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The axis of influence is shifting in skincare and beauty away from traditional sources. Not least thanks to the proliferation of new beauty tech products which have started to line the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) annual tech bonanza in Las Vegas and are rapidly gaining in popularity among consumers.
From biotech start-ups, sustainability innovation, to new AI-powered beauty platforms and interfaces, the West Coast of the US, and companies in the tech space, are inching closer to traditional blue chip beauty groups. Take Shiseido’s newly launched contact free mirror that measures and visualises beauty circulation in the face, Amazon which is trialing hovering palm payment systems, and Google’s debut flagship in New York’s Meatpacking district, which is almost entirely centred on voice operated technologies.
“Traditional beauty players have missed the shift. It’s not enough to make your products online. You have to look at everything else that’s happening in the world,” says Solowij. “Unilever and P&G have been quicker to realise this, in part because they have witnessed the shift in multiple categories from food to personal care.”
P&G Ventures, P&G’s early-stage start-up studio, recently announced four US$10,000 innovation prizes, three of which were awarded to West Coast ventures, including NanoSpun Technologies, which “develops and produces disruptive, first-of-its-kind, live-active biological tissues for skincare, medical and industrial applications.”
It also awarded One Skin, a company based in San Francisco, which says it is “the first topical supplement designed to extend your skin's lifespan on a molecular level, improving skin health and strength, giving users youthful skin for longer.”
Unilever has launched the Positive Beauty Growth Platform, a joint venture initiative with its innovation unit The Unilever Foundry to support start-ups building on sustainable and inclusive innovation in beauty. L’Oreal’s West Coast tech and innovation incubation lab has embarked on the development of several tech tools as well as partnerships, from PH monitors to personalised 3D cosmetic printers. In March 2019, it partnered with microbial genetics company Ubiome to advance new research into the skin’s microbiome — the bacterial barrier that protects the skin — and “better understand the interplay between bacterial diversity and skin health,” Guive Balooch, global VP of the unit said at the time.
The shift to beauty tech comes as Big Tech moves further into health and wellness. Apple Health and Samsung are continuing to add medical-grade diagnostics to their watches. Apple’s latest ambition is to track sleep apnea, and its Watch already features an ECG. Samsung Galaxy 4 can measure body fat, skeletal muscle, body water, body mass index and more. Amazon more recently launched Amazon Pharmacy, delivering prescription drugs via Prime delivery.
It is therefore, perhaps, not a coincidence that major Silicon Valley investors are becoming connected to the skincare and beauty space. Darya Hope Pishevar, daughter of Silicon Valley fixture and prominent venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar (Uber, Hyperloop), has recently launched a new skincare line leveraging human stem cell technology. Developed with chief scientist, Anton-Philip Battiade, who specialises in stem cell therapies and research, the hero product, Youth Elixir Stem Serum, uses skin technology originally used for burn victims.
The tech helps users grow skin very quickly in order to avoid infection, Battiade told WWD. “So, it can use stem cell extracts to trigger very quick skin growth,” he says. “But at the same time, if you put that on your face, your wrinkles go away, dark spots go away. So now it has a cosmetic use. Those technologies coming from medicine, we can translate them into cosmetics. And that’s what we’ve done here.”
It started with direct-to-consumer prescription drug platforms like Hims and Hers, offering convenient treatment and advice for erectile dysfunction and hair loss packaged in empathetic but hip lifestyle-oriented branding. Now we are seeing a wave of medical concierges, treating everything from obesity to menopause with a combination of consultations, coaching, vibrant lifestyle content and community initiatives and tailored programs.
Apostrophe and Software are two such examples for acne treatment. Both have editorial-like photography and upbeat, welcoming websites, that offer access to personal consultations with dermatologists and prescription treatments. Software takes it a step further, offering custom formulated skincare for a variety of issues including ageing, pigmentation and acne.
Others in the mix include Curex, which offers at-home allergy testing. Meanwhile, Rory describes itself as a service for “women’s healthcare, without the waiting rooms.” It offers customisable skincare, weight management, and genital herpes treatment. When it comes to skincare, it says: “It’s time to get personal with your skin with dermatologist-selected ingredients and customised blends.”
Amy Shecter describes Ever/Body as a “tech business that comes to life in bricks and mortar” where customers can do virtual appointments before treatments, and receive after-care virtually, too. “And we’re not just focused on the face. We have a holistic approach where we assess how much water you drink, where are your unwanted bulges. We treat you head to toe, morning to night. We’re a modern medical practice.” Next, Ever/Body is launching a product line.
There has been an acceleration in the rapid adoption of tech tools offering near professional-treatment results over the last two years. Luxury retailer Joyce Hong Kong went so far as to create its own beauty Gadget Bar department in response – LYMA’s groundbreaking Laser tops the line-up. Others include LED mask CELLRETURN; NuFace, an at-home facial lifting device; PMD a home vibrating cleansing tool; and Sarah Chapman’s Pro Pore Refiner extraction device.
The market for personalised beauty devices is set to grow at CAGR of over 25.3 percent between 2021 and 2031, reaching US$8 billion, according to recent data by Future Market Insights. The company cited photo-ageing and pollution as key drivers.
Major beauty players are investing in artificial intelligence and augmented reality-based platforms to aim in on diagnostics, skin assessment and home try-on of cosmetics. Opté Precision Skincare, backed by P&G and launched in 2020, is a device that prints foundation-concealer-serum directly on the face to cover dark spots and correct them over time. The wand-like device includes an HD camera that takes upwards of 200 pictures of the skin per second, and applies the formula to areas of discolouration or hyperpigmentation. Skin Reporter, a new tool by Vanity Planet, claims to be able to evaluate skin health via scanning in 30 seconds – tracking oil, wrinkles, dryness and texture.
Technologies are being applied in store. SK-II, the Japanese skincare brand, recently unveiled AI-powered “Magic Scan” at its Tokyo Future x Smart Store, which the brand says can measure the status and age of skin after three minutes, and recommend products.
Data is also being used by an increasing numbers of brands to offer hyper-personalised offers. Veracity invites users to take a spit test that measures hormones and pH level. Based on the results, it then recommends off the shelf skincare products – a moisturiser and a serum – infused with a range of Vital Concentrates suited to one’s profile.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors on average. Indoors, the EPA say, features concentrations of some pollutants often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. What started out as a rising emphasis on pollution and aggressors in the outside world, is increasingly switching to our home environment. As such, new tech devices are stepping in to make our homes – and in turn, skin – healthier.
For example, Skin Authority’s Air Beautification Filtration Device, “[goes] beyond HEPA to filter the smallest sized toxins and pollutants found indoors.” According to the brand, the device effectively eliminates dangerous, ultra-fine (.1 microns) particles from the air to create a safe wellness-focused environment. It adds: “Studies show these particles not only lead to serious diseases but have been linked to chronic skin health issues including acne, psoriasis, hyperpigmentation and dermatitis.”
There’s also recently launched Canopy Humidifier, which the company says “is dermatologist- recommended for improved skin health and hydration.” The company claims the humidifier “promotes healthy, glowing skin and relieves symptoms of cold and flu without the hassles of traditional humidifiers.” Elsewhere, Hey Dewy, a southern California tech company, offers a range of skin-dew optimising humidifiers for home, cars, and travel.
L’Oréal is also getting in on the household device space; it plans to offer a beauty-focused shower head in mid-2022. “Hardware is coming to the fore more – look at Dyson’s move in to beauty,” notes Coefficient’s Whiteman. “It’s started turning to things like water in shower heads, what soft versus hard water does to our scalps, and how purification can help. If you’d pitched that to venture capital 10 years ago, I would have rolled my eyes. Now this is becoming the norm. It’s part of the holistic health movement.”