The idea that robots could play a role in our everyday lives and even help solve all our beauty dilemmas — from getting the right shade of foundation to ensuring our skincare regime is just what the doctor ordered — might sound far-fetched.
But machine learning — or artificial intelligence (AI) — is already behind some of the biggest beauty brands in the business, and can be used for anything from helping you to match colour shades from a selfie to giving you a personalised haircare prescription.
So, are these clever new services a gimmick that falls short of a human recommendation — or the future of putting your face on?
PICK FOUNDATION USING A SELFIE
dcypher.me, £3.99 for a 4ml sample
Getting the right shade of foundation is particularly tricky in a pandemic when you can’t try a tester in the shops. New website Dcypher claims to use AI to analyse your selfies and create the perfect shade in seconds, from a choice of more than 20,000 hues.
You choose your preferred coverage (sheer, medium or full), finish (matte or natural) and skin type (oily/combination, natural or dry). Then you take three selfies, ideally in different light sources. I opt for a natural finish and medium coverage and, just days later, my sample arrives on the doorstep.
I’m amazed by the colour — it is bang on, almost indistinguishable from my own skin tone. (And if it hadn’t been, I could have returned it for a full refund.) However, the coverage didn’t seem great and the ‘natural’ finish lacked the glow that I get from foundations I love from Charlotte Tilbury, Guerlain and Revolution.
There’s no doubting the tech here will be a godsend but I’d love to see Dcypher partnering with a brilliant foundation brand.
SUPER-SMART HAIR SCANNER
SalonLab Smart Analyser, available at selected salons, schwarzkopf-professional.co.uk
This handheld scanner looks like a set of straighteners and is run over the hair in a similar way. Its optical sensor can assess damage deep within the hair shaft. Data from the scanner is combined with information you enter into a linked iPad app to give you a bespoke prescription of treatments to rectify any problems.
So, I tell the app about the length, density and type of my hair, as well as whether I colour it, and what products I use at home.
Then stylist Suzie McGill runs the analyser through three different sections of my hair and the results flash up on the iPad.
I have a health score of 72 per cent and the scanner says it has detected oxidative damage — often caused by pollution and colouring.
The app then suggests a regime to be used in the salon and a series of products — shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, mask and a booster treatment — for me to use at home.
It seems very impressive but I’m not entirely convinced the combination of strengthening and smoothing hair products it recommends is really any different to what Suzie would have suggested for my hair just by looking at it.
THE VIRTUAL PERSONAL SHOPPER
This website quizzes you about your beauty preferences, then claims to work out the perfect products for you in any category. The big difference between this and other AI beauty gadgets is that there are more than 4,000 brands on the site — including big players such as Clarins, Estee Lauder and Clinique.
In theory, the recommendations are what are best for you, rather than being tied to any particular brand. Nidhima Kohli launched the site ‘to make beauty shopping transparent’ and brands either pay commission on sales or pay a fee to be included in results. I answer questions on my skin tone and type, and my beauty concerns, then about my hair and favourite fragrance.
Finally, I choose whether I want to shop for skincare, make-up, hair, body, hands and feet, or fragrance, and products pop up. For cleansers, I’m offered everything from a £4.29 Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser, through to Dr Sebagh £32 Rose de Vie Cream Cleanser.
There’s a good range and the suggestions are interesting, although there’s not much explanation about why each product is being recommended. Nidhima says it works by reading the label of each product and matching up that information with my answers.
When it comes to fragrance, it recommends Clarins Eau Dynamisante, which I already know I can’t stand, and although I love the eyeliner, bronzer and lipstick picks, the shades of concealer it suggests are too dark for me, and one of the ‘mascara’ matches is actually a cleansing balm.
THE HAND-HELD DERMATOLOGIST
Skin Genius, loreal-paris.co.uk/skin-genius
Research suggests 87 per cent of British women are confused about which skincare product to use and when. And with so many products and ingredients out there, who can blame them?
That, says L’Oreal Paris, is where its latest tool, Skin Genius, comes in. It uses a machine-learning algorithm based on 10,000 clinical images and 18,000 smartphone selfies from women with different ethnicities, taking pictures in different lighting conditions, to make recommendations about what skincare you need.
They boast that 95 per cent of people will get the same recommendations they would get if a dermatologist looked at their skin. It’s quite a claim.
I upload a bare-faced picture to the website, add my age and whether I think my skin is sensitive, tight, oily or just fine. The website tells me my virtual skin age is 28 (I’m 43). I cynically wonder if it says that to all the girls.
Then it looks at four different aspects of my face — pore quality, assessed by looking at my cheeks; radiance, judged on my forehead and cheeks; pigmentation, which focused on the areas down the sides of my face; and firmness around the mouth.
For each, I’m given a score out of 100 and told what my priorities should be — most important, firmness (just 52) and pigmentation (74). I am a bit confused. I was once told by a dermatologist that my pores could use some work, and while I knew my pigmentation wasn’t great, I’d never worried about my firmness — until now.
L’Oreal Paris recommends a regime — Revitalift Hyaluronic Acid Serum, Eye Cream and Day Cream in the morning, and in the evening a micellar water cleanser and the Revitalift Serum and Night Cream.
One flaw is that it doesn’t ask what I’m worried about. I care most about pigmentation but my regime doesn’t even include sun protection, an essential for all skin types, especially those like mine.