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Wed, August 28, '2019

The ‘Skintelligent’ Age: 5 DNVBs Adding Brains to Beauty One Category at a Time

How DNVBs are using technology to serve customized products and services in the overcrowded beauty industry, and what established retailers are doing to stay relevant.

5 DNVBs adding brains to beauty

The beauty industry is at an interesting crossroads.

Innovation is ongoing and accelerating - in the form of new products, business models, and customer acquisition channels. The last two years have seen over 100 beauty brands debut in the department, specialty stores or directly to consumers online.

On the other hand, beauty and cosmetics are forecasted to grow (if you can call it that) at 4.3% CAGR (2016-2022), which means this influx of brands will chip away at incumbent brands’ market share without really expanding the category.

In a nutshell: before the market consolidates it will be severely fragmented. An increasingly larger number of highly innovative, customer-centric brands will compete for a largely stagnant market size.

From influencers on Instagram to authentic content on Tik Tok, the customer acquisition channels will be similar. The commerce and digital marketing experiences will be fairly standardized, powered by the likes of Shopify and Adobe.

What, then, will help brands stand out in this massive sea-of-sameness? The use of data and insights to create meaningful value across the customer engagement value chain.

Digital upstarts are elevating the level of customer experience by marrying insights with niche products or services to deliver unique experiences. Large retailers are using new business models such as accelerator programs, funding partnerships, and innovation labs to support new ideas and talent to stay relevant and keep up with digital natives.

Unicorns such as Glossier are at the forefront of brands using technology to build personalized engagement and meaningful connections with shoppers. We analyzed 5 niche DNVBs that provide personalized products and experiences, and are redefining what customers should expect from their favorite beauty brands.


The hair care and color brand uses a mix of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and image recognition to help find the perfect hair color. Their six ‘Color Bar’ locations act as showrooms and service hubs of natural Italian made products. Madison Reed has signed an exclusive partnership with Ulta Beauty and other large salon chains in the U.S.

Function of beauty

The internet’s top-rated hair website that creates shampoo based on your hair type, geography, and smell affinity was founded by a group of MIT engineers and data scientists. Their products are 100% vegan, made in America. The brand uses content to improve brand awareness and provide the latest hair care and styling news on The Trim|by Function of Beauty.


Proven provides personalized skincare using artificial intelligence (AI) that aggregates data from 8 million consumer reviews, 10,000 skincare products, 20,000 ingredients, and 4,000 academic journals. Custom products delivered each month are made by Stanford scientists.


Matchco, recently acquired by beauty technology company, Shiseido Americas, utilizes technology and digital tools to provide a customized foundation at scale. The brand’s iPhone app scans your skin to help them create a personalized foundation under $49.


Curology makes acne care convenient and effective by using human expertise and technology. Dermatologists assist you to design skincare products aligned with your needs. Products are delivered on a monthly basis and personal chat is available on the go.


As beauty DNVBs build a loyal customer base, established retailers and brands will have to leverage their strengths to survive in a fragmented market space. Collaborations such as the one between Madison Reed and Ulta Beauty, and Sephora’s incubation of digital-first brands is just the beginning of the “Skintelligent Age of Beauty”.