Can a Selfie Solve All Your Skin Problems? We Investigate.
Forget going to the store to pick up your standard cleanser, toner, and moisturizer—how archaic! More and more, it’s become glaringly obvious that future of skincare is in technology. Whether it’s a custom-blended serum that requires you to complete an online questionnaire, or an app that promises to diagnose and treat your most annoying skin issues, the melding of skincare and technology is something that gets stronger each day—and if it means I’ll be better able to deal with an annoying breakout, or know exactly what an alarming red bump means, then I’m all for it.
Which is why, I heard about a new app called SkinBetter that promises to diagnose, analyze, and recommend products to treat all your skin issues, I dove for my iPhone and downloaded it immediately. Created in partnership with Allure magazine, the app is the first of its kind to offer curated product recommendations, skin analyses, and some pretty jaw-dropping technology. Keep scrolling to learn more about the app and my experience!
“We have always been struck by the lack of suitability of many widely available skincare products to the particular needs of consumers,” SkinBetter founder Jonah Shacknai tells me. “We knew that if we could provide consumers with precise analyses of their skin, coupled with specific, dermatologist curated products which meet their individual skincare needs, we would provide a great service.”
Sounds great in theory—but how do we know if the recommended products are, you know, actually good? That’s where the app’s board of dermatologists come in. “The [recommended] products were chosen by an expert panel of top aesthetic physicians,” says Dr. Daniel McDaniel, director at the Institute of Anti-Aging Research and one of the dermatologists on the app’s board. “We vetted the products for their efficacy, safety and our past experience with all of the products. The products chosen include ones which typically can only be found in physician offices.” Speaking of which, there’s another benefit from buying directly in the app—Shacknai says most of the products are offered at “competitive” prices, compared to buying them elsewhere. (It should be noted that Allure does get a cut of whatever purchases you make in the app.)
So—how exactly is this miracle app supposed to work? “SkinBetter utilizes innovative technology from Canfield Scientific, allowing “selfies” to be analyzed for wrinkles, discoloration and spots (it can also evaluate for emerging problems/spots),” McDaniel explains. “Prior to SkinBetter, their imaging technology was only available in physician or professional offices. This technology, coupled with answers about some basic skin care issues as well as specific skin concerns, allows the app to pinpoint skin issues and recommend customize product solutions in a customized manner.”
But before you bid adieu to your derm, know this—the app is meant to better educate you about your skin health, not replace your dermatologist. “The hope is that it actually encourages more visits to the dermatologist, as people become more invested in their skin’s health and beauty,” McDaniel says.
All of that sounds good in theory, but then came the true test: I downloaded the app and tried it out myself. The app asked me to match my face up with a basic face outline on the screen, and suggested I take it from the camera on the back of my iPhone because of the better quality. I chose to take it in the comfort and privacy of my own bathroom—mainly because an up-close shot of my makeup-less face is not anything anyone wants to see first thing in the morning. After lining up my face with the outline and snapping a (very unflattering) photo, I proceeded to answer a series of questions about my skin (think major aging concerns, acne issues, sensitivity, etc.).
After that, I was led to a page that showed the photo I uploaded, and told me my SkinBetter Wrinkle Grade was “on the lowest end of the wrinkle continuum”—score! The same was said for Spots—once again, I was on the “lowest end of the spot continuum.” I could feel my ego soaring to new heights. (One thing I do want to note—at the time, I had a terrible breakout right in the middle of my forehead, which I was surprised wasn’t taken into account for my “Spots” diagnosis. I can only assume it’s because “Spots” was just referring to sun spots and hyperpigmentation, rather than acne.)
I clicked the next option, “Emerging Spots,” and that’s when my world came crashing down. Okay, slight exaggeration, but let’s just say all my former pride at the condition of my skin dissipated like a popped balloon. This category allows you to move a circle-shaped X-ray-ish thing around your selfie, which “reveals hidden spots not yet visible to the human eye” in black and white. I was horrified. Places where I knew I had a light smattering of freckles looked ten, no, a hundred times worse, and places where no sun damage was visible to my discerning eye were filled with little gray dots under this circular filter. I pulled my co-editor over to freak out with me—she was equally entranced-slash-horrified.
Warily, I pressed the “Redness” app, which does the same thing, except for inflammation and redness. To make sure they hadn’t just slapped a red filter over the previous Emerging Spots filter, I went back and made sure that certain areas that showed sun damage in black and white didn’t match up completely with the darker red areas of the Redness filter—they didn’t. In fact, the bothersome breakout in the middle of my forehead I mentioned earlier was barely visible in the photo I snapped and the Emerging Spots filter, but showed up a dark, blotchy red under the Redness filter. Scary—yet amazing.
As I marveled over this crazy technology, I clicked the Next button, which led me to a series of recommended products based on my responses to the previous questionnaire. I was happy to see some brands and products I love in the list, like the SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum (which was actually recommended to me by a derm) and a Clarisonic brush for cleansing, but I found myself wishing this step aligned in some way with the shocking Emerging Spots and Redness steps, rather than just the questionnaire—though I do realize that kind of personalized, targeted recommendation would require an actual trip to the derm.
My conclusion? This app was certainly a wake-up call—just because you can’t see sun damage, doesn’t mean it’s not there, lurking around and waiting to emerge as you age. Paranoia aside, I’d recommend this app to anyone who wants to educate themselves on the real state of their skin in less then five minutes—and learn about some cool new products along the way.
Have you tried the SkinBetter app? You can download it here for iPhone and here for Android. Tell us about your thoughts below!