Blood Creams & Blackhead Vacuums Are Coming Your Way

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The word "revolutionary" is thrown around quite a bit in the beauty industry, but we can think of no better way to describe the mind-boggling new things that are happening as we write. The future of beauty is right now, and it’s disrupting your life in amazing ways.

The year 2016 gave us a supersonic hairdryer (invented by Brit tech guru Sir James Dyson and his merry band of machine geniuses), as well as in-shower self-tanners and body moisturizers, and a futuristic, Star Wars-esque LED face mask that acts like a light saber on zits. These game-changers improve your beauty routine for sure, but that’s just the beginning. Close your eyes and imagine the craziest, coolest beauty stuff you can think of, and we can bet it’s in the process of becoming a reality — if it isn’t already.

What about skin cream that uses your own blood’s growth factors to anti-age your face? Check. 3-D-printed makeup and hair? Happening. Virtual-reality makeup testing? Download the app. Science, technology, and beauty are a super-powered trifecta that’s moving us into unchartered, exciting territory. Keep scrolling to check out a few of this year’s most groundbreaking advances, as well as the next big things you’ll be using soon, and what it all means for the not-so-far-out future.

K-Beauty Still Rules
People always ask us, “What's the next South Korea?” The answer: South Korea. It’s still the hotbed of revolutionary and sometimes crazy-ass-sounding innovations. “Makeup and skin-care trends that are hot in Korea right now will probably hit the U.S. market in a year or two. I guess that’s how great ideas are born, or borrowed,” says Joyce Kong, Refinery29’s Korean-beauty correspondent. So what are we clamoring for now, and what will be on our radar soon? “Masks are still huge here,” says Kong. “Ones that self-heat or bubble up, super-thin hydrogel masks that basically melt into your skin, and 'splash masks' that look and feel like slimy juice.” Cosmetics, says Kong, is all about convenience. “Makeup-wise, there are sticks for everything, and cushion sticks, too. Face-massaging rollers that look like mini-torture devices are also big — I just saw a girl on the subway using one. In Korea, beauty gadgets and techniques are just as much of an industry as the products themselves.”
A Nobel Prize Winner Found The Fountain Of Youth
“Breakthroughs in the pharmaceutical, scientific, and medical fields quickly transfer over to beauty,” explains cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. Exhibit A: This year’s Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine, Japanese cell biologist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, discovered how cells recycle their content and reuse it for energy — a process called autophagy. Disruptions in that natural process are thought to play a role in diseases like cancer, and in aging. Spoiler alert: Skin care is already on it. “Topical ingredients are being developed that supposedly stimulate the skin’s own autophagy capabilities,” says Wilson. Other important longevity research has focused on telomeres (the caps at the ends of chromosomes that protect cells from deteriorating) and mitochondria, the battery pack of a cell. Dennis Gross, MD's new C+ Collagen line focuses on rebooting cell energy, and the signature ingredient in Dr. Barbara Sturm’s namesake products is the plant ingredient purslane. “It’s a proven antioxidant and a telomerase activator that helps to stop telomeres from shortening,” says Dr. Sturm, a German physician and researcher. Lengthening telomeres, recycling skin cells, and recharging tired mitochondria will be the skin-care buzzwords for 2017.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Customization Goes Next-Level
Trying a foundation on your wrist and walking outside to see if it matches your skin is about as '80s as a landline. Now, a salesperson can touch Estée Lauder’s iMatch Digital Shade Finder tool to your skin. It gauges your color and undertones in any light in order to match you to your best foundation. L’Oréal invented a computerized machine that assesses photos of your face (they’re taken by an in-store technician) and uses an algorithm of around 22,000 color options to dispense an individualized Lancôme foundation.

Your DNA Is The Hottest New Skin-Care Ingredient
Some brands and spas are going as far as taking samples of blood or saliva to test glucose, cholesterol, and other metabolic functions in order to assess your specific dietary, exercise, and skin-care needs. Soon, a spa day could start out like a visit to your primary-care physician. “This concept comes straight from the medical world, where they’re working on personalizing drugs to treat diseases, using your unique genetic information as a guide,” explains dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, director of Marmur Medical in NYC. Taking the blood thing a drop farther, Dr. Sturm is using the same kind of orthopedic therapy developed for arthritis on the skin with her bespoke blood-cream service. “Your blood is drawn into a syringe that has irregularly shaped glass beads, which trigger the blood cells to produce healing factors,” says Dr. Sturm. It’s then spun through a centrifuge into a platelet-rich plasma that’s formulated into a skin-healing cream. “This sounds like the ultimate in organic and sustainable skin care,” says Wilson, “although I’m not sure how that plasma stays stable and effective in a cream.” (Well, it also costs $1,400, so there’s that.)

3-D Print Your Makeup — & Your Hair
Going way beyond bespoke, what about printing your own three-dimensional versions of…anything? Researchers at Northwestern University are working on 3-D-printed synthetic bone tissue, and scientists at Columbia University have developed a food printer. When it comes to beauty, could we soon be saying, “Give me a minute while my extensions print out?” Perhaps, but first things first. Let’s start with nail art (the Inail Printer) and a 3-D lipstick print from Smashbox Cosmetics, which uses a cartridge of Be Legendary Matte formula in a 3-D printer to create a lip print that you apply with a brush. L’Oréal is working on 3-D bio-printed skin and hair that could be used to test the safety of topical products. The mind reels at the possibilities for wound-healing with 3-D skin, and a potential cure for baldness (or at least some eyelash extensions) with bio-printed hair.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Sci-Fi Shopping
It’s no surprise that shopping for beauty products in Korea is like something out of Blade Runner. “You go to a store to buy shampoo, and they get out a device that reads the condition of your scalp and the density of your hair,” says Kong, “and there are tons of apps to download that correspond to the whole in-store tech experience.” We are taking a step in that high-tech direction here with L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius augmented-reality app. It utilizes advanced animation technology that lets you test makeup on your iPhone. “You look into it like a mirror, and then scan any L’Oréal Paris product to see exactly how it will look on your face,” explains Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator. The company just launched a nail-polish version, too. And Smashbox is working on packaging with conductive ink that can link to a video makeup tutorial when you tap it to your cell phone. “We’re coming up with in-store tech devices that go farther than just downloading an app, but I can’t share those yet,” says Jill Tomandl, vice president of development and innovation at Smashbox.

Wearable Beauty Tech
Fitness-tracker bands seem almost quaint compared to all of the new wearable tech hitting the market. There’s La Roche-Posay’s My UV Patch, a stretchy little heart-shaped sticker that accurately monitors your sun exposure. The blue-and-white sticker — which is free to all consumers — changes colors like a mood ring to warn you of potential sun damage. The sensor also collects data, so when you sync it to an app on your phone, it charts your daily UV exposure — just like a Fitbit measures all the steps you’ve taken in a day. “Our team is now working on wearables to gauge things like hydration and microcirculation of the skin, and perhaps they could eventually measure external factors like temperature or pollution,” says Balooch. Korean company WayWearable already makes a palm-sized sensor that measures skin hydration and UV and humidity levels in the air. Researchers at Northwestern have developed a patch that monitors temperature changes on the skin, and changes color with each fluctuation. (Could there be a patch in the future that tells you what kind of moisturizer or sunscreen to use — and nags you to put on more?) “This is all just part of the puzzle. Wearable tech could someday be used as actuators to target things on the skin, maybe working like a light-based therapy patch to treat skin conditions,” Balooch adds.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Pollution Is The New UV
Particulate matter is your new environmental enemy, and you’ll need face (and probably hair) armor to protect you from its free-radical damage. “Face protectants” and anti-pollution products will be as common as sunscreen or primer. They already are in South Korea. “Pollution is a big concern here, as is something called 'yellow dust,' which is why every brand has a dust-protection product. My favorite is TonyMoly Dust and the City Face Locking Cream. It’s a thick gel that you pat on after makeup, sort of like face spackle,” says Kong. Here in the U.S., Ren Flash Defense Anti-Pollution Mist contains biosaccharide gum that creates a natural, non-sticky, invisible protective barrier.

Pore-Vacuuming Is As Cool As It Sounds

Shielding your face is one thing, but getting rid of residual tiny bits of toxic gunk is another, which is where newfangled exfoliators come in. We’re dying to get our hands on Korea’s blackhead-extractor contraption that sucks out dirt and — for lack of a better term — grossness. “There’s an at-home device, but aestheticians all over Seoul do pore-vacuuming for only 10 bucks!” says Kong. Until the magical day face vacuums come stateside, magnets will have to do. Dr. Brandt Magnetight Age-Defier Magnet Mask and Dr. Harold Lancer's Younger Revealing Mask are iron-infused formulas that are removed with an included magnet, which pulls off the mask and the icky particles in your pores.

C’mon, did you ever envision a gunk-sucking facial magnet in your medicine cabinet? Well, it’s here, people, and just wait 'til next year. After all, there are lightbulb moments happening in beauty labs right this very second. Minds will be blown…

You've never seen beauty quite like this before. Check out our Beauty Innovator Awards for the smartest, funkiest, most fresh-to-death products of the year.

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