Tech gives gadgets and cosmetics a lift

Interactive makeover mirrors, personalised foundation shades and skin optimising serums based on your epigenetic profile are the latest ways technology will upgrade your looks.

This year’s launch of the Dyson hairdryer was a game-changer. Hard to believe the arrival of such a ubiquitous, utilitarian tool could create a frenzy of excitement among hardened beauty industry pros. But it did.

At the heart of its success was its advanced technology, borrowed from the aviation industry. It uses aircraft-grade aluminum turbine blades in its powerful motor and its air multiplying system, turning 13 litres of air into 40 litres of air per second, is inspired by the wings of a jet. It cost almost £50 million and took four years to develop.

Its stand-out success shows that consumers are more than willing to invest in tools that really deliver life-enhancing benefits – lighter, quicker, kinder, better – and visible results.

This isn’t news to the buyers at Space NK, where tools are one of their fastest growing segments. Sarah Breeden, head of the company’s merchandising, says: “Our customers are moving away from cosmetic procedures and are now looking to high-tech devices to offer advanced skincare solutions.” Their beauty stores have seen a 297 per cent growth in sales of these types of gadgets, by brands such as Talika, NuFACE and FOREO.

Illustration of data entering smartphone


Advanced skincare solutions are also coming out of the customisation market where harnessing the latest technology is key. Market researchers Canadean estimate the global market for personalised skincare was worth $12.2 (£8.1) billion in 2015.

“Over 22 per cent of skincare consumption by volume globally is driven by individualism,” says Canadean analyst Veronika Zhupanova. “With the development of new technologies, manufacturers have opportunities to take personalisation to a whole new level. Factors such as allergies, genetic pre-disposal, nutrition, climate and exposure to the sun are all perfect for tailoring.”

And this lends itself to both wearable tech and apps. According to Mintel, 52 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds are interested in monitoring their skin health via an app.

So digital diagnosis is big. The Future Lab recently reported on US apps such as Spruce and Klara, which enable smartphone users to upload photos of their acne and receive personalised treatment plans from a certified dermatologist. “Diagnostic tools are also filtering into the home through portable devices such as OKU and WAY, which both combine skin analytics with real-time environmental data to offer daily recommendations,” Future Lab says.

The mirror turns into a fully interactive camera screen and magically morphs make-up on to your face

Taking personalisation one step further are genetic skincare solutions, where beauty companies look at your DNA profile to create targeted skincare. GeneU and SkinDNA ask customers to take a cheek salvia swab from which they can measure antioxidant and collagen levels, inflammatory response and how your skin will react to UV. All so you can spend your beauty budget wisely.  For 2017, GeneU is looking more closely at epigenetics, where lifestyle is factored in to optimise fully your prescribed skincare regime.

Not that personalisation is all about skincare.  It’s now entering the make-up realm with Lancôme’s Custom Made Make Up. Lancôme’s parent company L’Oréal bought advanced technology from Californian outfit Sayuki Custom Cosmetics that is able to create an incredibly accurate foundation colour match for customers in-store. Already a success in the United States, when it comes to Harrods next year, it is likely to prove popular among Asian, Hispanic and black customers, who have traditionally struggled to find the right shade.

Customer experience

This kind of in-store experience is becoming increasingly essential in the digital age, not necessarily to sell, but to build brands. Zoe Evans, public relations, retail and brand consultant, was one of the guiding forces behind the groundbreaking Chanel beauty store in London’s Covent Garden. She says: “Consumers still really want and need personal interaction, expert help and a one-to-one service with another human being. They also want an exciting experience that is genuinely engaging and entertaining.”

Make-up mogul Charlotte Tilbury knows this and her Magic Mirror, which she co-created with Holliton, launched in her Westfield London store at the beginning of the month. As part of her plan to revolutionise and disrupt the shopping experience, the mirror turns into a fully interactive camera screen as soon as you stand in front of it and magically morphs Charlotte’s iconic make-up looks on to your face.

Equally exciting is the beauty revolution sparked by Blow Ltd. Just given the CEW Digital Achiever Award for innovation, Fiona McIntosh and Dharmash Mistry have used the latest tech to deliver at-home beauty services to time-poor Londoners.

Ms McIntosh says: “There were no other beauty players delivering the kind of app we wanted, so we looked at how other industries were doing it. We took inspiration from companies like Uber, Deliveroo and Laundrapp. Now we’ve taken our tech in-house, which allows us to develop faster and more efficiently. We aim to add a new feature every few weeks.”

Coming next?  Their services will expand to include massage, pilates and yoga.

The future has never looked more beautiful.