Inside The Rise Of Personalized Beauty Brands

The shift toward personalization in beauty is a seismic one considering it has long been one of the least customizable marketplaces. So, what’s behind the shift? The AEDITION investigates.
Written by Amber Katz
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Bespoke beauty is all the rage. No longer a one-size-fits-all kind of party, personalized beauty brands are cropping up everywhere, offering skincare, haircare, and personal care options. This shift toward individualization is a seismic one considering beauty has long been one of the least customizable industries — despite how inherently personal the category is.

So, what’s behind the shift? And, more importantly, what technological advances have been made to overcome some of the hurdles that prevented the beauty and grooming worlds from being more tailored in the first place? To learn more about the different techniques and approaches to customization, we spoke to the brains behind some of the most innovative personalized brands on the market.

Custom Curation

Wandering the aisles in search of the perfect foundation or lipstick is overwhelming enough — forget about trying to figure it out online. Enter: NakedPoppy. The online clean beauty retailer is seeking to demystify the traditionally challenging digital buying experience. Jaleh Bisharat, co-founder and CEO, says that NakedPoppy was designed to cut through the clutter and help people identify what will work best for them. It’s especially useful, she adds, for “busy people who wish to transition to clean beauty products, but get overwhelmed by choice and don't have the time or expertise to research what's actually clean and what will work perfectly for her.”

Employing AI Technology

Let’s be honest: it can be difficult for even the most experienced makeup artist to look at a client, assess his or her wants and needs, and pinpoint which among the hundreds of products in a store would work best for them in real time. NakedPoppy's AI technology addresses this pain point by providing a series of questions in the form of a short assessment that is meant to mimic a consultation with a makeup artist.

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“It then analyzes the results, and considers dozens of variables — like skin type, skin tone, undertone, age, any allergies or sensitivities, eye and hair color, even details like chapped lips and oil eyelids — to instantly assemble each person's online, personalized clean beauty boutique,” Bisharat explains. “It’s complete with his or her perfect picks and individualized match scores for each clean beauty product on the site.” A product with a match score of 100 percent, for instance, would be a better pick than one with a 70 percent match score.

Skin Assessments vs. Skin Quizzes

NakedPoppy differentiates itself from its competitors because, as far as Bisharat is concerned, it is the only clean beauty retailer that uses artificial intelligence to accurately pinpoint a customer’s perfect picks. “Quizzes have popped up, but they act as simple filters,” she says. Conversely, “NakedPoppy's patent-pending algorithm mimics that smartest aspect of a real makeup artist — assuming she is able to keep all the products in her head and remember what is ideal for whom,” Bisharat says. She says some of the concerns NakedPoppy addresses include questions like:

  • Will this product work for all ages?
  • What adjustments need to be made for a person with oily eyelids?
  • Does the customer have any allergies?
  • How do you treat dark circles?

The NakedPoppy assessment and algorithm was developed by a team of data scientists, beauty scientists, and makeup artists. “The resulting algorithm is designed to get smarter over time by learning how customers react to their recommendations,” Bisharat says. “For example, what she buys, adds to cart, returns, how she rates and reviews products, and more.”

Smarter Skincare

What if your favorite serum could prevent skin concerns before they, well, became concerns in the first place? That is the premise behind Atolla, a monthly skincare subscription service that includes tools to test the state of your complexion and a serum blended just for you. “It is set up to be like a measurable experiment that keeps getting smarter over time,” says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board certified dermatologist and co-founder of Atolla. “Each month, our algorithm interprets changes in your environment, diet, and skin to improve your personalized formulation.”

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The focus on preventative rather than reactive skincare is built into the model of giving and getting data and feedback from its users.“This includes combining scientific information about their skin with their preferences, in order to make the most efficacious product that the user will love to use,” Dr. Hirsh notes.

Netflix for Your Skin

Rather than trying to self-identify as oily, dry, normal, or any of the other vague terms usually associated with determining your skin type and needs, Atolla gets to know a user’s complexion via its skin-analysis tools. “Through [this process], we understand several factors that can affect your skin like environment, diet, lifestyle, stress, other products in your routine and then correlate that with your skin measurements,” Dr. Hirsch says. However, this is not a one-and-done analysis. “Like Netflix, we get smarter on your skin by measuring the changes in your skin measurements from month to month,” she says. “We find patterns in how changes in product, environment, and lifestyle relate to the skin measurements for each user and across the customer set.” This data allows the Atolla algorithm to deliver the best formulation to its customers every 30 days.

DIY Formulations

For those who miss high school chemistry labs, skincare brands like Fresh Chemistry and Ktchn Apothecary offer customizable products that come with individually packaged active ingredients that are meant to be mixed together upon arrival. Consider it Blue Apron for your skincare routine. The DIY blending process ensures that the product will be at its freshest when you use it, which eliminates the need for preservatives (provided you use your product within the recommended period of time).

Maximizing Freshness

Fresh Chemistry founder Nisha Dearborn notes that her brand distinguishes itself in the space because its active ingredients are cold-processed and individually packaged to maximize freshness. “You pick the perfect serum for your skin, add in the active ingredients, and mix them into the product yourself,” she says. “It activates super potent, high-performance skincare that is always at its peak when it touches your skin.”

Incorporate Glow Or Address Wrinkles

Fresh Chemistry is designed for all skin types and is customizable month-to-month depending on your skin's needs. Each set includes a Base Serum that consists of three olive oil emollients and hyaluronic acid (HA). From there, you can choose the set with the active ingredients you need. “If your skin is looking dull and blotchy and you'd love to get your glow back, you can get one of the Glow Getter Brightening Serum Sets,” Dearborn explains. You can choose between the Original Set with potent vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or the Supercharged Set with twice the concentration of vitamin C and HA.

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The next month, you can choose the same set. Or, if you’re noticing fine lines you’d like to plump and smooth out, you can choose from the brand’s Wrinkle Release Peptide Serum Sets. The Original Set has a peptide complex and Amazonian oil, while the Supercharged Set includes an exclusive marine ingredient for regeneration. The different sets with varying active ingredients and potencies allow for freshness and customization on a monthly basis.

Virtual Dermatology

Approximately 75 percent of cities in the United States have five or less dermatologists to serve the entire metropolitan population. As such, David Lortscher, MD, a board certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology, is trying to make it easier and more affordable for people to enjoy healthy, clear skin. “When I was practicing as a dermatologist in the middle of New Mexico, a lot of my patients were driving over two hours to see me,” he says. “There were also countless times when patients called my office from the pharmacy saying their prescription was going to cost more than $200 so they left the pharmacy without it.”

Prescription Products At Drugstore Prices

Quality acne products shouldn’t be inaccessible or unaffordable, Dr. Lortscher says. He knew there had to be a better way, and founded Curology in 2014 with his brother Glenn, a technologist, and his mother and fellow board certified dermatologist, Nancy Satur, MD. The goal: Care for patients remotely as effectively as they did in person. “By combining customized formulas, prescription ingredients, and medical advice from a licensed dermatology provider in one streamlined online experience, we've already helped so many people at an unprecedentedly accessible price,” Dr. Lortscher says. Kits start at $19.95 a month.

Curology allows you to work remotely with a personal dermatology provider who evaluates your skin to address concerns that range from acne and hyperpigmentation to fine lines and wrinkles and prescribe a custom formula accordingly. From there, you can work with your provider to tweak your monthly delivery according to your changing skin goals and needs. “The care you receive is comparable to visiting a brick-and-mortar dermatologist's office, at drugstore prices,” Dr. Lortscher says.

Clinically Effective Skincare

Each Curology formula includes three medically researched active ingredients, and most formulas contain at least one prescription-grade ingredient. Active ingredients include tretinoin, azelaic acid, tranexamic acid, niacinamide. zinc pyrithione, metronidazole, and clindamycin.

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Rather than suggest a multi-step routine, Curology streamlines the process through customization. After members fill out a detailed skin assessment with information about their medical history and upload several photos of their skin, a dermatologist prescribes a customized formula. The personalized cream is shipped directly to the subscriber’s door and is intended to provide a month’s supply.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re looking to customize your skincare regimen or want a tailor-made makeup routine, there is a new crop of brands on the market looking to provide a more personalized experience. Artificial intelligence, algorithms, and at-home assessments are just a few of the ways customers can now find beauty products that are (a) specifically chosen for them or (b) custom formulated to fit their needs — and it’s safe to say today’s technology only scratches the surface of what’s to come.

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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AMBER KATZis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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