By Lucia Fontaina Powell
When you think of conscious beauty, does your mind immediately jump to artificial intelligence? Probably not. But that could be about to change.
A new wave of tech-driven solutions and pioneering brands are using artificial intelligence to rapidly transform the skincare industry. From hyper-effective, bespoke formulations, to a more sustainable future, these developments could drastically change the game—and your skin.
So is the cure to breakouts just around the corner? We did some digging to find out if AI is the skincare saviour we’ve all been waiting for.
Wise up: what is artificial intelligence?
For those of us who don’t know our GANs from our GPT, talk of AI can feel confusing. So before we dive into whether a bot can produce the face wash of your dreams, here’s a quick explanation of what AI is and how it works.
Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that gets machines to do things that humans do. Essentially, it’s all about problem-solving.
AI works through algorithms that are capable of processing huge amounts of data. Programmers can train these algorithms to sort information, recognize patterns, and make predictions—things that, historically, we’ve done using human intelligence. Except that AI has the capacity to do more than human intelligence, thanks to the sheer volume of data it can process.
From Google search to Siri, we’ve been using AI and watching it evolve for years. But recently, interest (and scepticism) has boomed, thanks to developments in something called generative AI, which is capable of generating text, images, or other media in response to prompts.
You’re probably familiar with Chat GPT, which is a chatbot powered by generative AI (we promise it’s not writing this article).
What’s AI got to do with the beauty industry?
First of all, you want to understand what’s going on. You turn to Google or Reddit for a (possibly inaccurate) diagnosis. You hunt for recommended products—scrolling through magazine articles, watching Tik Toks, and asking family and friends. Finally, you buy something. But it doesn’t work. And so the product sits in your bathroom cabinet, unused, until eventually you throw it out.
This frustrating journey was what led Simi Lindgren to found Yuty, a beauty tech startup on a mission to deliver a more satisfying customer experience through generative AI.
“It started because of the frustration that I was having finding the right haircare products. I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could leverage [AI] technology to try and to transform the customer experience for beauty consumers, so that they don't have to go through this crazy trial and error and [can] buy products that empower them?”
Simi Lindgren, Founder of Yuty. Image courtesy Yuty
For Simi, the beauty industry wasn’t catering to customers’ need for personalisation. From our skin type and colour, to our environment, to our diet, to our lifestyle, there are so many different factors that affect our skin. But up until now, the skincare industry has been designed for the masses, not for the individual.
Anabel Maldonado, the founder of PSYKHE AI—a next-generation AI tool for eCommerce brands—shares Simi’s conviction that personalisation is the future.
“My background is in neuropsychology. I was always very interested in understanding how the brain works. I ended up working in luxury fashion ecommerce for over a decade and I really came full circle. I felt that the way we were marketing things was very much lacking any understanding and inquiry into individual differences when it comes to style preferences. Our mission is really to put the right product in front of the right people, and to teach AI the one thing it doesn't have yet: taste.”
Anabel Maldonado, Founder of Psykhe AI. Image courtesy Psykhe AI
Using the “Big Five” model of personality traits, PSYKHE is building a recommendation system that’s much more intuitive than anything we’ve seen before. Starting with fashion, customers will see products that speak to and evolve with their individual taste. They plan to bring the same tech to the beauty industry too.
What can AI do for my skin?
So what would better personalisation mean for your skin? Here’s a glimpse into the future, via three ways AI could revolutionise the skincare industry:
AI could diagnose your skin concerns in seconds
Is it acne? Rosacea? Acne-rosacea? It can be tricky to accurately identify what’s messing up your skin without a trip to the dermatologist. Meaning you end up using the wrong products for your skin type.
But proponents of AI say you could skip that trip to the dermatologist entirely. Machine learning models can be trained to recognise different skin conditions. By uploading a selfie, an AI tool could detect conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, or even signs of skin cancer, in a matter of seconds. Putting you in a much better position to seek the right treatment.
AI can give you hyper-personalised skincare recommendations
On top of image recognition, AI can harness other forms of data to level up your skin health. Tools like Yuty use questionnaires to analyse data on everything from your hangups (like dark circles or ingrown hairs) to your stress levels. From here, algorithms can suggest tailored skincare routines and product combinations—so not just “moisturisers for dry skin”, but “moisturisers that would suit someone living in a polluted city and suffering from burnout, who also uses retinol”.
What’s more, AI can track the effectiveness of its recommendations over time, adjusting your products and routine to adapt to factors like age, environment or lifestyle—for example, moving to a new climate or going through menopause.
For Simi, this is what’s so exciting about hyper-personalisation: “Recommending a product is great, but it's the future stuff. What are your needs going to be in the future? How can we really transform that experience for you, so you never have to think about your beauty products and what's on the shelf again? [With AI], we constantly feel empowered.”
AI can optimise skincare product development
But why stop at recommending products—what about formulating them? AI can be used to optimise skincare product development in several ways.
Number one, harnessing our individual data, we can use AI to develop personalised formulations that address specific skin concerns. Working with trained consultants and skincare professionals, several brands are already doing this.
Secondly, AI can help beauty brands formulate new products more efficiently, safely and ethically. By analysing big datasets of skincare ingredients, their properties, and their effects on different skin types, they can streamline the R&D process, meaning less waste, zero animal testing, and less risk of adverse reactions.
And thirdly, on top of cutting out waste in the early stages of product development, AI can make the whole supply chain more sustainable; reducing excess stock, minimising packaging, and finding more eco-friendly ways to distribute products.
What’s the catch?
Skincare that works and an industry that’s more sustainable? AI sounds like a no-brainer. But is it too good to be true?
Well, there are a few factors that could give us cause for concern:
If you’ve used Chat GPT, you’ll know that a lot of AI tools still have a way to go before they can match human intelligence. When designing diagnostic tools, for example, it will take some training and wider datasets to guarantee accuracy levels, especially when customers are self-reporting their symptoms.
“AI has a lot of potential for diagnosing skin conditions and diseases into broader categories, however, dermatological expertise is at present certainly necessary for accurate diagnosis as well as decision making when it comes to treatments,” says Kristijana Durakic, Scientific Officer at Dr Jackson’s.
Anabel agrees that greater levels of sophistication are necessary, especially when it comes to understanding the emotional factors that go into our decision-making: “One thing that’s really needed is for [AI recommenders] to really understand the product…we can like things are not like things over the very specific details.”
Image courtesy Psykhe AI
Accessibility and safety
Right now, personalised skincare comes at a much higher price point than mass-produced products. As technology develops, beware of brands that could be using personalisation as a marketing ploy, without the research to back up their formulations.
The biggest concern with the use of AI in skincare—and indeed any industry—is privacy and data protection. AI tools need large quantities of data to be successful, but the more data they collect and process, the greater the risk to our privacy and data. Without maintaining control over the rate at which AI develops, we could face issues with re-identification and the misuse of personal information.
Is AI the future of conscious beauty?
At Dr Jackson’s, we combine time-tested ingredients with forward-thinking technology. As a small brand, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the industry to learn how AI could further our mission to bring you science-led, plant-powered skincare.
While there may be some teething problems and there are bigger, ethical questions to address, AI is already in our lives. And it looks like it’s here to stay.
For Simi, AI offers a fresh perspective on conscious beauty:
“I think conscious beauty is understanding that beauty consumers are not just made up of demographic data points. They are complex. They're unique, and they're multifaceted. From a brand perspective, [conscious beauty is] not just creating a one-size-fits-all product. From a consumer perspective, it’s finding products that fit you specifically, as opposed to something that’s trendy and topical. You want to buy from a brand that aligns with your values. And the other aspect is: does this product work for me?”
The future looks empowering—let’s watch this space.