Imagine a lady with shining hair, fair skin, doe eyes and full lips, and you instantly know that she’s pretty. Indeed, with every imaginable form of art and culture consistently inculcating us with one uniform idea of beauty, the popular notion of what constitutes being ‘beautiful’ has remained pretty much constant – even stagnant – across countries and cultures for a few centuries at least.
However, in a heartening paradigm shift, for some years now, the fashion and beauty industries have started to embrace a far more diverse and inclusive concept of beauty. In line with this, plus-size clothing lines have become more readily available and a much wider range of make-up and skincare products have been launched, all acknowledging that our bodies are very, very different from one another, and that one size does not fit all. It is this thrust towards personalisation that has given rise to one of the biggest trends in the last decade – bespoke beauty.
Accepting diversity and celebrating uniqueness, this trend recognises that every individual has a different biochemistry, which implies that what may work for one person may not work for the next because of inherent genetic differences. Market research company Mintel’s 2018 Global Beauty & Personal Care Trends report reveals that 40 percent of US make-up users aged 25 to 34 are still unable to find products that exactly match their skin tones. Add to this the fact that a person’s skin and hair alter with age, passing seasons, lifestyle changes and so on, and a one-for-all beauty strategy seems hardly viable. Hence, a lotion that suits a skin type during summer may not work so well during winter. So, even a customised skincare routine needs to be tweaked from time to time based on circumstances.
Alongside this increased understanding of individuality is also a growing awareness of how exactly skincare products work. As creams, lotions, serums and oils bypass the digestive system altogether and enter into our blood streams directly, users have finally become cognisant of the fact that skincare products are more akin to food than cosmetics. This knowledge, too, has contributed to the increasing need for customisation for individual purposes.
Of course, the advancement of technology has played a key part in this revised stance. AI-enabled understanding of ingredient effectiveness, increased user input and modern manufacturing technologies have already contributed to a large extent to the popularisation of bespoke beauty. Embracing this data-meets-derma approach, several brands have come up with virtual reality and augmented reality solutions to enhance a customer’s interaction with a beauty product in every possible way. Even the more economical and off-the-shelf brands are joining the bandwagon, including Neutrogena, that has launched MaskiD – a 3D-printed face mask tailored to your skin, based on data collected from a selfie – and L’ Oréal’s La Roche-Posay, that together with Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group, has unveiled the world’s first AI-powered acne testing application. Debuting on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, the Effaclar Spotscan app diagnoses the kind of acne a person may be suffering from by analysing selfies. Thousands of images of men and women with different skin types and spots are stored in the app’s database to ensure precision-testing.
Moving up the pyramid, luxury brands are also raising the stakes in the bespoke beauty business. Take, for instance, German skincare specialist Dr. Barbara Sturm’s intriguing Blood Cream, which, at £1,200, sees platelet-rich plasma extracted from a client’s blood and then applied on their skin to yield incredible youth-boosting results. In this ‘vampire facial’ – as it’s colloquially called – a vial of the user’s blood is mixed with glass beads that trick your cells into thinking they’re covering a wound. This leads your blood to produce healing proteins that are then added to your skincare products. With Victoria Beckham herself being an advocate of this treatment, those wondering at the effectiveness of it all needn’t look further than her glass-smooth skin.
Another marque utilising our skin’s own restorative properties for skincare is biomedical range Allél, which uses DNA to determine what ingredients work best on your skin type. Taking a mouth swab during an in-clinic evaluation, everything from pigmentation to collagen levels are measured, and an immersive skincare and oral treatment regime is prescribed.
Also offering personalised in-store consultation is Kiehl’s with its #AfternoonwithKiehls, a programme that provides skin consultations and samples based on individual concerns. Meanwhile, another skincare brand, Clinique, allows customers to make their own bespoke moisturisers by providing them with a choice of three different hydrating bases, and then mixing it with one of five different active cartridge concentrates, each of which is formulated to address a specific skin problem.
Realising that the DIY approach is fast gaining traction, Parisian cosmetics brand By Terry, which is now available at Lane Crawford, has also set up a Palette Factory, where customers can not only select their preferred colours but also build their own eye and rouge palettes from scratch. In this counter-meets-lab approach, one can choose from an endless array of colours, rare pigments and refined powders, and can then measure and machine-press their own palettes right there and walk away with a unique product in just 10 minutes.
Even perfumers like British fragrance brand Penhaligon’s are encouraging customers to be directly involved in choosing the specific ingredients that go into their scents. Described as the “olfactory equivalent of couture”, Penhaligon’s Bespoke by Alberto Morillas will see you create your unique fragrance – one that can’t be replicated for anyone else – with the help of master perfumer Alberto Morillas, all for the price of £35,000.
So, with brands at every spectrum of the market offering personalised skincare and beauty products, the burning question is: will this trend last? The answer so far seems to be a firm ‘yes’. With both brands and buyers seeing it as adding value – whether it’s building relationships from a brand’s point of view or zeroing in on the exact fit from the buyer’s – bespoke beauty seems to be more than just the Next Big Thing in the industry, and one that can make a real difference, as long as brands continue to think out of the box on how to make the little bottle worth it.