with the LIDAR in the front-facing cameras of any iPhone equipped with FaceID. A cradle hooks up your phone up to your TV via HDMI, so you can see your body and weight movements in real time. The Move comes with enough plates to make each of its two dumbbells a 25 pounder, and the system recognizes how much you’re lifting to tweak your workout accordingly. Coupled with data from an included heart-rate monitor, the Move’s tracking capabilities, price, and form factor put strength training within reach for anyone with enough space for a yoga mat.
Lush lashes, thanks to magnets
Many mascaras promise to lengthen lashes with the help of buildable dark goop, and eyelash curlers aim to shape those hairs by physically crimping them upright. They’re Real! Magnet Extreme Lengthening Mascara does both—with the power of physics. A magnet-embedded wand swipes iron-oxide-rich pigment along lashes, tapping a mechanism called ferromagnetism to evenly carry the makeup where you want it to go. The result is a clump-less lash coated for big volume and gently hoisted upward for maximum length and curl.
Banish pesky flyaways in a single pass
When the engineers behind Dyson’s Supersonic hair dryer arrived at a photoshoot in 2018, they thought they were in big trouble. The model’s hair was damaged and frizzy. A stylist on set, though, gave them an idea: He held the model’s hair taught with a brush while blowing the nozzle of the blowdryer downward just so, and her flyaways slipped beneath longer strands. Replicating that process became a pet project of the engineers. The resulting Flyaway attachment harnesses a quirk of airflow called the coanda effect: the tendency for jets of air to stay attached to curved surfaces once they come into contact with them. In this case, the attachment’s nozzle slides down the hair shaft and draws strands toward it, which creates a downward flow that pushes frizzy bits below the main tress. The result is a smooth finish that even amateur hands can master.
The most discreet period tracker
While the Oura Ring Generation 3 offers a fairly standard raft of health monitoring features—from sleep tracking to activity logging—it represents a significant improvement in reproductive health. It monitors fluctuations in body heat to predict when users will start menstruating, up to 30 days in advance. Based on the well-established connection between body temperature and ovulation, the Oura Ring is a major step ahead of most available period trackers, which are generally just calendars that rely on user input. In the future, a similar device could bundle fitness tracking with fertility analysis to lower or raise the odds of conception.
A sex toy that learns what you like
Deciphering personal pleasure can take lots of trial and error. The Lioness Vibrator 2.0 offers a potential shortcut. The toy includes onboard temperature and force sensors, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope that all work together to track pelvic floor contractions—one of the most-accurate indicators of orgasm across sexes and genders. The device analyzes those movements in an app to visualize arousal in real time, and banks that info so users can check out trends, giving them the chance to pinpoint how different kinds of stimulation affect them.
Plant-based braiding hair
Natural hair can benefit from protective styling—the braids, twists, and other looks that tuck fragile ends away from cold winds, UV rays, friction, and other irritants that can cause breakage. For many, adding extensions to the mix is a crucial way to get length while keeping hair healthy. But human hair is expensive and can come from suspicious sources, while synthetic options are generally made of plastic, which is potentially irritating to scalps and definitely irritating to the planet. Rebundle’s banana fiber-based strands provide a great look and feel for protective styles, plus they biodegrade completely in a compost pile.
The first FDA-cleared, direct-to-consumer hearing aids
Traditional hearing aids cost thousands and require multiple trips to audiologists for fittings and follow-ups. That’s a problem worth solving: According to the World Health Organization, some 630 million people will experience hearing loss by 2030, and that number will hit 900 million by 2050. This year, Bose released the first direct-to-consumer hearing aid. For less than a thousand bucks, adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss can buy SoundControl directly. Even better, they can adjust fit themselves with included earbud tips, and can continually tune different frequencies using an accompanying app; a user could, for example, dial up the pitch of a conversation partner’s voice while keeping the tones of passing traffic at low. For now, the aids are more basic than medical devices—they can’t pick up phone calls or play music, for instance—but the tech marks an important step in making the world more accessible.
A NASA-backed skincare system
On its face, Droplette is simply an excellent addition to a skincare obsessive’s cosmetic regimen: Designed by MIT-trained female scientists, the Star Trek-esque device turns pods of treatments like collagen and retinol into a super-fine mist to help skin absorb the ingredients more quickly. Droplets 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair get that good stuff into a deeper layer of skin than a cream or serum could. With funding and support from the Walter Reed hospital, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA, the company’s ultimate aim is to use the tech to deliver drugs without needles. Research is currently underway to treat alopecia, battlefield wounds, and a painful condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa.
A fitness tracker you’ll never take off
The WHOOP is already a standout in the super-saturated world of fitness wearables thanks to its focus on recovery—a metric that taps sleep quality, athletic strain, and heart rate variability to identify a user’s ideal workout and rest days. The WHOOP 4.0 cements the company’s commitment to being a health-and-wellness conscience by making the device easier to wear 24/7. Its attachable battery pack is now waterproof, so users can slap it on to recharge even while bathing or swimming laps. WHOOP has also unveiled a line of tights, boxers, bras, silicone armbands, and other clothing and accessories to keep your 4.0 nestled against a useful pulse point no matter what.
A water-saving hair-washing system
The salon experience would be nothing without a luxurious scalp massage—and the hosing down that comes with it. L’Oréal’s new washing system aims to make that ritual a little more eco-friendly. A showerhead cartridge injects shampoos and conditioners by Kérastase and L’Oréal Professionnel directly into the waterstream, which ups the efficiency of the washing and lathering process. The sprayer also produces small, fast-moving droplets that make it feel like more H2O is flowing, allowing stylists to rinse clients out with less. The result cuts down on the wet stuff by 80 percent compared to a standard showerhead. A similar product for at-home use should roll out in the near future.