After decades of sitting quietly on the beauty sidelines, skin care has suddenly become a hot topic, worthy of lengthy think pieces, and even igniting feuds. One thing that hasn’t changed: people still have a hard time figuring out which products to use. HelloAva, a new beauty app that’s now accessible on the web, is hoping to make it easier.
HelloAva was created by Siqi Mou, a former financial analyst and Bloomberg TV anchor (pictured below). The idea for the app was born while Mou was a student at Stanford Business School, working on a small group project for an entrepreneurship course. The plan was to create a customized skin-care line, but when the team’s research revealed that 90 percent of the consumers they surveyed said that shopping for skin-care products was a frustrating experience, the group decided to shift gears. “That was a pretty big moment for us. We realized that we wanted to build a skin-care matching engine instead — kind of like Match.com for products,” says Mou. HelloAva launched in May 2017 and the company just debuted a new version that is more automated and is accessible via laptop, tablet, or phone. HelloAva currently features over 2000 items from over 150 brands including L’Oréal, Shiseido, Perricone MD, Murad, and Kate Somerville, with plans to add more.
To get personalized product recommendations, you start by creating an account. Once that’s set, a chatbot named Ava gathers basic information about your skin-care concerns and the product categories you’re interested in. Uploading a selfie is recommended, but you can choose to skip that step. Next, Ava walks you through 12 more in-depth questions designed to zero in on your skin type and specific issues. After the evaluation, the app spits out a list of shoppable product suggestions — two for every category you selected during the quiz.
I found the questions and pre-set responses to be pretty straightforward, but there was one baffling moment during my process: While I was answering a question about the way my skin responds to sun exposure, I was confused by an answer option which implied that dark skin doesn’t get darker in the sun (not the case). I went with it because it was the most relevant choice listed for my complexion, but I wondered if the product recommendation associated with it would be the right fit.
If I were a regular customer, this would have been the perfect time to seek help from one of the experts on standby. Guidance from an actual person is something Mou added to the latest iteration of the app. “A licensed aesthetician is available to walk you through your recommendations and to give you alternate selections if you want something that’s slightly different. A computer is more efficient than humans for selecting products, but we have a human there to cross-check the algorithm, and to offer emotional support. If someone is having a severe acne problem, they may need assurance from someone else before purchasing,” Mou explains.
Combining artificial intelligence with a human element is what Mou says “keeps people coming back.” She plans to use this formula to take her concept of personalized skin care beyond electronic devices. Up next: “We have this idea to partner with influencers and celebrities to create a pop-up shop during the holidays where we allow people to customize their own products. Kind of like a yogurt bar,” Mou explains. Skin care that’s as easy as adding sprinkles? We’re here for it.
For more help finding products that work for you, check out these skin-care items recs based on skin type:
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