Iope Lab offers a high-tech glimpse into your skin care future
MYEONG-DONG, Jung District — From the outside, the Iope Lab looks like any other skin care store in Myeong-dong, the popular shopping district in central Seoul. But step inside and the three-story building is full of high-tech surprises, from 3-D printed sheet masks to gene testing that can tell the past, present and future of your skin.
The journey started at a wash basin on the third floor where visitors can wash their face before exploring any of the services on offer. The next stop is a laboratory-like room where a machine that looks suspiciously like the instrument used for eyesight tests took a series of photos of this reporter's face.
“Each shot is taken with different light conditions that measure different skin factors including wrinkles, freckles and acne,” the Iope Lab employee explained as she controlled the device. Two other handheld devices were placed on the skin to assess the level of moisture and elasticity.
After a 10-minute assessment, the machine spat out the result: 73 points out of 100.
“A pretty good score,” said consultant Ko Eun-bi, adding that most people receive between 50 and 60. This final figure is an average of nine skin factors. This reporter’s skin was rated “very good” in terms of wrinkles, but received a “moderate” for future acne breakouts.
Consulting at Iope Lab can be combined with gene test results using samples that have to be sent in two weeks before visiting. While the photos are an assessment of your skin in its current state, the gene tests offer a glimpse into the future.
A single swab from the mouth will come back in the form of a 20-page paper report that details how your genes will shape your skin and health. A total of 26 genes are measured — 13 related to the skin and the other 13 linked to health factors. Theragen Bio is the local company that analyzes the results.
“The gene sample results show factors that will never change. They’re variables that are decided when we inherit our parents’ genes, but they also allow us to predict how our skin will be affected as the seasons change and as we get older,” said Ko.
While the beauty section measures genes that realize specific skin factors, the health care segment sheds light on a wider range of effects like your ability to control your appetite and resilience to caffeine and nicotine. It can even tell if you're genetically likely to be an early bird or a night owl.
Iope Lab first opened in 2014, but offering gene tests to the general public wasn’t allowed under Korean law until this year. This became possible when the Health Ministry relaxed regulations in February. It allowed four gene testing companies to offer the service to the general public, including Iope’s partner Theragen Bio.
“Before the regulation change, we collected skin–related gene information from more than 1,700 people by offering the tests for free as a clinical experiment since 2016,” said Ko. “With that data, we studied genes that have the highest correlation to different skin and health factors. Our current test model of 26 genes is the result of that.”
An application on a tablet device measures the visitor's facial structure using a camera. The mask is then customized using six serums applied to five different parts of the mask. It takes less than 10 minutes for the 3-D printer to produce the finished product. On the same floor, Iope offers another personalized service that produces a facial serum based on the customer’s choice of five ingredients and four types of liquid texture.
These services, including gene testing and 3-D sheet masks, are available in different packages with prices starting at 60,000 won ($49). 3-D printed sheet masks can be bought separately for 10,000 won, while the personalized serum costs 18,000 won.
The practice of offering personalized beauty products made on site was also illegal until recently. It was only from March this year that the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety made this service possible for the general public. All Iope Lab staff behind the making of 3-D masks and serums passed a new government test for in-store cosmetics makers, held for the first time in February this year.
“Iope Lab is not just a flagship store — it’s a research center where we explore new skin solutions with the database created through our customers’ participation. Here, they’re not just clients for our products, but an important role player in the study for future skin,” said Bae Ji-hyun, the head of the Iope division of Amorepacific.
BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [email@example.com]