Clean beauty gets personal as machines learn to ‘read’ your face

If you’ve ever forked out a small fortune for the latest miracle cream, only to discover it does nothing for your skin, or worse, made you break out in hives, there’s a new beauty start-up that might help.  Called Yours, it uses a sophisticated form of technology known as “machine learning” to diagnose the specific requirements of your skin.

Taking into account your own stress levels, skin type and the impact your environment is having on skin, the computer is then able to formulate what exactly you need. The company then provides the Swiss-made products tailored only to you. Your own cleanser, moisturiser, eye cream and so on.

Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of luxe clean beauty products, a field which has widened with the advent of machine-learning used to ‘read’ skin.Credit:AP

Think of it as you would a bespoke tailor, if the bespoke tailor was a computer that could read your upper dermis. French makeup company Lancome used the same type of technology in 2016 to formulate personalised foundations, but skincare is a new, unchartered step.

“Machine Learning is a subset of Artificial Intelligence where you feed data to analytical models, the computer then learns from that data and continually improves with experience” says co-founder and CEO Navneet Kaur, who worked as a brand manager for skincare brand at ITC, India's largest multinational conglomerate, before branching out into personalised skin care in 2017.

“The system can identify complex data patterns and can make highly accurate predictions and specialised recommendations” she says. It can also allow you to update your skincare needs as you go, because not even Nicole Kidman has the same skin at 52 that she did at 20.

It’s a world away from the mass marketing of global skincare companies, for which a skin analysis is limited to “problem” “dry” or “Oily t-zone”. For decades it’s been up to the consumer to fill in the gaps through trial and error, litres of water and literal tonnes of plastic waste.

We see a future where users just have to click a photo, or take a selife and answer a few questions in order to get personalised skincare.

But this highly personalised skincare start-up promises to be environmentally-conscious as well. Their ingredients are sustainable, non-toxic and ethically-sourced via a transparent supply chain – all formulated in Switzerland.

Machine Reading technology might sound futuristic, but clean beauty, (a term more often found on cosmetic labels than the hallowed halls of science) is very much of the now. It’s not just Gwyneth Paltrow leading the charge, clean or “organic” beauty, fuelled by fear of what potentially harmful chemicals might be seeping into our pores, is big business.

A report from Grand View Research, published in Fast Company, predicts that the global organic personal care industry will reach nearly $US 25 billion by 2025.

Meanwhile, the Breast Cancer Association of America has a paragraph devoted to the avoidance of both parabens – chemicals commonly found in moisturisers – and phthalates, just in case they carry hormonal disruptors and potential links to cancer. In this context, it’s not difficult to see why “clean” or “non-toxic” beauty is one of the most lucrative tends in cosmetics.

Although, it must be said, “Yours” is not the first to prescribe a personalised non toxic skincare routine. Who among us has not paid a visit to our vegan friend’s naturopath? A former fire-thrower who tells us in very strict terms to cut out not just dairy, gluten and bacon, but our daily shower and shampoo, too, before she blends some tinctures, blesses them with sage and instructs us to dab accordingly.

The difference this time is that this technology carries with it evidence-backed science behind the diagnosis. Finally, an explanation for why that billion dollar face oil your sister in-law swears by, the one that leaves you a slimy mess, just wasn’t working for you.

“We see a future where users just have to click a photo, or take a Selife, and answer a few questions in order to get personalised skincare” says Kaur.

It may sound a little too good to be true, this “skincare as the new palm reading’’, using artificial intelligence and ethically-sourced ingredients from Switzerland.  But Dr Elizabeth Dawes-Higgs, dermatologist and expert in skin elasticity, says she welcomes it.

“Personalised skin care is the future” she says. “Every skin is different and our skin’s needs are different throughout our life – for example, when we lose our hormones during the menopausal years. This is why we need prescriptive skin care, because one size does not fit all.”

“We have so much more knowledge now about our skin’s needs to maintain good skin health.
“However” she cautions. “This system relies on the knowledge of the practitioner and must be done in a medical environment.”

And this might be the fly in the ointment – just who will be left in charge of the machine?

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