Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms that predict the effects of specific skincare preparations on individual faces. DNA analysis that reveals how we’re likely to age and suggests possible remedies for undesirable outcomes. Computer applications that diagnose skin conditions and recommend treatment regimens. Science fiction? Hardly. In fact, all of these innovations are currently available; it just may take years before they make their way into general use. New technology develops slowly, requiring a seemingly interminable amount of time to find its fully effective, efficient form. Although the following four technologies aren’t new—some have been around for more than a decade— they’ve finally reached a point in their development that means they’ve caught the public’s eye. In other words, they’re trending, and your clients are reading about them in magazines and seeing them on TV. Savvy spa owners know it’s time to pay attention or risk missing out on the “next big thing.”
Getting Down With DNA
Drawers packed with skincare products that promised so much yet delivered so little may soon go the way of the dodo. New services designed to analyze DNA and provide a rundown on potential risks will give us hard data for use in determining which skincare formulations will (and won’t) work for clients. Founded in Sydney, SkinDNA International, a collaboration of geneticists and scientists specializing in skin care and cosmetics, began work in 2006 to identify genetic factors that contribute to skin aging—and possible solutions to each. In the decade since, they’ve pinpointed the actions of thousands of genes, and now hold in storage the world’s largest dermagenetics database, with more than 50,000 samples.
There are at least three services currently offering DNA analysis specifically for skin issues. SKINSHIFT, based in Austin, Texas, is one of the least expensive as the test itself costs around $100. From a cheek swab, the technology analyzes 32 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)—genetic variants specifically associated with skin health—to determine an individual’s risk for collagen degradation, glycation, inflammation, skin cancer and other unwanted issues.
At GENEU in London, skincare professionals take a client’s cheek swab, which they inject into a microchip for DNA analysis. The test also costs about $100 and the results are quick—around 30 minutes—but include information on variations in only two genes, which indicate collagen loss rate and need for antioxidants. While guests wait for the results, GENEU employees administer a lifestyle questionnaire; they then feed all the information into an algorithm that suggests which of the company’s serums are the best match for the client.
“We’re very interested in this trend and are closely watching what’s being done at GENEU,” says Kim Matheson, senior vice president with WTS International, a spa consulting and management company in Rockville, Maryland.
Based in San Diego, SkinFit analyzes saliva for more than 70 genetic markers in seven categories of skin health. Developed by Silicon Valley dermatologists and scientists, it includes reports on genetic predisposition to photoaging, skin sensitivity, dryness and inflammation, as well as skin texture and elasticity. SkinFit also assesses the skin’s defenses against oxidation and glycation, as well as its nutritional needs. The service is approximately $600 and must be performed by a physician.
Most professionals already know that DNA analysis can help determine a client’s need for specific skin growth factors—and now they can look forward to being able to identify cell age and connect that with lifestyle.
Another technological advancement brought a new term to the skincare lexicon in 2016—epigenetics. Closely related to DNA, it refers to factors affecting gene expression (i.e., whether a gene is turned on or off ) and how cells read genetic messages. These factors can be influenced by lifestyle and have the ability to change specific traits without changing the DNA itself. Skincare pros are keeping a keen eye on this category as it expands.
The latest epigenetic skincare ingredient was introduced in September 2016 by Lipotec, a cosmetic ingredients manufacturer based in Barcelona, Spain. The company’s Reproage is a new peptide that specifically targets microRNA-145, an epigenetic regulator known to repress the activity of stem cell transcription factors. By reducing the levels of microRNA-145 and elevating specific stem cell factors, Reproage can help reactivate basal cells and their regenerative abilities, leading to improvements in the appearance of mature skin. The evidence? Company testing using a 2 percent peptide solution twice a day for 56 days on volunteers 50 to 55 years old showed a general improvement in skin tone and a 1.5 percent increase in luminance. Epidermal self renewal activity increased to the level of skin 17 years younger, and skin roughness decreased up to 41.3 percent.
Remember when microdermabrasion was the spa cash cow? Now, traditional microdermabrasion is sharing space with differing technologies. One of the sphere’s newer devices is Edge Systems’ HydraFacial, which allows for the immediate infusion of skincare nutrients such as hyaluronic acid. Matheson says, “The HydraFacial is a major investment, but the ROI has proved to be extremely quick. Plus, the company’s latest equipment features imaging, with before and after photos.”
Last spring, Edge Systems doubled down on its efforts to help spas build repeat business with the introduction of Perk, which combines gentle vacuum exfoliation with skincare products designed to appeal to the millennial generation’s concerns regarding age prevention. Three brief treatments target the face, lips and eyes, and incorporate customized solutions. At the end of each service, the client takes home the remainder of the solution. When it’s time for more product, it’s time to book another treatment.
HydraFacial’s success has recently spawned competitive water-based exfoliation devices, such as the AquaClean from Skin Alchemy. Aquaporin solutions are dispensed through the handpiece’s central aperture and debris is cleared with a gentle powerful vacuum. “AquaClean targets a wide variety of skin concerns,” says esthetician Ginger Francis, based in Panama City, Florida. “We’ve added a Pore Flush treatment to our service menu using the salicylic solution. I’ve had patients cry because they thought they would never have pores this clean! It keeps them happy, and keeps them coming back.”
Your facial clientele is changing from baby boomers intent on reversing signs of aging to millennials seeking ongoing programs to keep them looking their best for longer. Because of these younger, tech savvy consumers you’ll be under greater pressure to prove efficacy. Good before and after photos are essential, and successful spas will be using tracking devices like the Visia and Reveal Imager, both from Canfield Scientific; the Image Pro I, II or 3D (Emage Medical); or the SkinLite II (Skin Care Consultants).
“Tools like Reveal provide a benchmark, revealing to clients things like sun damage they can’t yet see. This helps in developing a treatment plan,” says Matheson. In just a few minutes the Reveal Imager’s 3D imaging and zoom magnification evaluates a client’s skin pigmentation, sun damage, texture irregularities, wrinkles and spider veins, and also flags skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.
“Ideally, every client will start with a Reveal consultation,” says Severino. “This will allow us to find them in the database the next time they come in and continue with treatments where we left off . And because the device is easily portable, we also use it in the retail area to help guests determine which products would be best for them. When we show them what’s happening deep down in their dermis, it makes the need for specific skincare products much more compelling.”
A new device for assessing skin and tracking changes, Skin AI by ModiFace was introduced at TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2016. Created with the help of dermatologists, the technology detects and assesses skin elements such as dark spots, discolorations, dryness, uneven skin and fine lines. Its patented AI learning technology then makes it possible to show—in real-time video—how specific skincare preparations could alter a client’s skin. Its primary users are expected to be skincare retailers who will employ technology to simulate skincare effects on potential customers as a way of encouraging sales.
Don’t be daunted by these new developments. Instead, make it your goal to stay informed and expand your knowledge. After all, keeping up with the latest technology really is part of the job.
–By Linda W. Lewis