We've all been there. Walk into a CVS and you’ll find over 200 different face products with terms like ‘acne’, ‘blackhead fighting’ or ‘pore cleansing’ on them. Furthermore, many also claim to have various other effects like “anti-aging”, “smoothing”, “whitening”. Does it ever make you wonder whether it actually does what it claims to do when you see so many “magical” promises lined up together?
The $4.9 Billion acne treating market is built on a flimsy understanding of acne cosmetica (simply, acne caused by cosmetics). More often than not, the individual consumer must treat themself as a subject in their own science experiement or rely on the wisdom of Reddit or worse, the internet at large.
“Cosmetics are innocent until proven guilty. Their ingredients don’t have to be proven safe, or effective. Even if a particular ingredient has some evidence behind it, cosmetic manufacturers aren’t required to prove that the ingredient works in that product’s specific formulation, or at that particular concentration. Often, the only way to figure out if something works is to try it...(1)”
The line between a cosmetic and a drug is razor thin. The FDA defines
Cosmetics: "Articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body ... for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance."
Drugs: "Articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. ... [And] articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals."
This ill defined boundary makes any reasonable amount of science almost impossible. Companies can label their product as a cosmetic, even though it's actually treating a 'disease'. Furthermore, because cosmetics are labeled as such, getting grants for research is even harder and more expensive.
“My background is in medicinal chemistry, so I’m used to saying if [a study] is under 100 subjects, then it’s not worth looking at,” Wong says. “But in skin care, if it has more than 10 subjects, it’s amazing, because there’s just not funding. Because it’s not regulated as drugs.(1)”
Further complicating all of this: acne is a really hard problem to solve. Your genes, your age, your habits, your diet and skin care routine all play a huge part of the process. Isolating even one facet of the equation can be incredibly difficult.
Consumers need a way to reliably get information on their cosmetics and make the most of the science experiment they are running on themselves. If you think about every single person using a skin care product as a small experiment, imagine the power and knowledge one could get if we aggregated and analyzed that data. This is the core idea behind Skin.Ai: provide a platform for people to log their 'experiments' with skin care and give them in return, the best knowledge available on whether that product will work.(1) The Atlantic Monthly; (2) OhSimply.com