THE SECRET SCIENCE IN YOUR HOME 24 May 2017
Choosing the cream that best matches your skin is a tricky business. Now Olay has trained a deep learning algorithm to study your face and help you make the best decision
When it comes to choice, more is not always better. The all too familiar conundrum of choosing between dozens of chocolate biscuits or hundreds of toothpastes can sometimes induce a kind of decision paralysis, a phenomenon that psychologists call the paradox of choice.
Skin care conundrum
It’s a problem often seen in the confused faces of customers surrounded by hundreds of products in the skin care section of department stores.
A 2013 survey by consumer product giant Procter & Gamble found one third of women were unable to find what they were looking for in facial skin care aisles. Almost two-thirds say they have unused facial products at home.
“There’s been an explosion of skin care brands and products in the past 10 years or so,”
says Dr Frauke Neuser, principal scientist for P&G brand Olay. “One result is that women are shopping in places where they can get advice. However, that can be intimidating for those who might not want to buy a £150 skin cream recommended for them.”
P&G says it has the solution. Its web-based Olay Skin Advisor analyses make-up-free selfies uploaded by users to estimate skin age and make personalised product suggestions. It is believed to be the first artificial intelligence-based skin care advice tool.
It’s the result of decades of endeavour. P&G scientists have been studying skin for over 60 years and developing improved image capture and analysis technology for almost three decades (see “A history in imaging“). That includes a 2015 clinical study comparing the facial skin of 330 women of different ethnicities. These included a subset judged to look at least 10 years younger than they actually are and who proved to have a common pattern of gene expression.
Inspired by this study, P&G scientists wondered whether artificial intelligence could replace the subjective human judgements of age with something more objective.