There are plenty of things we thought we did well the old-fashioned way, such as navigating with a map or communicating with one another, albeit hashtag-free. But in today’s tech age, it seems that not even our make-up bags are immune to modernisation. The evolution of technology is leading to advances not just in the formulation of products, but in the very “foundations” of the beauty industry.
Foremost among these is the advent of the home beauty treatment. Many procedures previously restricted to the confines of doctors’ surgeries and beauty salons are now available to DIY. Take hair removal: depilatory creams, home waxing and terrifying handheld epilators have been around for years but now you can zap your follicles efficiently and electronically with your feet up in front of the TV, thanks to Philips, Lumea and Tria. Home teeth whitening used to be a basic affair but Rapid White’s Blue Light Kit – using chlorine dioxide activated with light – has stepped things up.
From gel nail manicures to microdermabrasion, the list of DIY options is now extensive almost to the point of being exhaustive. “The at-home beauty device category is experiencing unprecedented growth,” Nicky Kinnaird, founder of the premium beauty chain Space NK, says. “The most successful realms to date are anti-ageing, anti-acne, hair removal, hair growth and cleansing.”
The latter, facial cleansing, is a category of beauty appliances that has taken the industry by surprise, both in popularity and effect. Calling on the help of a specialist for permanent hair removal or acne treatments is understandable; needing assistance with washing your face, less so past the age of five. Think again.
The Seattle-based company Clarisonic led the way with facial-cleansing devices based on oscillating brushes. The minds behind the brand invented the technology that powers Sonicare electric toothbrushes – selling this to Philips. The same technology is now used to cleanse your dermis rather than your dentures.
Sounds niche? Not so. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the company has reached a staggering level of success. Clarisonic is currently the fourth-biggest skincare company in the United States, with only Clinique, Estée Lauder and Lancôme beating it in retail sales – a feat all the more remarkable when you consider that a Clarisonic device is priced at four or five times that of a luxury lipstick and the brand doesn’t advertise.
Electronic cleansing brushes aren’t a new invention but the technology has evolved considerably since they first came into fashion in the Sixties. With Clarisonic, oscillation is the buzz word; it describes the movement of the brush back and forth, 300 times per second; this, in combination with sonic technology, allows a cleanse that clinical trials have proven is six times more effective than using your hands.
The appeal of Clarisonic-clean skin is cultish: once you’re in, you’re in for life. The benefits of the device are by no means miraculous, nor do its makers claim they will be. There are no claims that your wrinkles will magically disappear, or that you’ll never get another spot, but what it does promise is simple yet fundamental: cleaner skin and pores.
Efficacy is at the heart of the brand’s success: “All that growth, double and triple digit, occurred because girlfriend told another girlfriend, a mum told a daughter, a sister told a sister and that made it spread,” Dr Robb Akridge, one of the founders of Clarisonic, says. A comparison can be drawn with another electronic beauty device. The UK-based hair-straightening company GHD started as a small start-up, only selling in salons, but, as word spread among devoted fans, the company’s sales rose to more than £150m.
Although a home device now, Clarisonic started its retail life in dermatologists’ offices and spas, which has helped raise brand awareness. Dr Robin O’Reilly, who is a skin specialist at nationwide medi-spa Destination Skin, where the Clarisonic Pro is a key tool, says: “We use it across our aesthetic clinics to cleanse and prep the skin pre-treatment.” As Clarisonic-cleansed skin also absorbs subsequent products faster and more effectively, she says that “it maximises the results you get – we also recommend it to our clients to use daily”.
The rapidly changing nature of the beauty industry makes it almost impossible to predict what’s next: an “at home” liposuction kit is a scary, yet not entirely unrealistic, thought in a beauty industry where fillers and Botox are procedures administered in salons, rather than surgeries, and completed during lunch breaks. But for now, Clarisonic is looking to keep cleaning up by helping us keep clean.