This month, we celebrate unique beauty ideas by highlighting six top innovations that have pushed the beauty industry in new directions. In some instances, they have created new product categories altogether. Let the innovation here be an inspiration to perhaps act on a beauty idea you've been considering!
LightStim LED Light Therapy
When Steve and Joniann Marchese met in the ’70s, they started a light-based business together. They used old wine bottles to create lamps with different layers of beams. Business ownership was not new to Steve, as he’d launched Steve’s Detailing in 1972, prior to meeting his wife. However, Joniann aided in its success years later as they franchised the business, starting in 1986 up until when they sold it in 2001. They then turned to homebuilding with Steve designing the architecture while Joniann worked on the interiors. But in the early 2000s, when the couple was between businesses, they unexpectedly encountered a new entrepreneurial opportunity, once again, in the lights-based business.
“A friend suggested Joniann try this light [she was using]. Joniann bought it, and a short time later, she saw that her wrinkles started becoming slightly less [pronounced]. Her skin began looking smoother, her pores seemed to be closing up,” Steve says. “She was so impressed that she wrote a testimonial and took pictures.” Shortly thereafter, the inventors asked her to be the spokesperson for the antiaging device, which was used to treat pain.
Sometime later the inventors were at the Marchese’s home filming Joniann; three hours later, Steve had purchased the company from them. Eventually, the lights became the family business run by Steve, Joniann and their sons.
LightStim employs LED lights to address acne, wrinkles and pain (individually) using a handheld device (a bed and face panel are also available, mostly for in-office use). It uses multiple wavelengths, generally four operating simultaneously, to impact cells. “Science has proven that when you use multiple wavelengths, simultaneously, they cancel each other out, and this is what the inventors broke through and figured out. It was purely a mistake that they fell into [the device]; because what we do violates scientific law,” he explains.
From the start, the Marchese’s focused on the professional beauty industry and were a hit; then they decided to slow down progress to wait for FDA clearances. Steve says that during that lull, some retailers began to purchase like-products that were battery-operated, made inexpensively overseas and, in the end, produced a poor outcome. The lack of efficacy with these products made it difficult for LightStim to make headway with those retailers, once it had received its FDA clearances. Then ProPanel (the antiaging model also used in-office) was launched, and it too was an immediate hit, bringing the brand back into the spotlight.
Today, LightStim’s handheld devices are used by about 500,000 consumers, from the U.S. to Europe and Asia. The company sells its offerings to almost 25,000 spas, medispas and doctors. Its devices are also sold in beauty retailers, including Amazon Luxury Beauty, Dermstore, Sephora and more.
L’Oréal My UV Patch
L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator has been focused on the intersection of beauty and technology since 2012. It works with universities and other companies to accomplish its objectives. Through much research and innovation, its products have included a smart brush, a virtual makeup app, and tech-integrated custom makeup foundation and facial serum. Its venture into UV-technology, in particular, is most certainly where beauty, tech, health, personal care, wellness, personalization and even wearables, all intersect.
Guive Balooch, global vice president of the L’Oréal Technology Incubator, says that the brand’s intention behind its foray into UV technologies has always been sun safety, first and foremost. “We’ve really found that people–especially beauty consumers–are always eager for more knowledge. All of our UV technology is intended to provide deeper understanding of the wearer’s individual skincare needs, so they can create a personalized regimen that is specifically based on those concerns.”
L’Oréal entered the UV technologies category with the launch of its My UV Patch (developed in partnership with MC10 in 2016). The ultra-thin, stretchable skin sensor can be worn for up to five days, and is paired with mobile-app technology to monitor UV exposure. Balooch says his team sought to produce a product that could be used in perpetuity; so in 2017, they presented the prototype for UV Sense, a battery-free wearable that adhered to the nail and could be worn for up to two weeks.
The team’s findings from both the My UV Patch and UV Sense led to its 2018 launch of My Skin Track UV by La Roche-Posay in select U.S. Apple stores. (The limited-edition patch is still available at laroche-posay.us.) Balooch describes it as the “the first battery-free wearable to measure personal UV exposure, and durable enough to last for years.” It features a sun-activated sensor. The user taps it against his or her smartphone to update the app. Up to three months’ worth of data are stored and the user can access instant status updates. The app additionally offers insight into the user’s pollution, pollen and humidity exposure.
Both products stem from the Incubators’ partnership with Professor John Rogers from Northwestern University, including his intellectual property (MC10 and Wearifi), per L’Oréal.
“At L’Oréal, we see our company mission of beauty-for-all as evolving into beauty-for-you, where everyone has experiences tailored just for them. And technology is helping us make that possible. But we don’t want to build tech for tech’s sake–we seek to solve consumer issues. Our hope is that My UV Patch and My Skin Track UV make sun-safe habits easier to understand and adopt,” Balooch says.
LeChat Perfect Match Mood Polish
You may remember mood rings from the ’70s and ’80s. The ring contained liquid crystal and would change into a different color with the wearer’s body temperature fluctuations. Each color supposedly signified a different mood. Interestingly, LeChat’s head of marketing, Cheryl Feinberg, says the brand’s Perfect Match Mood polishes and gels were inspired by iconic heat-activated, color-changing products, most notably mood rings. “LeChat’s owners were excited about the idea of creating a polish and matching gel with more than one color option in the same bottle,” she explains.
LeChat’s color-changing products employ an encapsulated thermochromic pigment that makes them sensitive to temperature and color change. Feinberg explains that the color change can be influenced by a number of things, including changes in light reflection, absorption and scattering caused by a shift in the pigment’s orientation. And they’re responsive to both environmental and body temperatures. But for the customer, two colors are in the bottle–one that presents at room temperature and below, and the other in warmer temperatures–giving him or her variety and intrigue.
“Our Perfect Match Mood polishes and gels have helped push creativity forward, and [they] were the inspiration for a variety of other temperature- activated beauty products,” says Feinberg. She says that LeChat’s customers enjoy watching the color change, in addition to not being stuck with one color until their next manicure. But the color-changing products also help professionals elevate their services. She adds that as a bonus, Mood polish has helped draw attention to the ombré nail trend; particularly as long nails simultaneously feature both colors, as nail tips are further from one’s body heat.
Producing innovative products isn’t without its challenges, however. Feinberg explains that mood polishes take longer to produce and require a more rigorous quality control process to meet the brand’s quality standards. “It takes energy to mix the colors, which translates into heat. That heat makes the colors change quickly. The heating makes perfecting the colors and matching gels and polishes a little more difficult.”
Nevertheless, LeChat offers dozens of different shades, from Buttercup to Sapphire Night, and several treatments from Cream and Glitter to Frost and Pastel. “We are honored that one of our products has made an impact on the industry and promise to continue to create groundbreaking products that push the nail industry forward,” Feinberg says. She adds that LeChat intends to expand upon its Mood concept, eventually building story lines into its collections, as found in its Perfect Match line. “The tricky part is picking the two colors that are complimentary and show a drastic color shift, which parallels our traditional Perfect Match products’ storyline.”
Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel
Those that suffer from dry, cracked heels know that foot files can help temporarily remove the dead skin buildup that causes that flaky, unsightly appearance. But many don’t know that filing is just a temporary fix–one that actually generates more friction on the soles of the feet, creating more accumulated dead skin. Enter Baby Foot exfoliation peels for the feet, made with a blend of natural extracts to safely peel off the top layer of skin, revealing fresh, baby-soft soles.
Baby Foot’s original formulation dates back to 1997, when its founders in Tokyo created an at-home treatment to relieve various foot conditions like dryness, cracked heels and excess dead skin. The treatment became so popular that in 2005, the Baby Foot company was born. Seven years later, the brand was brought to the U.S. by KSSM LLC. Today, Baby Foot is available everywhere from local beauty supply stores to specialty beauty retailer Ulta Beauty and mass beauty at Target. Baby Foot has garnered countless awards internationally and is available in more than 50 countries around the world.
How do the peels work? Baby Foot’s one-hour treatments come as plastic booties that consumers wear at home like socks. The brand’s science-based formulas feature anamalgamation of 16 natural extracts and fruit acids, including glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid, which simultaneously exfoliate and moisturize the feet, allowing dead skin cells to slough off. These fruit acids (otherwise known as alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs) are mixed with isopropyl, which give the peels their skin-flaking ability. AHAs also help break down desmosomes, which are the structures that hold our layers of skin together. The peels safely and effectively reveal the fresh layer of skin that lies beneath the damaged upper layer–making one’s soles look and feel transformed.
“For 20-plus years and distribution in over 50 countries, Baby Foot has been and still is the ‘original’ premium foot peel product,” says Vera Gibbons, CEO of Baby Foot’s U.S. division. “Our best-selling product is our flagship, the Original Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel. This one-hour treatment ... gently removes unwanted dead skin cells from your feet, delivering results that other foot products cannot achieve. Our convenient, prefilled disposable 3D booties contain the highest-quality ingredients to make Baby Foot effective, effortless and simple to use.”
Baby Foot’s most recent additions include the Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel for Men and the Moisturizing Foot Mask, which debuted in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The company is currently formulating new products, but can’t divulge any teasers just yet. One thing’s for sure though: This revolutionary foot peel helps consumers exfoliate between spa visits, while delivering a cost-effective solution to dry, cracked heels.
Beautyblender Original Beautyblender Sponge
Beautyblender is the makeup sponge that singlehandedly changed the beauty industry. Back in 2002, founder Rea Ann Silva was working as a professional makeup artist to celebrities like Tracee Ellis Ross. This was a time when social media wasn’t what it is today, and consumers couldn’t easily glean makeup techniques by streaming their favorite vloggers online (Facebook was created in 2003, YouTube in 2005 and Instagram five years after that).
Silva would cut up and wet egg-shaped sponges to apply creams and powders on clients–a trick that only professional special-effects artists were using at the time–to avoid a cakey look. It was then that she invented the Original Beautyblender, and a whole new category within beauty, so that consumers could perfect a flawless, airbrushed- style complexion.
“Like most women, I was in need of a simple solution to make my job easier,” Silva says. “I think that’s the same problem anyone doing makeup has–whether it’s your own makeup or you’re working for someone else.”
Silva not only created a unique product but also began working with social media influencers and YouTube stars on the rise long before it was commonplace. She credits part of Beautyblender’s success to the fact that her company was an early adopter of this form of marketing. Silva has also since participated in a handful of successful collaborations with other brands, such as Too Faced and Supergoop!, that share similar company values.
Fast-forward to 17 years after Beautyblender’s debut and the brand now comprises a wide range of products, including its Bounce Foundation in 40 shades, blenders in three sizes, liquid and solid cleansers and a Re-Dew Set & Refresh Spray.
“My goal is to continue to bring tools to the market that solve everyday beauty problems for women,” she explains. For example, one such problem many consumers have is drawing even, winged cat eyes using a liquid eyeliner. To solve this dilemma, Silva invented the Liner.Designer tool, a pick that can be used to trace on eyeliner for perfect wings every time.
“I always say to dream big, be fearless and, most importantly, follow through,” she says. “So many times along the way I heard no, and you need to believe in your ideas to see them through.” Silva continues
to be a savvy entrepreneur who turns the secrets she learned as a professional makeup artist into problem-solving products consumers can’t get enough of.
Sutra Beauty Vapor Infused Flat Iron
Eight years ago, when vapor-based hair straightening debuted to the world, Sutra Beauty president Liam Ben-David became fascinated with the technology. He went to work and started sketching ideas, features and specifications for a hair tool unlike anything on the market at the time of the company’s debut in 2012.
“At first I thought that if we lower the temperature of the iron, it would work; but I later found out that that is useless, as you must reach a certain temperature for the liquid to evaporate,” he says. Ben-David tested out several oil-, water- and silicone-based substances until he perfected what would become the Vapor Infused Flat Iron, which took two years to fully develop.
“There are quite a few generic steam-based irons on the market right now. The difference between our Vapor Infused Flat Iron and the others is that we use a patented external vapor chamber, which allows the vapor to hit the hair as it is passing through the flat iron,” he says. Unlike other vapor irons, which contain tiny holes in the plates and that release water directly onto the hair–causing that infamous sizzling noise–Sutra Beauty’s features a unique chamber on the iron’s exterior. When locks are straightened at over 320 F, the hair’s pores open up and the vapor that’s emitted immediately hydrates follicles for an optimal, quick and effective outcome. “When comparing results, it’s night and day,” he adds.
When looking to the future, Ben-David hopes to continue bringing cutting-edge hair tools to market for both stylists and consumers. “Due to the fact that we are fairly considered the ‘new kids on the block,’ I feel that innovation is the basis of almost everything we do–whether it’s a new marketing campaign, designs or sales channels. If we stop being innovative, we’ll become stagnant and we’ll lose our biggest advantage compared to more established, bigger brands,” Ben-David explains.
During Sutra Beauty’s humble beginnings, Ben-David’s goal was to encompass several categories, including wet lines, tools and accessories; he soon realized that it was better to find his niche and focus solely on that. He says, “It is impossible to be the best at everything. My advice is to find that one thing that the industry needs but that doesn’t get much attention. Get behind it as a concept and charge forward, full steam ahead!”