The Science of Skincare: Atolla Quietly Changes the Faces of the Future

Image via @atollaskinlab (Instagram)

Skincare and machine learning. How does that sound for a cutting-edge combo?

For one Brooklyn-based company, dermatology has become one seriously high-tech pursuit. Atolla was co-founded by a doctor and two entrepreneurs, Meghan Maupin and Sid Salvi, whose shared backgrounds cover the gamut of ideal start-up expertise: design, engineering, business, data science, and more. Together they joined forces with Dr. Ranella Hirsch, whose dermatological work has been recognized by the likes of Marie Claire and Allure. (She’s been hailed a “beauty guru” and “expert derm” by these publications, respectively.) The resulting company, Atolla, is not your standard beauty product purveyor; it’s a cutting-edge mash-up of artificial intelligence and luxury skincare serums. The final product is chicly packaged with an aesthetic that would fall somewhere between millennial-cool and pharmaceutical-serious.

Atolla is built around the idea that one product formula does not fit all. But the resulting challenge, then, is: how to determine what an individual’s formula should be, and how to produce an unlimited number of varying formulas to suit all those individual needs?

Science, obviously.

The first step of Atolla’s unique process is data collection and analysis. Customers use the company’s Skin Health Kit, which comes with three tools. Oil and moisture tests (little strips to be placed on the skin) determine which kinds of ingredients will offer balanced hydration. A pH test determines the health of the skin barrier and how much supplemental help is required in repelling bacteria, allergens, and pollution. Lastly, a preference test comes in the form of four little vials of base formula to determine which will feel best on the skin.

Using this information, Atolla compiles a “Skin Report” that can be viewed on the customer’s smartphone. Oily? Dehydrated? Susceptible to breakouts? Sensitive to sunlight? All of these factors are considered in determining your own unique serum cocktail and the list of ingredients that will be included. Also playing a role are external factors like routine, environment, and lifestyle.

All of Atolla’s ingredients are natural, vegan, and cruelty-free, as well as absent of gluten, sulphates, and fragrance. The company offers a helpful dictionary of principal and supporting ingredients. Hyaluronic acid, coconut extract, and Diacetyl boldine (a tree bark that fights discolouration), are the sort of primary ingredients you can expect to find in your serum. These are complemented with vitamins, rice or green tea extract, Irish moss, turmeric, rosehip seed oil, and more. (Also included in the dictionary is a helpful breakdown of exactly what these ingredients will do for your skin, as well as a descriptive of some of the more obscure things you might not have heard of — alpha arbutin, anyone?)

Key to Atolla’s overall platform is not just the idea that skincare needs ought to be individualized, but also that individual needs can change. Your skin will behave differently during the cold months of February, say, than it will during the balmy beach days of August. It will also require a different level of care in periods of high stress—  in the lead-up to exams, for instance, or a big project at work. Atolla allows you to retest the following month to monitor data on how the oil, moisture, and pH levels of your epidermis have changed over time. Your individual skin sequence is placed into the company’s efficacy database, where algorithms compare it to the needs of those with similar skin types. The more information it gathers, the better the company’s machine learning tools can predict the precise combination of ingredients for your formula.

This high-tech blend of bespoke services, chemistry, and computers has resulted in a luxurious new offering in the crowded landscape of skincare products. Eager to try it for yourself? Sign up for the monthly subscription here.

Image via @atollaskinlab (Instagram)