When I agreed to have an AI-powered app determine the age of my skin based on a scan of my face, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Moments after my photo was taken with an iPad, the Perfect Corp AI Skin Analysis app informed me that my “skin age” was 35. (My actual age is 33.) Rude.
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But that’s the risk of this kind of information, says Eunice Park, MDa dual-board certified facial plastic surgeon in Syosset, New York, who invited me into her office to try out the technology.
“It can be a bit difficult for patients to digest,” she says. “I’ve had situations where it shows the patient is much older because they have, say, a lot of sun damage.”
Meet the experts: Eunice Park, MDis a dual-board certified facial plastic surgeon based in Syosset, NY. Gabriella Baki, Ph.D.is Professor and Director of the BSPS Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Steven Feldman, MDis a professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine
Dr. Park now uses this app in all of his consultations, where it helps create the basis for his treatment plans and can also help quantify progress. For example, if a person’s score for, say, sunspots improves after laser treatment, this may lead to better patient satisfaction.
“It’s just a nice general number that helps give people information about the current state of their skin health,” she says. “It allows us to be able to quantify certain conditions, give (them) a number, and then be able to say, ‘Hey, those are your options’.”
In addition to sun damage, the app scores skin on 13 other metrics, including fine lines and wrinkles, Dr. Park says, so she can recommend injectables to smooth them out. It also takes into account things like pores, dark spots, and acne, which I think would be pain points in my assessment.
What surprised me, however, was how pronounced my eye bags were in the wrinkle measurement (image below), which helpfully highlighted them in green (I’m eight pregnant month, for explanation). I can see how daunting it is to invest so much time in your skincare routine only to have the AI tell you you look…good.
Artificial intelligence in beauty is not new.
This AI app, powered by Taiwanese tech company Perfect Corp, is just one of the millions of ways AI is infiltrating our daily lives. If the headlines got it right, AI is coming to our jobs, our music, and even our glute workout plans-For the best or for the worst. And while this may be new on some fronts, it’s actually not a game-changing development for the beauty industry, which has been something of a guinea pig for AI technology for the past few years.
At the consumer level, you can already find AI” when we interact with “digital sales associates” and “bots” on websites, for product trials and for detecting skin problems to create personalized diets for consumers,” says Gabriella Baki, Ph.D., professor and director of the BSPS Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program at the University of Toledo in Ohio. She cites La Roche-Posay’s Olay Skin Advisor and MyRoutine AI as two examples of private companies already using this technology to attract new customers.
But the use of AI in dermatology is a recent development.
Its use in a doctor’s office is newer, but has momentum behind it. Case in point? A recent study—funded by Perfect Corp—of Wake Forest University found the app “a convenient, practical and accessible method for analyzing patients’ skin.”
Steven Feldman, MD, the professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who led the research, found that she had a score similar to his own expert assessment. He also says the app provides similar results to more expensive and bulky devices that dermatologists may use to measure skin health. It was no surprise to him.
“Cameras see better than me… They can see wavelengths the human eye can’t,” he says. “The accuracy of AI devices should at some point exceed that of a dermatologist and may be more unbiased in their view.”
And this objectivity is one of the main advantages of this technology.
“I don’t think we’re the best judges of ourselves when it comes to certain metrics,” says Dr. Park. “I usually give the example of an eyewitness. Even in court, what people remember, even at the scene of a situation, is simply not accurate.
In the case of your face, you might not think a filler syringe has done all that much for your under-eye bags, but the app can actually show you an improvement with an on-screen diagram. , like one of these “Spot the “difference” photo puzzles.
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However, there is still work to be done.
Of course, as with any new technology, there are issues. A big specific to the use of AI in skincare and dermatology is inclusivity, as reports noted.
However, it is getting better, especially as more and more people use AI tools and in the process share their data.
“AI is a powerful tool, but it needs a lot of data to work accurately and provide reliable predictions – and when I say a lot, I mean hundreds of thousands to millions of chunks of information from hundreds of thousands of consumers,” says Dr Baki. “The more data an AI tool receives, the better the learning and the more reliable the predictions.”
But there is a major caveat here.
“The AI is continually enhanced during use as consumer information is received – this is where consumer privacy and potential confidentiality issues come into play,” she says. That big push for data? This only comes when consumers give permission for their data to be used. And a lot of people do, because it tends to be built into the terms and conditions when you agree to use a given program or app.
Not only that, but when working with this type of information, having expert offer context and guidance for results is extremely helpful. With that in mind, says Dr. Park, “an in-person assessment is always the best way to determine what the next best treatments are for you.”
So the AI is not meant to replace an appointment with your doc, but to give you a good visual as it unfolds. Plus, the app is only available to professionals at this point, so it’s not like you can spin it around in your bathroom mirror.
By the time I left my appointment with Dr Park – after which a facial left my skin looking more radiant and perhaps worthy of a skin age under 30 – I was still pondering the power of the AI Skin Analysis app.
Was it mildly unpleasant to see my various lines and wrinkles, dark spots, and enlarged pores highlighted on a screen? Yes. But will it make me a little more aware of how often I reapply sunscreen during the day? Yes too.
Seen in this light, it is hard to deny its appeal to both providers and patients.
Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty writer and editor currently based in New York City. She has over 10 years of experience writing about beauty and wellness.