What’s In My Jar co-founder: ‘Industry needs to rethink how we approach sensitive skin’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

What's In My Jar has developed a digital skin care assistant that recommends products based on irritant risk and effectiveness of products within a consumers' routine (Image: What's In My Jar)
What's In My Jar has developed a digital skin care assistant that recommends products based on irritant risk and effectiveness of products within a consumers' routine (Image: What's In My Jar)

Related tags: Skin care, Sensitive skin, allergens, beauty 4.0, Beauty apps, digital, beauty tech


Algorithm specialist What’s In My Jar has developed a digital tool that recommends minimalist and gentle skin care routines based on irritation risk and effectiveness of products – a move that might help industry rethink its approach to sensitive skin, its co-founder says.

The tech startup’s Sensitive Skin Advisor tool had been designed to analyse a user’s full skin care routine, understanding basic parameters like skin tone, skin concerns and probable causes of any sensitivity, and advise what products should be dropped or introduced to create a minimalist yet effective routine of just three to five products. The algorithm behind the tool assessed both irritation risk and effectiveness of products using a database of ingredients designed by a dermatologist and skin sensitivity expert. What’s In My Jar said each skin care ingredient was modelled by the algorithm based on publicly available medical, academic and dermatology reports of irritant reactions.

The tool had been launched as a free-to-use, independent digital skin care assistant for consumers, but could also be adapted for beauty brand or retailer needs and deployed across e-commerce sites.

‘It’s a good idea to treat everyone’s skin as potentially sensitive’

Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO of What’s In My Jar, said the tool had been designed for all skin care consumers, not just those identified as having ‘sensitive skin’.

Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO of What’s In My Jar,
Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO of What’s In My Jar,

“With the rise of highly concentrated active ingredients in skin care, plus the increase of number of products used per customer, the industry needs to rethink how we approach sensitive skin. Instead of it being a skin type that a small proportion of consumers have, it is a condition that will affect any active skin care consumer at least a few times in their lifetime,”​ Semykoz told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

“Once a person has experienced an instance of acute skin sensitivity, for example a reaction, they are likely to prefer skin care for sensitive skin for the rest of their life. In a nutshell, it’s a good idea to treat everyone’s skin as potentially sensitive,”​ she said.

Skin sensitivity is about routine, not individual products

It was important industry started to think about skin sensitivity in routine terms, rather on a product-by-product basis, Semykoz said – something this tool aimed to address.

“Product recommendations should not be isolated, but rather start with the question: ‘what else is the consumer using?’ Any product with active ingredients at potent concentrations needs to come with an advice of what not to use or what not to do in order to make the application safe and effective,”​ she said.

It was important that beauty brands acknowledged consumers used an array of skin care products, oftentimes from competing brands, and understood that knowledge of the consumer’s entire skin care routine was really where growth opportunities lied, she said. “Instead of adopting the ‘our brand or highway’ approach, the [beauty] apps could be smarter and identify gaps in the consumers’ existing routines and position their products for easy adoption and maximum consumer benefit,” ​she said.

Next-generation tool will isolate specific ingredients

What’s In My Jar was also working on a next-generation version of the tool where consumers could specify ingredients they wanted to avoid in their skin care routines – an upgrade that would work well for those with known allergies and sensitivities or strong preferences, Semykoz said.

“We believe that the segment of consumers who are particular about specific ingredients they like and dislike in skin care is poised to grow, especially with the rise of online shopping. Ingredient list research and comparisons are way more accessible in online shopping compared to in-store experiences.”

The future of skin care? Capsule cabinets and a ‘less is more’ thinking

Asked what the future of skin care might look like, Semykoz said consumers would start to build out skin care routines with a select few products, much like they did with capsule wardrobes – buying items that could be easily combined or substituted (cleansers, sunscreens, moisturisers) along with a few powerful signature items (skin care actives).

There was significant potential here, she said, for luxury sensitive skin care products to come to market, with premium active ingredients like ceramides and peptides that offered an alternative to traditional mid-market items for sensitive skin. There was also great potential for innovations in cleansing, focusing on gentle cleansing with new surfactant blends and textures that overcome concerns around over-cleansing, she said.

“We think ‘less is more’ is the future of skin care, but it will look different for different consumers,” ​she said. “…While for some, a minimalist skin care approach will entail using the same three to five skin care products on a daily basis, others would still prefer diversity and choice in their bathroom cabinets and would own dozens of products – but each of them serving a clear purpose without unnecessary ingredients.”

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