As a beauty editor with problem skin which consists of bouts of hormonal acne and the odd eczema flare-up, I sometimes find it difficult to hone my skincare routine. From vitamin C serums and luxe facial oils to new ingredients like polyglutamic acid and vitamin K, it's my job to try everything. But I know exactly which formulas will break me out and give me flaky eyelids, and which components (usually acids and retinoids) my skin responds well to.
While my skin is in a good place at the moment, it could be better. I've had help from a dermatologist before, but booking and waiting for an appointment, let alone dropping up to £250 on a consultation, puts me off follow-ups. So when introduced to the HiMirror Mini Premium, a device which assesses your skin at home and inspects your skincare products to see whether they are actually making a difference, I was intrigued.
According to the website, the HiMirror scans your skin's condition in a single photo. It allows you to track your complexion's progress over time and helps you tailor your skincare routine depending on the outcome. Pores, roughness, dark spots, red spots, fine lines and wrinkles are skin 'concerns' the mirror pinpoints when it snaps your picture, which it assesses in percentages. The higher the number, the 'better' the condition of your skin, with scores ranging from 'poor' to 'excellent'.
As I unbox the mirror (a little heavy, even for the 'mini' version) I realise it needs to be plugged into a power source to work, but the stand allows me to prop it up on my desk at work and dressing table at home. I have absolutely no clue about technology but it doesn't take me long to set up an account. My first port of call is the Skin Analyser section. Once I click open the webcam, it immediately snaps a picture of my face and gets scanning. I like that there's a shutter button so I don't have to do the really paranoid (but totally legit) thing of covering up the cam with Blu Tack out of fear I'm being spied on... I click on each 'concern' one by one and I'm awarded a score in the 90s for roughness (which equates to 'good') but a shocking 20.2% for pores, which gives me a 'poor' result. I gasp. Even though I have quite oily, acne-prone skin, I've never been bothered by my pores and they don't look overly large to me. Admittedly, this gives me a complex and I spend the next half hour peering into the mirror, obsessively counting each one and bulk buying salicylic acid.
I realise that this isn't healthy behaviour and check in with consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, who reassures me. "Pore size is genetically determined and changes with age. People with acne-prone skin tend to have more prominent pore size, but none of us have flawless, poreless skin like Instagram filters create. There's nothing wrong with your pores!" Phew.
I then click on the Beauty Box tab, which allows you to determine the 'effectiveness' of your skincare products. As I go to scan them, I realise that virtually none has a barcode on the back (annoying) and I got rid of their boxes long ago. I manage to hunt down some unopened products, having stockpiled Heliocare Gel Oil-Free SPF 50, Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster With Pure Vitamin C 10%, and Medik8 Pore Cleanse Gel Intense, but the mirror fails to recognise them and encourages me to register them all manually. I start with good intentions but I'm deterred by having to enter every single ingredient on the label. I'm sorry to say that I give up after a while.
On the flipside, rather cleverly, the mirror analyses your skin each time you log on and can detect tiny skin changes. I'm currently using prescription-strength tretinoin for acne (0.025% to be exact) and hope it's ironing away my fine lines as well as unclogging my pores. Instead of asking my friends if they notice a difference in my skin, I consult the mirror. Lo and behold, my score for fine lines and wrinkles increases after a week or so, albeit minutely. I also like how the mirror serves up important skincare tips, such as: "Antioxidant ingredients can delay skin ageing. Some vitamins (C&E) and antioxidants help to decrease free radical formation." It reminds me to ditch my usual primer for something antioxidant-rich like Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Face Primer, £28, as I've been extra cautious about "pollution pimples" since hearing an expert mention that they're a thing. The warm and cool light features also means it's a brilliant makeup mirror.
There is a Health & Fitness tab, too, but I'm worried that by clicking on this, I'll be made to feel guilty about paying for a gym membership I don't use, or how I often eat crisps for breakfast, so I stick to skin. After talking to a skin expert friend of mine, she mentions that similar apps and devices sell the idea that you can track your health by your skin, and now I know that face mapping is nonsense, I'm glad I avoid.
At £239, the mirror is just £11 shy of a face-to-face dermatologist appointment (based on London prices). Although it was developed with top dermatologists, in my honest opinion there is nothing better than talking through your skin concerns with a qualified expert in person. I've visited a few derms and none of them has referred to my skin as 'poor' or 'fair'. They know that a lot of clients come to them with very low self-esteem and that this language can be problematic.
I pack the mirror away, yet still I find myself wishing that the Beauty Box section managed to scan my products properly, hoping the mirror would be effective in analysing my routine, as I'm always up for giving new products and ingredients a go. As well as this, the one-off payment is very tempting if you take into consideration the cost of follow-up appointments in real life. But unlike makeup or hair, I decide I'm not willing to take any risks with my skin. So from now on, I'll be swapping the virtual advice for the real deal. Once I've cancelled my spendy gym membership...