The 10 most exceptional personal care products from 2020
They’re the Best of What’s New.
It hasn’t been an easy year by any stretch, but many of us have found solace in creature comforts. Right on cue, companies have been eager to sate our warm-and-fuzzy cravings with offers of softer clothes, deeper sleep, and products designed to create a cozier home. But the marketing around such spaces—cosmetics, skin- and haircare, fitness, and mental health, to name a few—has long been a minefield of meaningless buzzwords and pseudoscientific solutions. Our Personal Care winners represent some of the best exceptions to that woeful rule: These products use genuine innovations in everything from chemistry to 3D imaging to improve daily life, even when we’re stuck inside.
Grand Award Winner: Custom Jeans by unspun
Tailored denim, sans tailor
The developed world makes too many clothes. The industry may account for up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to data from the United Nations—many synthetic materials are made of fossil fuels, natural garments expend energy in the harvesting and processing of fabric, and all of it requires the packaging and shipping of finished goods. But the problem isn’t just that consumers flit through fast fashion from chains like H&M and Uniqlo: Manufacturers overproduce items from the get-go, which creates plenty of textile waste. Unspun launched in June of this year to patch that leaky pipeline; the company uses 3D scanning tech adapted from the creation of video game avatars to produce tailor-fit jeans with nothing but a quick smartphone scan. Customers select their wash, cut, and rise before entering an app from partner in3d to create their bespoke mannequin; the software analyzes the light that bounces off your body as you turn slowly in a circle a few feet away from the phone. The digital pants the app generates then translate into a custom pattern for your real-world denim. Making clothes to order reduces waste, allows for endlessly inclusive sizing options, and (mercifully) cuts down on trips to the mall.
The Mink Printer by Mink
Custom makeup in 15 seconds
There’s a certain giddiness that comes from sampling makeup hues in the store, but publicly shared palettes became a lot less appealing this year. Among its many uses, Mink, the world’s first 3D makeup printer, will let retailers hygienically offer customized eyeshadows and other powdered products. Using the same basic tech that powers an inkjet, the 2.2-pound device combines FDA-approved pigments to tint makeup sheets and match user-selected photos in just 15 seconds. With 16.7 million possible shades, the gizmo can print any palette you can find online, or draw inspiration from any Instagram photo.
Core Meditation Trainer by Core
A handheld relaxation coach
Research ties meditation practices to everything from lowered anxiety levels to better blood pressure and relief from gastrointestinal distress, but self-doubt can cripple attempts at finding zen. The handheld Core orb uses biofeedback and haptic guidance to steer you toward focus and calm. As you hold the softball-size device, ECG sensors monitor both pulse and heart rate variability—the beat-to-beat changes in your ticker’s rhythm—to track your relaxation. Guided programs in Core’s app help you learn which meditation methods work best for you. If your chill vibes start to slip away, gentle vibrations will remind you to stay on task.
The Tempo Studio by Tempo
An AI strength trainer to level-up at-home workouts
In a year where more people are working out at home, maintaining proper and safe form can be tricky. The Tempo system combines a set of adjustable dumbbells, a barbell, and a screen to teach novices proper methods and correct errors. The full-length screen pairs with a wrist monitor to keep tabs on your heart rate, while sensors track the movement of your body and weights through space. All this helps the setup’s onboard AI determine when you’re ready for a heavier load—or when you need to make some tweaks in order to avoid injury. It’s unlikely to tempt veteran powerlifters—tracking works best with Tempo’s included plates, which currently max out at 100 pounds on the barbell—but the system gives newbies guidance to train smartly and safely. The company now also has heavier plates available for purchase, increasing the potential load to 300 pounds.
The never-miss-a-tooth brush
In a category packed with toothbrushes that use integrated apps as finicky gimmicks, the iO Series 9 stands out with 3D tracking that maps your mouth as you work. In addition to revealing which pearly whites you’re habitually missing, the device senses how much pressure you’re applying; LEDs on the handle indicate if you’re pressing too hard, which can put your enamel and gums at risk of damage, or too lightly to get a deep clean. The system also divides your chompers into 16 sections, and uses vibrations to signal when it’s time to move on to a new group, so you can get minty fresh without pulling out your phone.
Stoggles by Stoggles
Protect your eyes, protect your health
To avoid diseases spread through respiratory droplets like COVID-19, it’s important to avoid touching mucus membranes—your eyes, nose, and mouth—when you’re out and about. Protective masks that keep lips and nostrils on lock are now de rigueur among members of polite society. But what about your peepers? Stoggles add protective side shielding to an otherwise stylish pair of shades. The glasses, which have the American National Standards Institute stamp of approval as certified safety goggles, also feature blue-light filtering to minimize screen-related sleep disruptions, UV reactivity to provide tinted sun protection, and an excellent anti-fog coating to make them fully compatible with your face mask of choice.
Guide Wand by Guide Beauty
The easiest liner applicator, for anyone
When makeup artist Terri Bryant developed Parkinson’s Disease, gestures that had long been second-nature to her—like swiping on flawless swooshes of eyeliner—became a struggle. So she sought to make applying makeup easier and more accessible for all. The Guide Wand, an eyeliner application tool, is a particularly stunning proof-of-concept. While standard liners take their gripping cues from writing or painting implements, the tapered handle and rounded grip on Bryant’s wand mean it can be grasped upright in a fist. That makes it easier for weak or shaking fingers to hold, and means a user can lean the wand against their cheek for support as they swipe hues across their eyelids.
Now, this is a diaper genie
Do babies need smart diapers? No. But new parents may well find Pampers’ foray into the connected-cradle space invaluable. A tiny velcro sensor attaches to the front of a diaper to track moisture levels and movement, which feeds data to an app that analyzes feeding, hydration, sleep training—all while releasing less energy in a year of continuous use than a one-minute cell phone call. Of course, it also simply informs them when it’s time to change the diaper. The clip will run for three months on its integrated battery and pairs with a best-in-class high-def baby monitor.
Custom Curl Cream by Prose
An end to one-size-fits-none curl care
Mainstream beauty companies have long ignored curly and kinky hair, offering just one or two products ostensibly designed to suit the entire spectrum of curls—from soft waves to uber-tight coils. Prose’s algorithm can match a user’s unique hair to one of more than 14,000 formulations of customized curl styling cream. An online quiz figures in 85 factors including characteristics like scalp sensitivity, hair length, and texture; local inputs like UV index, humidity, pollution levels, and water hardness; and lifestyle differences like diet and exercise. Shoppers can also opt for vegan, gluten-free, silicone-free, and fragrance-free formulas.
OPTE Precision Skincare by Procter & Gamble
Concealer only where you need it
Why cover your face in foundation when you could take a more targeted approach? The OPTE wand digitally scans your skin, analyzes your complexion, and camouflages age spots, sunspots, acne scars, and hyperpigmentation with a custom-tinted and hydrating serum. OPTE starts by shining a blue LED to maximize the contrast in skin melanin, allowing its camera—which captures 200 images per second—to spot differences in pigmentation. The wand then uses onboard smarts to determine the size, shape, and intensity of each spot in comparison to its surroundings. Finally, 120 thermal inkjet nozzles deposit a perfect blend of shaded serum only where it’s needed, resulting in an airbrush-esque complexion in just a few minutes—with far less product clogging up your pores.