AI personalised skin care startup Openface using cosmetics to springboard into health care
Founded in 2019, Openface used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse consumer questionnaires and images for personalised cosmetic serums targeting specific skin care needs. A large data set enabled the company to match up these needs with specific active ingredients and blends, selected from scientifically researched concentrations and formulas.
Earlier this year, the company raised €325,400 ($380,000) in funding from Russia-headquartered private venture capital club Digital Disrupt after a pre-seed round supported by Belgian fund Pitchdrive. The money raised would be used to further develop the Openface software, upscale its offering in Europe via an English-language version and test new markets. The tech company wanted to eventually springboard into the medical and healthcare sectors.
Openface ambition – ‘we want to build a big health or medical service’
Kristina Farberova, co-founder of Openface, said D2C personalised cosmetics was just “a first point” for the company, and it had been a strategic choice.
“Cosmetics helps us to collect data; it’s important if you want to build something special and something serious. In the future, we want to build a big health or medical service, and for that we need data; we need a few algorithms. And direct-to-consumer services or direct-to-consumer cosmetics will help collect the data and build this service,” Farberova told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
“…In the future, we see ourselves as a business solution for health care or for medical care. For example, it could be a software that helps dermatologists make a diagnosis and for patients to get a second opinion, which we know is really important,” she said.
Natasha Martynova, co-founder at Openface, agreed: “Our main goal is to create a system which allows you to detect some skin problems, like skin cancers, and match visual data from images with data from the questionnaire (…) To help medical professionals to make a more precise diagnosis and also build trust between consumers and medical professionals.”
However, Martynova said the system was still a long way off being suitable for the medical world.
“To build the software which we are going to build, what we dream to build, means you have to complete all the procedures to make it truly medical. That’s our goal, but it needs time. That’s why you have this cosmetic part which is important for cash-flow and to become more stable. For the development of medical services, you need lots of money, investment and time, and to pay our bills during this time we need to cosmetics part,” she said.
Personalised active serums to target specific skin conditions
Farberova said for its active serums, Openface only used ingredients with “proven action” at their “workable concentrations”.
“We built the methodology and we understand for what conditions what ingredients and concentrations are needed, and that is of course important. And our methodology looks more broadly at the skin, for example, not only the type – whether it’s oily, dry or combination – but also the condition is important. We worked in detail with conditions like acne, dehydration, pigmentation, and we chose the right ingredients and concentrations and mixes,” she said.
Whilst Openface was currently focused in cosmetics, she said it was applying “the medical principles and mind in a cosmetic world” for its active blends.
The company then offered users constant skin care advice and support – particularly important for consumers looking to tackle specific skin care issues or conditions longer-term.
Asked why Openface had opted for data and image analysis versus skin diagnostic tools and devices, Martynova said: “We do not believe in the accuracy of skin analysing devices (…) When you go to the dermatologist with an ordinary problem, they quite rarely will use any devices. They collect information from you, ask about your lifestyle, and they look at you to understand what’s wrong or right with your skin. We’re trying to emulate dermatologists.”
“…Also, in the modern world, if you have more data, you have a very, very, very accurate model and algorithm and we do believe in the power of data and model skin detection technology,” she said.
Tech key to the future of personalised beauty
Martynova said technology offered huge promise to the cosmetics industry and would eventually “change how we see the beauty industry”.
“First of all, it’s tech – it’s hard to stop. And second, because the new generation grew up as digital natives, for them, it’s a new world and the only world that they know. I believe we should pay attention to new technology.”
Andrey Lebedev, investment director and partner at Digital Disrupt, agreed, noting investment and advances in technologies would certainly be critical to the future of personalised cosmetics.
“The world’s largest beauty companies, such as Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, and Procter & Gamble, already tap into cutting-edge AI and AR technologies to give their customers a more personalized experience. Solutions like Openface could pioneer the field of AI-based skincare and advance the beauty industry as a whole,” Lebedev said.