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What is beauty tech? 10 trends shaping the cosmetics industry

Explore how beauty tech trends are reshaping the beauty industry. Explore new trends and the latest CES innovations, from virtual try-ons and 3D-printed makeup to AI skincare.

Technology touches every area of life – including beauty and cosmetics.

Beauty tech is the integration of technology into cosmetics and beauty products. Recent innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and the internet of things have all contributed to a noticeable surge in the industry.

This influence of technology on beauty was prominently featured at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world's largest tech event. The keynote speech by L'Oréal CEO Nicolas Hieronimus set the tone for a recurring theme of beauty tech innovations set to transform the beauty industry. Innovations highlighted include a state-of-the-art lip tool; a strand-protecting blow dryer; and the Nimble manicure salon, the world's first device that combines AI technology and complex robotics to flawlessly paint nails without ever needing to go to a nail salon.

These latest trends indicate that the beauty routines previously limited to the physical realm of brushes, makeup artists and palettes are now transferring to the virtual sphere of algorithms and pixels, transforming the beauty industry for good. According to Vantage market research, the yearly growth rate for smart devices in the beauty business is an outstanding 18.8%, with sales estimated to reach $144.2 billion by 2028.

Here are some of the most recent technology trends influencing the beauty industry.

1. Virtual try-ons using AI/VR tools

Imagine being able to try out different makeup looks without ever touching a compact or try on an outfit without wearing it. Thanks to generative AI, the fashion and beauty industries are changing rapidly. Many beauty apps that are coupled with AI and VR capabilities are now available on the market, making virtual try-ons a reality for consumers.

Virtual try-ons also took center stage at CES 2024, as companies introduced new AI and VR features in their beauty products, including virtual try-ons for watches and jewelry as well as 3D hairstyling. The best thing about virtual try-ons and online product sampling is that users can try on several shades of lipstick, eyeshadow and hairstyles by simply using the cameras on their smartphones.

2. AI-powered skin analysis and lip care

AI-powered skin analysis is a rapidly growing trend in cosmetics and skincare. This technology examines different aspects of an individual's skin using AI algorithms. Users can capture skin photos with smartphones or through real-time live camera modes, which the AI system then processes to identify skin characteristics and conditions, such as skin types, acne, dark spots, wrinkles and pores. Based on these findings, personalized skincare suggestions are provided to customers.

Perfect Pro's skin diagnostic technology, for example, analyzes three facial images -- front, left and right profiles -- to detect issues such as acne and wrinkles. This precise method ensures comprehensive coverage -- even in challenging areas such as the chin and cheeks.

Along with skincare, these newest trends are also focusing on AI-based lip care. Amorepacific's Lipcure Beam, a lip device that not only recognizes lip concerns but also delivers treatment and improved lip care, secured the top position in the Digital Health category at CES 2024, showcasing the rapid growth of AI in the cosmetics and skincare industry.

3. Wearable beauty devices

Wearable technology, such as smartwatches and fitness bands, has also gained popularity in the beauty industry. These gadgets measure several health factors, including heart rate, sleep patterns, skin damage, mood changes and activity levels. Tracking these indicators helps individuals make informed decisions regarding their general well-being, which can also improve their overall appearance and beauty.

One such wearable beauty gadget, the Evie Ring, won an innovation award at CES 2024. This smart ring provides a comprehensive understanding of women's health by considering factors such as energy levels, menstrual health and hormonal fluctuations.

Wearable UV trackers incorporated with smart sensors are also becoming popular. For example, the Shade UV tracker monitors UV radiation exposure and provides real-time feedback on sun protection. Wearable as a wristband or attached to clothing, these trackers link to an app for personalized product suggestions regarding sunscreen and other protective measures.

4. Automatic hair analysis

This latest beauty tech trend involves automatic hair analysis. By employing advanced algorithms and sensors to assess hair quality and scalp conditions, AI-driven tools offer personalized insights for tailored hair care routines.

Brands such as MYAVANA debuted their hair strand analysis technology at CES 2023. This technology provides AI-driven hair analysis and personalized recommendations. Revieve, an AI hair care adviser, requires only a customer selfie to precisely identify the condition of a customer's hair to offer interactive education and guidance to the customer.

5. 3D-printed makeup

The 3D-printed makeup trend has gained momentum in the beauty industry, offering a new level of customization and creativity. One notable example is the Mink 3D makeup printer, which lets users transform any image into wearable makeup. The printer works by depositing ink onto a powder-coated substrate, creating instantly wearable cosmetics in powder form.

The concept of 3D-printed makeup has piqued the industry's interest, pushing other companies to pursue similar ideas. For example, a company named Adorn introduced a 3D cosmetic pen that scans the face and creates a foundation shade ideally matched to an individual's skin tone.

6. Smart mirrors

This beauty trend is shaped by technologically advanced mirrors that collect personal data to optimize daily beauty routines and provide personalized insights to customers. Key features include adjustable lighting based on individual needs, microscopic skin analysis using embedded cameras and sensors, an interactive experience with Wi-Fi connectivity, and voice-enabled controls. The embedded cameras use augmented reality technology to superimpose the desired product on the customer's reflection in real time.

Consumers can use smart mirrors for a variety of tasks including skin analysis, previewing an outfit or beauty product, monitoring changes in complexion, assessing product effectiveness and receiving AI-driven personalized recommendations. Unlike traditional product testers, which are typically applied on one side of a hand, smart mirrors let users try on makeup items as part of a complete look or exactly where the product is intended. For instance, the Mirart AI mirror, which won an innovation award at CES 2024, can predict a person's ideal look.

7. Metaverse for beauty

The metaverse, a virtual reality environment that facilitates user engagement and the use of digital components, is a trend expected to shape the direction of the beauty industry. Beauty brands are investing in the metaverse to improve customer experiences and foster creativity.

The metaverse lets users experiment with appearances and products via virtual makeup to get a real-time visualization of cosmetics applied to their faces. Furthermore, beauty companies can produce and market limited-edition virtual goods in the metaverse through the use of non-fungible tokens, giving customers exclusive ownership and trade opportunities. By fusing the digital and physical spheres, the metaverse creates new opportunities for consumer interaction and brand partnerships.

8. Virtual makeup filters

Virtual makeup, also known as e-makeup, is a concept that elevates an individual's facial appearance in photos using virtual cosmetic filters. These filters are among the most sought-after features on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, where digital makeup artists create intricate makeup filters for their followers to enhance their photos. For instance, Sephora offers a selection of AR filters on social media sites for customers to try. Customers can also experiment with different cosmetic styles and hues using these filters and get a virtual makeover experience like that provided by a professional makeup artist.

9. Clean products and blockchain beauty

According to Ulta's "Beauty Consumer Insights Survey, 2023," 90% of Gen Z and younger millennials are interested in purchasing clean beauty products in the future. More than 50% of Gen Z carefully consider the ingredients in beauty products before making a purchase. Technology is bolstering this trend by empowering beauty brands to ensure transparency in ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes.

Using digital and social media platforms, brands can convey their dedication to sustainable practices, including the sourcing of organic biotech ingredients and efforts to minimize negative effects on the environment. Virtual product sampling has also reduced the need for physical product samples, leading to a more sustainable approach to beauty.

Blockchain technology is also increasingly being used in the beauty tech supply chain, making traceability and transparency easier by monitoring the sources of ingredients, the manufacturing procedures and the veracity of claims made by companies regarding organic or natural ingredients in cosmetics.

10. Virtual beauty advisers

With the proliferation of e-commerce and multi-channel sale platforms, technology is reshaping the way products are marketed to consumers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, beauty brands started incorporating virtual consultations into their websites in response to store shutdowns. For example, Ulta's AI-powered beauty adviser uses GenAI to provide shoppers with an easy way to access the company's extensive beauty resources.

Virtual beauty advisers also offer personalized beauty recommendations and tutorials through live-streaming, chatbots and master classes, mimicking the expertise of in-person beauty interactions. The interactive approach offered by virtual beauty advisers boosts consumer engagement and lets customers explore the latest beauty techniques and trends from the comfort of their homes.

Kinza Yasar is a technical writer for WhatIs with a degree in computer networking.

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