Future-gazing is less about imagining the impossible and accurately predicting the seemingly inconceivable, then making it happen. Just a few years ago, we could never have envisaged scanning systems that print our skincare on command or virtual dermatologists who can accurately grade our skin at the click of a button, but we need conceptualise no longer, since this – and more – now exists in real life.
The road towards embracing skin tech has been a rocky one. We’re justifiably hesitant to adopt and endorse that which we don’t know, but steady and substantiated efforts in the tech arena have reinforced the intention of brands to provide customers with tools that are intuitive, weave seamlessly into their lifestyles and offer effortless solutions to unsolved problems, providing reassurance.
“Four years ago, the beauty industry was in the midst of a New Natural renaissance,” says Emily Safian-Demers, in her Beauty Tech Futures report for Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “In a trend fuelled by rampant fear that the world around us – from the food we eat to the air we breathe – is filled with poisonous chemicals and toxins, beauty products were stripped back to their purest forms […] But now, ‘natural’ and ‘engineered’ are no longer perceived as mutually exclusive. As new technologies emerge that replicate the services of the doctor’s office or manufacture biomimetic ingredients, the beauty industry is course-correcting,” she explains.
While brands have long been innovating on space-age solutions that solve problems ahead of their competitors, there’s a renewed impetus on infiltrating our beauty regimes through the mechanism of technology – increasingly so, given the digital age we live in. A recent report from data firm, Epsilon, found that 75% of Gen Z and Millennials use smartphones to make purchases online. We’re already using our phones to input data into apps, and we’re considered the most tech-savvy generation. This makes skin tech a natural environment to reach younger generations of shoppers.
“The divides between beauty, science and technology are becoming increasingly blurred,” says Emily. “It’s not surprising that established names in beauty are embracing technology, with legacy brands like L’Oréal voraciously acquiring and incubating tech startups; nor that tech giants like Amazon and Google are leaning in to the beauty space, with voice assistants integrating hands-free beauty shopping and tutorials,” she says. “More and more, the introduction of technology is upending the beauty category, ushering in a new era of connected applications, products and habits. The future of beauty tech is upon us.”
So what specifically, are brands doing to keep ahead of the curve? These are the leading innovations hitting skincare routines now (or imminently).
Acne can be one of the most difficult problems to treat, with self-diagnosis and wrongly chosen products making the issue even more complicated to deal with. To provide customers with an accessible solution, La Roche Posay created the first free acne diagnosis tool powered by artificial intelligence. Created in collaboration with dermatologists, the tool works on an algorithm which feeds in 3 images of your skin (taken by you on your phone’s camera) and compares it to over 6,000 dermatologist patient photos that have been graded by acne experts.
Users will receive a result that grades their number of blackheads, inflammatory spots and brown marks left by spots, before being given a recommended skincare routine (from La Roche Posay’s skincare ranges) of ingredients and products that will benefit the texture and condition of your skin. Users with more serious acne will be redirected to a specialist who can help them.
You can access the tool through the La Roche Posay website, provided you have a high quality camera to take pictures on.
Shiseido’s Optune uses truly mind-blowing technology. The personalised skincare system is powered by IoT (an abbreviation of Internet of Things which basically means more than one type of tech is combined and “talks to each other” to provide an overall function).
The Optune app, uses an algorithm to analyse data on both your skin condition (fed in by you by pictures you supply daily to the app) and environmental conditions (such as temperature, humidity and the amount of particulates, or pollution in the air). It combines this with internal factors such as stress, your mood and your menstrual cycle, provided by you, and sleep data (compiled by a motion sensor that detects sleep disturbances in the app) to create a bespoke reading of your skin and its specific needs that day.
It then sends all of its findings to the high-tech Optune Shot machine (where things get real sci-fi), which custom blends a two-step skincare routine from five pre-chosen cartridges – selected using pre-provided information on your skin’s usual behaviour. You put your hands in the machine (which looks sort of like a sophisticated soap dispenser) and it’ll deposit the skincare solution straight to you.
Though it’s not available in the UK yet, Shiseido’s Optune is being trialled in Japan.
Sun exposure and pollution are the two biggest causes of premature ageing. To help users understand how much UV, pollution, humidity and pollen they’re personally exposed to daily – and what this means for their skin – La Roche Posay created the My Skin Track UV, a wearable sensor that can be clipped onto clothing and reports in to a corresponding app on your phone when the two are touched together. Based on the data provided, the app will create personalised recommendations to help you best protect your skin.
Currently only compatible with iPhones, the app is available from Apple.
If you frequently find sheet masks don’t fit your face – the nose hole is down by your chin and the circumference stretches straight into your hairline – then you’ll be pleased to hear that Neutrogena has created an intelligent custom built mask that takes into account the exact dimensions of your face and the pinpointed areas where you need certain active ingredients – you might for instance need hyaluronic acid on your cheeks, but not your T-zone, or salicylic acid on your chin, but not your forehead. Armed with the information, they can print a mask bespoke to the structure and concerns of your face.
The innovation is launching in the US first, but will hopefully be rolling out globally after.
Luxury department store Harrods launched its Gen Identity service as part of the offering from its in-store Wellness Clinic. The personalised skincare service offers a medical consultation followed by DNA tests (taken from your saliva), this is fed into an algorithm to create a bespoke report on your skincare needs and a course of skincare products personalised to you and your specific skincare needs. It comes at a hefty cost though – the service starts from £1,500 with a follow-up fee of £650 – but it’s leading the charge towards a much more personalised approach to caring for your skin based on your genetics.
Lastly, this week, Vichy launched its new Skinconsult AI skin scanner, which, like the La Roche Posay Effaclar Spotscan, analyses your selfie against an algorithm created with dermatologists. This time, it looks at signs of ageing – pore visibility, lack of firmness, deep wrinkle visibility – and gives you a rating on your priority skincare areas (where you might want to focus more) and your strengths (where your skin outperforms others in your age group). Once you’ve looked through your skin report, you can click through to a recommended skincare routine. You can access it straight through Vichy’s website provided your using a device with a good camera.