AI in Beauty Industry

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Case Studies of Artificial Intelligence Used in the Beauty/Skincare Industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used extensively in the beauty and skincare industry and provides value at all stages: development, production, and consumption. Five beauty companies that rely on AI to develop and deliver tailored products to customers are Sephora, Curology, Function of Beauty, Kérastase, and Proven.

The cosmetics retailer Sephora uses AI primarily for product matching. Rather than the traditional, time-consuming, and imprecise method of employees holding up different color swabs to a customer's face and visually matching skin tones to product tones, the company's Color IQ app captures and analyzes an exact image of the customer's skin and precisely pairs it to the appropriate product. Recording 27 color-corrected images in less than two seconds and incorporating eight light settings and one ultraviolet light, Color IQ eliminates the variables that distort color matching and focuses on the exact physiology of the customer's skin. Once the skin is scanned and analyzed, the app assigns the profile a Color IQ number which corresponds to particular lip, foundation, and concealer products and can then be used to select products in store and online. The color-matching process is thus made easier and more efficient for store employees, and customers can be confident that the products they purchase fit their exact needs, eliminating customer dissatisfaction and potential product returns.

Sephora also uses AI to allow customers to sample products before purchase. The company's Virtual Artist app uses augmented reality (AR) to digitally overlay products on a customer's selfie. Their Cheek Try On service, an extension of the app, integrates technology developed by ModiFace and maps the unique features of a customer's face shape using a smartphone's camera. Once mapped, the app allows users to virtually try on more than 1,000 shades of cheek products including blush, bronzer, contour, and highlighter. Like Color IQ, Sephora's Virtual Artist simplifies and personalizes the customer experience and boosts customer confidence and satisfaction.

Curology is an "app-meets-medical-practice-meets-subscription-service" that provides personalized beauty and skin care solutions specifically formulated for individuals struggling with acne. The app first uses a questionnaire to determine a patient's skin type, skin goals, and medical history. A medical professional then designs a custom formula targeted to the patient's unique skin care needs, and the patient stays in contact with the professional to discuss their experience and progress with the product. From the pairing of the client and practitioner to the data-driven design of the formula to the app's automated check-in service, artificial intelligence is a key component of the Curology app. While some argue that the use of AI in the beauty and skincare industry limits human interaction between company employees and consumers, dermatologist and Curology founder David Lortscher believes it has been "super crucial" to the company's mission and success.

By integrating artificial intelligence into the customer experience, beauty and hair care company Function of Beauty has "done away with the human element," relying on computers to deliver customized products to customers. Like the Curology app, the Function of Beauty app begins with a questionnaire to determine a customer's particular needs, preferences, and profile. The data is then filtered through an algorithm that “transforms...those inputs into very precise outputs of ingredient combinations,” says Zahir Dossa, Function of Beauty CEO and co-founder. The algorithm can output an almost limitless number of combinations, thus ensuring that the custom formula designed by the professional precisely suits the client's needs and eliminating the likelihood that the client will be dissatisfied with product results. AI is also used in production and distribution in the form of robotics. According to Dossa, while some humans are involved in product assembly, robotics are favored for their precision and exactitude. "The ability to automatically fill every bottle individually and do so at scale is something that we weren’t able to do until two years ago, and we basically had to use the latest technology and robotics in order to be able to achieve it, Dossa said.

Luxury hair care company Kérastase collaborated with Withings, the "leader in the connected health revolution" to create the word's first smart hairbrush. Hair Coach Powered by Withings was developed in partnership with L’Oréal’s Research and Innovation Technology Incubator and features advanced sensors and L’Oréal’s "patent-pending signal analysis algorithms" to determine hair quality and profile and then track the results of various hair care routines. Customers receive data-driven insights and real-time product recommendations via a paired app to monitor and improve the results of their hair care. According to a L'Oréal scientific report, forceful hair brushing causes extensive hair damage such as split ends and breakage. However, the AI built into Kératase's smart brush reduces this risk, as the integrated sensors provide its user with brushing patterns and their effect on hair quality–data that is automatically transferred via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to the app. These sensors take into account weather factors such as temperature, UV, humidity, and wind to precisely analyze hair’s manageability. According to Guive Balooch, Global Vice President of L’Oréal’s Research and Innovation Technology Incubator, “Technology is transforming consumers’ daily beauty routines, and smart devices have huge potential to impact how we care for our hair and skin. By using connected technologies to upgrade the hairbrush—something the average consumer uses every day—Withings and Kérastase have reinvented what a person’s relationship with their hair can look like and are showing how connected devices can revolutionize the beauty industry.”

Proven is a beauty startup that uses artificial intelligence to analyze a person's skin type and customize a skincare routine best suited to their individual needs. Co-founder Amy Yuan uses her background in computational physics to build what she calls an “AI engine” that "pores through reviews" of countless skincare products to determine the best combination for the customer. The machine uses fraud-detection algorithms to ensure the legitimacy of reviews and, according to the company, has analyzed 100,000 products, 20,000 ingredients, and 8 million reviews. This extensive amount of data is analyzed to determine product trends and usage patterns by skin type, information that is then used to recommend a skin care routine based on a customer's type. Similar to other questionnaire-based apps, the Proven app analyzes a customer's input (needs, preferences, history), assigns a skin profile, and then offers the customer a personalized line of the company's custom products as well as a skin report. AI therefore plays a vital role in the ability of Proven's chemists to determine the formula most suited to common skin problems and to ensure that the particular problems associated with a customer's skin type are addressed.

While some argue that the use of artificial intelligence in the beauty and skincare industry limits human interaction, big-name beauty companies and startups alike argue that it has been crucial in revolutionizing the beauty industry and enhancing customer experience and satisfaction. From the use of algorithms for product matching to robotics for production and distribution to automated check-ins to connect customers and skin care professionals, AI helps beauty companies develop and deliver products that are best suited to the unique needs of every customer.