New kinds of personal care companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to help consumers cure their beauty woes.
Using AI-driven algorithms, startups are personalizing the beauty industry by allowing customers to formulate a product that suits their individual needs, such as shampoo for coarse hair or cruelty-free and vegan body wash.
How AI Is Shaping the Beauty Industry
Brooklyn-based Prose, which launched in January 2018, is a direct-to-consumer shampoo brand that allows customers to create personalized hair care products by completing a brief quiz. It is designed to give the company’s AI an understanding of each customer’s unique hair needs, from age, hair type, and hair length to specifics such as physical activity level, environmental factors, diet, sensitivities, and fragrance preference.
Prose uses ingredients like honey and silk, so the brand is not vegan, but customers can choose to omit these ingredients if desired. The startup has been well-received by consumers and beauty publications like Allure. On Monday, Prose announced it received an $18 million Series B investment led by Insight Venture Partners, bringing its total funding to $25 million.
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While it uses technology to formulate the product, Prose was inspired by a very old concept: the apothecary. “All beauty products used to be personalized,” said Prose co-founder and CEO Arnaud Plas in a statement. “We wanted to find a way to modernize this process.”
Scientists and Engineers Are Leading the Next Generation of Beauty Brands
Other companies have taken up a similar method. Vegan and cruelty-free brand Function of Beauty was founded by a team of MIT engineers and data scientists who spent years building the company’s algorithm and machines. Like Prose, it all starts with a quiz to get a snapshot of its customers’ unique hair needs, then a custom formula is created from a list of hundreds of plant-based ingredients. The company is dedicated to perfecting its system, making use of A/B testing with its hair quiz daily.
Like Prose, Function of Beauty is popular with consumers. Earlier this month, the three-year-old brand announced it had sold its one millionth bottle. It hopes to broaden its product lineup, first with a purple-colored hair care range formulated for blondes.
“What a million bottles says to us is, this isn’t a niche company,” said Zahir Dossa, CEO and co-founder of Function of Beauty. “We don’t have a niche customer, what it tells us is with our scale and how quickly we’re growing every month, it demonstrates to us just how big the personalized shampoo market is.”
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New family-owned business Pure & Mine, which launched on Tuesday, also uses a unique algorithm to create personalized formulas for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Its products are free from parabens, sulfates, and silicones.
“During our testing, we found that each person’s idea of their perfect shampoo or body wash differs. One off-the-shelf product cannot cater to different hair/skin types or achieve widely varied beauty goals. So we knew, customization was the only way,” said co-founder and CEO Hamish Patel.
The hair care industry isn’t alone in turning to AI to appeal to consumers. PROVEN is a female-led AI-driven skincare brand. Co-founders entrepreneur Ming Zhao and computational physicist Amy Yuan were inspired to start the company after realizing that skincare isn’t always one-size-fits-all. PROVEN offers custom skincare free from chemical ingredients like parabens, formaldehyde, and SLS.
“We built machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms on top of that data to understand the correlations and interconnections between people’s skin and the ingredients that work for each person,” said Zhao. The company is cruelty-free, but not all of its products are vegan.
Zhao and Yuan created The Skin Genome Project, described by Forbes as “the most comprehensive analytical database of clinically effective ingredients for skincare.” The project was the winner of MIT’s 2018 Artificial Intelligence Award.
“We’re proud of not only our technology, but also the fact that we are applying this level of cutting edge AI to the beauty industry—something that’s unprecedented,” Zhao continued.