Because You’re a Special Snowflake, Customized Beauty Is Here for Your Unique Needs

Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold
If you asked me to predict what the future would look like in terms of beauty—like, I'm talking Blade Runner-slash-The Fifth Element future—I'd picture completely personalized serums put together by robots (naturally) that are specifically tailored to people's unique skin type and needs. Back in the day, you'd probably think this type of utopian beauty world would only happen once there are flying cars and robotic butlers. Welp, I'm here to tell you that the time is now: Customizable beauty is becoming a thing.

Over the past year, customizable beauty products have been sprinkling into the market. Think serums that are concocted once you answer questions or consult with a skin-care expert, hair products that are formulated for your very particular hair needs, and acne products put together based on your breakout ATM.

"Technology permits us to customize so much now, and so the expectation is changing for more items and experiences to be personalized, including beauty," says Janet Pardo, senior vice president of global product development at Clinique. "Sixty-one percent of women are interested in personalized cosmetics, and we saw this as the perfect way to modernize a beloved product." As a result, Clinique created its customized hydrators Clinique iD, which pair three hydrating bases with five cartridges to offer up fifteen skin-specific cocktails to treat everything from sensitivity to hyperpigmentation.

It makes sense. Anyone who's tried to assemble their perfect skin-care regimen can attest to the struggle of trial and error. One thing can make your skin freak out, others can be too thick or occlusive for your skin type. Personalization takes differentiating factors into account so that instead, you're slathering on something meant for your particular needs. "Sixty-eight percent of women are still looking for the right moisturizer—it can take up to two years to find the right one, after trying up to five products at a time," says Pardo, citing her statistics from in-house research that the brand did ahead of launching iD.

And while personal preferences about the texture and scent matter, so too, are the unique environmental conditions that we're now facing. Proven Skincare takes into account the water you're using, pollution levels, and your lifestyle to come up with 25,000 different SKUs that could be created. And while many other services rely on algorithms to create these specialized cocktails, SkinCeuticals' Custom D.O.S.E. serum is created by your dermatologist, specifically for your skin's needs. "The service is completely personalized, with a comprehensive one-on-one evaluation, and then a custom-blended corrective serum that’s made in minutes," says Kim Nichols, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist who works with the product. "It’s concierge-like, and one of the best skin-care technology systems we have in our office and have seen in the industry."

The same goes for hair-care products. "I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that for years, the beauty industry has segmented people into generic categories and dictated what beauty looks like for everyone," says Zahir Dossa, co-founder and CEO of Function of Beauty, a hair-care brand that offers customizable products. "My co-founders, Josh Maciejewski, Hien Nguyen, and I wanted to use the latest science and technology to radically usurp big beauty by creating truly unique, hyper-customized products that help each and every person achieve their idea of personal beauty. The idea is that no two people are the same, so hair-care products shouldn't be the same either."

It's true—everyone's hair and skin are very different. Sure, there are skin and hair types, but even within those lie a good amount of variation—enough so to have people's skin and hair respond differently to products. And it's a good point, too, that if you look at the rest of the world, you'll see that customization is already a thing. There are customizable sneakers, meals, and vitamin regimens, and personalized fitness routines have existed for a long time. "Beauty is really the only industry that's lagging, despite the fact that the recent boom of sample subscription boxes demonstrates that people are still desperately searching for the perfect products," says Dossa.

Even dermatologists see customization as the future."I think this is the way skin care is going," says Mona Gohara, MD, a Danbury, Connecticut-based dermatologist. "People want a 23 and Me approach to skin care. They're interested in their own biology and not an en masse approach." Everyone's different, after all.

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