A sleek, black cube the size of a household coffee machine sits atop a bench at L’Oréal’s Sydney headquarters, whirring into action. The device, developed by L’Oréal-owned SkinCeuticals, is busy processing my skin concerns via a patented diagnostic system following an in-depth consultation. In less than five minutes its hoots out a unique SkinCeuticals serum concocted with a singular objective: to target my complexion. The small apothecary bottle is loaded with retinol (for lines and persistent breakouts) and potent antioxidants (for post-inflammatory pigmentation), which the gadget cleverly dispenses in real time, courtesy of its in-built mechanics that are capable of analysing a remarkable 250 skin trait combinations, 49 formula concentrations and varying doses of 15 key ingredients. SkinCeuticals’s Custom D.O.S.E, which will be available at selected dermatologists from April, is the newest and most advanced take on beauty’s race to offer consumers hyper-personalised formulas. It follows Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty launch in 2017, which set a new benchmark for beauty inclusivity with no less than 40 shades of foundation, and sparked wider conversation about personalisation. Now, the gamut runs from make-up to skincare, with brands turning to tech for advanced solutions to better cater to consumers’ ever-changing and individual needs. “A big value for technology and beauty is inclusivity. We have a responsibility to reach everybody in the world,” says Guive Balooch, who joined L’Oréal 13 years ago to spearhead the brand’s San Francisco-based Technology Incubator. With his Silicon Valley start-up experience, Balooch assembled a team of unlikely beauty folk – engineers, computer wizards, Apple alumni – who he tasked with finding cutting-edge ways to deliver tailor-made beauty, without sacrificing results. The first launch from the Technology Incubator was Makeup Genius. Balooch enlisted the visual effects experts who helped Brad Pitt convincingly reverse-age for the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to create a facial-tracking app that allows the user to experiment with varying L’Oréal make-up shades. Then came Lancôme Le Teint Particulier, which blends a bespoke foundation shade at the beauty counter and is capable of colour-matching up to 22,000 skin tones. Both of these solved beauty dilemmas, but Balooch projects the next phase of customisation will take the problem-solving nature a step further. “It’s about longer term relationships with data and the product. Meaning, I want to know how my skin evolves. I want to know how my hair evolves, and I want to adapt products. It’s going to become about longer term iterations of whatI do, rather than what’s the new thing,” he says. It’s why, after receiving your first SkinCeuticals Custom D.O.S.E flacon at the dermatologist’s office, you’ll be booked in for a ‘serum adjustment’ every three months to dial up or down ingredients, depending on your skin’s response. Trend forecasting firm Wunderman Thompson Intelligence is calling dedication such as this the future of beauty innovation, highlighting in a recent report “growing demand for hyper-personalisation which is driving innovation in product dosage and application”. There’s arguably nothing more ‘hyper-personal’ than our own DNA. Melbourne-based skincare aficionado Rationale is taking a revolutionary new diagnostic approach to skin analysis, using our very own genetics. Last year the brand launched DNArray, a cheek swab DNA test to better understand your skin’s genetic make-up and customise a skincare and treatment regimen accordingly. Is your skin more susceptible to sun damage? Hyperpigmentation? Or rosacea? The test will tell you. “Healthy, glowing skin through each decade of life is a moving target heavily influenced by internal and external factors. The future of skincare lies in accessing individual skin DNA codes to meet the skin’s changing needs in real time,” says Richard Parker, Rationale’s founder and director of research. Department stores are naturally getting on board, too. When it opened its wellness clinic in 2018, British retailer Harrods started offering DNA skin testing to better address the needs of its high-flying clientele. In Japan, Shiseido has launched Optune. The app and dispenser duo evaluates the skin, taking on board environmental and internal factors such as humidity, sleep and hormones, and issues a single dose of the most relevant daily cream– essentially taking out all manner of guesswork. Beauty tech company Foreo, meanwhile, has debuted its latest hand-held smart mask, the UFO 2, which includes full spectrum LED light capabilities and customisable skincare routines via its accompanying app. While these increasingly savvy innovations appeal to our inner skintellectual, they beg the question: where does the ritualistic and comforting nature of beauty sit among all of this data-driven innovation? Whether or not you relish the process of applying multiple serums each day, there’s an undeniable element of self-care that goes hand in hand with our beauty routine. It’s this element, some argue, that risks being trumped by technology. “The balance comes with not developing technology for technology. If you build technology only when it can solve a problem that can’t be solved without [it], then technology becomes warm and becomes part of the emotional process,” explains Balooch. “But if you build [it] just to say that: ‘I’m modern’, then people will be like: ‘Why are you giving me a device to do something that I could just do with my hands?’ ‘Why are you giving me a formula I could just buy from the shelf?’” Hitting the form-versus-function sweet spot is another Incubator concept: La Roche-Posay’s My Skin Track UV. The device – worn as a bracelet or attached to a phone – constantly tracks a person’s UV exposure (as well as weather, humidity, air quality and pollen count), before relaying the data to a smartphone. It pings a notification when those factors are at levels high enough to have a negative impact on your complexion. “We spent a few years developing this sensor, which is the world’s first battery-free wearable. So you just tap it onto your phone and its little window measures the UV,” says Balooch of the tracker, which was developed in an effort to curb rising melanoma rates. “I really, really believe in this notion that products will become a smart solution between consumers and the company. Meaning, we won’t tell people what to use: we will work with them to create what’s right for them,” explains Balooch of the ever-changing beauty landscape. As for the future, imagine a world where a simple selfie could be enough information for a hand-held device to apply a winged eyeliner with the accuracy of a make-up artist. “I think there’s a lot of room for precision devices,” Balooch continues. “If I want to do some really artistic make-up, a device could be so precise that it could move around and create some spectacular make-up results that I could never do before. We’re not that far away from technology.” This story originally appeared in Vogue Australia’s April 2020 issue. 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