The Coolest Tech Gadgets To Shop This Holiday Season
It's holiday season, folks, which means gadget deals abound. So we're handpicking our favorites for gifting between now and the end of the year, from smart rings to home energy detectors. And while you're browsing the selection ahead, don't forget to check out our guides to tech under $50, laptops, and headphones, too.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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Ayesha Curry is the ultimate quarantine fitness inspo. Back in May, the 31-year-old Canadian-born actress and mother-of-three took it to Instagram to reveal that she lost 35 pounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic by her showing off her toned physique on full display in a two-piece bikini.
Black history is American history. In this week’s episode of Verizon’s #Next20, David Hubbard spoke with Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad to discuss recent events and the importance of studying Black history as a blueprint to build a more equitable future. “What’s important in 2020 is really understanding why we have not taught these histories, how these systems were built and the possibility for dismantling,” said Dr. Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The U.S. hit another grim milestone on Monday with more than 5 million Americans now infected with the coronavirus. Although there is a push to increase testing and develop a vaccine, experts continue to suggest that if all Americans wore masks, the pandemic could be brought under control “within weeks.” In the spirit of that mission, a new study published in Science Advances is shedding light on which masks are most effective — and which may actually be hurting the effort to curb COVID-19.
Bravo is standing behind the stars that make up its roster of iconic reality shows, and they’re taking notice. When the death of George Floyd fueled protests, overdue conversations about racism and calls for change earlier this summer, Bravo quickly became wrapped up in the conversation, with the network swiftly firing personalities from “Vanderpump Rules” and “Below Deck” in response to outrage from fans over racist incidents from their pasts. The network then doubled down on its stance against racism by doing more to uplift the voices of its Black talent, through initiatives like special episodes of “Watch What Happens Live” and an Instagram Live series called “Amplify Our Voices.” Bravo will also air a roundtable discussion called “Empowering Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment” on Sunday, August 9, night after “The Real Housewives of Potomac.”
While trudging through quarantine, “time” passes by way of meals. Maybe you’ve spent the past however-many-months tenderly nursing your sourdough starter. Perhaps you’ve begun stocking your fridge with fizzing, glass bottles of kombucha. Maybe you’ve recently acquired a palate for natural wine. Either way, chances are, your kitchen is stocked with something fermented. And while the early method of food conservation dates as far back as the neolithic period, over the past decade fermented foods have enjoyed something of a renaissance. Likely, you’re participating now more than ever. Simply put, to ferment is to preserve or in some way alter a food with the use of microbes (yeast, mold, or bacteria). In the fermentation process, those live and active microbes break sugars and starches down into alcohols and acids. In some cases, this means transforming carbohydrates to ethanol (wine! beer! cider!) but in other cases, it’s a mode of turning, say, cabbage, into kimchi. In other words, the whole fermentation process can be described as a means of pre-digestion. All those microbes help break down the sugars and starches in your food, before you’ve actually eaten it. “If you struggle with digestion — if you’re prone to stomach aches or IBS — the pre-digestive nature of fermented foods can make them easier to process,” says board-certified naturopathic doctor, Maura Henninger. “Your gut is like a little eco-system — you need to tend to it, and the bacteria in things like kimchi and kombucha may be beneficial.” Gastrointestinal doctors and healers like Dr. Henninger have been recommending fermented foods for centuries, but the practice of fermentation dates back much further than that. As early as 7000 BC, there is record of an ancient Chinese beverage called Kiu that’s best described as an early iteration of beer. Around 3500 BC there’s evidence of the ancient Egyptian practice of using yeast to leaven bread. By 2000 BC, across China, the fermentation of vegetables (kimchi) and home-brewed tea (kombucha) was a widespread practice. In subsequent years, the Germans earned fame for their sauerkraut; in Russia, pickles became a delicacy; across Korea and China, miso and fermented tofu maintained relentless popularity; and in the U.S, pastoral families pickled perishables of all kinds to preserve them in the days before freezer aisles offered wealths of unspoilable lasagna noodles.But for the expansiveness of its history, the last decade has shown a wild spike in interest in fermentation. According to a survey by restaurant management software company, Upserve, fermented foods saw an 140% increase in popularity on American restaurant menus in 2018. Kombucha grossed 1.67 billion dollars globally in 2019. So the question is, why now? According to Jim Spalding, kombucha brand KeVita’s Senior Director of Brand Strategy and Communications, kombucha, specifically, can act as a notably accessible route to honing in on gut health without some of the more cumbersome routine shifts modern-day wellness can require. “Probiotics are often associated with the fermented food trend,” he explains. “Our line of Master Brew Kombuchas all contain billions of live probiotics per bottle, which give consumers an accessible way of incorporating more probiotics into their daily routines.”KeVita is particularly committed to unveiling flavors that fall within already-popularized palates (think: Meyer Lemon, Lavender Melon, and Lemon Ginger). “Our proprietary ways of formulating taste experiences — along with cultures, ferments, and probiotics — aim to propel ‘alternative’ foods and beverages into the mainstream,” says Spalding. And as illustrated by recent IRi data, that shift is fairly tangible: The functional beverage category (inclusive of kombucha, non-dairy probiotic beverages and apple cider vinegar tonics) has grown roughly 21.7% in dollar sales over the past 3 years. It’s highly likely that, in some part, this spike is also a symptom of the sober-ish movement. As mixologists and bartenders stir up ever-expanding menus of low ABV-cocktails and consumers tend towards less booze-heavy refreshments for social occasions or at-home nightcaps, kombucha can fill a similar niche. With flavors on offer like KeVita’s Mojita Lime Mint Coconut and Blackberry Hops, all of which come with a slight fermented kick not dissimilar to that of a well-made cocktail, non-alcoholic kombucha can provide a welcome alternative for the sober-curious. For Zoe Gong, a food influencer with a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), who hosts roving ferment-forward supper clubs across New York City, the growing trend in fermented cooking and eating extends beyond the purported gut health benefits. “I think people are excited about tasting something they couldn’t or don’t know how to make for themselves. They like going out to eat and being introduced to something foreign.” Zoe’s personal favorite dish of this kind is fermented tofu — tofu long marinated in salt, rice wine, sesame oil, and vinegar. “It has this incredible texture. It’s salty and filled with umami,” she says. “People like it because the flavor is so interesting and complicated — it’s exciting.” With respect to taste, the cool kid natural wine renaissance is also a nod to the pleasure in tasting ferment. These days, our Instagram feeds are all but clogged with design-forward natural wine labels, and our mealscapes center around cloudy bottles of skin-contact Pinot Gris. “When kombucha went mainstream, it sort of normalized the flavor of ferment,” says Jean-Baptiste Humbert, owner of SoHo cult-favorite natural wine shop, Wine Therapy. “But more than that, I think people love the vinegary, fermented flavor that’s fundamental to natural wine because it tastes ‘real,’ not artificial. Fermented flavors have something raw about them.” According to Humbert, the flavor of ferment is nothing short of “primitive” — which is quite literally true. “It’s like you can taste that these wines come directly from the earth with nothing in the middle — just fermented grapes — that’s all. You taste the simplicity,” he says. In his shop, Humbert says he encounters customers who are both willing and excited to taste wines that verge into “funkier” territory with more and more frequency. While just a few years ago, it was generally believed that higher quality wines were uniform in flavor, he now finds that customers want the version of imperfect disparity that comes from withholding artificial additives or chemicals. “Food is following the same curve — there’s demand for transparent local products produced without chemicals. People like to know about their food’s origins,” he says. “It’s the same with wine. I think we tend to forget that wine is a living thing, there are microorganisms that keep it alive.”According to Junghyun ‘JP’ Park, chef and owner behind beloved, New York-based Korean restaurants, Atoboy and Atomix, fermented flavors tell a story. They’re complex and dynamic, and for that reason, they lend nuance to produce that is fresher or cleaner in taste. “At both of my restaurants, fermented soybean products — ganjang, doenjang, and yeondu — all appear in many of our dishes. We use them because imparting the flavor of fermentation adds depth,” he says. “The interest in seasonality has been at a high over the past few years, and I think fermentation is a natural follow-up — it’s a way to preserve seasonal ingredients beyond their short timeframe.” Kimchi, a tried and true staple of Korean dining, is now commonplace in American supermarkets: napa cabbage (a superfood in its own rite) left pickling for anywhere from a few days to a few months, resulting in a sweet-sour, acidic dish often described as “fizzy.” In Korea, where nearly 1.5 million tons of kimchi are consumed annually, the recipes vary. Families add their own precise combinations of seasonings, giving way to hundreds of varieties, some of which depart from the cabbage base entirely (think: radishes, pork belly, chestnuts, even fruit). And while the popularized American version is fairly streamlined comparatively, in 2018, the American kimchi market was valued at 3000 million. You’ll even find Kimchi available as a topping at California Pizza Kitchen. And of course, we’re also seeing ferment in carbohydrate form: sourdough bread. Surely, possession of sourdough starter has never been quite as glamorous as it is now, while folks in quarantine search for ways to broach increasingly difficult and laborious culinary projects at home (read: anxiety-baking). For beginners, a traditional focaccia might be a more practical (and tangible) approach, but right now, people are more willing than ever to wait out the fermentation period. To let their starters bubble, and develop until they’re plenty ripe. The longer you allow your starter to ferment, the more sour your loaf will taste — and these days, that’s a selling point. No matter the dish in question — be it soybeans or flavor-driven kombucha like KeVita — fermented foods tell a story. They’re nuanced, many-layered. Kimchi and sourdough alike smack of acid and sour-sweet brine, even for those of us with less-than-refined palates. They taste like the process of aging. And while the wellness revolution would have us believe that fermented food’s uptick in popularity is merely a product of the fact that we’re eternally prepared to flirt with anything that just might make us feel better, the phenomenon cuts deeper than that. There’s something to be said for flavor that comes with a narrative — that tastes of its own timeline. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
As we are days (hours? minutes?) away from learning who Joe Biden will choose as his running mate, an old VP pick has regained national attention thanks to a recently published op-ed. In Matt Lewis’ Daily Beast article entitled “Dems Say Sexist Attacks Are Wrong. Someone Tell Sarah Palin!” the columnist asserts that the Democratic Party, women’s groups, and liberal elites in the media are “a bunch of hypocrites” for preparing for sexist attacks to be levied against Biden’s future Veep. Where does this alleged hypocrisy stem from? According to the op-ed, it all has to do with “their sexist attacks” that “helped batter a young female rising star deemed as an existential threat.” The existential threat being Sarah Palin running alongside Republican Presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. “Don’t get me wrong. Pushing back against sexism is good,” he writes. “But it also strikes me as a bit self-serving, coming from a party that has been less than chivalrous to women who got in the way of their liberal agenda.” “This is a good time to force Democrats to grapple with what they did to Palin,” writes Lewis (a straight, white man), ultimately faulting liberals — including liberal women — for ending Palin’s political career. But Lewis fails to acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of Palin’s criticism came from her championing ideas that are problematic or meaningless. He also seems to overlook that holding a woman like Palin accountable for perpetuating damage is not related to her gender. What is anti-feminist is to avoid criticizing her because she is a woman.During her time in politics, especially on the national stage, Palin flexed numerous ideas — of which her identity as a woman had no relevant influence — that were gibberish at best and, on occasion, incredibly dangerous. For one, she was a proponent of birtherism, the theory that former President Barack Obama wasn’t actually a U.S. citizen. In 2011, she praised Donald Trump for investigating Obama. “He’s not just throwing stones from the sidelines, he’s digging in,” said Palin. “He’s paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate.” In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, the former Alaska governor described the Hispanic population in the United States as “helping to build America” but then followed it up by saying, “You want to be in America? A: You’d better be here legally or you’re out of here. B: When you’re here, let’s speak American.” In a piece for right-wing outlet Breitbart, Palin wrote: “Because of Obama’s purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services.”Palin also regularly advocated against restrictions on gun ownership rights, she was still against abortion even in instances of rape and incest, and she opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions. In 2008, she went as far as to say that she hoped to see a federal ban on same-sex marriages. “I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that’s where we would go. I don’t support gay marriage,” Palin told Christian Broadcasting Network at the time.This isn’t to say that Palin never faced sexism. Like all women in politics, she has undoubtedly faced unfair criticism and judgement based solely on her gender, and likely needed to work harder than a man to get to where she did in her career. Sexism and discrimination are consistent problems regardless of political party affiliation; however, to suggest that Palin was unsuccessful purely due to sexism from the Democratic Party and the media isn’t an accurate assessment. In truth, Palin failed to gain a larger platform because the ideas she supported were not something the majority of voters could get behind. To cast Sarah Palin as the victim of sexism at the hands of a hypocritical political party — and to use this as a defense against the future sexism that Biden’s VP will inevitably face — is a massive stretch of historic interpretation. Palin’s track record is alarming for a person of any gender, and should be taken to task, just as any vice-presidential candidate should be. That includes Biden’s future running mate, too.So rather than prepare quips about our potential future vice president’s appearance, demeanor, or worse, “ambition,” be prepared to critique her policies and perspectives. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Did This Leak Just Reveal Biden's VP Pick?What Does Biden Really Think About Kamala Harris?Trump: Joe Biden Will "Hurt God" If Elected
Sure, your back-to-school shopping list is going to look a little different this year: instead of new laptop totes or pairs of loafers, you're weighing floating desks and yet another sneaker purchase. You might even be wondering if there’s any point in shopping at all when all we seem destined for is a fall season full of Zoom, loungewear, and inside voices. But, now more than ever, we need our back-to-school shopping itineraries to remind us that time actually is moving and our routines could use a little refreshment. Knowing that shopping is by no means a cure for the stay-at-home doldrums, we still cannot deny the power of a new purchase to shake up our outlook for the better. Whether it’s a fresh new face mask, a seasonal upgrade to your leggings uniform, or comfy shoes that will take you from the street to the apple orchard, there’s probably something to put some pep back in your step on our list of new essentials ahead. Click through to shop the remixed “must-haves” for one very different back-to-school season. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Roller Skating: Summer's Underdog Pandemic HobbyHow To Help Teachers Right NowCollege Planners To Help You Get Organized
With many Americans still feeling anxious about visiting a hair salon during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for at-home services has never been higher. In fact, Shortcut — an app that allows clients to request an in-home haircut from a licensed barber or stylist in their area — reports a 600% increase in bookings over the past three months. Will Newton, co-founder of Shortcut, built the barber-delivery platform back in 2015 (with no premonitions of a global pandemic). “We set out to design an Uber for haircuts: You download the app, input your address and the service you’re looking for, and we match you with a local stylist or barber who will come to you,” Newton says. “Today, demand for our at-home services has exploded because many people don’t feel comfortable venturing into a salon or barbershop, but still want a good haircut.” With health concerns altering the salon industry as a whole, Newton had to adjust the Shortcut model to cater to increasing demands while keeping safety a top priority. “We anticipated the surge in requests for at-home haircuts, and the widespread lockdowns across the personal-care industry afforded us the time to close business, increase our portfolio of hair professionals across 25 cities in the U.S., and institute best practices that enable our team to safely deliver haircuts in people’s homes,” Newton says. For the health of the stylist and client, Shortcut has implemented safety measures to comply with each state’s guidelines as well as CDC recommendations. “We require our hair pros to complete a health and safety course before booking out to clients,” Newton explains. “They also have to wear a mask at every appointment and use disposable single-use capes and drop cloths to collect fallen hair. We also fully encourage our stylists to take appointments outdoors whenever possible — so haircuts are happening in backyards and rooftops all across the country.”Similar to a meal-delivery service, Shortcut offers the convenience of a quarantine haircut without ever leaving your home. But considering the fact that you can’t practice six-foot social distancing during a hair appointment, even in your own home, we have to ask: Is booking an at-home haircut really safe during a pandemic?According to public-health expert Karl Minges, PhD, it’s safer than going into a salon, but not completely without risk. “Compared to a salon haircut, an in-home service comes with a lower risk of infection because you have control of your space and only one person will be entering — so there’s no chance of interaction with other people, which might happen at a salon,” he explains. “For the stylist, the risk is likely the same as performing services in the salon, depending on the client and the specific infection-prevention steps taken in their home.”Of course, if tight precautions are followed, the at-home service can be relatively safe for clients and stylists, both of whom should be masked for the entire appointment. “Even in your own home, you should wear a mask while having a haircut,” says Dr. Minges. “Other precautions would be to go outside for the appointment or, if that’s not possible, keep the windows open and A/C running with fans to increase air circulation — and thoroughly clean all surfaces, including door handles, that were touched during the appointment.”Not only is Shortcuts providing a safer alternative for clients who need a haircut, but it’s also helping many stylists and barbers stay afloat financially. “Right now, hair salons and barbershops are struggling with capacity regulations, and many stylists and barbers have been laid off,” Newton explains. “As a result, we’ve seen an overwhelming increase in licensed professional hair pros applying to join Shortcut, especially in our New York and L.A. markets.” Because there’s no salon overhead, stylists on Shortcut earn 80% commission, and if a stylist brings one of their clients onto the platform, they keep 100% of that commission. Shortcut currently employs over 400 hair pros across the country, including L.A.-based hairstylist Pierre Johnson who says he’s grateful for the opportunity to leverage his services during these uncertain times. “I need to cut hair in order to make money,” he explains. “Using Shortcut allows me to connect with clients I wouldn’t have met outside of my shop while maximizing my earning potential. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue doing what I love with the help of a company that prioritizes the health and safety of its customers and employees.”Despite his modern business model, Newton says he’s not looking to put traditional hair salons out of business, but rather partner with them to move forward together. “We’re not naïve to the fact that people love going to the hair salon — in some neighborhoods, the barbershop is the cornerstone of the community — and that’s going to bounce back,” says Newton. “With that said, this is a tough time and many salon models have to pivot. To help, we’ve built an additional piece of technology that allows salons and barbershops to white label our app, so their stylists can use it to facilitate in-home services with their clients.” Of course, many states don’t allow personal-care services to be performed outside of a licensed salon, but because Shortcut operates under the jurisdictions of each state’s individual guidelines — with safety protocols in place — salon-delivery is possible in some areas. “With these partnerships, a client can go to their salon’s website, and they’ll be redirected to the Shortcuts app to book one of the salon’s employees for an at-home service. What an Uber Eats or Grubhub is for local restaurants, we can be that for hair salons.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Ouai x Byredo's Collab Is Perfect Hair In A Bottle9 Black-Owned Hair Care Brands To Shop NowThe Retro Hair Accessory Sweeping Summer 2020