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The ethically murky marriage of technology and beauty

The ethically murky marriage of technology and beauty
From Engadget - April 16, 2018

I am already luckier than many people whose complexions fall on the darker range of the spectrum: Finding an accurate shade may be a challenge, but I can almost always get an option that's close enough. For others who are more tan, though, that's not always possible.

The latest spate of beauty tech seems intent on changing all that. Companies are using tech to provide highly customized products like makeup, corrective skin care and shampoos that are tailored to your exact needs. But while on the surface these appear to be well-meaning efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity, the industry needs to carefully examine every step as it moves forward or risk exacerbating problems around perceived ideals in beauty.

Lancome launched its Le Teint Particulier custom liquid foundation in 2016 at select Nordstrom stores. It uses a skin scanner to detect your complexion at various points on your face with the help of an onsite consultant and creates a formula that's best suited for you. The company says it can detect more than 72,000 skin tones and mix your foundation on the spot. Oprah magazine's Manouska Jeantus even said it "answered all our prayers for a foundation that works for dark skin tones."

Meanwhile, businesses like Curology, Insitu and Skinceuticals have sprung up in the last few years or so, offering personalized skin care with the help of tech. Curology and Insitu learn about your skin from your pictures and answers to online questionnaires, while Skinceuticals' Custom DOSE (Diagnostic Optimization Serum Expertise) will use in-person evaluations when the service launches this summer.

The idea is that the traditional way of classifying your skin as oily, dry or combination is no longer enough -- you should be able to get products based on exactly how dry, supple and pigmented your skin is. That's good news for people who do not fit neatly into a category and want to treat their faces with a precise combination of moisturizers and active ingredients. And it's not just about your complexion. Benefit Cosmetics, which launched an AR brow try-on app earlier this year, said: "All brows are unique, so we built an AR solution that is customizable for any person."

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