When you hear the phrase “customized skin care,” you may picture products monogrammed with your initials or packaged in your fave color. And that would be accurate…a few years ago.
While an Insta-friendly shelfie may still be welcome in 2022, some of the biggest brains in the beauty world are teaming up with scientists to create formulas with your specific skin concerns in mind. By gathering info about locale (metro or mountain town?), diet (plant-based or meat lover?), lifestyle (stressed or zen?), and even sweat habits (HIIT or yoga?), new brands are whipping up entirely tailored concoctions. Yes, we’re talking products that are literally made to meet your specific needs.
You in? Keep reading to learn all about some of the biggest and best names in the custom skincare category.
Pure Culture Beauty
With an emphasis on lifestyle and skin goals, the combination of an online quiz and an at-home skin test will give you a regimen made uniquely for you. It retails at $100, but is totally worth the investment.
Formulated by Stanford dermatologists and skin scientists, this three-step regimen is full of powerhouse ingredients that are backed up by science. The price point is also high (you know it's going to work though).
If acne, anti-aging, pigmentation, or melasma are among your skin conditions, this is a must-try. It starts at $25 a month for a dermatologist-recommended, personalized system.
Also at a good deal of $25 a month, you can get a one-on-one consultation with a dermatologist to review your selfies and medical history for a prescription customized just for you.
Prepare to get personal with this quiz that asks about everything from stress levels to diet. In the end, you’ll end up with a skin map that lets you know exactly what’s taking a toll on your skin and products to combat your concerns. The price ranges from an affordable $45 to $65 a month.
You can get a bespoke cleanser, and serum, but don't forget about a facial oil. Have oily skin to begin with? No worries. They'll match the natural oil (anything from rosehip to geranium essential oil, and everything in between) to your face for just $42.
Looking for a custom skincare system that doesn't break the bank? Your best bargain is Curology, starting at $19.95 a month. They don't skimp on care though: You send in pics of your skin and get a dermatologist assigned to your case.
Clean beauty lovers, we've got you with this pick. It's basically a subscription box, but one that's customized to your beauty preferences, and skin conditions. It starts at $99 for 3 months of the service, or you can buy products individually starting at $28 each.
Function of Skincare
Moisturizer can be tricky to shop for, if you don't know your exact skin type and how it absorbs moisture. Take a quiz that'll hook you up with the right gel, cream, or moisturizer lotion from Function of Beauty.
Serums can work wonders on your skin, but when there’s a formulation made to address your specific skin health, like this one, it's like lightning in a bottle.
There's 30 different combinations you can select for your Clinique iD hydrating base, between gel, jelly, and lotion. You match that with the active cartridge concentrate, which can target anything from uneven texture to sallow skin, and full concoction is just $39.
How does custom skincare work?
As a consumer, you can already go on a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts when it comes to what’s on store shelves. For example, you can select a foaming cleanser versus a creamy one. You can build a routine with a serum that brightens hyperpigmentation or one that reduces the appearance of wrinkles. But with the number of choices being more overwhelming than ever, the decision fatigue is real. That’s where this new generation of ultra-personalized goods steps in.
Brands like Dermatica and Proven create quizzes composed of various questions about your lifestyle and skin goals to determine which combo of ingredients will most benefit you. Meanwhile, Pure Culture Beauty sends an at-home kit to test your skin’s pH and oil levels as part of its evaluation. The hoped-for result of sharing these individual deets: You’ll streamline your routine with products that you know will work, saving you frustration (and money). So, instead of purchasing two different moisturizers, for instance, you can opt for one bottle that has it all mixed in. FYI: The personalized products, on average, range from a $25 monthly subscription to $90–$145 for a full regimen. While it sounds like a lot up front, you could end up saving more down the road because “it removes some of the guesswork and trial and error,” says dermatologist Hadley King, M.D.
What's the process like?
Here’s a quick snapshot of how it all goes down: You’ll visit the website, answer a short quiz, then receive results via email and in your profile. You’ll then be directed to a page that lists your complete skin-care routine and details on how each of the products work. You get to ditch the countless layers of product too: In most cases, the custom routines consist of a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a treatment product like a serum filled with active ingredients. These programs can also evolve with you. Proven, for example, sends an updated plan as the seasons change. Brilliant! While the provided routine isn’t the same across all brands, they typically consist of three or four products to be applied both morning and night—and some only once a day. Time-saver much? “Customization ensures you’re getting the active ingredients you need in formulations for you, so the long list of steps isn’t required,” Dr. King says.
Is personalization definitely the way to go?
While it may seem like a customized assortment of products is the perfect answer for skin-care woes, keep in mind that it’s still so new that some experts aren’t sold on whether this trend is more effective than conventional skin care. “Without side-by-side study comparisons, it’s hard to say personalization is definitively better,” says cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos.
As for how “custom” the products are, Dobos notes there’s likely some consistency with the base of the formulation to avoid manufacturing complications. But the beneficial personalization is “achieved by varying additives according to the needs of consumers,” she says. The TL;DR on this front: A formula isn’t made from scratch for Every. Single. Person. who orders (but isn’t that a lovely thought?), yet the range of possible combinations means a brand can nail your unique mixture.
Atolla skin care, for example, has multiple base textures and over 30 active ingredients to play with for a never-ending game of mix and match. What’s more, to make you a special serum, it considers 21 factors about your skin.
Is this the future of skincare?
Personalization is helping the skin-care industry be transparent and inclusive, says dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD, cofounder of Atolla: “Using this data-driven approach is more sustainable since products are made only on demand.” Plus, it can help address diversity gaps by considering skin tone–specific concerns. A trend to watch (and try!), indeed.
This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Women’s Health. For more intel on how to live a happier, healthier life, pick up an issue on newsstands now.
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