Custom beauty: 8 innovative brands that are leading the way

Illustration by Alex Loong

Not all beauty products are created equal – and for good reason. Michael Cheung looks at why customisation is all the rage these days, and which brands are on the cutting edge

It’s safe to say the coronavirus pandemic caused a seismic shift in consumer attitudes, with many embracing a “less is more” approach that focused spending on essentials rather than discretionary purchases. In one McKinsey survey, some 65% of consumers said they plan to purchase more long-lasting items than they did before the pandemic.

It appears this sentiment extends beyond spending to incorporate lifestyle choices, and in particular our beauty routines. “With the increase in excessive regimens, dermatologists are increasingly warning that people are doing too much to their skin,” says Lucy Vincent, founder of conscious beauty brand Sans [ceuticals]. “Instead, just a few well-calibrated products containing proven potent actives – formulated to avoid sensitising skin or irritating its crucial barrier function – can replace a whole cabinet full of products.”

In line with this new mindset, a range of start-ups and independent brands are ramping up their investment in bespoke beauty solutions by merging data, science and e-commerce. Not only are they reducing the number of recommended products, but also using hi-tech solutions such as AI and machine learning to create a completely personalised regimen that adjusts to individual needs over time.

The addition of clean credentials, sustainable packaging, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion only makes them more appealing to consumers. Read on for eight brands across skincare, haircare and make-up that are at the forefront of this exciting – and beautiful – new world. 


Photo: Proven

Described as “a holistic approach to skincare that’s completely backed by data”, Proven aims to create nothing less than the world’s most personalised skincare. Its award-winning Skin Genome Project can analyse over 20,238 skincare ingredients, 100,000 individual products and eight million testimonials to select the best ingredients for a three-step customised routine. Proven recommends users take the Skin Genome Quiz every five to seven weeks to ensure its products address the most recent concerns and seasonal changes.


Photo: Atolla

Co-founded by a dermatologist and an MIT graduate, Atolla utilises machine learning to identify skin issues and recommend a personalised serum. It has a monthly recurring 15ml subscription to build an extensive history and profile of customers’ skin, assessing environmental factors and related variants. A monthly skin health kit measures sebum production levels, and moisture and pH in the face while in-house estheticians are available to advise on how and when to use products.

Skin Inc

Photo: Skin Inc

Serum cocktail, anyone? Skin Inc’s signature product, My Daily Dose, is a bespoke serum concoction powered by three encapsulated boosters to address unique skin concerns. The flexible approach begins with a quiz, based on a diagnostic tool and proprietary algorithm with a database of more than one million skin profiles, to determine the three best serums that can then be blended at home over a 28-day period.


Photo: Clinique

The household beauty brand aims to make customisation as “easy as 1-2-3” with Clinique iD, a hybrid moisturiser that allows users to choose from a range of base formulas to pair with cartridges containing active concentrates that target concerns such as uneven skin tone, rough texture, fine lines and fatigue. There are more than 30 possible combinations and customers are encouraged to try the ClinicalReality diagnostic tool for a quick 30-second skin analysis.


Photo: Foreo

Swedish brand Foreo’s Luna Fofo promises to deliver the world’s first two-in-one smart facial massage and cleansing solution. The AI-based facial cleansing device uses facial scanning to make personal recommendations, utilising embedded sensors to analyse the skin and deliver real-time readings for customised routines. It also tracks internal and external factors such as climate, diet and water intake, and works with the Foreo For You app.

Sans [ceuticals]

Photo: Sans [ceuticals]

Besides ready-made products, this New Zealand-based beauty brand offers a personal prescription service through its site. According to founder Lucy Vincent, “When the skin and hair are fed precisely the right elements, they have the opportunity to truly shine. That is why we created a diagnostic tool that, via funnelling information, narrows down types and requirements to help give exceptional results.”

Yves Saint Laurent

Photo: Yves Saint Laurent Beauty

Since unveiling Perso, an AI-powered system that can create personalised beauty products, L’Oréal has partnered with Yves Saint Laurent Beauty on a fashion-forward version that can create up to three liquid lipsticks at a time with the press of a button. Users can select packs of cartridges in shades of red, fuchsia, nude and orange to create a myriad of custom shades. The revolutionary device ties in with an app that helps configure hues based on scientific colour data.


Photo: Amorepacific

Representing K-beauty is behemoth Amorepacific with its Lip Factory by Colour Tailor technology – an integrated online-offline lip make-up manufacturing system that utilises an AI-based mobile application. The app has the capacity to analyse a user’s facial features and recommend customised lip colours. The service is available in its flagship Seongsu store in Seoul, with a dispensing system that can deliver more than 2,000 different shades and precisely mix pigments in nano increments.

See also: 6 plant stem cell beauty products for anti-ageing

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