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Well, Actually is a column by Slate’s Shannon Palus. She tests health and wellness products to help readers figure out what they should try, what they should skip, and why.

A new company called ZitSticka is bringing the luxury of skin care to: the acne patch. The brand’s one and only product so far is the “Killa Kit.” The size of a large ring box, it contains supplies to help eight “up-and-coming” pimples become an “ex-zit.” It is millennial pink. The product’s Instagram inexplicably contains photos of a sun-dappled daybed and a white-tiled rain shower. At $30 per a box, or nearly $4 per a treatment, it would be easy to declare the patch just another overpriced addition to the skin care market. It is, kind of—as with so many potions, there’s at least one inexpensive and nearly identical option. But contained inside the cute box is actually some interesting technology.

Acne patches are not new. The first were little more than hydrocolloid bandages, hydrocolloid being a type of wound dressing that was introduced in the 1970s as part of “the moist wound care revolution.” As chemist and educator Michelle Wong explains on her beauty science blog Lab Muffin, hydrocolloid bandages are flexible, made from materials like cellulose and gelatin and then covered in a thin film of plastic. The flexible part sucks up fluid, in the case of a zit, deflating it. It’s essentially a way to pop the thing slowly. Hydrocolloid pimple patches (round versions of the wound bandages) have been used in Asia for over a decade. The first one, Wong estimates, was from a brand called 3M (the same parent company that makes Taylor Swift’s favorite kind of picture-hanging wall tape). You may have heard of the patches via the Korean brand Cosrx, which distributes them in a plain white-and-red envelope, all stuck to the same plastic sheet kind of like pre-cut moleskin or corn cushions.

And they sure work. In addition to glowing review after glowing review for these things, in 2006 a group of researchers in Taiwan ran a (very) small study confirming their utility. Researchers used acne patches from 3M, sold under the clinical and descriptive label “Acne Dressing” on 10 participants. They gave another 10 regular old medical tape. Everyone in the patch group reported that their acne improved at least moderately, while just a fifth of the treatment group said the same, which tracked with the researchers’ quantitative observations.

Some patches can be more sophisticated by including medication like salicylic acid with the hydrocolloid base, like Peace Out Dots and Clearasil spot patchesothers just have medication on a plain plastic dot. Recently, companies like ZitSticka have begun adding spikes or “microdarts” to a hydrocolloid base. A cousin of the microneedle that can allow ingredients to penetrate deeper into your skin (when used by a pro, at least), these microdarts shuttle salicylic acid in the dot beneath the surface. As Wong points out, in a post sponsored by another company that makes microdart zit patches, a similar dissolving needle technology has been explored for vaccines and insulin delivery. (Luxury makeup brand Dr. Jart has a whole line of, essentially, spikey tape designed to banish everything from zits to under-eye circles.) According to ZitSticka, these needles are ideal for early-stage cystic acne, while more straightforward pimples and whiteheads (anything pop-able) could more likely benefit from the cheaper, plainer hydrocolloidal patches.

I ordered a pack of the ZitStickas to see if they’d work for me. They are woefully expensive for an acne patch. (These similar ones, from a brand called Rael, are almost a quarter of the price, at just over a dollar a pop.) But the ZitSticka patches specifically make the process of treating an honest-to-god pimple kind of glamorous. The ring box–like packaging looks cute enough to display on a dresser. This is not an acne patch that you’d expect to find at a drugstore: In addition to the zit stickers, it comes with tiny cleaning wipes (each individual zit gets its own cleaning wipe!). “We got you covered,” an insert white lettering reads, alongside instructions on how to use each part and a stylized illustration of the microdarts dissolving into a pimple.

I wiped the zit area (I was thrilled to have a zit!) and stuck the patch to my face. I will be honest with you—I was so excited to try these that I didn’t even check what kind of zit I was popping them onto, nor am I confident enough in my zit taxonomy to tell you exactly what it was in hindsight. The patch did not hurt in the least, but it did feel very satisfying. To my surprise, the sticker was subtle enough that I then confidently left the house. After a couple hours, it flaked off, having lost its stickiness after the darts dissolved.

What was left in its wake was still definitely a pimple, but a noticeably smaller one. If I’ve ever tried a skin care product with such immediate results, I cannot remember it. Previously, the only instant acne treatment I’d heard of that worked right away was cortisone shots, which can cost$100 a (pimple) pop, which puts the $4 price tag into a little perspective.

In the future, I’ll probably pick a cheaper microdart acne patch—these ones from Rael look extremely similar if not identical to the ZitSticka offering, and are a third of the price. Whether a microdart patch works better than a non-microdart one is hard to say—there just hasn’t been that much scientific research into the acne-patch space. Dermatologists emphasize that acne patches alone aren’t a good strategy for keeping your face clean, and they probably aren’t economical for large breakouts. But acne patches are ideal product with which to do your own experimenting with: It’s fairly easy to see if a zit has gotten smaller within a few hours of wear. It’s also a relief. Even for all ZitSticka’s cute branding, zit stickers will probably never be relaxing or fun the way, say, a face mask is. But the straightforward results take a load off, nonetheless. That’s close to magic. 


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Products

onday was a big day for the internet, thanks to the photo that Ashley BensonInstagrammed featuring a tattoo of the letters “CD,” which just so happen to be the same as her girlfriend‘s initials. But it was an even bigger day for Benson; to her, the photo marked her official announcement that first-ever sunglasses collection, Privé Revaux X Benzo, had finally launched—a moment she’d been anticipating for months.

The 29-year-old actress has been working with Privé Revaux for a few years now, but this is the first time she tried her hand at design. Still, Benson knew exactly where to start: with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, whom she’s worshipped since, as she put it, “day one.” From there, she came up with three different styles: The Victoria, which is an oversized take on “everyday”; the Olive, a cat eye named after her dog; and the Planco, a “unique” rectangular pair complete with side panels, which, naturally, was inspired by Rihanna. It’s only been about 24 hours, but thanks no doubt in part to Benson’s 19 million Instagram followers, two of the three are already almost out of stock.

And yet, Benson is still getting used to the idea that she has an eye for style. The era of Pretty Little Liars took up the bulk of her twenties, but it wasn’t until after the show wrapped that she got her first-ever stylist—and stopped wearing red carpet looks that she now considers not only “horrible,” but “horrendous.” Then again, Benson might just be her own worst critic: “I don’t make good choices with clothes,” she insisted when she dropped by W‘s office last week—never mind that she looked impeccable. Still, after laying out her sunglasses designs—and kicking off her Chanel pumps—Benson obliged to share her style notes with W. Read on for more about each and every one of her obsessions, from the Olsens to escape rooms.

What are three words that describe your style?

Black, simple, and chic—at least, when I try to dress. Usually I’m just in, like, sweats. But when I try, to be honest with you, I base my looks off the Olsen twins. I’ve been their biggest fan since I was born.

Have you ever met them?

Yeah, twice. They’re really nice, but I got weird about it. I was like, “I can’t hang out with you guys.” I grew up watching all their movies, and they started doing fashion, first with this line for Walmart, when I was 12. Funnily enough, I ended up being the model for all the clothes. I went to set pretty much every week, but they only came once. I only got to see a glimpse of them, with their little butterfly clips in their hair, but I was still like, “Oh my god.

I guess that answers my next question, about your ultimate style icons?

Yeah, 100 percent. I follow at least 20 different Mary-Kate and Ashley accounts on Instagram, just for their fashion. I love it.

What’s your go-to outfit for a day off?

Just jeans and a t-shirt, or cut-offs in the summer. I get way too hot, because I live in New York in L.A., and it’s so hot. This summer, I was like, I want to start doing more slip dresses—kind of ’90s Courtney Love vibes. But I have to see where I can find those.

What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received?

To just be comfortable. I know that when I go to events and I’m uncomfortable—whether because of shoes or something’s too tight—it really does ruin my day or night. So this, what I’m wearing right now, is very comfortable. I mean, I took my shoes off—I’m like out my house right now. [Laughs.]

How do you feel about flats versus heels?

I hate heels, because they’re really hard to walk in and make my feet hurt. But these ones I’m wearing are just the smallest heel. They’re like little slides, almost. So they’re doable, which is great; I found them and I was like, “These are heels that I can wear.” Otherwise, I wear high-heeled boots every day, or just a pair of Converse.

How about tiny Matrix-style sunglasses? You kind of have a pair in your collection.

I can’t pull those off, for whatever reason. These [“The Olive“] are the smallest that I can go, and they actually look really good. But the other ones are so small. Like, are they reallyprotecting your eyes?


Ashley Benson wearing sunglasses

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever worn on the red carpet?

I just went to the Trevor Project gala, and I wore this dress, which of course is black:

Do you typically look at your fan accounts, like the one you just pulled up?

I follow some, just to see if the paparazzi have been taking photos of me. But also, they seem to know more about my life than I do, so I also follow them to be like [scrolls through phone] “What’s going on in my life? Let me see what everyone’s talking about.” [Laughs.]

I’m sure you’re often in for a surprise.

Always. So many people make things up or start stories and I’m just like, “Ugh, god.” I message them all the time and I’m like, “Can you not put this stuff up?” And they’re like “Oh my god, yeah”—they’re so sweet. I literally talk to them on Messenger, like, “You need to take those photos down. You need to have this person do this.” I’m trying to control everything. [Laughs.] But for the most part, they’re amazing and great, and I love their pictures that they post of me; sometimes I actually message them asking if they can send me the red carpet ones so that I can post them. They give me so many options—and they edit them! They’re the best.

What’s the most prized possession in your closet?

The Chanel shoes that I’m wearing. I just bought them, kind of on a whim. But I don’t spend money on clothes. I wish I could.

Where do you get your clothes from, then?

Usually either vintage stores or Brandy Melville. I’ve been loving Brandy Melville for probably eight years now. It’s easy, it’s cute and their stuff actually holds up. And it’s cheap, and that’s what I like.

Do you have any favorite thrift stores in New York?

There’s one place that my friend Morgan owns, called the Vintage Twin. She always has the best stuff, especially shirts and jumpsuits. Though sometimes I check out and I’m like, “Oof, I didn’t know that was that expensive!” [Laughs.] But if it’s vintage, it’s like, fine.

What was your style like as a teen?

Emo. Black eyes—like, so black—that went all around, like circles. Then I wore band t-shirts. I wanted to be like Avril Lavigne, so I always wore a tie and different colored Converse. I tried to copy Hayley [Williams] from Paramore’s style, too. I’ve always loved ’90s grunge style. And I tried to do that—I just didn’t do it right. I mean, I’ve gone through so many phases in my life, clothes-wise—enough to know that I don’t make good choices with clothes. Those were definitely not the best days, but I thought I looked amazing.

I wore a tie, too—Avril Lavigne was my first concert.

That’s amazing. Mine was Tina Turner, but I was so young that I didn’t even know who she was. My second one was NSYNC, and I was crying. I was crying my eyes out, and I had paint all over my face, because me and my sister painted our faces. I was wearing all their merch, too, like 10 different things.


Ashley Benson wearing sunglasses


Do you have a biggest fashion regret?

Probably my style on every red carpet when I was younger. It was horrible. Horrendous. But I also never used a stylist. I didn’t know what stylists were back then. I mean, I knew people were getting dressed and stuff, but there wasn’t really a need for me to have one, because I was on a soap opera. I just always bought weird clothes to wear to premieres. But after PLL [Pretty Little Lies], my publicists were like, “You need to get a stylist.” And I was like “Okay, this is great,” because I finally started looking nice on the red carpet.

What do you always keep in your bag?

Chapstick, powder, sunglasses a little thing of perfume, a charger—speaking of…. [plugs in phone] sorry, it’s at eight percent. Anyways, I also always have my passport—I probably shouldn’t, but just in case!—and eyebrow gel, weirdly. I never leave the house without it.

Do you have a song of the summer?

“Señorita” by Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes. I listen to it every morning, all day, every day. But I’m also obsessed with Lizzo. “Truth Hurts” is one of the best songs, and just so powerful. She’s so badass and so cool—I can’t.


Ashley Benson


Do you have any vacation plans?

I was just in Paris for a wedding, and then I went to Saint Tropez for the first time and did a spa weekend, which was really cool. I’m hoping to go back to Italy, to my favorite place ever, Positano, in August. Though I feel like I’ve basically been to every country this year.

What’s been the highlight so far?

Amsterdam is becoming one of my favorite places. I was there two months ago, and then last October, and every time I go, I always extend my stay by like five days. I never get in a car when I’m there—I’m always on my bike. Last time, I took a little boat ride at night and had dinner on there, and I felt like I was in a movie. And I did glow-in-the-dark mini golf and just smoked weed and ate and biked everywhere. And they have the best escape rooms. One of them was in the catacombs; it was two-and-a-half hours long, and I went at midnight, right before Halloween, and I was terrified. I went with three other girls, and we were literally crying in there. My friend got stuck in a coffin for like 10 minutes, and there were all these actors popping out so were all huddling in a corner. It’s really next level, but so fun. So fun. I do escape rooms everywhere I go.

Is there anything else left on your to-do list?

Keep tanning—I’m trying to enjoy it while I can. And keep wearing my sunglasses!

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Products

Billie Eilish isn’t afraid to stand out when it comes to her wardrobe, especially when it comes to millennial nostalgia. Billie Eilish wore a Powerpuff Girls suit, paying homage to one of the best Cartoon Network shows from our childhood.

Eilish wore the suit to the ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Beverly Hills, where she was presented with the Vanguard trophy by Julia Roberts. The award is given in recognition of “the impact of new and developing musical genres, which help shape the future of music.” The first two musicians to be awarded the honor were Björk and Soul Asylum back in 1996.

To receive the award, Eilish decided to wear a suit that was decorated in millennial pop culture relics. The Powerpuff Girls might have been before the 17-year-old’s time, but that doesn’t mean Eilish can’t appreciate Cartoon Network reruns. The suit in question consisted of a khaki utility vest and beige cargo pants. The two items were stamped with over-sized motifs of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. The superheroes looked like they were in fight mode on Eilish’s outfit, where the characters appeared to be jumping into action — probably to fight Mojo Jojo or the Gangreen Gang.

The nostalgic suit was then paired with an oversize white button-up shirt, a Gucci messenger bag, and retro cat eye sunglasses. The white sunnies came from Privé Revaux, and they were the Bermuda sunglasses that cost an affordable $29.95.

Eilish is known for her baggy suits, preferring to wear eye-catching and shapeless pieces. Part of that has to do with fashion, and part of it has to do with having one’s body scrutinized by the public.

In a recent campaign video for Calvin Klein, Eilish shared, “I never want the world to know everything about me. I mean, that’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘Oh, she’s slim-thick, she’s not slim-thick, she’s got a flat ass, she’s got a fat ass. No one can say any of that because they don’t know.”

Ari Perilstein/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Scrolling through the artist’s Instagram, you will see a grid full of hoodies, tracksuits, and baggy suits, much like the Powerpuff Girls one. But that’s not to say Eilish also doesn’t wear those silhouettes for fashion purposes. Eilish enjoys that the aesthetic pushes boundaries.

“I just like dressing out of my comfort zone. I want to dress in a way that if I was in a room full of people wearing regular clothes, I would be like, ‘Oh, I bet everyone’s looking at me.’ I want to feel that way. That’s my casual,” Eilish shared in an interview with Harper´s Bazaar.

Ari Perilstein/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

“I am not comfortable when I’m wearing just some jeans and a shirt. I just feel wrong…” Eilish said. “So my friend said, ‘Billie just likes to feel super judged.’ I love being judged. I’m here for it.”

When it comes to the Powerpuff Girls outfit, there will be nothing but appreciation — especially from those who grew up with the Cartoon Network staple.

 

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Products

A new sell out product for spots, which is now back in stock, has been getting five star reviews.

ZitSticka is a transparent sticker perfect for when you get a spot out of the blue – as you can place the circular sticker over the spot and let it do its magic. 

Containing 24 microdarts it dispenses a blend of spot-combatting ingredients, including Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide: (B3), beneath the skin’s outer layer.

The product, costing £27 for a pack of eight, which has just come back into stock, sold around 250,000 previously and those trying to get rid of spots are raving about how great the product is, with one even calling it ‘life changing’. 

ZitSticker is a transparent sticker perfect for when you get a spot out of the blue - as you can place the circular sticker over the spot and let it do its magic

ZitSticker is a transparent sticker perfect for when you get a spot out of the blue – as you can place the circular sticker over the spot and let it do its magic 

Containing 24 microdarts it dispenses a blend of spot-combatting ingredients, including Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide: (B3), beneath the skin’s outer layer

Containing 24 microdarts it dispenses a blend of spot-combatting ingredients, including Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide: (B3), beneath the skin’s outer layer

The spot sticker which is water resistant and dermatologically endorsed can be worn over night or even when you’re getting ready for a night out.  

Beauty fans are so happy with the product they’ve been giving it five star reviews, one, who titled her review ‘life-changing’ said: ‘I don’t usually write product reviews but this has completely changed my life!  

‘My skin is very sensitive and I have cystic acne (the one that is under the skin and you can’t pop!) which I have been taking various prescribed antibiotics and treatments to try and calm down for about four years now. 

‘I was pretty skeptical about this product, it’s expensive for only 8 uses and as a student I don’t have much disposable income, but I decided to try it out. Well folks, my skin hasn’t been so clear since I was a preteen!’

The sell out product, which has just come back into stock, sold around 250,000 last time and those trying to get rid of spots are raving about how great the product is, with one even calling it 'life changing'

The sell out product, which has just come back into stock, sold around 250,000 last time and those trying to get rid of spots are raving about how great the product is, with one even calling it ‘life changing’

‘The patches are clear and very subtle, none of my friends noticed them until I pointed them out! If the idea of the darts freaks you out (same) just know that it doesn’t hurt at all!’

Others said that it was a game changer for their spots and was on their SOS list. One also said: ‘Worked SO well, and quickly. Let’s just say I’m not excited to get another zit, but I’m not that worried either!’

Another admitted: ‘I was aware of the hype around this product after reading about it but wasn’t expecting them to be that different from other zit patches. 

‘Turns out they are quite different and while the microdarts stung slightly (maybe i’m a wimp?) they definitely helped to get the product into the core of the zit!! My pimple felt like it had been fast-forwarded.’



Others said that it was a game changer for their spots and was on their SOS list. However another reviewer said that it had changed her skin forever

One reviewer said she thought the  stickers would juts be like zit patches she tried before but she quickly realised they were more effective
 

 However another reviewer said that it had changed her skin forever. She explained: ‘I had suffered with moderate-severe acne throughout my teenage years. 

‘Now in my 20s, a combination of dietary changes and good skincare had helped to ease the most of it, aside from the painful cystic acne that would appear on my chin and cheeks the week before my period was due or when I had eaten something containing dairy. 

‘I decided to give these patches a go out of sheer desperation – I had several important events coming up and I could feel that the spot brewing was going to be HUGE. 

‘While that particular spot was too far gone for the dramatic effects of the patch to take place, the redness, size and longevity of it was severely reduced.’

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Photography, Products

Modsy, a San Francisco-based startup developing a platform that lets property owners create virtual renderings of rooms and restyle them in real time, today announced that it’s raised $37 million in funding led by TCV, with participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Advance Venture Partners, and Comcast Ventures. CEO and founder Shanna Tellerman said the capital infusion, which follows a $23 million series B round in December 2017 and brings the company’s total raised to $71 million, will enable Modsy to scale while investing in 3D automation, expanding its marketplace, and “upleveling” its services.

“Modsy is the future of furniture shopping, and we are thrilled to partner with such a forward-thinking and customer-centric firm like TCV to help us fulfill our vision,” she said. “I founded Modsy on the premise that in the future we would all be shopping from a personalized catalog-like experience within a virtual version of our real homes … We are excited about partnering with TCV to build Modsy into a household name and furthering our mission of enabling our customers to create the home of their dreams.”




Modsy’s technology digitally replicates rooms in 360 degrees with furniture from dozens of well-known brands, including West Elm, Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie, Joybird, Wayfair, Pottery Barn, Interior Define, Design Within Reach, Minted, Serena & Lily, Pier 1 Imports, and CB2. Users can purchase any fixture — whether a couch, rug, armoire, or coffee table — on the spot, either through Modsy directly or through partner tools like Crate & Barrel’s 3D Room Designer and CB2’s CB2 Interiors.

Here’s how it works: First, Modsy customers snap photos and take measurements of their spaces and complete a style quiz, indicating their preferences, budget, and constraints. The answers feed into a proprietary algorithm that attempts to suss out their taste and style, which Modsy collates (along with the pics and dimensions) and forwards onto its team of designers. Customers get two virtual design plans of their room, and from that point forward, they’re able to consult with Modsy’s team or fine-tune with a self-service 3D Style Editor suite, and shop retailers from which they receive exclusive discounts and promotions.

Modsy says it’s created over two million shoppable room renders since its 2015 launch.

Modsy

Above: Modsy rendering.

Augmented reality (AR) interior design tools aren’t exactly novel. One of Swedish retail giant Ikea’s smartphone apps — Ikea Place — lets users preview home goods by dragging and dropping them in-scene, and Sotheby’s last year partnered with Roomy to launch a virtual staging app called Curate that enables prospective buyers to fill homes with their choice of decor and view the results in real-time 3D. Meanwhile, Wayfair’s Android app recently gained an AR feature that lets customers visualize furniture by holding up their smartphones.

But unlike its competitors, Modsy has built bespoke services like Live Swap atop its platform, which allows customers to quickly swap furniture from within its 3D Style Editor. Moreover, it’s launched a Modsy-exclusive ancillary furniture business — Minna Home — that offers eight styles of sofas and chairs designed in-house from thousands of customer data points and feedback.

It’s a safe bet that this diversification strategy is partly responsible for Modsy’s growing customer base (up 450%) and headcount (151%).

“The U.S. home furnishing market is a massive multi-billion dollar industry and we are seeing a very clear secular shift online,” said TCV executive vice president Tina Hoang-To, who will join Modsy’s board of directors. “Modsy is redefining the way consumers can buy furniture by leveraging technology and machine learning to introduce efficiency, transparency, and affordability to an antiquated home design industry. We are excited to partner with Modsy and believe the company is well-positioned to transform this industry in a significant way.”

Modsy charges $69 for a 3D room model and unlimited revisions with a Modsy designer, with a design turnaround time of six to eight days. The next pricing tier up — Premium — adds in a concierge shopping service; one-on-one video, email, or phone consultations with a project manager; and $150 off the first purchase of $1,500 or over and a reduced turnaround of four to seven days. The $349 plan is identical to Premium, but expands the number of rooms from one to three.

Modsy has over 100 full-time employees and recently filled out its C-Suite with key hires hailing from HotelTonight, StitchFix, and DoorDash. Previous investors include, NBCUniversal, GV, Birchmere Ventures, BBG, and individual angel investors.

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Applications, Products

At the heart of parental sleep anxiety—or sweet, sweet relief—lies the baby monitor, an increasingly polarizing device nonetheless engineered to bring peace of mind. The Miku, which went on sale in January, is a tech-obsessed parent’s dream, combining sophisticated design with artificial intelligence to provide data-filled updates on the sound, motion, humidity, and temperature in the room. Notably, the $400 monitor can also track an infant’s breathing without requiring her to wear a dedicated device. It uses Wi-Fi to stream high-definition video and audio to an app on your phone.

 

The Competition

• The Cocoon Cam also broadcasts Wi-Fi-enabled HD video to an app, and at $150, it offers most of the high-end amenities (a breathing tracker, night vision, easy setup) in a more affordable package.

 
 

• When it comes to plug-and-play functionality, nothing beats the $200 Eufy SpaceView baby monitor. Using radio technology, which is less hack-prone than Wi-Fi, it transmits video, audio, and temperature readings to a 5-inch HD display—no app needed.

 
 

• The $300 Nanit has a premium data-driven subscription service (starting at $120 a year) that uses its sensors and the baby’s age to make personalized sleep recommendations.

The Case

Some parents prefer the all-in-one simplicity of a Nest camera, which offers HD video and a two-way talk function, even though it wasn’t designed for this use. What sets the Miku apart is its robust data set, which comes in easy-to-understand charts that put the information in context. (The device does require the sex and birthdate of the child—that may turn off those concerned with data privacy.) Built-in Ole Wolff speakers offer crisp audio, whether you’re playing its waterfall and forest sounds or using the two-way feature to talk to your tot. $400; mikucare.com

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Food, Products

In the past five years, Elvie and Willow have transformed the breast pump market, raising a combined total of nearly $90 million and wooing moms with technological updates to make breastfeeding while working a less intimidating prospect.

But even a Silicon Valley breast pump can’t make breastfeeding work for everyone. For reasons ranging from health of the mother or baby to milk supply and blocked milk ducts to work schedules, many mothers find breastfeeding out of reach. Founders and investors are on to the next logical category: infant formula.

“We are not accepting the realities of feeding your child in today’s world,” says Laura Modi, co-founder of a new infant formula startup, Bobbie. “Fifteen to 20% of women physically cannot produce enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed.”

Bobbie co-founders Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy.
Bobbie co-founders Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy.

Bobbie, launching this Sunday on Mothers’ Day, raised $2.4 million to debut an infant formula formulated to resemble the more stringently regulated formulas sold in Europe. Made without corn syrup or soy—ingredients in the most widely available U.S. brands—the formula will be sold through a subscription service at $23 a box, with most families using four boxes a month. It’s a concept Modi, former director of hospitality at Airbnb, developed when she found she couldn’t breastfeed and felt embarrassed buying formula at the drugstore.

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While Modi and co-founder Sarah Hardy aren’t necessarily trying to eat into the smart breast pump market, they are taking a cue from its success, and cited that success when pitching to investors. “We learned a lot from their approach in this market,” Modi says. “I don’t think we’ve come across any parent whose story or feeding journey looks like anyone else’s.”

Instead, Bobbie is going after a separate category: mothers who can’t breastfeed and have so far either gone with mass-market products or tried to import better-quality formula from abroad. It’s a market that’s quickly catching the eye of investors, with competitor Nara Organics set to debut soon, and with both companies joining the 10-year-old Medolac, which makes donor milk-based products.

The product falls squarely into two popular investor categories of the moment: millennial parenthood and changing food supply, says Greg McAdoo, partner at Bobbie’s lead investor, Bolt Capital. “Consumers read labels now. Until millennials started having kids, it didn’t matter much in the world of food for babies and food for kids. Now that millennials are having kids, they’re applying the same sensibility to the food that they buy for their kids,” McAdoo says.

Indeed, startups have already dived into baby food, from Little Spoon to Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm. Formula is a more complicated product—one that comes with both stigma and regulation. “We are entering a space we know is stigmatized,” Modi says. “It’s really important for people to understand where we’re coming from. We’re not trying to get people at the hospital bed.”

Bobbie’s subscription service will only be available in the San Francisco Bay Area for now, but the founders hope to go national in the fall. The company will have “milkmen” who deliver the product to first-time subscribers. And the typical Silicon Valley model of content alongside a subscription makes sense for a product often surrounded by misinformation and lobbying groups, says Vanessa Larco, an investor with NEA who hasn’t invested in Bobbie but has spent time researching the formula space

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Products

Here are our favorite apps to make travel easier, more affordable and more fun.

Packpoint. We’ll never forget our underwear again with this app that creates packing lists based on length of trip, weather and activities.

Skyscanner. Get the best prices on flights, hotels and car rentals.

WeatherBug. In addition to the usual weather info, this app tells you the air quality, pollen count and has a live radar map.

Mapify. This social travel planner lets you search any destination and see travel reviews, get directions and plan itineraries.

Postagram. Creates custom postcards.

Here are 5 more apps we love.

– Jan SchroderThe Travel 100

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Products

WITH ITS TRANSLUCENT, STICK-ON ACNE PATCHES, ZITSTICKA WANTS TO CHANGE THE WAY WE PERCEIVE OUR SKIN

The conversation around acne is changing. Thanks to recent films such as Eighth Grade and Lady Bird, which have brought some much-needed visibility to adolescent breakouts, and individuals like Justin Bieber, who last year declared “pimples are in” to his 103 million Instagram follower, and Louisa Northcote whose #freethepimple movement champions positive acne representation on social media, the stigma surrounding acne is slowly starting to dissipate.

And now, the conversation has turned to the way we actually treat acne. In the past, when it came to clearing acne your options included serious medical treatments – your antibiotics, your Accutanes, your contraceptive pills – or a selection of drugstore products marketed towards young teens. In both cases, the messaging largely implied that having acne meant there was something wrong with you that needed treating. But things are starting to change. Enter Australian-born skincare brand ZitSticka.

Coming from a background of science – pharmaceuticals, skincare and tech for Robbie Miller, and human biology for co-founder and brother-in-law Daniel Kaplan – and both having experienced acne themselves, Miller and Kaplan found themselves uniquely suited to create a solution to their – and our – pimple woes. This solution turned out to be “KILLA,” a penetrative stick-on patch that uses microdart technology to prick the affected area of skin and deposit acne-fighting ingredients beyond the epidermal layer, straight into the zit’s nucleus. Transparent and virtually undetectable, the patch can be worn throughout the day which Miller and Kaplan hope will help further the normalisation of acne and encourage people to accept pimples as a part of everyday life that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. This dedication to promoting open dialogue around acne has also manifested in a blog “The Spot,” where they educate readers on skincare in a relatable way, and their “Zitty Committee” where members such as Munroe Bergdorf open up about their skincare journey.

“Our dream is for people to be proud of posting pictures of them in their ZitSticka. The only way to truly help insecurities is to talk about how normal it is,” says Miller. We caught up with Miller and Kaplan to find out more about their journey.

What is the story behind ZitSticka?
Daniel Kaplan: The way that it happened was that I got a massive boil on my bum, golf ball size. Then a year later I felt that it was coming back, and the person I saw at the pharmacy told me that I should use Ichthammol which is a drawing salve but it stains everything it touches. It is extremely black and tarry and so he said to place a plaster on top so it doesn’t stain anything. After using this, it was quite literally a lightbulb moment that whenever I get a spot in my life I am going to put a plaster over it. The only person I ever made one for was Robbie, to which he was like ‘let’s just do this!’ and that was how it happened! We looked into the field and found there were no other stickers that actually impregnate a zit with the ingredients, they simply sit on top and after a lot of research, we created ZitSticka.

What did you think was lacking in the industry that you wanted to address with the brand?
Robbie Miller: We couldn’t understand how there was no such thing as an impregnated acne patch, with acne fighting ingredients, on the market. We started looking at different technologies that were out there. There were stickers, called Hydroclode stickers, that are used for a very distinct stage of a zit’s life cycle, it’s when you have a pimple right at a head and it uses osmosis to draw moisture out of the skin. The problem with that is that it can only be used at a very distinct stage – the end. So, you have to go through an extended time of suffering, of having a pimple physically and emotionally until it’s at the right stage. So, we obviously did so much research speaking to our target audience about what they are doing, it was amazing how many people had given up with current treatments on the market and how many people were trying crazy, different things because they didn’t know what else to do. And so, we understood that in order to become efficacious we had to get beneath the surface, straight to the source of the infection.

KILLA is ZitSticka’s debut product. Can you explain what it is? How do you use it and how does it work?
Robbie Miller: KILLA is a penetrative stick-on patch that uses microdart technology to directly deposit acne-fighting ingredients into early stage spots to halt zit formation in its tracks. The adhesive backing encloses the early-stage zit to protect the vulnerable area and keep it sterile. Each patch contains 24 self-dissolving microdarts which prick the affected area (there’s a satisfying pricking sensation) and penetrate active product beyond the epidermal layer, straight into the zit’s nucleus. In just two hours acne-causing bacteria is killed and the size and redness of the zit is noticeably reduced. Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide (B3), and Salicylic Acid are paired with the gentle bacteria busting peptide, Oligopeptide-76 to quickly and effectively prevent acne outbreaks.

What ingredients are used?
Daniel Kaplan: KILLA is all about disinfecting the pimple, so there’s an anti-microbial peptide called OLIGO-Peptide 76, which is a disinfectant that kills the acne-causing bacteria. Next, we have Vitamin B3 for anti-inflammation which reduces redness, swelling, even pain. Salicylic acid is included as an exfoliant to unclog pores and then finally we have Hyaluronic Acid which acts as the delivery system for the ingredients themselves, it’s the carrier, but it also helps moisturize the area and flush the area of any build up that was there before which is nice. 

Do you worry by offering a product that treats acne, you reinforce the stigma?
Robbie Miller: Not at all, I think our brand actually does the opposite. We aren’t a simple medicinal brand that shows old-fashioned before and afters – we are a millennial brand that is effective, but also encouraging, and hopefully, we can help to de-stigmatize the conversation. Our dream is for people to be proud of posting pictures of them in their ZitSticka. The only way to truly help insecurities is to talk about how normal it is!

How do you hope to change the conversation? Can acne be rebranded?
Robbie Miller: When acne is spoken about it’s not that authentic, it’s a bit soppy and extremely sad – and it can be but we want to make it like how we talk about wrinkles, or other pigmentation – a part of life. I think bringing a touch of humour or wittiness into it, to say that we all get it, we all suffer from it – but let’s now talk about it and address it – you know when you look at the traditional acne treatments in the market – just from the packaging below it’s very boring. It’s either extremely medicinal or very young looking – for teens and young kids. So, we wanted to beautify acne treatments, so it looked like it’s part of your beauty cupboard, and for the first time you can be proud of your acne treatment, and that’s all part of normalizing this conversation that we all get it.

What do you hope to achieve with the brand? Where do you see the brand evolving?
Daniel Kaplan: On a functional level, our debut product was conceived to resolve the notoriously hard-to-resolve underground, cystic, hormonal spot. The brand will evolve (very soon!) into a more complete suite of products that focus on both the prevention and resolution of zits. All the while, we want to beautify pimple routines and bring aesthetic value to a space that’s traditionally not been joyful to engage with.

How are you planning on creating a skin-positive community?
Robbie Miller: We’re intent on starting a different conversation around acne; one with more transparency that normalizes acne. In being more vulnerable about spots, we think it’s possible to cultivate a community in which people feel more empowered to treat them. Our tone of voice is really foundational in this—we’re interested in talking to people like people; the same way they talk to their friends. Humour can’t be underestimated either—we’re at once proposing that zits are an entirely normal and non-shameful phenomenon, but that we can help you get rid of them.

What are you working on at the moment? 
Daniel Kaplan: The first couple of months as a new brand in the (sensitive, contentious) acne space have been very interesting—there’s an extremely concentrated level of democratic feedback to observe, process and act on. Having listened intently to dialogue around our debut product and the space at large, we can reveal only that our next product was fueled heavily by social desires—expect to see it mid-2019.

What do you see as the greatest triumphs of and tribulations facing the skincare industry?
Daniel Kaplan: The biggest triumph of all is surely transforming an industry traditionally considered frivolous and superficial into one that empowers women. It also goes without saying that brands like Fenty have led the way in bringing inclusivity to beauty (side-note! We’ve manufactured our patch to be worn discreetly on a range of skin tones). In terms of tribulations, marketing as a whole can be hugely confusing, though people can immediately feel aligned with beautiful, clean packaging—something brands take advantage of. Jargon is abundant, and the consumer isn’t always clear on her or his needs with respect to a product’s USPs.

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I’ve always been fortunate enough to never really suffer too much with my skin. It was reasonably clear of acne through my teenage years and remained that way through my early twenties. But something happened when I hit 27, which turned my hormones into the enemy. Hormonal acne—large, painful, cystic spots—kept popping up along my chin and jawline, no matter how regimented I kept my skincare routine.

“Hormonal acne is due to fluctuations with your hormones,” says Stuart Kaplan, founder of Kaplan MD Skincare. “Up to 50 percent of women in their 20s and 25 percent of women in their 40s suffer from hormonal acne. Menstruation and other hormonal imbalances can cause increased androgen levels, specifically testosterone. This causes increased oil (sebum) production in the pores, skin inflammation, clogged hair follicles, and increased bacteria in the pores. All of this can lead to spots and acne.”

We’ve all been there. There’s nothing worse than waking up on the morning of an important meeting, a big night out—or the worst case scenario: your wedding day—discovering you’ve got a giant zit on your face. Treatment wise, I’ve tried it all. From DIY toothpaste masks to blasting the zit with salicylic acid and a light therapy face mask—nothing has managed to calm and clear a zit, quite like Zitsticka’s Killa.

How do they work?

Zitsticka’s Killa patches work differently from other spot stickers you may have tried. How? They actually manage to penetrate the spot, and work to reduce it from ever forming in the first place. Clever, hey?

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“Most existing acne solutions come with big promises, yet serious limitations as most address the uppermost layer of skin,” says Daniel Kaplan, cofounder of Zitsticka. Killa is a penetrative stick-on patch that uses ‘microdart technology’ which directly deposits the acne-fighting ingredients (a blend of niacinamide, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid) into the heart of the zit. Tiny self-dissolving spikes help to prick the skin, helping the spot-busting ingredients travel deep down into the blemish, while the adhesive backing keeps the area sterile and free from infection. You know that unmistakable feeling you get when you realize a spot is brewing? That’s when KILLA will work best. To use, first wipe the area with the accompanying salicylic acid, vitamin E, and tea-tree enriched cleansing wipe before popping on one of the translucent patches. Over the next two hours the acne-causing bacteria is killed and the size and redness of the zit is noticeably reduced.

See more: Clean Solutions for All Your Spring Skin Concerns

The translucent patches are discreet enough that you could wear them in public, without risking any funny looks. But as they only need to be worn for a minimum of two hours, if you’re in a rush (like on the morning of your wedding, for instance) there’s no need to keep it on for too long. For me, I use them on my blemishes before bed and by morning, any spots have seriously shrunk in size and redness majorly reduced. Not only that, but blemishes have never developed into full spots after I’ve zapped them with a Zitsticka—it’s as simple as that, zit well and truly zapped.

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