No matter what year you were born, saying 2022 out loud sounds like you’re speaking of a world light years ahead. In the minds of many, self-driving cars should be standard by now, teleportation the easiest way to get from one place to the next, and using physical cash to pay for things is a practice as antiquated as a fax machine. While some of these technological advancements have come to fruition, one of the biggest booms has been in the beauty business.
What was once a one-size-fits-all approach to skin care is now a deeply personal and customizable methodology to meet our vast and evolving beauty needs. While the beauty industry has for decades — some may argue centuries — relied on formula enhancements and the discovery of new and untapped ingredients for product efficacy, a new batch of devices and procedures look to alter not only our appearance, but the way in which we achieve those results. The intersection between beauty and tech has turned the basic chemistry of product development into high-performance treatments, formulas, and devices that are able to hone in on the idiosyncrasies of our skin, hair, and makeup needs.
There’s no doubt that even with the most advanced day-to-day essentials, the endless pursuit of healthy, youthful skin and hair will always exist. And now, with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), actual DNA, and even machinery used to build cars and jets, getting closer to a personal standard of perfection is not that unreasonable.
PRP (platelet-rich plasma) was one of the first iterations of this. Then, the groundbreaking (and slightly gross) technology utilized a patient’s own blood, extracted the plasma, and then slathered it all over the skin to resolve a multitude of skin concerns like fine lines and hyperpigmentation. Now, experts are even more versed in tapping the benefits of blood.
Dr. Azza Halim, a board-certified, multi-specialist physician based in Newport Beach, California, says that “DNA mapping” is something that has been used for customized diets and vitamin supplements but is now useful in assessing skin, health, and beauty needs. “We know our DNA determines our appearance, eye color, skin tone, height, and so much more,” she says. “It only makes sense to harness the power of DNA skincare for personalized care especially if one is not getting results with standard OTC products.”
The question is: Are all of these tech enhancements just a fad? The experts say no. “Which technologies will be frontrunners may change but there are endless possibilities when it comes to the intersection of technology and beauty,” says Julie Pefferman, cosmetic chemist and chief innovation officer at Cosmeta. “Technology can solve many problems for consumers, but it is also solving problems for beauty companies at the same time.” Jill Tomandl, vice president of product development, innovation and brand sustainability for Smashbox Cosmetics, agrees. “Tech is improving speed-to-market for traditional beauty brands [who are] focusing on formulas alone.”
Here’s a look at some of the latest hybrids in beauty and tech that are shaking up the way you look at skin, hair, makeup, and nail products.
Noble Panacea The Chronobiology Sleep Mask
The tech behind Noble Panacea comes courtesy of Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Fraser Stoddart. The brand’s patented Organic Super Molecular Vessels (OSMV) are an ingredient delivery system that is 10,000 times smaller than a skin cell. The tiny capsules are made from biodegradable carbs and fatty acids that can transport skin care actives into the depths of your skin. The newest product in Noble Panacea’s range, The Chronobiology Sleep Mask, pumps exfoliating polyhydroxy acid (PHA), collagen-boosting retinol, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and a blend of moisture-sealing oil into the skin at staggered times while you snooze. The formula works like this: Between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., skin will be purged of damaging free radicals and dead skin; between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., the repair process takes place; and at 4 a.m., skin is nourished with hydrating and soothing actives. Pretty impressive compared to the average nighttime moisturizer.
Backed by consumer-tech company Oddity, SpoiledChild is a new wellness brand with serious smarts behind it. The company created an adaptive machine learning engine called SpoiledBrain, which sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, and the artificial intelligence system uses hyperspectral technology that can detect 31 wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye. What these wavelengths can do is analyze skin and hair features, detect facial blood flows, monitor heart rate, and create melanin and hemoglobin maps. The tool also consists of data that’s been collected from 25 million users on Oddity’s tech platform. This info helps inform what consumers’ main goals, concerns, and pain points are in the skin and hair care spaces.
After you complete an online profile, your information is combined with SpoiledBrain’s findings to pair you up with the exact product for your skin or hair. “SpoiledBrain analyzes trillions of potential combinations of user profile attributes to arrive at the best multicategory product match for each user in real time,” explain Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Laura Sluyter, co-general managers of SpoiledChild. “It is able to continuously collect additional data and use that to train and improve the algorithm both for existing and new products.” The tech goes even deeper.
So whether you’re looking to smooth out wrinkles or get your hair growing, with this technology you’ll have a near customized formula to meet your needs. Products this advanced sound like they’d come with a hefty price tag, but Fitzpatrick and Sluyter note that because their model is so hyper-specific, they are able to offer formulas that range from $45 to $75.
Dyson set the bar incredibly high for hair tools, but L’Oréal’s latest is applying pressure. If you’ve ever been brave enough to try a box of at-home hair dye then you’re familiar with how messy the whole process can be — not to mention a huge margin for error that comes with it. Ask any colorist how many color corrections they’ve done in their day and guaranteed the answer is plenty. This is where Colorsonic comes to the rescue.
The handheld device does all the messy work for you. The tool works alongside an app where you choose your preferred color from a list of 40 options. From there you apply a cardboard cartridge into the device and a custom mixer mechanism blends just the right amount of developer and color inside the tool. The device then dispenses the hair color right into your roots through an oscillating nozzle of bristles that move in a zigzag pattern so that the dye is evenly distributed. Pure genius.
K18 Biomimetic HairScience
On the topic of hair, bond repair products have been one of the newer categories to take over the hair care space. And while many of the more well-known treatments are applied before a color process to prevent fragile hair bonds from breaking, K18 is able to repair the damage after it’s been done. It took the biotech smarties who discovered K18 10 years to find a peptide small enough to perfectly fit tiny broken links within a hair strand. Apply the Leave-In Molecule Repair Hair Mask, which is laced with the peptide, and the brand promises that in just four minutes, the damage from bleach, color, and heat-styling will be no more.
“Digital diagnostic skin care and virtual makeup try-on tools have accelerated with the improvement of smartphone camera image capture, analysis, and algorithms, bringing a customized beauty experience into the home,” says Tomandl. And all Ignae Skincare needs is a selfie to properly diagnose which areas of your face need a little TLC. You’ll start by answering a few questions about your skin and then take a selfie. Ignae’s AI Skin Analysis Test then analyzes nine different areas of your skin in the picture to determine trouble spots. The higher the score the better. So the areas that show the lowest scores should be your focus points and Ignae will then recommend products from its own skin care range to target those specific needs.
You may be familiar with or have at least heard of microneedling. While its origin dates back centuries, the microneedling known today become popular in the mid-’90s as one of the earlier skin care advancements to assist with product penetration and collagen production. The downside is that microneedling can be very irritating to sensitive skin types in particular. After all, it’s literally poking hundreds of tiny holes in your face. Consider Droplette the more tech-savvy baby sister of microneedling.
The needle-free tool, which is meant to be used at home, transforms traditional water-based serums into millions of tiny droplets that can penetrate the skin’s surface. The device can get your product to sink 20 times deeper than applying them with your hands. Here’s where it gets a little dizzying: The science combines a trifecta of fluid dynamics, the piezoelectric effect (similar electric charges that collect in crystals), and Fick’s laws of diffusion. So in layman’s terms, Droplette is able to chop the size of product ingredients so finely that it effortlessly absorbs into the depths of your skin. Whereas if you were to apply the same product with your hand, much of the actives would sit on the surface or hit the more superficial layers of the skin at best.
In addition to ingredients absorbing deeper, Droplette’s technology breaks down molecules that are generally too large to absorb into the skin through traditional application methods into drops that can reach 20 cell layers under the skin’s surface to the dermis. Plus, there’s zero worry about having a goopy product left on your hands. The device pumps out your serums into a micro-mist which absorbs instantly.
While there’s benefit to both microneedling and a device like Droplette, it’s worth noting that Droplette does allow for ingredients to absorb deeper into skin than the 1.5 to 2 millimeters that a microneedling tool offers. Plus, there’s no recovery time needed with the mist option, which is ideal for sensitive skin.
Tomandl reveals that back in 2016, Smashbox was the originator of a limited edition 3D-printed lipstick that was based off of the brand’s Be Legendary formula, but ManiMe looked to the 3D-printing tech for its collection of custom-made gel nail polish stickers. “Try on tech” like AgileHand is what ManiMe uses to help perfectly fit each nail sticker to your nail bed shape and size. You just scan and upload a series of pics of your hands to the ManiMe website and choose your nail color or design, and the printer does the rest by shaping and laser cutting each sticker. Your gel stickers are then mailed to you to apply at home.
The advancements being made in the beauty business aren’t just on the consumer-facing side. Traditional skin care companies are looking to their tech-centric counterparts like Novi to help bring their businesses into the future. “Novi Connect is a platform that helps brands and manufacturers develop products faster by selecting and vetting ingredients based on policies, certifications, and providing regulatory information from the raw material suppliers,” Tomandl explains.
The platform offers product developers a database of existing products and resources that have already been vetted by the Novi team to meet both retailer-specific and more general clean beauty standards. For example, if a brand is looking to meet Sephora’s “Clean by Sephora” standards, Novi can guide it on exactly which ingredients and packaging materials can and cannot be included in its products. Developers can also chat with experts in real time as they make their product selections.
Beyond the disruptive formulas and technology, Tomandl also notes that there have been major breakthroughs on the packaging front, too. She says that certified chemical or advanced recycling has helped push beauty packaging beyond the limits of mechanical recycling. “Polymers from recycled materials are chemically reduced to the original monomer, then made into resin and new components,” she adds. “[Skin care brand] Origins launched a tube with certified polyolefin technology in partnership with the material supplier, Sabic.” Sabic is a company that creates advanced raw materials that are changing the way packaging materials breaks down once discarded. This eliminates the need for traditional recycling because the chemical makeup of the new materials degrades differently and can then be turned into other raw materials like fuel oil and fuel gas.
What Does The Future Of Beauty & Tech Hold?
While many brands and experts continue on their quest toward total beauty tech domination, Pefferman says that there is still plenty of room for a great formulation that does what it says it will. “Traditional beauty will continue to adopt technology to make the customer experience better or in the form of specialized ingredients, even if the formula or application is not a piece of tech itself,” she adds. “We also have simultaneous trends of skin minimalism, traditional medicine, and clean beauty that keeps simple time-tested formulas relevant.” It’s this interesting juxtaposition that may reflect the middle of the road path the beauty industry is on.
Whether you’re ready for the system upgrade on the next big thing in beauty or a novice simply trying to find the right formula for your evolving skin, thanks to tech, beauty is getting better, easier, and a lot more personal.