16 September 2020
What does the future of beauty look like? The beauty industry is one of the most innovative and trend-driven industries. The unprecedented changes of the Covid-19 pandemic have disrupted our relationship with our appearances and beauty products. These changes have forced the beauty industry to innovate and to cope with these disruptions. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence and big data are now playing a bigger role in the beauty industry and revolutionizing our daily routines and how we view ourselves.
Here’s a look at how technology and big data are shaping the trends, our choices and our relationships with beauty for the next decade. Are you ready to look into the future of dermatology, skincare and beauty gadgets?
The future of beauty and skincare routine lies in personalisation. Tailor made skincare routines for your skin type and concerns and taking the guesswork out of choosing inappropriate products. Customised skincare products have already been available for years, but now hyper-personalisation of skincare is the buzzword.
Traditional approaches to customised skincare involved customers answering a simplistic questionnaire about their skin conditions and/or sending in photos of their skin. Newer brands of customised skincare are increasing their sophistication by factoring in the parameters of their skin (e.g. pH level of the skin and skin tone) and environment. Some companies also request for DNA samples to take it a notch higher for customised beauty products.
One brand that’s making waves online is Proven; a US-based skincare brand that combines big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to tailor make a skincare regimen for consumers. The founders partnered with a dermatologist to create this skincare line with its database called the Skin Genome Project. To get started, the consumer answers a questionnaire on Proven’s website. The questions also factor in skin type, stress levels and diet. The company’s algorithm then recommends skincare products based on the answers provided.
Industry bigwigs like L’oreal, Estee Lauder and Procter & Gamble are taking this game even further by developing smart sensors and face mapping features. These innovations analyse the dynamic conditions of your skin and environment to create a feedback loop between the products and efficacy on your skin.
Optune is a new skincare range from Japanese beauty house Shiseido that also uses artificial intelligence to optimise and customise skincare products for its user. Launched in 2019, Optune is a smart system that combines an app, dispenser and skincare cartridges. The Optune App collects information about the user’s skin through pictures from the user’s smartphone camera. Together with additional information provided by the user about themselves (e.g. menstrual cycle and mood) and their environment (e.g humidity and temperature), Optune’s algorithm determines the appropriate skincare for the day. This information is then sent to the physical dispenser that is loaded with five skincare cartridges to dispense a bespoke formulation on the user’s hands. Optune also allows users to vary their skincare formulations twice a day and has paved the way for bespoke beauty to the masses. Currently, Shiseido’s Optune device and service are available only in Japan.
Not to be outdone, global beauty brand L’oreal has unveiled its own skincare and makeup personalisation device called Perso this year in January. Similar to Shiseido’s Optune, Perso is a device that contains skincare cartridges that dispense customised skincare products for the user. L’oreal also plans to include makeup customisation in Perso’s functions; such as lipstick colour customisation to match your outfit. I’m really excited about this because this might mean we won’t have to purchase an array of lipstick colours!
Another innovation that has been well received in Seoul is personalised 3D printed face masks from South Korean cosmetics conglomerate, Amorepacific. Launched in May 2020 under Amorepacific brand IOPE, the Lab Tailored 3D Mask is tailored for the user in two aspects. Firstly, the 3D printed masks are customised to fit the contours, shape and size of the patient’s face, bidding adieu wastage of the serums from ill fitting masks. A smart phone app takes 18 measurements of the user’s face and the 3D printer then prints the customised hydrogel face masks for a more precise fit. There are six different conditions that the user can select from to address- acne, anti-aging…etc- for different subunits of the face (forehead, eyes, cheeks…etc). According to Amorepacific, there are 7000 different permutations available. The turnaround time for each made to measure hydrogel mask to be printed is five minutes. IOPE’s personalised 3D mask printing service is currently available in IOPE’s flagship store in Myeongdong.
Technology in beauty is also empowering consumers by narrowing the gap between in-clinic dermatological treatments and smart home devices. Here are some examples:
Light Emitting Diode (LED) therapy is often used in clinics to treat skin conditions. LED therapy involves shining light of different wavelengths to reduce inflammation, kill C. acnes bacteria, induce collagen formation etc. I use LED therapy in my clinic in Singapore too; blue LED light is helpful for reducing acne and red light can reduce inflammation and redness after treatments like Rejuran and Skinboosters. Handheld LED devices such as Foreo UFO and Skin Inc Tri Light offer users the convenience of LED therapy in the comfort of their homes. Although most of the data for LED light therapy is based on professional grade devices, these personal LED devices might also be helpful for improving skin conditions like acne.
Teledermatology or online consultations with doctors is another growing platform for patients to seek help for their skin conditions. For consumers who do not have access to doctors, beauty brands are stepping up to fill the void. AI-powered apps that offer virtual consults using algorithms to offer insight into one’s skin. One example is Effaclar Spotscan,the world’s first AI mobile acne testing app. Launched by La Roche Posay and Chinese e-commerce group, Alibaba, Effaclar Spotscan is an app that allows consumers to conduct self testing and diagnosis of their acne. The app analyses the type of acne lesions from the user’s selfie and then makes product recommendations. Effaclar Spotscan’s neural network model is supported by a database of 6000 photos of males and females of different ethnicities and types of acne. Effaclar Spotscan is currently available on e-commerce apps, Taobao and Tmall. Although these apps cannot replace a visit or teleconsult with a doctor (medications and treatments cannot be dispensed or performed), patients may be able to find customised skincare options for themselves.
Besides artificial intelligence, augmented reality is also playing a bigger role in the world of beauty and dermatology. Using computer generated information (CGI), augmented reality gadgets allow users to simulate how their skin might look and behave with different environmental situations and skincare products.
Olay’s Future You Simulation is an app that allows users to visualise their faces in 20 years time. Users first upload a selfie and key in information about their age and ethnicity. The program then analyses the selfie and its algorithm then simulates how the user will look like in the future. Don’t be shocked to see more blemishes, wrinkles and sagging in the simulation. If you’re a sunscreen sceptic, Olay’s Future You Simulation also gives you a look at how you age differently with and without sunscreen use, among other options. Olay’s Future You Simulation is currently available only in China. I haven’t tried out this app, but I can assure you that using sunscreen daily can delay signs of aging in the skin.
Have you heard of smart mirrors? Smart mirrors are like regular mirrors but with the capability to display additional information and multimedia information. These smart mirrors may seem futuristic, but these AI and AR powered mirrors already have a presence in beauty retailers. These smart mirrors can allow users to try on different makeup products without physically applying these products. These smart mirrors are already commonplace in Seoul, where shoppers can test makeup products, even with their masks on. Besides providing a realistic augmented simulation, these digital makeovers can be conveniently erased with a swipe if you don’t like what you see. No need to reach for makeup removers! The more practical and safe benefit of smart mirrors is that it eliminates the need for physical tester products and reduces spread of microbes. Sephora’s in store Virtual Makeup Artist and HiMirror Slide Smart Mirror are examples of AR mirrors that allow customers to discover new makeup products.
The HiMirror Slide Smart Mirror from Taiwan is a smart mirror that combines the functions of a mirror, makeup consultant and skincare tracker. HiMirror takes photographs of your face and helps you to monitor the progress of your skin’s condition. You can also receive recommendations for skincare products and notifications to remind you when your skincare products expire. HiMirror’s AR capabilities also allow the user to try on different makeup looks and visualise how you look under different environmental conditions like in an office and outdoors on a sunny day.
Closer to our devices, beauty brands like Chanel, MAC, L’oreal and Maybeline have launched AR functions on their sites to allow customers to experiment with different makeup products. And if you like what you see, you can check out the product too; how convenient is that? Smartphone apps like Makeup Plus and Youcam also allow users to enjoy virtual makeovers instantly using photos from their camera roll.
As technology continues to change the world we live in; augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data and disruptive technology will continue to shape our relationship and choices with beauty gadgets. Currently hyper-personalised products, more immersive experiences and smart gadgets are democratizing beauty and improving consumer experience. This review is just a glimpse of what the future of tech in beauty will look like. As algorithms and IoT systems continue to improve, our relationship with beauty routines will too, shift. And who knows what the future (of technology in beauty) will hold?