Technology touches every aspect of our lives, and the influence of technology in beauty and cosmetics has grown in recent times globally, becoming a quite interesting playground of opportunity for consumers, big multinational brands, and entrepreneurs. There have been increasingly more examples of beauty tech advancements in skin care; however, offerings for beauty tech in hair care have been limited in comparison. This blog provides an overview of beauty tech and examples of how technology has advanced the consumer beauty care experience, specifically within the hair care space.
Exploration of Beauty Tech
From a global perspective, beauty tech and innovation has been popular in Asia, with advancements making their way west as consumers become more advanced, engaged, and open to new things. At the core, all consumer desire the same thing – efficacy. I think of beauty tech as an opportunity to empower consumers to have a more meaningful, convenient & effective beauty care experience. This can be achieved through multiple channels: devices, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to name a few.
A beauty device is any electrically powered hardware that is used for a specific purpose within the beauty or grooming experience. Consumers are most familiar with devices given their use of styling implements such as blow dryers, flat irons, hot rollers, etc. The global beauty devices market is expected to grow from roughly $39 billion in 2018 to $107 billion by 2024 (1). A highlight of interesting devices for hair care follows.
Independent beauty tech company, THE MOST, offers two innovative devices that address convenience and care in the styling of textured hair. The Mint is a tool that allows the user to insert prefilled cartridges, “Mint Minis,” of hair products, into The Mint, which then heats the product and dispenses it from the device’s bristles (2, 3). The result is a quicker grooming experience due to simultaneous product application and detangling, a step that can generally take a while depending on the curl pattern, length, and density of the hair. From an automated mechanical perspective, the company has developed the Knot Your Average Sonic Detangler Brush, a brush with comb-like bristles that oscillate to efficiently detangle curly and coily hair.
Devices that address hair concerns such as growth and scalp health are penetrating the market due to increased consumer focus in these areas. Cosmetics Design-Europe recently reported on one such example – the Verdure LED Hair Regrowth Scalp Activator, a device that uses light stimulation and ionic vibration to help stimulate hair growth (4). Another example is the BeautyBio GloPro Scalp Attachment, a tool that reportedly supports the appearance of hair growth through the microneedling action of the device. This scalp stimulation helps to reawaken the scalp, promote blood and nutrient circulation, and reduce buildup. Additionally, there is considerable patent activity for upcoming hair growth devices (5).
As sustainability is a key driver for innovation, some companies have leveraged technology to impact areas such as water usage and waste (6). L’Oréal has collaborated with Gjosa to devise a water-saving showerhead and dispensing system for salons and future home use. The L’Oréal Water Saver works by a water micronization technology; micronized product is mixed into the high-pressure, small droplet water stream of the showerhead, thereby resulting in up to 80% reduction in water usage vs. a standard showerhead (7). The Réduit One hair and skin care device addresses waste reduction by utilizing pods containing concentrated ingredients, and a dispensing mechanism that delivers the product in a mist of tiny droplets. The benefit is improved efficacy and 20 times less waste vs. standard products (6). The 5 mL Hairpods (and Skinpods), which are equivalent 200 mL or 50 mL of standard hair or skin care products, respectively, can be returned for recycling when they are empty.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated data processing has enabled beauty tech to do remarkable new things. AI works by mining data to offer personalized solutions. A relatable example of this is Lancôme’s make-up mixing station which works as follows: a customer’s skin is evaluated by a colorimeter, the color data is processed using an algorithm that then outputs the best combination of pigments to produce the consumer’s perfectly matched shade of foundation.
For hair care, AI has been particularly useful for diagnostic tools and product recommendations. Hair AI by John Paul Mitchell Systems consists of a scanner/zoom lens that can be attached to a smartphone camera and an app that then analyzes the image of the hair and scalp to provide insight such as condition and relevant products. This diagnostic tool is specifically for use by hair care professionals. Myavana is a platform and app that provides personalized hair care product recommendations and guidance to subscribers with textured hair using a combination of AI, technical analyses of the subscribers’ hair and one-on-one stylist consultations. Additionally, the latest offering from Myavana is an app that utilizes image recognition technology and AI to analyze an image of the consumer’s hair for the purpose of recommending suitable products (8).
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology in which a new experience is simulated based on the overlay of information and virtual objects on real-world scenes in real-time (9). That new experience could be as simple as a new appearance (think applying a filter that adds features such as eyelashes to your favorite selfie) or as complex as interacting with products in a store. A useful example of AR in hair care is virtual hair color apps such as Clairol MyShade and the Milton Reed “Try On” Tool. These tools provide consumers with the valuable and convenient experience of “trying on” different hair colors before committing to a coloring treatment with potentially long-lasting effects. Simply upload a picture or live stream from your smartphone! The key opportunity for AR in the future will be in creating fully immersive shopping and wellness experiences (10).
Beauty tech centers on leveraging advanced technical capabilities to address a need and introduce convenience and personalization to the beauty care experience. I hope this blog inspires readers to think of the untapped opportunities that exist in hair care, for which the use of technology such as devices, AI and AR can offer advancement. The cosmetic industry has done a great job of delivering chemistries and formulations to address consumer needs, and the compliment of technology will propel us even further in our quest to deliver next level hair care benefits and experiences. Beauty tech can offer viable solutions for improved care and efficacy, inclusivity / personalization, and sustainability in the beauty industry.
- Fulton, B. (2020, November 10). At-home beauty tech sees a lockdown boom. https://www.voguebusiness.com/technology/at-home-beauty-tech-sees-a-lockdown-boom
- Myers, D. (2019, March 20). U.S. Patent US20200093248A1. Enhanced hair product application with concurrent styling.
- Graham, M. (2018, December 18). Meet Dawn Myers, founder and CEO of The Most. https://www.lifewire.com/meet-dawn-myers-founder-and-ceo-of-the-most-5092881
- Lim, A. (2021, October 19). Verdure says underserved hair care market due for a tech upgrade. https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Article/2021/10/19/Verdure-says-underserved-hair-care-market-due-for-a-tech-upgrade
- McDougall, A. (2021, May 31). The future of haircare, styling & colour: 2021 [Industry Report]. Mintel. https://www.mintel.com
- Di Gesu, R. (2021, April 31). A year of innovation in haircare, styling & colour, 2021 [Industry Report]. Mintel. https://www.mintel.com
- L’Oréal Articles. (2021, August 1). L’Oréal water saver: using water sustainably in salon and at-home. Available at https://www.loreal.com/en/articles/science-and-technology/loreal-water-saver-the-new-sustainable-haircare-system
- Pernell, A. (2020, June 22). Myavana launches new mobile app for hair product recommendations from a photo. Available at https://urbangeekz.com/2020/06/myavana-launches-new-mobile-app-for-hair-product-recommendations-from-a-photo
- Fjermedal, G. (2021, April 9). Beauty tech: the complete guide 2021. Available at https://www.perfectcorp.com/business/blog/general/the-complete-guide-to-beauty-tech?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI76ehvfrl8wIVAgaICR3xRgSMEAMYASAAEgIv4vD_BwE
- (2021, October 23). Alternative Realities [Industry Trend Report]. https://www.mintel.com
Dr. Amber Evans is a cosmetic industry professional with over a decade of experience in research and innovation. In her current position as Senior Manager of Product Development at Moroccanoil, she leverages her technical expertise to help drive the global launch of prestige hair & body care products. Prior to Moroccanoil, she worked as a development scientist at ingredient supplier BASF Corporation, where her contributions spanned multiple market segments, including hair, body, and oral care. She also previously supported initiatives such as upstream research for hair colorants and clinical testing for skin/shave care applications at Procter & Gamble.
Dr. Evans holds a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Cosmetic Science focus) from University of Cincinnati and a B.S. in Chemistry from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. She has authored hair care research publications, contributed content to NaturallyCurly.com, the leading resource for textured hair care, and featured on multiple platforms that support aspiring scientists and early career professionals. As a mentor, active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC), peer reviewer for the Journal of Cosmetic Science and editorial advisory board member for Global Cosmetic Industry (GCI) Magazine, Dr. Evans is dedicated to influencing the progression of the cosmetic field.
Disclaimer: All views expressed are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now or will be affiliated. The mentioning of technologies herein does not constitute an endorsement.