Big beauty tech ideas 2022: Tinder for cosmetics, printable tattoos and NFT jewellery

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

There are huge numbers of brands and manufacturers offering super-smart beauty products, tools and services as technology continues to evolve rapidly [Getty Images]
There are huge numbers of brands and manufacturers offering super-smart beauty products, tools and services as technology continues to evolve rapidly [Getty Images]

Related tags beauty tech beauty 4.0 digital AI AR virtual try-on tech Personalisation personalised beauty NFTs

Beauty tech is a fascinating and innovative space spurring a wealth of innovation across products, tools and services, and there’s plenty to watch in smart personalisation, self-expression and immersive platforms.

CosmeticsDesign-Europe interviewed all of the exhibitors at Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna’s dedicated beauty tech zone back at the end of April to find out what sort of innovations were shaping today’s market and discuss some of the biggest opportunities and challenges on the horizon.

Honest consumer feedback – ‘we’re a Tinder for beauty’

Kimberly Carney, founder and CEO of digital marketplace Glosswire said its two-sided platform enabled brands to curate critical consumer feedback and beauty consumers the chance to better understand products and spark change.

“Glosswire is a two-sides marketplace; it connects consumers and brands with data tech,”​ Carney said. “So, basically, we’re a Tinder for beauty. The consumer swipes left if they like it, swipes right if they don’t like it; they can favourite, they can save [products] in their profile. And we’re really building these digital profiles to give back that consumer intelligence to the beauty industry,”​ she said.

Glosswire used data-driven technologies and social integration tools like swiping, liking and sharing to share consumer feedback on products with some 175 brands. And Carney said this insight helped inform production decisions, improve conversion rates and ultimately drive repeat purchases.

Consumer feedback can be empowering for both parties [Getty Images]
Consumer feedback can be empowering for both parties [Getty Images]

But more broadly, she said Glosswire tapped into the biggest opportunity in beauty tech today – “connecting with the consumer”.

“…I think it’s super important for the consumer today. They want to have a say; they want to have a vote. And, going forward, they’re going to continue to do that. And when they see brands on our platform – we tell the brand story, we show what products they’re offering, the ingredients – it’s so important that consumers have all that information.”

For consumers, she said the “immersive”​ and “seamless”​ platform and app gave power back to be able to influence brand decisions and build out a sense of community which, in turn, also played into and fuelled personalisation and customisation opportunities in the beauty space today.

Cosmetic ink – a ‘new angle’ for beauty expression

Kevin Seo, marketing manager at temporary tattoo specialist Prinker, said the company’s one-of-a-kind cosmetic ink printer offered beauty consumers a smart new means of self-expression. Offering a range of more than 14,000 designs via its app, as well as the opportunity for users to design and upload their own designs, the portable device printed temporary tattoos on the skin in about 10 seconds.

“You can express yourself by displaying any design on your skin – any design, whenever you want, wherever you want. So, that’s the angle we’re targeting,”​ Seo said.

Up until now, he said beauty consumers had largely been expressing themselves through makeup and fashion choices, but the goal of Prinker was to offer another means for self-expression and plug a gap in this market. Each temporary tattoo lasted one to two days, washing off with soap but remained resistant to water and sweat, he said.

“I think beauty tech has always been a very saturated market, so that’s why we’re trying to give a new angle in this beauty tech space.”

Designed from scratch, the printer and ink used in the device were the brainchild of Prinker’s three co-founders, all of whom had worked for 20 years at Samsung Electrics researching the printing industry. Moving forward, Seo said the biggest challenge would be market acceptance and uptake, given the device was such a niche and new concept.

Beyond virtual try-on – we’re showing brands NFTs can be done

Sylvain Delteil, VP of Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) specialist Perfect Corp Europe, said its advances in virtual try-on (VTO) technology had taken consumer experience and brand opportunities to new heights. Perfect Corp was now offering virtual try-ons for jewellery and watches, and also offering non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of these items for consumers to purchase and keep.

“We make those VTOs ‘NFT-able’, so that people can buy it and keep it for their record (…) It’s not our core business, of course; it’s just to show the brands you can do it now,”​ Delteil said.

“…You know, the kids are making the law. You’re not going to teach them; they’re going to teach you, and that’s the same for NFTs. If the brands don’t want to go to NFTs, the boys and girls will push them to go there.”

NFTs can take virtual try-on opportunities to new heights [Getty Images]
NFTs can take virtual try-on opportunities to new heights [Getty Images]

Initially, Perfect Corp had started working on VTO technology for digital makeup, but its “super accurate Augmented Reality (AR​)” meant the company could now offer realistic try-ons of other goods, he said, such as earrings, bracelets and watches, along with NFTs for these items.

These advances, he said, tapped into rising opportunities in the virtual try-on space – an area that was no longer a ‘nice to have’, rather a ‘must have’ for every beauty brand.

“Virtual try-on is a no-brainer now,”​ he said, particularly as swathes of consumers now expected highly personalised and customised beauty products. And with the technology ready to go and brands now well-structured to invest in this space, he said opportunities would only surge further for this technology.

Katarina Varga, sales manager at Visage Technologies, agreed, noting its virtual try-on tech for makeup was gaining important traction, particularly as it aligned well with consumer desire for customised products – for their skin and even their personality.

Customised hair and nails – ‘it’s not a standard shelf product’

Kristin Petrelli, head of marketing at professional hair care specialist Wild Beauty, said the launch of its customised hair care brand Yours Truly last year tapped into important opportunities in the beauty tech market.

Petrelli said opportunities in beauty tech were threefold: customisation, performance and sustainability. “If you have those three things together; you have the performance, you have the sustainability, and it’s made for you, I mean – come on, what else?”

The Yours Truly brand, she said, tapped into these, offering personalised, sustainable product blends for shampoos, conditioners and other hair care products with salon-level performance. “It’s not a standard shelf product; it’s not a finished product you can just take from the shelf and buy. We first need to understand your hair, we first need to understand your scalp and your wishes for your hair.”

The products were then either made and delivered to consumer homes or could be mixed in salons by professionals working on commission, she said. Moving forward, she said the biggest challenge for beauty tech brands, including ones like Yours Truly, would be scale.

Ashok Gupta, director of customised nail brand Mad for Nails, said its made-to-measure acrylic nails could be designed via an app and also delivered straight to the customer. Importantly, the nails – applied using adhesive strips – could be reused several times, Gupta said, offering a cost-effective and convenience alternative to nail polish and nail art.

“This is about customisation, creativity, convenience and safety,”​ he said. And it was these four aspects of beauty, he said, that technology helped advance.

The goal of the company, he said, was to offer an alternative to long-standing and traditional nail offerings that could be personalised in shape, style and colour to individual consumers.

Countering counterfeits – ‘unique digital footprints’ for beauty

Johan Wüthrich, founder and CEO of digital startup Kaiosid, said its image analysis technology offered existing brands and manufacturers an important tool to fight counterfeits and tackle the rising problem of the grey market.

“The technology behind what we are doing is based on image analysis. So, we developed top-notch algorithms to really analyse images and detect invisible marketing on the product that creates unique digital fingerprints of the product,”​ Wüthrich said.

Beyond this, he said the technology also enabled brands to offer visibility on issues like sustainability – providing detailed information on where a product was made, and where its ingredients came from, for example. And this deeper connection with consumers via such a digital fingerprint was increasingly sought after, he said.

Furthermore, he said, brands then had more information on how consumers were interacting with products, providing a feedback loop to analyse shopping patterns and behaviours. And it was this final aspect of the technology, he said, that offered industry opportunities to tap into the biggest beauty tech trend today – personalisation. Smarter interactions and heightened knowledge of the consumer, Wüthrich said, meant brands could respond according to individual needs.

Asked industry’s biggest challenge in beauty tech was moving forward, he said: “For early-stage companies and early-stage startups, I would say it’s the sales cycle (…) Sometimes, discussions are taking much more time than we expect as a startup; we don’t have the same timeline [as the larger companies].”

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