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5 Beauty Tech Trends to Watch in 2021

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

"50% of women complain that they can't find the right shade of foundation for their face, and women with darker skin tones have been crying out for more choice. But putting thousands of shades on shop shelves would be "impractical"

Mr Balooch, Global VP L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator

Lancôme, the high-end subsidiary of L’Oréal, has created a custom-made foundation machine, called Le Teint Particulier, which promises to find the "exact match" for your skin, utilising AI. Consultants using a handheld device which scans a customer’s skin tone using a type of digital scanner combined with proprietary algorithms, run a check of over 20,000 different bespoke shades. The system then selects and sends the consultant the ‘exact match’ for the specific customer.

"It's a bit like how a hardware store mixes a pot of paint, but the skin is a lot more complex," says Mr Balooch.

Market research from firm Mintel, has found that the demand for personalised cosmetics is rapidly increasing. Nearly half of consumers like the idea that a beauty product is personalised especially for them, and a third think such products give better results.

2. Virtual 'try on' apps

Since it’s launch in 2016, over 200 Million shades have been tried and tested through the Virtual Artist, other beauty powerhouses have also been looking at creating “try on” apps too. The question is, will these apps replace the physical in-store try on of products? Many reviewers think not, as some consumers are not sure it’s a 100% match for them.

Augmented reality (AR) - a technology that’s been around for a few years, but now popularised by those stuck at home and not able to visit a shop, improvements in image recognition and face scanning technology is making digital face-scanning more accurate.

Several high-end beauty retailers such as Sephora have created a virtual helping hand, by way of a virtual artist. This technology lets customers try on make-up products such as lipsticks and eyeshadows virtually.

If you’ve ever used an instagram filter you’ll know how it works - it functions by measuring where the users lips and eyes are in real time, then tracks facial features to accurately place the product and walks customers through digital make-up tutorials and colour match shades to their individual skin tone.

3. Augmented reality (AR)

In the age of Tik Tok, Snapchat and Instagram offering a number of different beauty filters, more and more added on a daily basis, it’s becoming second nature for consumers to see AR filters on their faces. This changes the customer journey, as it opens up the opportunity for consumers to try out a new look without leaving their couch, and with options of in-app transactions, consumers can purchase each virtual sampled product, monetising the technology .

4. Virtual Skincare Advisor

HiMirror, a "smart mirror" made by Taiwan's New Kinpo Group takes a photo of your face every time you log in and scans it for wrinkles, red spots, pores, fine lines, and brightness levels and then rates these factors from "good" to "poor", and sends you personalised tips and product recommendations.

Prestige and well-known brand, Olay offer a similar app called Skin Advisor, while its new app "FutureYou Simulation" enables users to visualise what their skin and face could look like in the future, using AR.

There has however been a fair amount of negativity around these apps, as some skincare experts warn that, without giving users more context about their skin scores, such products could unnecessarily harm people's self-esteem. Scores are not always consistent, as they can be fooled by bad lighting or leftover make-up smudges, question being do we really need to be told if we have shiny or oily skin?

5. Printed Make-Up

‘Milla Jovovich picks up a ‘Chanel’ branded gadget and places it over her eyes, and with one press of a button, instant eye shadow…’

This is a concept no longer a thing of yearning brought to life in 90’s Sci-Fi movies - of course we are speaking of 90’s cult movie, The Fifth Element.

A number of gadgets released in the last few years have taken this to the next level. The Opté wand from Proctor and Gamble (P&G) uses a high-speed camera and safe blue light to locate even your most subtle dark spots. A patented skincare algorithm then analyses and processes dark spots in real time. Then precisely calibrates the perfect amount of Optimising Serum to instantly correct and visibly fade dark spots over time.

This device was due for launch in 2020 and P&G says its printer's precision means it needs relatively little serum, making it less expensive for customers.

Imagining where the trend could go, design agency Seymour Powell has unveiled a printer concept that would allow make-up looks seen online to be downloaded and printed directly on to the face. Combining 3D-printing, facial recognition technology and AI-powered image analysis, the Élever would allow brands and influencers to sell make-up looks directly to consumers.

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