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The Latest in So-Called 'Beauty Tech'

Until we have robot makeup artists, these advancements will have to do.

Long before I knew the difference between pearlized and satin finish eyeshadows, AHA and BHA exfoliators, or UVA and UVB rays of sun, I was a garbage pail pre-teen goth kid who religiously watched The Fifth Element and relished the idea of a self-applicating Chanel beauty mask.


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I didn’t know anything about makeup other than it was in the Estee Lauder gift sets my grandmother would bestow upon me every so often, but I did know Milla Jovovich’s character Leeloo was: 1. The coolest babe in the universe and 2. Didn’t need to spend time looking beautiful because she had a hi-tech contraption to do that for her while she saved the universe. The scene in which she plays with the hypothetical beauty device was only a few seconds of the film, but it remains my favorite, after many rewatches.

I’m still waiting for a cyborg beauty helper to come out, but I also know the future is now when it comes to beauty tech. Here are some of my favorite approaches to beauty technology currently around. The singularity isn’t quite here yet, but the robots certainly are.

MElely I’mUp Power Charger, $93

Given I am a professional narcissist, there are three things I (over)use in my handbag — my cell phone, my compact, and my highlighters. Yes, highlighters plural, I’m not a novice, I learned from Kim Kardashian. I used to carry around a power bank charger for my phone but given that the world is slowly burning to a crisp and transforming into the entrance of Hell, I don’t actually want to be constantly connected all the time so I was happy to let my phone die until I got back home.

Oggi e'arrivato lui!! I'm Up, il powerbank che contiene un bellissimo blush. Presto sul blog! #melely #imup

A photo posted by Veronika (@polveredistellemakeup) on

However, the introduction of this powerbank/blush combination has made my life too convenient; I can't pass it up. It’s got some heft to it, as they’re still in early design iterations, but the charge on this compact-slash-blush juiced up my Samsung Galaxy S5 considerably, and the actual product is surprisingly good.

The blush that came installed in the palette was pigmented, finely milled, and very blendable. I wasn’t actually expecting much: something chalky, undoubtedly, maybe a private-label repackaged blush I’d forget about. But that wasn’t the case. And since the powder pan is actually a 4-for-1 of different blush shades and finishes, you can choose to custom blend any of them for a new shade or just stick with one. I found the formula pigmentation and blendability to be on par with my favorites from other brands. A bonus: they’re cruelty-free and 100% organic.

I wasn’t actually expecting much: something chalky, maybe a private-label repackaged blush I’d forget about. But that wasn’t the case.

Of course, those are all the positives. The downsides to this hybrid product do exist: the iteration I received was surprisingly heavy and the mirror case was a little loose, which is worrying for a product with powder; it could potentially shatter in your bag and prove to be a nightmare. The compact itself also didn’t fit into the zipper pouch it came with. This was all, I’m told, because I received an early prototype of the product.

Since they’re now in production, MElely have made some changes to the design and, if you choose to drop a Benjamin on this multitasking little gizmo, none of these problems should crop up. The current iteration has a built in brush slot and comes with a larger pouch, so the case shattering won’t be an issue.

Metaverse Nails, $34.50

Full disclosure: I interviewed this brand before, and was fascinated by them to the point where I now have all their products. They’re just cool, and very much remind me of Leeloo: punk, hopeful, unabashedly femme, wild, and experimental. But that’s just the experience I had with them when they walked me through the product and their philosophy.

Metaverse Nails are augmented reality, 3-D printed nails that work in conjunction with your phone. I never wear acrylics or even get salon manicures, but these are weirdly compelling enough for me to use every so often. The nails themselves are reusable, and can be stuck on with any variety of acrylic glue or adhesive. This is good, because for approximately $35, you’re going to want to get multiple uses out of them.

In order to get the entire experience, you have to download the corresponding app on either the Apple Store or Google Play. It’s a cool, deeply kawaii app, something you can get lost in for a while lubricated by your own boredom or a lot of weed. Highly stoner-friendly, and perfect for those with the attention span and aesthetic inclinations of an uber-feminine six year old. I happen to possess both qualities so I spend an entire L train ride walking a virtual unicorn across my phone screen by wiggling my fingers. The toddler sitting next to me on the train was incredibly jealous, I’m almost positive.

MM Nails on our MM Babe @oyester in her studio in Beijing ✨✨✨✨✨✨ sparkle✨✨✨✨✨✨

A photo posted by Metaverse Nails:::MM Nails (@metaversenails) on

As for practical usage and aesthetic qualities: well, the nail design selection they currently have isn’t entirely awe-inspiring (or necessarily anything I’d jump on). I do think the electro-neon shade is disgustingly Claire’s, which means it is very topical for the kind of Brooklyn queer-art spaces I haunt at night. I wore them out to the club and they fit right in with the people writhing with leeches on their skin and fluorescent lipstick.

The major downside to this product at the moment is that you can’t currently record video in-app or have the embedded code recognized in other apps. I’d imagine these would make a killer add-in on Snapchat, were that currently possible. But they’re a small start-up funded by queer and trans artists like me, so I’m going to cut them some slack on their lack of design variety. Production costs for minimum orders happen to be a lot of money for even basic nail products: to add on the cost of coding and multiple graphics onto nail product leads to an astronomical overhead their competitors in the nail field don’t have to bother with.

Mink Makeup Pen, $295

Unfortunately I have more complaints than I do compliments — inevitably because my hopes and expectations were so high, given the accolades bestowed upon Mink and it’s founder for being industry anarchists for their creation. The Mink machine was framed as being a makeup copy machine, able to replicate the color of any makeup product. The reality is that it can maybe replicate the surface color, but the work you put into it and the price make it more trouble than it’s worth.

The Mink machine was framed as being a makeup copy machine, able to replicate the color of any makeup product.

The app required for the copy pen is iPhone only (I have a Samsung phone) and the ink cartridge set came with a leak which made my attempts to use it that much more messy and ineffectual. When I did get an iPhone in my hands to try to use the product, I wasn’t really blown away by the results. You aren’t able to custom mix the formulation of the product outside of the pigmentation you plug in, so you’re stuck with their formula for lip gloss or lip stain or face powder. It didn’t come with measuring tools or gloves for sanitary usage which was also troubling. This is like an incredibly expensive DIY lip balm kit, really.

The concept of this pen is the most exciting out of all the products mentioned — I only wish it had lived up to the hype. They have a long way to go, and there are already competitor, virtually identical products out there.

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