Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silk’n, Chi, T3 and more

best beauty gadgets, ThermaClear, Zeno Blemish Clearing Device, Baby Quasar LED Light Therapy, Tanda Skincare System, Oral-B Electric Toothbrush, T3 Tourmaline Evolution Hair Dryer, Chi Ceramic Straightening Iron, Silk'n SensEpil Home Hair Removal, Clarisonic Classic Sonic Skin Cleansing System

Last year—inspired by Hadley Freeman’s brilliant book The Meaning of Sunglasses: And a Guide to Almost All Things Fashionable—I wrote about Beauty Therapist Judgement. You know: it’s the well-meaning but mildly insulting evaluation of your skin, feet, nails, hair or whatever body part your beauty professional is treating—usually accompanied by some stupidly obvious advice about what you SHOULD be doing, such as drinking more water or using foot cream.

If you hate this kind of thing, as I do—and yet still require some high-tech beauty maintenance—then you’re probably a good candidate for one (or more) at-home beauty gadgets. Inspired by the devices used by dermatologists, hairdressers and other pros, you can now treat all kinds of beauty issues in the privacy of your own home, whether it’s removing unwanted hair, smoothing out your locks or giving yourself an anti-aging light therapy treatment. Sure, it might take a bit longer to get the results you would from a professional visit, but they’re definitely more affordable. Plus, you can maintain results yourself.

I’ve also gotta say: out of all the beauty swag I’ve tried and tested over the years, I freakin’ LOVE my beauty gadgets. They’ve changed my life and I’m really not kidding. Here’s the lowdown on which ones I recommend investing in—and then a few honourable mentions to consider.

The Best Beauty Gadgets: Worth Every Penny

Clarisonic Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and moreClarisonic Classic Sonic Skin Cleansing System

This puppy runs around $200 or so, but I swear it’s a bargain. Hear me out: you’ll never need to buy an exfoliator again (unless you want to top this up with a gentle hydroxy-acid one, possibly). Nor would you really need microdermabrasion (which I don’t think is that great for your skin anyway, but that’s another post for another day). It’s basically like a giant electric toothbrush for your face, and MAN does it leave your skin clean and soft. I especially enjoy it when I need to remove copious amounts of makeup, or anything with silicone, which can clog your pores. In fact, it’s advisable if you’re prone to any pore-clogging or breakouts in general.

Fun facts: it’s twice as effective as manual cleansing and six times as effective as manual cleansing at removing makeup. It will also help any topicals you’re applying after cleansing (eg. retinol) to penetrate better, as they won’t get shut out by a leftover layer of dead skin cells, oil or makeup. More info here. You can buy it at Holt Renfrew.

UPDATE: Clarisonic Mia Sonic Skin Cleansing System

A Twitter question (a Twestion) just came through asking about the Clarisonic Mia, which is a smaller (and cheaper—by about $50) version of the Classic. (See here.) I’ve never tried the Mia, but as far as I can tell, the only difference is the size, amount of charge it holds and the fact that it only has one speed instead of two. I never even use the two different speeds on my Classic, so if I were buying one now? I’d go for the Mia. Plus it comes in pink and yellow…

silkn 255x300 Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and moreSilk’n Home Hair Removal System

I won’t lie: this one costs a lot. About $800. BUT… so does laser hair removal, and so does waxing. I’ve dabbled in both over the years with mixed results. (Although if you’re in the Toronto area and are looking for a good waxing lady, I have to send you to Beauté Par Zai, who I adore and who also has the best prices in town, hands down. Tell her Michelle sent you.) Anyway, as much as it hurt me to break up with Zai after years of bonding over hot wax, I had to try this device over the winter. (You can’t use it when you have a tan.) You’re supposed to use it every couple of weeks initially, and it works the same as a laser treatment—you just put the device on the treatment area and press a button to release pulses of light.

The verdict? Impressive. I’m still doing sessions—I’ve maybe done four on my legs and underarms so far—but the hair is now MUCH finer and softer, and takes way longer to grow in. I never experienced these results with waxing. And laser hair removal at the derm’s office? No thank you. The last time I did it, back in ’06, I nearly fainted. More info here. You can buy the device at SpaMedica in Toronto.

Chi Ceramic Straightening Iron

Okay, I know just about everyone has a flat iron by now—even though we’re using them to curl instead of straighten these days. But I can’t resist recommending my favourite. Chi was the original ceramic one and is still the very best, in my opinion. I’ve had mine for about six years now and it’s still going strong. Get it at Trade Secrets.

NB: Another beauty editor fave (well, specifically my friend J.’s) is T3′s version… but I find the temperature a bit too hot (although it’s adjustable, I can never figure it out).

t3 hairdryer Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and more

T3 Tourmaline Evolution Hair Dryer

Until I found this hair dryer, I struggled with various cheap-o versions that tended to emit l’eau de burning hair rather too frequently, and usually had a lifespan of about six months. Like my Chi, I’ve had this T3 dryer for at least five years now and I have no complaints. The main benefit of tourmaline dryers is that they reduce drying time (apparently by up to 60 percent), are less damaging and instead of roughing up your hair cuticle, leave your hair silky and smooth. More info here. Buy one at Holt Renfrew or Sephora.

oral b triumph smart guide Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and more

Oral-B Electric Toothbrush

What’s a gadget story without mentioning electric toothbrushes? What an invention. They just don’t compare with manual toothbrushes: you get such a lovely thorough clean feeling when you use one of these, there’s no going back once you’ve tried one. Oral-B makes a version with a built-in timer (you know you’re supposed to brush for at least two minutes each time, right?). At drugstores.

The Best Beauty Gadgets: Honourable Mentions

Zeno Blemish Clearing Device

As I mentioned in this post, Zeno has since introduced a 2.0 version of their original zit-zapping device, but they both work along the same premise: you hold it to the pimple for 2.5 minutes while it heats up to destroy bacteria. (There’s also a cold sore version.) Note, however, that you need to use it at the first sign of the pimple, and it might not work on all types of acne (eg. cystic acne). It’s worth checking out if you need to deal with the occasional pimple… but to be completely honest, I prefer this next product:

thermaclear device 402x1024 Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and more


This is another acne-clearing device, and it works similarly to Zeno. Why do I like it better? Because you only have to hold it to your skin for a second or two, versus 2.5 minutes per pimple with Zeno. (The zap is a bit intense, but nothing unbearable.) It also doesn’t require replacement cartridges—while the Zeno does (and they can get really expensive). Again, try it with the caution that it might not work on severe types of acne. More details here. At Sephora.

baby quasar Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and moreBaby Quasar LED Light Therapy

This is a light therapy device that treats your skin with various wavelengths of light in order to help with concerns like fine lines, skin tone and acne. It takes a good half hour to complete a treatment as you pass the device over the various quadrants of your face. (It doesn’t hurt at all though.) When you’re first starting out with it, you’re supposed to do the treatment every day and then gradually move to maintenance sessions once or twice a week. But that’s been my downfall: I just haven’t been able to make the time commitment yet to using this often enough to see results. Yep, I’m a slacker. If you’ve tried it, let me know! The device is $400+ and you can buy it here.

tanda 300x300 Best beauty gadgets: Clarisonic, Silkn, Chi, T3 and more

Tanda Skincare System

This one—which I do have at home…somewhere—is similar to the Baby Quasar in that it treats with different wavelengths of light. There are actually two heads: blue for acne and red for anti-aging. I must confess that I haven’t got around to trying this one yet either. Have you? Let me know! It’s available at Shoppers Drug Mart and Sephora.

So tell me: what’s YOUR favourite beauty gadget? I’d love to hear if you’ve had any successes with any of these… or if there’s anything you’re dying to try!


Friday, March 26/2010 at 12:13 pm

I think I’m the minority here that didn’t like the T3 hairdryer, I returned mine because it kept on overheating. The CHI is fantastic I’ve had mine for about 7 years & just recently got a new flat iron that is I admit a bit better. Hana Elite, review to come!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, March 26/2010 at 12:40 pm

That’s funny you say that because I had a travel version of the T3 that I had to exchange because of that same reason. (The new one is fine.) I wonder if some of them have a defect.

Interested to hear about Hana Elite! Although I should not be in the market for a new flat iron… if/when the Chi bites the bullet I still have like 5 or 6 others in my stash. Disgusting I know.


Andrea Claire
Friday, March 26/2010 at 12:57 pm

I always love your blogs!

I just had to tell you – my CHI died. LOVED it- you can straighten, flip, curl – EVERY hairdo can be done with this amazing iron. How did mine die? I was shooting and I sat my CHI on the cement ground to work on the model’s hair – the heat from the iron was absorbed into the ground creating a massive heat source and my CHI literally melted into a pool of plastic. RIP CHI. Lesson learned – carry around a hotpad.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, March 26/2010 at 5:34 pm

OMG! Poor Chi. RIP!

The fact that you endorse it as well is awesome! Take note, readers… Andrea knows of what she speaks!


Home Hair Remover
Friday, March 26/2010 at 4:22 pm

Wow, close to my list!!!
Nice post :)


Monday, March 29/2010 at 11:17 am

Would you consider doing a post on the best beauty video tutorials out there? I guess I’m just uncoordinated or something, but I can’t, for the life of me, get the hang of curling with my (also, beloved CHI) flat iron.

And, I’m totally calling Zai! Thanks for the reco!


Monday, March 29/2010 at 1:14 pm

I can’t believe you’ve had a T3 dryer for 5 years. That is awesome. I had to start buying my hair dryers at Costco so I can return them when they break. I am going to look into this.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, March 29/2010 at 2:30 pm

Kelly, bear in mind that I don’t blow dry every day… in fact it’s more like once a week! Since I work from home I try to let it air dry as much as possible, and then use either a flat iron or my trusty Kevin Murphy rollers (or nothing at all…I’m quite lazy).

Anupa – great post idea! I posted a flat iron curling tutorial here:
But I should probably do a more comprehensive how-to post. Added to the editorial calendar!
PS – let me know how you do with Zai!!!


Tuesday, May 4/2010 at 11:00 pm

I don’t know if I can post a link here. I just want to let everybody know that you can purchase most of above-mentioned beauty gadgets at at discounted prices.


Sunday, July 25/2010 at 8:52 pm

I would like to know if someone tryed the baby quasar, I would like to buy it but want some reviews first. Thank you!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, July 26/2010 at 9:23 pm

Yikes – thanks for the reminder – I need to get back to using it again. (It takes 30 min to do your face so bit of a time commitment.) I’ll try and do a post on it soon. In the meantime check out Makeup Alley:

Also if I may – cod liver oil will do amazing things for your skin, if a “glow” is what you’re after… this is the brand I recommend:


Monday, July 26/2010 at 10:18 pm

Thank you Michelle! As for supplement I use derma lipid from genuine health. I like it a lot.


Monday, October 25/2010 at 6:08 am

I use Silk’n SensEpil at home.
It is very easy to use, and it feels just like the professional treatments, only with no pain at all!
I started off at the lowest setting and I’m having completely satisfying results.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, October 26/2010 at 5:59 pm

Glad you like it too! I just got a TRIA laser hair removal system (out in Canada this month) and I think I actually like it better than the Silk’n. Review coming soon!


Sunday, November 14/2010 at 4:19 pm

Olive Oil! For wrinkles & damged hair. Works better than anything I have ever bought and I do not use anything else. You can mix it with some aromatic oils. Also check out the natural beauty do it yourself creams shampoos, soaps, etc. websites. Some have century old recepies. They are Spanish websites. You may be able to translate with a good browser. I’m almost positive that there are websites in English. I have to search for them when I have time. Don’t spend the money on expensive products that are full of chemicals that may damage your skin and your body. The cosmetic industry is not regulated. However, that Zeno product sounds promising and tempting to purchase. I read somewhere on the internet that it is effective for some spider vains as well. I will buy it for sure! Thanks for your wisdom. You have neutral and objective good advise on this page :-)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, November 14/2010 at 7:11 pm

Hi Deborah! I’m a big fan of natural stuff too… I love love love oils for the face. Not sure if olive oil agrees with me though – I was trying the Oil Cleansing Method here with a castor+olive oil combo and it gave me a horrendous breakout. I’ve read that jojoba and grapeseed are less comedogenic.

The Zeno is a pretty cool product but I think the ThermaClear is much better because you don’t have to buy “refills” and the treatment time is much shorter. Hadn’t heard about a spider vein application – interesting! For acne I still think the best solutions are internal… have you seen my cod liver oil post?


Nomadic D
Friday, June 24/2011 at 2:07 pm

Been thinking about the clarisonic for a while now and Anya over at I’m the It Girl referred me to this page, which is obviously from before I became an avid follower of your blog. Here’s my post where I debate the face brush and cry out for advice:

Do you still use it? Still love it? I’d love to know what you think over a year after you wrote this…


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, July 24/2011 at 10:31 pm

I still love the Clarisonic but you know what I’m using now? A prescription vitamin A cream called Retisol. It’s in a cream base so not drying like Retin-A is. And unlike any exfoliating product I’ve ever used, it has completely changed my skin texture. To the point where a facialist told me she was amazed that I didn’t have anything to extract (you know how they always do extractions). So I’ve eased up Clarisonic use since starting this regimen, although I still think it’s a great device.


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