As a veteran beauty editor, not much makes me blink these days. You tell me this moisturizer will banish years of wrinkles, a magical eyeshadow is going to hide my heavy-lidded-ness, and the latest self-tanner won’t make me smell like burnt toast? I say, yeah…right.
But that critical, self-proclaimed sceptic is the very reason I sit up and take notice when a product truly does turn my head and performs as it promises. And I’ve had the great fortune of meeting three of them recently. In the spirit of pure transparency, I will share that two out of the three companies gifted me with product—but on the agreement that if I didn’t love them, I had no obligation to write about them. Trust me when I say that I want to write about them.
Problem #1: My Skimpy Eyelashes
I can’t blame this one on menopause, because I’ve had crap lashes my whole life. Yes, I use an eyelash curler; but there’s only so much that curler can do when it’s dealing with seven strands of hair. Here’s what I’ve tried:
- Lash-building mascara: I bought these fiber-stocked products early on—and found them not unlike wearing an angora sweater. Little bits of stuff kept getting into and irritating my eyes, which made whatever enhancement they provided null and void.
- RevitaLash: This over-the-counter lash booster does a good job of helping things grow, but at some point, it stopped working for me. They say lashes go through a growing and resting phase…apparently mine are exhausted.
- Lash Boost: This viral-marketing product has a cult-like following, and as far as I can tell, works similarly to RevitaLash. I didn’t have results to write home about.
- Latisse: This prescription-only formula costs a bloody fortune (like, $180 for a tiny 5 ml bottle), but it does work. As with Revitalash, its efficacy seems to have waned of late and it’s not quite giving me the lushness I want.
I wish I could tell you that I turned to this because I loved the company’s philanthropic commitment of donating a portion of every product purchase to great causes (like helping victims of abuse, cancer, etc.) But the truth is, I read a review (there are over 8,000 positive ones) and found myself typing my credit card number into the website faster than you can say, blink. In addition to ingredients that help stimulate lash growth and boost hydration and luster, this mascara contains “flake-free tubing technology”—a fancy way of saying that ultra-flexible, film-forming polymers hug each lash and then extend and thicken them so it appears you’re wearing falsies. Nothing moves; nothing lands in your eyes. But when you wash it off at the end of the day (plain old cleanser does the trick), prepare for weird bits of product to fall all over your sink. $24; thrivecausmetics.com
Problem #2: Unsightly Sun Spots on my Face
Known as melasma, and caused by a combination of UV exposure and shifting hormones (women often get these spots during pregnancy and menopause), these brownish, blotchy patches were becoming the bane of my beauty existence. Unless I wore full-coverage foundation (and even sometimes with foundation), they always peeked through. And going bare-faced—tan or no tan—meant my complexion was marred by blemishes.
Here’s what I tried:
- Over-the-counter spot-reducing products: I won’t mention brand names, but suffice it to say that these creams, tinctures, and ointments—no matter how expensive, or how medicinal-looking—were truly useless.
- IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Photo Facial laser treatment: This set me back a pretty penny ($800 if memory serves); and while it did cause the spots to crust over and then flake off like coffee granules, the treatment wasn’t permanent. Despite being vigilant about heavy-duty sunscreen, the minute I was exposed to the rays, my blotches came back just as noticeably as before.
My Rescue: Musely Face RX Prescription Skincare
Most really honest dermatologists will tell you that prescription-strength products are the only ones capable of actually doing a number on wrinkles and brown spots. But that means making a pricey doctor’s appointment, then paying prescription fees (which are typically not covered by insurance, since they’re aesthetic treatments). Musely has managed to make the entire process easier and more affordable: I simply went to their website and identified my culprits by taking a comprehensive online questionnaire.
I narrowed things down to “skin regeneration” and “melasma,” and two product collections targeted for my issues were recommended. The website then matched me with a board-certified online dermatologist who—for an additional fee of $20—reviewed submitted photos of my problem areas, and approved the necessary prescription.
To tackle my uneven, somewhat lined complexion, Musely sent me a collection ($82) of cleanser (super-pleasant lemon scent), a day cream, and a night cream—the latter of which contains prescription-strength Retin A infused with a soothing moisturizer. Some people can handle the flaking and dryness that accompanies initial Retin A use—I can’t, so I mixed mine with a pure, unscented moisturizer, and limited treatment to three times a week.
To deal with my melasma, I added the spot cream ($60) to my roster. After a couple of days of use, my skin looked like hell—red, angry, and blotchy. I sent photos to the dermatologist through the Musely app, which he evaluated , then wrote back to say that things would get worse before they get better. He was right. After two months, the combo of these products has been nothing short of a miracle: My brown spots have basically disappeared; my skin texture is noticeably smoother; and when I apply foundation, my complexion is almost flawless.
Problem #3: Fine, Thinning Hair
I’ve never had a luxurious mane. But menopause caused my already fine, see-through hair to take an additional hit; which is why I eventually turned to tape-in extensions. Wearing faux hair is convenient as hell; and the new extensions are so good that most people don’t know I have them; but over the long haul, it becomes a pricey undertaking. Prior to the tape-ins, I played with a few hair-growing products.
Here’s what I tried:
- Viviscal: These Scandinavian vitamin supplements are stocked with marine/fish-based ingredients designed promote hair growth. They’re expensive (about $50 a month), but seem to help reduce the frequent shedding that leads to thin hair.
- Rogaine for Women: I think I used this no more than two times before my colorist informed me that it monkeys with hair color, and that was a deal-breaker for me.
My Rescue: HAIRMAX LaserBand 82
God bless the folks in the HAIRMAX lab (and the FDA) who found that focused laser light treatments can stimulate hair follicles, reverse thinning, restore your hair’s natural growth cycle, and promote growth. To understand how this treatment works, picture an extra-wide plastic headband with little teeth to grip your hair, and a button that turns on intensely-bright red lights (no heat involved). Three times a week, I place the device on the crown of my head and hit the button. Medical-grade laser lights shine right down on my scalp, and 30 seconds later, the gizmo beeps, prompting me to move it backwards slightly so it can focus on a different spot. I move it three-to-four times. Then I’m done.
In two months, my hairdresser and I can both see strikingly increased density and thickness in the hair at my crown; but since the manufacturer claims maximum results are visible in 12 to 16 weeks, I believe even better things lie ahead. A couple issues to note: The laser tool only works as long as you use it; so this isn’t a permanent solution if you eventually throw the thing in a drawer and forget about it. But I doubt you’ll do that, because it’s also expensive. Like $799 expensive. However, if you knew how much I spent on hair extensions in the past few years, you’d understand why I see this as a relative bargain.