When Tech Meets Hair Care

Last week’s blogpost about skincare and how it has evolved really inspired me to dig deeper into the beauty industry and see its latest innovations, but in the hair space. As someone who has a lot of hair and used to have it thinned out because it was so thick, hair care has been extremely important to me. We typically think about caring for our hair by brushing, washing, and cutting it every so often, but technology in this area has really developed in some incredible ways. Let’s take L’Oréal for example. They are a leader in the beauty industry and not only own several brands, but have their own Research and Innovation Technology Incubator. This lab worked with Kérastase, the worldwide leader in professional luxury hair care, in partnership with Withings, who provides health products in the digital health space under Nokia, to create the world’s first ever smart hairbrush

The brush has advanced sensors and L’Oréal’s patent-pending signal analysis algorithms to measure the quality of hair as someone uses the brush. The mobile app that syncs with the brush provides more insights about the person’s hair and provides customized product recommendations to improve the quality of the hair. Researchers discovered that forceful hair brushing can cause hair damage, which includes breakage and split ends. The sensors detect brushing patterns and strength by using a microphone that listens to the sound of hair brushing to provide insights into manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage. The brush also has 3-axis load cells that measure the force users apply to the hair while brushing and an accelerometer along with a gyroscope that alert users if the brushing is too forceful through feedback signaling. Lastly, the brush also has conductivity sensors that determine if the user has wet or dry hair while brushing, to provide an accurate assessment. Once the brush collects all of this information, the sensors feed the data into the app, which also takes weather conditions into account, like humidity, temperature, UV, and wind, because all of these factors affect hair quality. The app finally provides a hair quality score and provides tips or product recommendations based on the outcome. The brush is battery powered, sold at select Kérastase hair salons, and retails for just under $200. While this is a pretty steep price for a hair brush, I can see how useful it would be to know more about the quality of your hair and use products that directly suit your needs. 

Another L’Oréal brand, Redken, has also introduced an app and online website, in partnership with YouCam Makeup, to allow users to test out different hair colors by taking a selfie. 

There are already apps like this that exist for fun, but this app has a custom brush and erase feature that allow users to draw in highlights, ombré, or balayage to get a more realistic feel for what their hair will look like. Once the user has selected the color they would like, the app directs them to a Redken salon finder so that they can dye their hair with the color that they have chosen. This technology is not super revolutionary, but the seamlessness of trying on a color and actually booking an appointment makes it that much easier for people to change their hair in the way that they want. 

To round of this list, I had to include the $399.99 Dyson hair dryer. Yes. $399.99. Before you click away, I will have to say that this hair dryer is extremely impressive. We typically think about Dyson as a vacuum cleaner brand, but they developed a Supersonic hair dryer after conducting much research.

They discovered that temperatures above 302 degrees Fahrenheit cause irreparable damage, so the hair dryer has a heat control system. The system has a glass bead thermistor in front of the heating element to measure the exit airflow temperature 20 times every second to ensure that temperatures do not exceed 302 degrees Fahrenheit. A motor in the handle powers the hair dryer, so it does not need to rely on extreme heat, is quieter than traditional hair dryers, and is very lightweight. This price is pretty absurd, but the technology is quite cutting edge considering most hair dryers have not evolved much from the ‘60s. I am not sure I would be willing to shell out that much money, but for people who do dry their hair often, this could be a great investment. 

The beauty industry has developed and grown so much over the past decade and it has been incredible to see the marriage of tech and hair care. We all have hair to some capacity on our bodies and it makes sense that companies have developed to include more customizable and efficient products. These tech innovations do come at steep prices, but as they improve and become more widespread, I would suspect that their prices will drop. The Redken app itself is free, but then again you would need to pay for the actual dye appointment. What do you all think? Would anyone use the Redken app or purchase the smart hair brush or Dyson hair dryer? Sound off below!! 

10 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this post, especially how it relates to some of the tech that is popping up in the beauty industry that was featured last week. While I’d heard of Redken’s virtual hair color try on and the Dyson hair dryer, L’Oréal’s smart hairbrush is definitely new to me. The price seems a little steep, but the information that the brush is able to provide definitely has its benefits. As someone with somewhat temperamental hair, I can attest to the struggle of trying to find products that best suit me. My sister and I have near identical hair, so when she switched to a different line of products and had great results, I decided to give it a go, and boy was it the wrong move. A brush like this definitely could have helped me to get my hair back on track, but I’m still not sure I’d be willing to pay that much for a brush. I feel if there were a way to utilize the brush and its underlying technologies at salons, it wold give stylists the opportunity to give product recommendations to their clients. They could even further capitalize on using it by paying attention to the trends in recommendations and carry those specific products and lines in the salon so that clients are able to purchase them right there.

  2. dilillomelissa · · Reply

    Such a fun post! I love the idea of the hairbrush monitoring what type of products I should use. I find that I go to a hair stylist for a cut twice a year and it looks good for a month after, and then I don’t know what to do. This would give me suggestions on keeping up a healthy look for those months in between appointments. I’m a fan! Also, it’s too funny that you mention this hair dryer. My co-workers and I were just discussing it this week. I had never heard of a $400 hair dryer, but it seems like it could be a good investment. Keeping hair healthy is pretty tough to do. It gets dry, easily breaks, needs to be moisturized, etc. It doesn’t help when people use hair dryers that burn your hair. I don’t dry my hair too often, but maybe someday with some more funds, I’ll give a try. I love the idea of tech and hair care. It’s happening in all other industries, this just makes sense.

  3. Beauty is big business so it’s not really surprising that they’re trying to take advantage of technology. I personally don’t think I’d be willing to spend the money on the hairbrush or hairdryer but I do think that places like salons could (and possibly should) invest in these technologies to give themselves a competitive advantage. I also think that, in time, as my salary (hopefully) increases and as as the technology becomes less expensive, there might be a middle ground in which I could definitely see myself investing. I’d love to see more innovations in this space, as like you said, a lot of the products out there haven’t really evolved since the 60’s or don’t take into account the long term damage to your hair.

  4. This just shows that any niche market can be tapped into with the right technology. The smart hairbrush is impressive, but I feel it is more useful for salons to own than individuals. There’s only so many times you can measure the quality of your hair as it takes time to repair and rejuvenate..this tech seems more like a fad to me, but I’m sure they will make a lot of money. As a first-to-market product, I do not see the benefit to purchase this item, as the next version will be more accurate and likely less expensive. Obviously with the short hair I have, I would not purchase, but I could definitely see people with long hair and more disposable income make these purchases!

  5. Last summer, I worked on a brand called Batiste. It’s a $120M dry shampoo brand originally from the UK. It was the market leader in the US by a factor of 2x. The category has been growing at a rate of 30% CAGR for the past 3-4 years. Why? Because for so long we were sold more and more products and not any information on care. Finally it seems as though companies have realized that education and commerce can go hand in hand. These products point that our perfectly. While I do feel that they are a bit pricey, I think they do wonders for the long term brand equity of these manufacturers.

  6. As someone who barely even needs to brush her hair, I found this post incredibly interesting. One company in the haircare space that I’ve been equally impressed by in the past couple of years is DryBar. Since around 2010, DryBar has completely revolutionized the salon industry with an operational model revolving around the simple concept of focusing on one thing and being the best at it: blowouts. They now sell countless original products like an award-winning straightening brush at retailers like Sephora, Ulta, and Norsdtrom. Its founder, Alli Webb, was actually just named the newest Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank. I am now very interested to see what a haircare startup like DryBar will do next in regards to technology. Will a ‘smart’ straightneing brush be next? Maybe a new, innovative app? After reading this article it definitely seems like they have some catching up to do.

  7. Nice post. If you don’t know Madison Reed, it’s another great IT-driven hair care company.

  8. Can we make tech beauty and self care posts a weekly occurrence! I feel like this class is giving me so many great tips and companies to look into. It baffles me that these niche markets exist. I wish that they were better advertised. Or maybe I’m not looking in the right places. L’Oreal is such a prominent brand I’m surprised I have not heard more about it. I mentioned this in my comment last week, but I feel as though it should be repeated, I love how tech is being used to cater to the individual. I love that these products are available because not everyone is blessed with roll-out-of-bed hair!

  9. This is such an interesting topic – I never thought I would hear the term smart hairbrush, but it totally makes sense given how innovation has been affecting different industries. As someone who has probably permanently damaged my hair from using too much heat, I could definitely see the advantage of owning a brush like this. However, the price points for both the smart hairbrush and the Dyson hair dryer are a little too steep for me to justify right now. I could see hair salons investing in these types of products (if they aren’t already), and will be on the lookout at my next haircut appointment!

  10. Ever since the Dyson hair dryer came out I’ve been wanting to test it out (in a store) to see if its really worth all the hype that’s surrounding it. An influencer I follow on instagram went to a conference about the new hair dryer and the stories weren’t quite convincing enough that it made that much of a difference. Not going to lie, the Redken virtual studio reminded me of going on myscene.com and playing the game where you could give your doll any hair color and style so I think it’s awesome that we now have the ability to play the game for ourselves. I only really brush my hair when it’s wet because I have curly hair that will become an absolute poof if I try to brush out the curls dry but I think the smart hairbrush could definitely save people’s hair. I’m not a huge haircare person so I loved getting to hear about how much up-and-coming stuff is out there!

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