Navigating the recent beauty-tech wave — the industry trends you should know
We now welcome our new Editor-at-large in Beauty, Selah Rui Li. The founder of Ellure is clearly one to watch in the Nordic beauty space and in her first column, she shares the key trends to watch in beauty-tech.
30 Jan 2024

As a roboticist turned beauty-tech entrepreneur, I found myself captivated by the remarkable strides in beauty technology throughout 2023. This dynamic year saw an upsurge in innovation, with artificial intelligence, robotics, and synthetic biology taking the centre stage. In this article, I’m excited to share the developments that have not only caught my attention but are also shaping the future of the beauty industry.

Photography: @Hyram, ChatGPT Builds Me A Skin Care Routine

AI in beauty-tech

The buzz around AI, especially with the introduction of ChatGPT, has been palpable throughout the year. Youtubers began experimenting with ChatGPT recommendations for skincare, and the subsequent launch of the GPT store ushered in specialised models for cosmetics recommendations and formulations. 

While I believe language models like ChatGPT have immense potential to revolutionise the beauty industry in areas such as product recommendations, formulation, and customer service, it’s crucial to acknowledge the constraints. GPT-generated content may sound convincing, but the facts are not always verified. 

Notably, computer vision-based AI, particularly in the realm of camera-based skin analysis, virtual try-on, and recommendations, is gaining traction among brands and retailers. Despite the remarkable expansion of large players like Revieve and Perfect Corp, niche platforms such as for skincare analysis and Myavana for Afro hair care are carving their path to consumers. Moreover, AI is leaving its mark on formulation processes, with companies like No Ordinary Scent and Givaudan’s Carto for scents, along with NOIE for custom skincare solutions.

I believe that one day AI will be able to provide a professional level of concierge service for diagnostics, custom formulation and product recommendation. I look forward to the day where AI will ask me a few questions and provide me with the perfect makeup, perfume and skincare. And if that day will finally come, who will be the L’Oréal’s and Estée Lauder’s of our time? 

Photography: TikTok @lashesbyluum

Robotic revolution in beauty

The integration of robotics into the beauty industry could be transformative. For our Scandinavian readers, imagine going to a KICKS or Matas and get a lash extension and manicure at the same time within 30 mins for one-third of the cost. Wouldn’t that be a dream!

Perhaps the future is almost there. LUUM’s robotic eyelash application (pictured above), now being tested at US retailer Ulta Beauty, exemplifies this shift, streamlining lash applications for both time savings and potential cost reductions. While some may find the experience daunting, I believe we will witness the emergence of service robots in beauty, just like advancements in surgical robots in hospitals.

Beyond lashes, companies like Clockwork and Nimble are making strides in robotic nail polish application. In 2023, Clockwork started to offer $10 Robot Manicure at Target. Moreover, robotic laser hair removal machines and massage machines, are pushing the boundaries of conventional beauty routines, indicating a future where technology enhances not just appearance but overall well-being.

Photography: Ginkgo Bioworks

Synthetic biology in beauty-tech

A groundbreaking development that has particularly intrigued me is the rise of synthetic biology, poised to reshape the beauty industry from the ingredient level. Imagine synthetic biology as a process similar to brewing beer, but instead of converting sugar into alcohol, it transforms sugar into a myriad of beauty products. These bioengineered alternatives are not only environmentally friendly but also revolutionise traditional sourcing methods.

For instance, synthetic biology offers a game-changing solution for Jasmine oil, an essential ingredient for high-end perfume. Traditionally, they came from extensive fields of flowers and are very resource in-efficient (because to get the oil, farmers also need to grow the leaves and stems of the flower which they have no use for). Similarly, squalene, an important ingredient for moisturiser and cleanser traditionally extracted from shark livers or olives, now has a cruelty-free and efficient alternative through synthetic production by companies like Amyris.

Beyond practicality, synthetic biology brings a sense of fun and creativity. Companies like Arcaea, launched on the Ginkgo Bioworks Platform (pictured above), have recreated scents from extinct flowers, launching a brand called Future Society. This intersection of science and creativity not only opens new possibilities for the beauty industry but also blends innovation with environmental consciousness.

To summarise, beauty-tech goes beyond cosmetics; it embodies the confluence of breakthroughs in medicine, chemistry, biology, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The landscape is vibrant, with startups challenging norms and established players navigating unexplored domains. Looking ahead to 2024, I look forward to seeing more of the integration of tech and beauty, and a future where self-care and beauty needs are met on a more personal level, while minimizing the environmental impact of beauty.

I am always on the lookout for fascinating beauty-tech companies to feature. If you have an innovative product or service, feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected]