The Beauty of Technology: How Tech is Breaking Boundaries in Beauty
Technology has transformed our expectations of beauty - from Instagram filters to flaw-erasing photoshopping to the readily-available treatments zipping and zapping our bodies in the pursuit of perfection.
And increasingly so, tech is also transforming the brands and products we find on our vanities. Whether it’s for a natural glow or total transformation, the demand for innovative tools and techniques is rife.
Whether it's enhancing the user experience at all touchpoints, harnessing AR, leaping into the metaverse or implementing inclusivity, sustainability and scientific innovation into brand DNA, huge moves in tech offer endless possibilities for brave beauty brands to take risks and reap the rewards.
For brands looking to stay ahead of the game and attract new audiences, we’re breaking down the latest developments of products and experiences defining the beauty sector well into 2023 and beyond.
Beauty Technology Innovation 2023
Artificial Intelligence - Getting Personal
Lululab Inc. is an AI-operated service that subscribers use to receive regular analysis of their complexion, identifying them as one of 16 different types and offering personalised product prescriptions. The user also receives helpful content from influencers with the same skin type and issues to educate. Over time through the subscription, the user should be able to track their skin's improvement and continue to tailor their skincare routine further.
This year, Bulldog Skincare launched an AI-powered selfie analysis experience to help demystify skincare for male customers - immediately offering personalised skincare routine with advice for their complexion. Recognising a general stigma around male ‘beauty’ products, the app aims to empower men to take care of themselves through an intuitive three step process, accessible to all via an app.
“We have always believed that skincare shouldn’t be complicated, nor should finding the right products be a daunting task. That’s why we launch our AI Skin Advisor tool in the UK with great excitement. The tool makes it even easier for our consumers to discover skincare products that are just right for them and their skin”, said James Barnes, General Manager of Bulldog Skincare.
In a first of its kind, Estee Lauder created a Voice-Enabled Makeup Assistant (VMA), a revolutionary AI-powered mobile app to help visually impaired users apply make-up independently - enabling self-expression.
“We are committed to building innovative technology solutions that make beauty truly inclusive to everyone. We are thrilled to bring the experience of independently applying makeup to the millions of people that are visually impaired. Technology is a powerful tool to drive inclusion and we are delighted to be first to market with this pioneering app.”
The application uses AI to map the user's face and features, then when applying voice instruction technologies to assist the user, they receive audio feedback and tips on whether their foundation, lipstick or eyeshadow is evenly applied.
AI provides a unique opportunity for brands to establish intimate consumer relationships and educate on a one-on-one basis, otherwise only achieved in-person with expensive resources. Especially for audiences or communities before that aren’t typically catered for in the beauty retail experience. Whilst more generally, contributing to higher customer satisfaction and results, with correct products advised from the onset and increased conversion.
Augmented Reality & Virtual Vanity
Try Before You Buy has been taken to new heights with Augmented Reality (AR) - no doubt accelerated by covid hygiene measures, many brands have invested in filters and apps that enable customers to digitally try shades of foundation, lipsticks and eyeshadows before purchase, without the need to visit in-store.
Inspired by this movement, aesthetics experts Galderma created a groundbreaking AR solution ‘FACE By Galderma™’ to elevate their customer consultations, showing a ‘before and after; view of possible results from an individualised treatment plan.’ Practitioners are able to instantly visualise over 19 treatments on the customer’s face as well as detect wrinkles further in advance using the technology.
“We developed this game-changing solution to support aesthetic practitioners and give patients a visual representation of what they can expect from the procedures included in their treatment plan. For example, the real-time injectable results feature simulates how a treatment might augment a patient’s lips, cheeks or chin. FACE by Galderma™ offers patients a realistic visual of their results before treatment even begins, supporting them to establish treatment objectives and priorities alongside their practitioner. It gives them the freedom to make their aesthetic goals a reality.” GERRY MUHLE, HEAD OF GLOBAL BUSINESS UNIT, AESTHETICS. GALDERMA
Developed in partnership with Crisalix, the worldwide leaders in 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality aesthetic simulation, FACE by Galderma™ unleashes the potential of AR technology to convince and convert customers through interactive visualisations.
As well as overlays & dynamic visuals, AR has the unique ability to push artistic boundaries and go beyond what is physically possible - designers and creators can challenge beauty standards and norms, even if the look is not ‘practical’ or wearable in real life. What ‘beauty’ will we celebrate when we’re not confined by gravity or social conventions?
Piper ZY, renowned AR artist, started to experiment with designing ‘Manicure City’, an intricate piece of nail art which comes to life in 3D - with animations galore. Piper ZY challenged herself to see how you could make a tiny nail bed a fully fledged cityscape. Usually, AR requires a much larger surface area to be effective - however, through trial and error - Piper ZY was able to successfully augment the nail.
The design garnered much attention and excitement on social media, encouraging conversation around the opportunities with AR to inspire the beauty industry to get a little weird and wonderful.
I love the fact that with AR the limits of gravity and scale are totally shattered, and we can build directly from our imagination, outside of what is practical or possible to wear.
Whilst Piper’s nails will be limited to viewing through a web browser or app in the near future, it highlights the potential of gamers with metaversal avatars to adopt new ‘looks’ like these cityscape nails - customising every pixel of their face and body - setting beauty trends within virtual spheres.
As avatar styling gets more lifelike but also experimental - individuals will see this as a reflection of one’s identity and, increasingly, the gap between online and offline fashions will decrease. Brands should take inspiration from fashions in gaming and Web3 platforms to influence new product lines or marketing - meet your customers where they are through activating these touchpoints and channels.
Sustainability - Embracing Natural Beauty
As with all luxury goods and service sectors, customers are looking for more sustainable options that align with their morals and values environmentally. Technological innovations are enabling beauty brands to better the impact of their supply chain, distribution methods and energy efficiency - from formulating, packaging to usage and recycling.
Beauty brands that are not seen to be actively combating the problem of single-use plastics are at risk of damaging their reputation and losing valued customers, especially among Millennials and Gen-Z groups. A hot topic in most industries currently, sustainability has become a particularly important conversation within CPG industries, which traditionally use a lot of single-use packaging. To this end, L’Oreal has invested in biotech startup Carbios, which is developing plastic recycling technologies, and also committed to using paper-based cosmetic tubes. To support the beauty industry’s green efforts, L’Oreal & Carbios have started a consortium for fellow brands to join and share the bio-recycling technology on an industrial scale to help tackle plastic pollution.
Biotechnology or ‘clean chemistry’ promises to be the key to sustainable formulating, with brands such as Biossance creating lab-grown active copies of ingredients endangered in the natural world so that we can avoid exhausting our resources, without compromising on efficacy. As Reese Witherspoon, Biossance’s global brand ambassador tells us of this innovation, “I love that collectively we can all do better”.
Product designers and developers need to embrace ecological thinking when creating new technologies to stay ahead. We are already seeing this shift in tools such as the Zuvi Halo, which stands out as an environmentally-focused leader in the beauty space.
Your old hair dryer, which typically consumes around 1700W of power, uses more energy than two microwave ovens combined to heat your hair and scalp, leading to overdrying. On the other hand, Zuvi uses over 60% less energy, equivalent to planting a tree, to achieve the perfect balance of drying and styling for your hair.
Through educating and informing the customer of the beneficial impact with quantitative data, Zuvi Halo heroes itself as the provider of choice for the environmentally conscious consumer.
Sustainability is table stakes for beauty brands looking to resonate with the modern customer, but also for brands that want to remain in the game. Soon enough, it won’t be commercially viable to ignore the impact and effects on the environment - especially for high-end products.
The Future of Beauty is at the Intersection of Science, Technology & Creativity
Whilst the world of AI & AR is mindblowing and opportunities rife, brands should prioritise their focus on having a bullet-proof strategy and meaningful innovation rather than keeping up with headline-driving fads.
For brands looking to innovate, where are the gaps in your product and CX that could be bettered through technology, packaging upgrades or supply chain improvements? Conceive points of innovation that contribute to an overall balance of brand and conversion. If they lean into the hype? Great. If they don’t? Faithfulness to your brand spirit is always more important than the concept du jour.
Quite often, the beauty is in simplicity after all. Harness that.
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