Beauty-conscious consumers turn to latest tech

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Beauty-conscious consumers turn to latest tech


From top: HiMirror evaluates moisture, pore size, wrinkles and dark spots for a person that looks into the mirror-like device. LG Electronics’ four products from the brand Pra.L are all home devices for skin care. [HIMIRROR, LG ELECTRONICS]

Lee Kwon-wook, a 42-year-old teacher, always wears an “electric muscle stimulator” (EMS) device while watching television. According to the manufacturer the product gives Lee’s muscles a full workout, but he never actually leaves the couch. “I don’t know if the device actually can induce an exercising effect without sweating but I’m trying it out of curiosity,” he admitted.

Lee isn’t the only person turning to the latest tech for his health needs. Ahn Hye-jin, a 29-year-old office worker, recently got a laser hair removal device for her birthday. “It costs around 1.6 million won [$1,494] for 10 hair removal sessions at a dermatology clinic,” she said. “The advantage of a home device is that I can continue to use it after a single purchase.”

Tech companies are rushing into the beauty market, spurred on by an increasingly competitive market as more consumers look for ways to take care of their beauty needs at home. According to statistics from global research firm PNC, the global market for beauty devices was worth $27.8 billion in 2016. It forecast that the industry will grow 19.1 percent annually and reach $94.3 billion by 2023.

Even devices that used to be the exclusive realm of professionals have now made their way onto the consumer market. Skin care products used by dermatologists such as LED masks that apparently enhance skin elasticity and devices that use lasers to remove freckles and blemishes from the skin are now easily available for customers to purchase and use at home.

Other available gadgets include a helmet that claims to provide nutrition to hair roots to prevent hair loss, an acne-curing device that apparently eliminates bad bacteria in the skin and a vibrating cleanser that uses ultrasonic technology to clean pores from the inside.

The industry is quickly growing as more consumers prefer to handle their beauty needs at home rather than splashing out on pricey trips to skin care shops and dermatology clinics.

The technology is not only popular with young beauty-conscious women - men and older consumers are also in the market for dermatology devices and hair-growth gadgets.

“The latest technology is quickly adapted for health and beauty-related devices,” said Lee Seung-sin, professor of consumer information science at Konkuk University. “Unless the pattern of people being short on time and money changes, the market is expected to continue its growth.”

Some of the devices have an impressive scientific pedigree. Developed by Neurovalens, a U.S. start-up led by a team of neuroscientists, Modius is a headset that can reduce a user’s appetite by sending electronic signals to the brain. Its target is people who don’t have the time or diligence to regularly work out. The EMS device was also initially invented by NASA to prevent astronauts’ muscles from atrophying, but the technology is now commonly used by private companies.

Home electronics companies are eyeing smart beauty as their next growth engine. In September, LG Electronics released a lineup of four beauty tech devices including an LED mask and a vibrating cleanser. Global players like Philips, Panasonic, Toshiba and Sharp are competing in the market as well.

In the beauty industry, L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Amorepacific are prominent players. Their strategy is to promote devices that work with their existing skin care products, such as a device that ensures the skin better absorbs moisturizing lotion.

Last month L’Oreal acquired Modiface, a company that uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality technology to allow a consumer to virtually try out different cosmetics on an image of their face. Amorepacific has been hosting the Tech Up Plus project since 2016 to invest and accelerate start-ups with beauty-related technologies.

Last year’s Consumer Electronics Show also introduced a slew of beauty-related devices. HiMirror, a Taiwan-based start-up, showcased a mirror-like device that uses Amazon’s Alexa to tell users the condition of their skin when they look into the mirror. Kerastse’s Hair Coach, which was presented at the same event, is a brush that assesses the health of a user’s hair and scalp.

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