Future Of Beauty: The Science Behind Olay Skin Advisor

By Ruby Feneley
on 1 February 2019

“Our app is comparing your skin to thousands of women…” – not exactly a statement that fills me with confidence after the long weekend. But that is exactly the premise behind Olay’s Skin Advisor platform. Here, Ruby Feneley from Women Love Tech talked to head scientist for Olay David Khoo about what Skin Advisor means for the future of beauty.

The Skin Advisor Concept

Skin Advisor is a web-based platform which analyses your face based on a selfie, maps problem areas and (horrifyingly) tells you your “skin age”. Then, based on data regarding your skincare habits, preferences (fragranced products versus no fragrance, heavy versus light texture) Skin Advisor recommends you highly targeted treatment products. It sounds simple and you would be forgiven for wondering why more companies haven’t launched similar technology.  But according to Khoo: “A deep learning engine is like a child’s mind: very flexible, but you have to fill it with the right information.”

According to Olay, Skin Advisor is the first “deep learning” application to successfully enter the beauty market. “We take buzz words like ‘radiance’ and ‘elasticity’ and work to understand them on a biological level, and then turn them into measurable quantities,” exclaims Khoo.

Shopping Smarter With Skin Advisor

Olay’s consumer insights found that women feel overwhelmed when they shop for skincare. With the explosion of the beauty market, there is a litany of brands offering solutions and everything from serums, essences, to lotions, balms and oils for every skin concern. But increasingly, more does not mean better for the average customer.

Olay investigated how women shop for skincare. They found most women purchase skincare based on a single skin concern. For instance, a person with acne will gravitate towards drying products labelled ‘anti-acne”. If a sales assistant or dermatologist recommends a product labelled “hydrating” they may be suspicious. The missing information in this scenario is that the consumer believes their skin is oily and as a result cuts out moisturiser. The dehydration caused by lack of moisture triggers excess oil production in the skin, and exacerbates their acne. As a result two co-morbid skin conditions exist but only one is visible to the consumer. This is where Skin Advisor comes in as it supplies the missing information.

A Data Driven Solution

Most consumers don’t have a cosmetic chemist’s knowledge of skincare ingredients, or a dermatologist’s knowledge of their own skin. So Olay brought them an AI platform that acts as a dermatologist and cosmetic chemist in their pocket. The Skin Advisor platform helps women understand their own skin, navigate ingredients, and provide wholistic solutions, cutting out the need for self diagnosis at the cosmetics counter.

Using data amassed over decades, Olay worked with Harvard MD Alex Kimball to research gene expression profiles to map and project how gene expression changed based on ethnicity and lifestyle factors. This data allows the Skin Advisor application to make accurate assessments across a diverse range of consumers.

Khoo refers to Skin Advisor as the “democratisation of great solutions” – the platform is 99% as accurate as a dermatological assessment and cuts out the money and time spent with a specialist. He hopes that soon Skin Advisor technology will be as ubiquitous and advanced as health apps.

For me? I tried Skin Advisor and it was certainly straightforward and easy. While I would not suggest using the platform after a long weekend of Aperol Spritzes and takeaway dinners, it was spot on in identifying my under eyes as my most serious area of concern. Skin Advisor recommended Olay Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment to target my “worst” area.

What interested me most about Skin Advisor, my fascinating under eye circles aside, was that Olay has already used metrics gained from the platform in the formulation of their new product range Whips. Rather than just making shopping easier, platforms like Skin Advisor are being used to make products that better suit customer’s needs. And if that’s the case, then the future of beauty is looking brighter by the second.

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