No longer confined to professional environments, tech is fast moving into the home with the likes of virtual make-up try-ons and further AR-assisted ‘custom cosmetechs’, as coined by Clare Varga at WGSN – think YSL's Rouge Sur Mesure, a device that can create up to 4000 lipstick shades at your fingertips.
Skincare is the frontrunner in beauty’s global expansion, according to industry analysts, and we can expect to see lots of innovation in this sector going forward, from apps and skin diagnostic tools to genetic testing.
One of the most exciting shifts is the dawn of the metaverse. What does it mean for beauty? Brands are already investing into these virtual spaces to introduce their new products and technologies – a strategy being primed as the future of brand storytelling – with augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) joining the party too, elevating personalised beauty experiences to new heights.
Beauty & The Metaverse
The metaverse has captured the imagination of just about every sector, including beauty brands. Beauty behemoth Procter & Gamble (P&G) has launched its first venture into the metaverse with virtual storytelling world BeautySphere, an interactive platform that acts as a brand portfolio showcase and educational tool, featuring content, panel discussions and games that connect consumers to P&G’s principles of ‘responsible beauty’ – sustainability, transparency, quality and performance, equality, inclusion and wellbeing.
Alex Keith, chief executive of P&G Beauty, says: “Our hope is that through these fully immersive, digital experiences, visitors can interact with our brands in surprising, engaging new ways.”
Taiwanese virtual beauty tech developer Perfect Corp is innovating virtual try-on tech including a foundation-matching tool, video chat AR make-up application, and new consumer engagement opportunities with beauty NFTs and similar digital assets.
Its limited-edition NFT collections of futuristic makeup looks and 3D accessories can be tried on via its YouCam Makeup or webpage before even stepping into the Metaverse.
Estée Lauder, meanwhile, has taken a deep dive into the metaverse, as the exclusive beauty partner of the very first Metaverse Fashion Week in Decentraland, which took place from 24 to 27 March this year. The cosmetics giant unveiled its first NFT inspired by a classic hero product, Advanced Night Repair serum and designed by virtual creator Alex Box. 10,000 complimentary copies of the NFT were available from the Estée Lauder store during Metaverse Fashion week, with those who received the NFT able to go inside the bottle and apply the virtual serum to give their avatars a "glowing, radiant look".
In addition, the likes of Givenchy Beauty and Clinique are offering crypto rewards, or non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to offer access to exclusive and rare products in the metaverse. It’s “bridging the gap between traditional loyalty systems and the booming cryptocurrency market,” WGSN explains in its 2022 trend forecast.
After launching its virtual online shop, beauty brand NARS said that it would make digital product launches a permanent fixture of its retail strategy, meanwhile, Jo Malone London launched its virtual Townhouse, a place for customers to immerse themselves in a multi-sensory shopping experience, from the comfort of their own home.
Elsewhere in beauty tech, the relationship between gamers and beauty fans looks set to explode, says Harpers Bazaar. With gaming bigger than ever, and 46 per cent of enthusiasts being female, it’s no wonder Givenchy, Gucci Beauty and Charlotte Tilbury are already in on the action.
In these parallel universes, avatars can wear a whole host of beauty looks, utilising similar tech to brands’ virtual try-on tools that we explored in our last beauty tech deep dive.
Proctor & Gamble is betting on the rise of gaming via its LifeLab immersive experience on PGLifeLab.com. The online play and discovery space showcases its new product offerings across beauty and personal care with interactive elements such as the ‘Attack of the Cavity Creeps’ tooth brushing video game.
In a first for the brand, Dior has collaborated with social media app Zepeto, to entice more beauty lovers into the virtual space, a move becoming increasingly commonplace as beauty brands find innovative ways to meet the demands of shoppers – specifically Gen Z.
Getting Personal: Hyper-Personalisation
Beauty brands have been using artificial intelligence to create personalised skincare recommendations for a few years now, but it’s science-led hyper personalisation that is now a priority, "genetic testing driving the next phase of skincare", according to WWD.
Skincare analytics are also proving a strong driver for new beauty tech developments, with diagnostics leading to improved, integrated skin health and wellness routines.
We’ve seen the likes of Amazon Alexa voice-controlled smart mirrors, machine-learning apps and scientific skin tests and we can expect to see brands establish an even greater focus on tracking skin health changes over time through technologies, clinical trials and developing mechanisms to track skin changes over time, in order to provide evidence-based analysis that their products are working.
Look out for services like GetHarley which connects users to doctors, The Inkey List's ‘myINKEY’ – digital access to a PT for your skin, and the partnership between period-tracking app Clue and L’Oreal to offer personalised hormone-related skincare advice.
The Seoul-based Lumini app from Lululab Inc. is an AI-powered skincare service that uses a mobile phone camera attachment to analyse and classify the skin as one of 16 different types, as well as diagnose up to eight different skin issues. This leads to personalised skincare product prescriptions alongside helpful content from influencers sharing their skin type and unique skin issues. Based in the US and Turkey, Pulpoar’s AI Skin Diagnostics technology is also intended for skin analysis, offering product recommendations and improvement tracking.
Another South Korean one to watch comes from cosmetics giant AmorePacific, which has debuted its Myskin Recovery Platform, an app-based measurement tool that assesses daily skin condition, provides personalised solutions, and monitors improvements. A handheld moisture and elasticity sensor works with the user’s smartphone camera to achieve this, while a precision lighting system in the app provides consistent measurement conditions for accuracy.
Leaning further into health, Luminate by Californian dermatology company DermTech is a small skincare patch test that allows wearers to identify UV damage in the skin, and how to restore and prevent future skin damage. It does this by using the company’s genomic analysis to find DNA differences in the skin cells.
DCYPHER is on a mission to take product personalisation to the highest level with custom-blend foundations that perfectly match the skin via technology that enables customers to build a bespoke foundation formula that matches your shade, but has the coverage, moisture level, texture and finish exactly as they like it.
Each formula is created from scratch meaning every foundation that leaves the lab is unique and personalised with “no templates, no shortcuts, no compromises,” says DCYPHER. The brand is so confident in its tech, that it promises to refund customers that are unhappy with their shade match.
Home hair colouring is getting a makeover too. Perfect Colour: Debuting this year is L’Oréal’s Colorsonic, a lightweight, handheld hair colour device that uses a mess-free process to mix colour and apply it evenly, delivering consistent results for consumers at home. Once a hair shade has been selected from the 40 available on the Colorsonic website, it’s delivered to the user’s home, where they can simply insert the cartridge into the device to mix the colour on demand and apply it themselves. An oscillating nozzle moves 300 times per minute, covering hair perfectly and quickly for top results.
Mink is a product that has a novel solution to the packaging problem: 3-D printing your own make-up. A mini 3D printer combines with an app to allow users to import any image, choose colours from it, and have it print out as a sheet of powder make-up, ready to apply – minus the plastic packaging and shipping costs of a brand new eyeshadow. Further creative print play is encouraged with the Prinker M, a mobile digital temporary tattoo device that prints custom temporary tattoos. Users can pick from a selection of designs on an accompanying app, and simply swipe them onto the skin.
Expert Oral Care
Dental care is now merging with the beauty world, thanks to the rise in ‘denfluencers’ (dental influencers) on social media, which is also fuelling interest in teeth tech and oral care.
Oral-B’s new iO10 electric brush with iOSense, which it describes as the “ultimate oral health coach” comes with a smart charging base that features a digital countdown timer, as well as pressure warnings and lights corresponding with different areas of the mouth – with no unnecessary app interaction. The charger also lights up to congratulate a job well done.
“We have data showing that people actually brush longer and more often because, believe it or not, they look forward to [that reward],” says Sherrie Kinderdine, group head of research and development at Oral-B. This is joined by the Smart Rhythm toothbrush by Colgate’s sub-brand Hum, which offers the benefits of electric toothbrushes, such as personalised health tracking and brush coaching, at an affordable price point, and dental tech app Toothfairy, which provides a bespoke remote treatment method.
Rapid results are promised by French brand Y-Brush, which showcased the second-generation prototype of its signature Y-shaped retainer-like vibrating toothbrush this year, and claims to cut brushing time from the recommended two minutes to 10 seconds. Italy’s Cwash, meanwhile, reduces brushing time to 30 seconds, but boasts portability and convenience, with menthol and xylitol-infused polymer bristles that negate the need for toothpaste.
Fifty Shades Darker: Inclusivity
Launched in 2017, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty signalled a new era in inclusivity for the makeup industry with the likes of 40 shades of foundation, followed by a concealer range in 2019 with no less than 50 shades, covering a whole spectrum of skin tones from light to deep.
Brands who had historically been digging their heels in rushed to emulate its success, spawning a legion of inclusivity lines, now with a new champion for 2022. Farah Naz–a biochemist-turned-beauty entrepreneur and founder of EX1 Cosmetics has teamed up with world-renowned colour scientist Professor Stephen Westland to develop a skin classification system, the Naz-Westland Index, which presents a truly diverse scale of skin colour to enable shoppers to make more accurate purchases of cosmetics.
"To me it’s unbelievable that we’re still using the Fitzpatrick scale, which was created in the 1970s and only has six skin tone types, which isn’t close to being inclusive enough," Naz tells Harpers Bazaar. "Our system has 20 skin tone types that are highly accurate and based on countless hours of research and in-depth skin analysis.”
Leaps and bounds are also being made in the skincare industry in terms of inclusivity and scientific innovation.
When Dr Barbara Sturm launched her Darker Skin Tones range in 2016 in collaboration with actress Angela Bassett, she was the first luxury skincare brand to cater to women of colour. She was met with resistance from some stores when she approached them to carry the line.
“Men have separate skincare ranges because their skin needs are different. The eastern Asian market has its own skincare lines, too. There’s makeup and hair care aimed at people of colour, so why isn’t there skincare too?” she asked.
“Black women spend over £4.8 billion on skincare products and services each year, worldwide – twice as much as consumers of other races.”
It took two years of research to create the products that address specific concerns including inflammation, hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, and the line includes ingredients based on Nobel Prize-winning research.
“Black women haven’t been part of the skincare space”, says aesthetician Dija Ayodele. Her new book, Black Skin: The definitive skincare guide joins her digital platform, the Black Skin Directory, to act as both a practical guide and educate in skincare equality.
A number of inclusion-focused beauty brands – Mented Cosmetics, Uoma Beauty (which are both black-owned), Urban Skin Rx, Live Tinted and others are making inclusivity a core pillar of their brand value proposition.
For Sharon Chuter, Founder of Uoma Beauty, this goes beyond merely creating a wide range of shades, or using technology to tick boxes. It must run deeper.
“For me, the true meaning of diversity and inclusivity is not 50 shades of foundation. It's not, let's get a picture of a black girl, a white girl, an Asian girl and call it inclusivity.”
For Chuter, it’s important to champion not just beauty brands that cater to people of colour, but beauty brands run by people of colour – think Epara, 79 Luxe, Okiki Skincare, Briogeo and more.
‘Cleanical’ is a big beauty buzzword for 2022. As explained by WWD, it “promises efficacy while also taking into account the desire for natural product claims” – and their impact on the environment. 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”.
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.
As consumer demand for sustainability and energy efficiency grows, 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 uses 60% less energy than a typical hair dryer.
As cosmetic technology developments continue to snowball, the foundation for ever more bespoke beauty services grows exponentially – and with it room for brands to find an edge in this highly competitive market. From enhancing the user experience at all touchpoints and implementing inclusivity, sustainability and scientific innovation into your brand DNA, to harnessing AR to tell your brand story or leaping into the metaverse, the beauty tech movement offers endless possibilities for brave brands to take risks and reap the rewards.
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