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CES 2016: Future of Beauty All About Gadgets

New beauty gadgets offer accessibility and personalization at the first beauty tech summit at CES.

LAS VEGAS — While the beauty industry is well regarded for packing a serious dose of science in every jar, its tools haven’t offered nearly as many widely adopted technological advances — save for the hair dryer and the Clarisonic.

But experts foresee exponential growth in beauty devices in the coming years.

That was just one of the sentiments shared at the first beauty tech summit at CES here, where executives demonstrated a range of gadgets and participated in panel discussions devoted to the topic. Key themes in the beauty tech industry included accessibility and personalization; unsurprisingly, these trends parallel other industries (media and fashion) under the spotlight of innovation.

A number of companies introduced hardware that could be used at home to increase the efficacy of one’s current beauty products or mimicked the services normally performed by a dermatologist. How women treat their bodies has evolved, said Illuminage chief marketing officer Andrea DiNunzio. “It started with cleansing and moisturizers, then the idea of layering products and using serums,” said DiNunzio, who said the company’s at-home hair removal device was the most popular. “Tech was the obvious place to go as women started going to dermatologists.”

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Plus, she said, “women are fatigued with creams and lotions.”

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Examples of beauty devices at CES include eye massagers, like a pulsating design from Foreo that was created to decrease puffiness and increase the absorption of eye creams (Foreo also shared the second generation of the Luna, its pulsating facial cleansing device); HairMax, whose “headband” promotes hair growth using light therapy; a tooth-whitening device from GLO Science; handheld laser devices from Tria, and an ultrasonic “infuser” from JeNu that helps increase absorption of skin-care products.

“The new story lines are about absorption,” said JeNu chief executive officer Dan Obegi. “We thought, If you are only absorbing one to 10 percent of your skin care, we could create a line that has higher absorption — or a technology that would increase the absorption of anything.”

Recent innovations in beauty have become more niche and more tailor-made as the customer has become more educated, said Foreo’s Antonius Hanegraaf.

ModiFace uses augmented reality to create virtual makeovers by detecting skin tone, recommending products and mimicking the effects of makeup, hair color and more. ModiFace vice president of partnerships Jennifer Tidy shared how the ability to try on any product has had a “promising” effect on sales (specific figures have yet to be released) as the “digitally savvy” customer can try on and shop from home.

Other tools that aid in customization include a “connected” mask from Wired Beauty that detects skin-hydration levels and a laser printer from Inail that prints polish on nails. (A comparable device was introduced at this year’s Techcrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.)

The primary challenge for technologically advanced beauty tools, panelists agreed, is educating consumers, because the devices often don’t look recognizable or perform functions with which the consumer is familiar. Still, Obegi said, he would rather deal with introducing the product than be second to market and cheaper or faster. “From a marketing perspective,” he said, “it [being first] gives you a lot to talk about.”

The panelists agreed that the product has to look good while remaining relatively uncomplicated. “Keep it simple and easy,” Tidy said. “Beauty should be a fun experience.” Obegi said that while they were tempted to add on features to JeNu like apps and sensors, the ability to customize only added a nominal benefit. So he said, “We went with a single on/off button.”

The goal, said GLO Science cofounder Stacey Levine, was to make products that are intuitive and not too complicated.

Experts also warned against tech for tech’s sake. “You have to be grounded in the science, and be careful not to let the science get carried away,” said Orig3n’s James Lovgren. “It can be a crutch or hurt you if not used in the right way.”

In the future, expect more devices and possibly personal tech-enabled mirrors and more gadgets that use infrared lights or radio frequency.

“We are not creating new needs,” explained Hanegraaf of Foreo. “What we are more trying to do is make it more efficient — to enhance it and make it better, cheaper and more accessible for people who don’t want to go to a beauty salon.”