This App Knows Your Skin Scarily Well

Photo: Courtesy of WAY.
A few days ago, the discovery of a skin-care gadget’s Indiegogo page had me so excited that when I got the green light to do the interview, I ran over post-workout sweaty to chat with the cofounder/CEO Jason Moon. The gadget — which I'm certain will be a beauty-industry game-changer — is called WAY, and it’s like having a portable dermatologist to tote around. Shaped like a sleek, oversized Lifesaver, the device has an array of sensors that sends data about your skin and environment to a mobile app on your smartphone. This means it can read your skin’s moisture levels, and coupled with information about moisture levels in the environment, this allows WAY to make personalized recommendations about things like how often you should apply moisturizer. For me, it was every six hours. The more you know.

Mapping Your Skin

In addition to measuring moisture, the gadget’s biometric sensors can spit out data on skin’s oil levels and age (move over, #HowOldRobot). This is similar to SK-II’s Skin DNA counseling program, which is a service offered to customers in Korea that measures the skin’s current condition and ships the epithelial cells from the mouth to a genetics lab in Japan for analysis of its “destiny.” Though WAY doesn’t play in skin genetics, it’s portable and ties in real-time data from the environment — unlike SK-II’s service. “We felt it was important to include readouts of the environment, because that’s inextricably tied to the skin’s health. For instance, a moisturizer might be very effective in delivering hydration, but if the air is bone-dry and robbing the skin of its water content, what’s the point? WAY would remind you to reapply or use a barrier cream to lock in moisture,” says Moon.

I mean, how well do we really know our skin? We’ve been told our whole lives that we’re either oily, dry, or combination. The truth is, our faces are terrains containing all three types. WAY can read out moisture and oil levels in different areas of the face, finally letting us know not only what our skin type is but where different types exist on our faces. This is key in the realm of anti-aging, since drier areas age faster. For instance, eye cream is an intense anti-aging product, and while I apply it to the areas around my eyes, I also apply it to wrinkle-prone areas. WAY has helped me to discover a weirdly incongruous dry patch on my cheek, and guess what, that’s now getting a dose of eye cream daily.

Do Your Products Work?
This app also means we can finally get real feedback on whether a product is working. As someone who tests hundreds of products, I’ve fallen guilty to assessing them on superficial factors like smell and texture, which, though somewhat important, don’t really answer the question, “Is it working?” Going beyond intuition, this gadget can chart the effectiveness of your skin-care routine and provide data that can guide you regarding whether to keep using a product. This also means cosmetics companies will finally be facing some real accountability on the validity of their products’ claims.

“We want to give everyone a convenient and affordable way to make smarter skin-care decisions,” Moon says. “Since you can’t visit the dermatologist every day, WAY is the next best thing.”

I can see this getting especially interesting in the future, when people of similar skin types can vouch for what products worked for them and bond over what didn’t. I personally am pretty skeptical when someone with a completely different skin type recommends a product to me. Since WAY measures the environment, this can also be true of product recommendations from people in similar environments because no one wants to be battling extreme heat and humidity alone.

The Skin Whisperer

WAY also features a UV detector that can send alerts to your smartphone. Since I’ve flown the nest and don’t have my mom to constantly nag me about applying sunscreen, I’ve become all too lax about sun protection. If I had an alert telling me age-accelerating UV rays are attacking my skin’s elastin and collagen levels and shriveling me to an old, puckered raisin, I would probably be better about this.

The uniquely designed device blends in with your lipstick compacts in size, and the circular doughnut shape allows for you to press the device against your skin like you would a cushion compact. Moon explains that you're supposed to hold it against your face at an angle, the way you would a circular applicator puff.

WAY’s software and hardware engineering teams work under the guidance of Gana Oh, MD, a dermatologist and one of the company’s cofounders. The future value is high for both consumers and cosmetics brands, since the device provides much-needed reinforcement of one’s skin-care routine which can mean saving lots of money in making one’s regimen more efficient and helping us look younger longer. On the flipside, widespread use of it can mean valuable real data that no cosmetics company has ever been able to get its hands on. This equals better products for smarter consumers.


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Photo: Courtesy of WAY.
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