Personalized beauty seeks to provide the ultimate solution to a beauty consumer’s needs. While the concept has been around for several years, however, it hasn’t caught on in a significant way and it is continually “an emerging trend.” Why is this so? Beyond the customization of simple variables such as fragrance or color, a personalized product must provide perceivably superior results in terms of what the customer wants. Therein lies the problem: predicting what the customer wants.
Beauty needs are subjective, making them difficult to interpret. Attempts are made to capture these needs using questionnaires to ask consumers about their beauty concerns. Take hair, for example. Expressed concerns may include damaged hair, dry hair, frizzy hair, desire for volume, oily scalp, dandruff, etc.—all of which are subject to interpretation both by the consumer and the product developer.
This means a solution is created to address what the consumer thinks he or she needs. Once they try it, however, it may not provide the desired effect. For example, a consumer may indicate they need a solution for voluminous hair but upon use, it is discovered they just wanted the feel of a higher silicone concentration. So it is not a matter of formula optimization, but rather the reality of understanding what the consumer wants.
Another challenge is determining the right ingredients and concentrations to create the desired effects, which becomes more complex as more effects are added—especially considering that the ingredients used could work against each other. For example, an ingredient to coat the hair to reduce frizz could also weigh the hair down, decreasing the volume.
Therefore, it is not only a problem of understanding what the consumer wants, but also the order in which they prioritize their beauty concerns. And these priorities often change. Hence, the personalized solution may require reformulation after the customer experiences the product. This can be costly and it often deters re-order rates.
Considering these challenges, proposed herein is an approach to personalization the author refers to as programmable beauty. It puts consumers in control of making formula adjustments on-site to meet their preferences or changing needs. While this approach is not entirely new, technological advances are making effective solutions more attainable; the challenge now is to make them more affordable.
The innovation presented here aims to achieve this with a novel microfluidics design to mix the sub-formulas without heat or an agitator to create the final product. This article explains the development of this invention first by defining programmable beauty and outlining the technologies required to create it. A prototype proof of concept is then highlighted demonstrating the logistics and mixing process; it also is put to the test, along with the resulting products. Finally, anecdotal user experience also is provided.