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How FitSkin-Powered Analysis Is Transforming Beauty Retail

Published April 16, 2024
Published April 16, 2024

Staying ahead of the competition is all about getting personal. Personalization is everywhere and embedded in everything we do, transforming consumer expectations. The tech-powered innovation has transformed the discovery, testing, and purchasing of beauty products.

In today's crowded beauty landscape, it’s easy for consumers to feel overwhelmed by choice. Finding the right foundation, skin, or hair treatments represents one of the biggest challenges. Many entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge of launching beauty tech solutions that attempt to solve the problem of choice, but one has raised the bar by leveraging dermatology-grade technology. FitSkin provides personalized product recommendations by analyzing what the eye cannot see. Empowering beauty advisors with technology that reshapes the in-store experience to deliver an integrated, personalized physical and digital experience, making the omnichannel promise a reality.

BeautyMatter talked to FitSkin CEO Sergio Rattner to dive into how FitSkin-powered analysis has transformed beauty retail.

The sheer volume of new brand and product launches has left consumers overwhelmed. While AI tools can help deliver the right products, your technology takes it a step further. What differentiates FitSkin from its competitors?

If you look at the problem of finding the right shade of foundation to match your skin color, this is a challenge that humans cannot do well without technology. Sephora conducted a recent study in which they discovered that humans cannot match skin tone consistently and without bias, especially if it differs from their own skin color. Remember that everyone sees color differently. Digital cameras also do not measure color accurately unless the light source is known, there is no ambient light, and the camera has been calibrated. Even with a known light source, it’s very difficult to get an overall measure of skin tone because skin color is not uniform—your skin varies dramatically in color if you look at it closely. This is why even an expensive spectrophotometer does not measure skin color accurately.

FitSkin has the only accurate skin color and foundation shade-match solution in the world. We have filed and been awarded over a dozen global patents. More importantly, our technology has been validated by the best color science schools in the world and by a leading smartphone manufacturer. For skin tone analysis and foundation shade match, we have zero competitors. 

For skin and hair analysis, our competitors are either selfie-based solutions or all-in-one hardware solutions. Both have significant drawbacks. Selfie-based solutions can be great for virtual try-on, but they cannot analyze skin or hair, for the simple reason that a selfie camera cannot see moisture, oil, fine lines, pores, etc. All-in-one hardware solutions use inferior cameras, rely on Wi-Fi (try using them in a retail or conference environment!) and can violate data privacy laws.

FitSkin bases our technology on how a dermatologist analyzes skin, and that’s through the use of a device called a dermascope. A dermascope has three essential elements: magnification, dedicated lighting, and moisture detection. Without these three there is no possibility of accurately analyzing skin, color, or hair. FitSkin analyzes what the eye cannot see.

All of our measurements are validated by external R&D labs and benchmarked against lab-grade equipment. Johnson & Johnson called FitSkin technology “dermatologist-grade” and published a scientific paper confirming that our solution is as accurate as lab devices. I do not believe J&J has ever called another skin analysis solution dermatologist-grade. J&J is primarily a medical device company, so it was not an easy designation to achieve from their regulatory group.

You have a well-established relationship with Sephora and Walgreens Boots Alliance. I recently saw FitSkin integrated into the shopping experience at Ulta Beauty. How important has the adoption of in-store customer-facing technologies become, and what is the real impact?

We are lucky to have amazing clients and partners! When I started FitSkin, the focus was on helping the at-home beauty customer solve the problem of not knowing what products to buy, and we offer a low-cost clip-on version of our SkinScanner that works with any smartphone to achieve this. However, most of our clients use FitSkin technology in-store. This signifies just how difficult the problem is to solve: even highly trained beauty advisors cannot analyze skin, color, or hair without the assistance of technology.

The SkinScanner is essentially a purpose-built mobile smartphone accessory that delivers a dermatologist-grade skin and hair analysis solution to any smartphone. Beauty advisors are on the front line of consumer engagement, and this seems like a game changer for them. What's their feedback on the technology?

They love it! Imagine a small piece of technology that is built into the smartphone case that you carry around anyway that does the hard work of skin, color, and hair analysis for you! The SkinScanner simultaneously analyzes skin and color, and in just a few seconds, customers see results for every category of beauty product. That provides important cross-selling opportunities for beauty advisors. When beauty advisors recommend products, they do so by combining their own expertise with scientific and data-based results. This is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for how skin, cosmetics, and hair products are sold. Just like you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without knowing their size, you shouldn’t buy beauty products without a FitSkin-powered analysis. FitSkin also saves the beauty advisor time: analysis takes only a few seconds (and does not need a live internet connection).

"One of the benefits of helping create and define a category is that you maintain the head start by continuing to evolve."
By Sergio Rattner, CEO, FitSkin

You have also integrated your technology into the salon world, developing a proprietary technology. How is FitSkin changing the professional channels? 

We provide lab-grade Scalp and Split Ends analysis with the same SkinScanner device. It’s really a game-changer, as most consumers have never seen their scalp or split ends up close. Again, FitSkin enables users to see what the eye cannot see. Our advanced ML/AI algorithm can differentiate between thermal damage and mechanical stress damage for split ends, for example. Stylists love FitSkin powered hair analysis!

Everyone in beauty needs to be omnichannel to compete, but so many of the technology solutions do not necessarily reflect that need. How does FitSkin connect the dots online and offline to deliver an omnichannel solution to brands and retailers? 

If you visit a Sephora store in North America, your scan results are connected to your Beauty Insider loyalty account. When you visit, you see your recommended products and your skin analysis results. That then lets you continue the experience and purchase recommended products online. The Sephora team has really done an incredible job by making a very sophisticated IT/CRM solution work seamlessly and intuitively in an omnichannel environment.

Often technology is viewed as a solution rather than a tool. How do you approach the development of proprietary solutions for brands or retailers?

All of our solutions are customized to each client’s needs. The underlying technology is the same, but the experience is totally different at Sephora versus No7 Beauty Company at Boots, for example.

FitSkin was launched by Johnson & Johnson at CES in 2018. The SkinScanner is now in its third generation. How has the technology evolved and what's next?

We are excited to launch the third-generation SkinScanner this year. It brings new skin measures, including TEWL (skin barrier analysis), elasticity, sensitivity, and radiance/luminosity. These measures are not available anywhere else. We have a deep pipeline of exciting new products. We plan to launch two new analyses every year, via a simple app update.

One of the benefits of helping create and define a category is that you maintain the head start by continuing to evolve. We have over 40 million lab-grade images in our dataset, which is orders of magnitude more than what anyone else has, and it’s growing by over 50,000 per day. For reference, a R&I leader from a large beauty company once told me that they have 500,000 images in their database, and it took them 50 years to collect those images. Let’s think about that for a moment: it takes FitSkin 10 days to collect the same amount of images that it took one of the largest beauty conglomerates 50 years to collect! What we can offer our clients with this dataset of images and the latest computer vision and AI tools is unprecedented. For example, we just launched a neural network that automatically detects if a customer has a tattoo, is wearing makeup, and a variety of other features, and provides real-time user feedback. We can also help brands determine which foundation shades are missing from their lineup, as we can mathematically assess differences in regional skin tones versus their product offering. We have only begun to offer our clients solutions that leverage our dermatologist-grade platform and AI.