Nurturing our skin microbiome is widely recognised within the global beauty and skincare industry as the most promising way to achieve desired skincare results. The more we understand the importance of the skin’s microbiome, the greater our need to monitor our skin and manage our skincare regimes – and technology can provide a way for us to do this.
Yet, with the composition of the microbiome differing dramatically from person to person, and even from one area of our bodies to another, how can the industry respond to the need for highly personalized microbiome-based skincare?
One of the promising new areas of research looking to meet this challenge is the use of digital devices at home that help us monitor our microbiome. These will inform the development and formulation of products, and potentially revolutionize the beauty industry.
The intersection of data and self-improvement
Quantified Self (QS) relates to ‘self-knowledge through self-tracking’. The aim is to improve an aspect of our lives by tracking and measuring personal data, aligning actions to this to meet a goal.
The introduction of intelligent mobile and digital devices has fuelled an explosion in the popularity of QS products – the health and wellness industry has taken full advantage of this trend with activity trackers and sleep apps.
In the medical industry, devices and digital technology have been adopted to work alongside drug formulation to holistically support optimal patient outcomes. An example of this is the device technology to support patients managing diabetes. This technology automatically measures blood glucose and dispenses the correct level of insulin, personalized to the patient for optimal outcome using automated closed-loop control.
To date, cosmetics and skincare brands are yet to realize the full benefit from these technologies and can learn from the healthcare industry as it adopts this technology. Mapping a similar approach to the challenges faced in skincare will help consumers optimally achieve the results at home that have been tested and confirmed in clinical trials.
Achieving clinical trial results in the home
Currently, one of the principal reasons we do not repurchase skincare products, or specific formulations, is due to the fact we do not see the results that are claimed through clinical trial. In a clinical trial environment, every detail is carefully controlled, monitored and assessed. There is not the abundance of distractions or variations that we have at home when apply our skincare products. So, the question is, how do we emulate the clinical trial at home to ensure the benefits of skincare products are felt and seen by users. Is this even possible? Increasingly, the answer is yes.
Recent research conducted by Cutitronics shows the current gulf in consumer behaviour at home compared to clinical trial conditions. A sample of male and female participants, between 20 – 50 years old, were monitored as they applied a range of products with varying form factors (bottles, airless pumps, jars) and price points.
The results revealed a difference of more than six and a half times in the amount of cream used across the sample of users; from as little as 0.54mg/cm2 to a much higher 3.58mg/cm2. The average quantity used was 1.49mg/cm2 – lower than the industry standard when testing sun creams efficiencies (which requires a 2mg/cm2 trial).
This data confirms the variance, and perhaps confusion in the market, when trying to achieve optimal skincare result. 42% of respondents in the survey do not currently get the results they expected from their skincare products.
The data reinforces the need for product education and direction to help achieve what the clinical trial promises at home. This is where devices and digital technology have the potential to change the way we use beauty and personal care products from the comfort of our homes. The technology can create the scientific rigor of a clinical trial protocol, shifting the burden of responsibility from the consumer to the technology and / or brands, and increasing the probability of the consumer achieving the expected results.
Measuring the skin microbiome
The potential for using this technology with microbiome-based skincare products is vast. In time, the technology will allow individuals to measure their skin microbiome and receive tailored advice to inform what products they should use, how much and how frequently. This will be based on data points such as skin hydration, bacterial composition and even how external factors such as humidity will affect your skin microbiome and its needs.
Now, without the support of an expert or the ability to measure their microbiome, the desired results from probiotics as reported in clinical trial findings, for example, will not be achievable – or if so, it may be pot luck. The technology will change this. The data received will be sent to the brands (or service provider) to provide bespoke skincare advice. Based on your results, your daily skincare regime and products needs will change and you will have the information at your fingertips to do so. It is not beyond the realms of possible to also feed in the product usage and map how your skin microbiome responds.
Connecting the individual to the brand in this way will be transformative and for some this may even mean a connection with a skincare consultant, not just an automated response based on your results. Equally, in addition to monitoring and adjusting formulation usage, the technology can alert the individual when they will likely be running low on products (or even automatically order it) to ensure there is not a gap in skincare.
Ultimately, both consumers and skincare companies will benefit from this greater knowledge and control. Consumers would be empowered to monitor and nurture their microbiome communities to align their skincare regime appropriately, adjusting their requirements daily if needed. Skincare companies would also gain a better understanding of the diversity of requirements and can develop their products accordingly, and can better advise the consumer in real time.
This adaptive, personalized approach to skincare will generate a greater understanding of the impact of the microbiome on our skin, and how our daily skincare will benefit and change as we learn to incorporate appropriate formulations to support these fragile ecosystems.
While we’re not there yet, it’s beyond doubt that device and digital combos can create a virtuous cycle of consumer-product benefit, by gathering personalized information from the consumer, then channelling that back in a way that influences the individual consumer’s behaviour.
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