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Innovation
About Face: How Two Digital Beauty Companies Plan to Give Skincare a Makeover
About Face: How Two Digital Beauty Companies Plan to Give Skincare a Makeover
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Tired of buying products that aren't quite right for you? Meet the founders of EpigenCare and SkinGenie—trailblazing skincare companies that are harnessing DNA profiles and artificial intelligence to improve your beauty routine.

f you’ve ever shopped for a skincare product to address a specific issue, such as acne or eczema, you’ve probably wondered: Will this work for me? Is this really the best product for my skin?

Until you try it, there’s usually no way to know for sure. But two rising tech companies—EpigenCare and SkinGenie—are about to change that, potentially reshaping your approach to skincare altogether.

They're the winners of the Digital Beauty QuickFire Challenge, hosted by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., which tasked entrepreneurs with devising solutions for some of the toughest skincare issues out there via innovative digital technology.

At an event held March 27 at JLABS @ South San Francisco, each company was awarded $25,000 in grants, along with a six-month residency at a JLABS incubator, to help them bring their product prototypes to market.

So who are these savvy digital change agents, anyway? Read on to find out.

Digital Beauty By Way of DNA
William Lee, co-founder and CEO, EpigenCare
You’ve likely heard of in-home DNA kits that can help you map your ancestry, but what about a DNA test that can help you find the best products for your skin?

That’s the idea behind EpigenCare, a biotechnology company that's working on a test designed to reveal the epigenetic profile of your skin.

“Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that essentially turn genes on and off,” explains co-founder and CEO Lee. In a nutshell, he says, it involves looking at which genes are being expressed or silenced based on environmental factors, such as your diet, sleeping patterns, exposure to sun or pollutants—and even the products you apply to your skin.

How it will work: Customers will collect skin cells on an adhesive strip provided by EpigenCare and mail it to the company, which will then analyze it against the company’s proprietary panel of 26 epigenetic markers—each of which is strongly correlated with a specific skin quality, such as moisture retention, pigmentation and photoaging.

Once customers receive their skin analyses from EpigenCare, they'll be able to access a digital platform that scientifically filters through thousands of products to find those with ingredients that match the epigenetic quality of their skin.

“It’s impossible to change your genes,” Lee says. “But through this highly personalized scientific method of epigenetics, we will be able to connect people with the products that will give them the maximum benefit for their current skin quality.”

Thanks to his QuickFire Challenge winnings, Lee plans to now release a limited quantity of skin analysis kits—currently available for preorder—near the end of 2018.

Hear more from Lee about how he wants to revolutionize skincare with EpigenCare:

Oftentimes, people are overwhelmed by the sheer number of products to choose from. And most don’t understand their own skin issues and, even if they do, many are unable to understand product labels and how they apply to their skin. SkinGenie aims to alleviate all of that.

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Personalized Skincare That Harnesses the Power of AI
Sindhya Valloppillil, co-founder and CEO, SkinGenie
Valloppillil was working at a company that used intel about an individual's DNA combined with artificial intelligence to help improve that person's nutrition and fitness when she had a thought: Why not use the same approach to beauty?

Enter SkinGenie, a technology platform that offers personalized skincare analysis and recommendations, which just launched in January.

Customers can order a DNA test kit from SkinGenie, or simply link their SkinGenie profiles with the results of a DNA test they’ve already taken, such as those offered by 23andMe or Ancestry.com. SkinGenie then uses its exclusive algorithm to explore their potential predispositions to more than 30 skin traits—which it has identified from analyzing more than 6,500 genetic variations—and offer customers a road map to the products that could best fit their skincare needs.

Another component of its business is SkinGenie Enterprise Services, which offers diagnostics and personalization services to brands, retailers and spas.

“SkinGenie aims to solve a lot of pain points of skincare shopping,” says Valloppillil, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “Oftentimes, people are overwhelmed by the sheer number of products to choose from. And most don’t understand their own skin issues and, even if they do, many are unable to understand product labels and how they apply to their skin. SkinGenie aims to alleviate all of that.”

With the winnings from the QuickFire Challenge, SkinGenie can add additional skin and hair traits to its analysis via ongoing research, says Valloppillil, and prepare to launch Kode: the company’s own brand of hyperpersonalized skincare, haircare and beauty supplements.

Valloppillil shares more about her vision for rethinking how we approach skincare with SkinGenie:


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