Beauty & the Geek: How Digital Technology Impacts the Cosmetics Industry

Technology and the beauty industry are not strangers by any means. And with the advent of digital technologies that enable consumers to try on makeup virtually or customize products for their specific skincare needs, it’s evident that tech’s impact on the cosmetic industry is ever-present. From AR social media filters that fuel selfie culture to artificial intelligence (AI) software that empowers brands to understand their users better, examples can be found in every corner of the beauty industry. 

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A Designer’s Role in Cosmetics

woman holding skincare product

Every possible design professional can be found in the beauty sector – from graphic designers who help beauty companies establish their brands and packaging designers who create containers for beauty products to web and UI/UX designers who create the beauty apps that we’ve come to know and love. A designer’s role in today’s beauty culture is multifaceted, to say the least. 

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, designers have always had a hand in creating the world around us – so, this highly competitive market certainly wouldn’t exist without them.

“Design is not a single object or dimension. Design is messy and complex.” 

– Natasha Jen, Design Profesional & Partner at Pentagram 

The Impact of Digital Technology on the Beauty Industry

The impact and influence of digital technology can be seen throughout the beauty industry. For instance, the use of augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise, helping brand owners to reach customers in new ways and facilitate consumer intimacy with younger generations. But AI isn’t all the personal care industry is up to! There are other growing trends that rely on tech to take beauty to new heights. 

Smart Devices

It should come as no surprise that smart devices have impacted the way women and other genders experience the beauty industry. Consumers now have access to supplemental smart devices to exfoliate the skin in conjunction with their favorite cleansers, as well as digital tools to measure their facial features in great detail. And it’s only 2022! At this rate, there’s no telling what the future holds. 

Out of the loop of what beauty brands have to offer in the way of smart tech? Some of the most popular smart devices on the beauty market at the moment include:

Smart Mirrors

Want an Alexa-enabled mirror that has lights around it at just the right luminosity? These days, you can buy that! And that’s not the only type of mirror you’ll see tech infused with. There are fitness mirrors to help you look your best and others that include Bluetooth technology to enable music or podcasts to be played. 

Facial Devices

Courtesy of BrandZiiP Beauty

If you want to tone, exfoliate, or buff any part of your face; you’ll likely be able to find a device to help with it. For instance, the use of app-powered nano current devices, like ZiiP’s Electrical Facial Device, is gaining popularity among beauty enthusiasts. 

Virtual Makeovers

Gone are the days that you have to visit department stores to try a new shade of red lipstick or pick up a face moisturizer. And while those days were dwindling with the invention of e-commerce stores, virtual try-on is taking this market in a new direction. 

“At first glance, virtual try-ons seem technologically similar to beauty filters, as they both virtually overlay makeup on your face. The key difference is the actual design of makeup placed on each face and the nuances of color.”

– Jennimai Nguyen, Virtual Try-On is Revolutionizing Metaverse Makeup, Mashable

Virtual try-on services for makeup and hair color products go beyond the filters one can find in social media apps like TikTok and Instagram. Although one could argue both experiences have an impact on how users are introduced to products and how they establish brand loyalty with a company. The key difference is that, unlike with a beauty filter, the makeup the user experiences in a virtual try-on has to be the right shade. And while key factors will always create discrepancies between the consumers’ expectations and the actual product, companies are investing a lot of money in the technology that fuels these sorts of retail experiences. 

Examples of virtual makeover services can be seen from prominent beauty brands such as Mac Cosmetics and Maybelline who launched virtual makeovers and online makeup application tools on their sites in recent years. 

Personalized Marketing & Customized Skin-Care Brands

These days, algorithms help companies target consumers on a personal level. So, it’s safe to say, the implementation of personalized marketing and the offering of custom skincare products is on a rapid rise. 

“Methods for fine-tuning formulas range from intuitive mobile apps, fun online quizzes, and one-on-on IRL consultations, but the writing’s on the wall: Personalized skin care is just getting started.”

-Karina Hoshikawa, 12 Bespoke Beauty Brands Bringing Skin Care to the MassesAllure Magazine

This innovation can be seen in action, the world over. Just look at all the beauty brands initiating trends on social media with their offerings of custom skin products. 

A few examples include:


A skincare company, founded by dermatologist David Lortscher, offers custom treatments for a monthly subscription fee. 

Neutrogena Mask ID

maskID app
Courtesy of BrandNeutrogena

Prominent skincare brand Neutrogena takes it a step further by fusing product customization with advancing technologies to offer its new MaskiD, a 3D printed face mask that is infused with a user’s chosen ingredients and aligns to the unique face shape of the user as well. And the best part? To kickstart this process all you need to do is download the MaskiD app and take a selfie. 

“Using micro 3D printing, we can actually get your exact eye alignment, your nose, your mouth, [etc]…The key with 3D printing is [that] we can put the active [ingredient] you want just where you need it, anywhere on the mask, as opposed to one product that you’re trying to use all over the face.”

– Michael Southall, Research Director and Global Lead of Beauty Tech at Neutogena, published in Allure Magazine

Working in Beauty: 3 Resources to Sharpen Your Skills While on the Design Job Hunt

Want to work in the beauty industry as a designer or developer? Invest in your skills! Below are a few resources to get you started!

Augmented Reality in Depth 101 – Udemy

If you want to design for the future of the cosmetics and skincare industry, you’ll need to be armed with AR skills. So, get started with courses like this one offered on Udemy. 

Professional Certificate in AR/VR Development and 3D Graphics – NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Want to dive deep into AR and VR? Those technologies are making waves across many industries, including makeup, so if you’re serious, check out this certificate course offered by New York University. 

Online Packaging Design Courses – Domestika

Do you desire to hone your packaging design skills? Domestika offers a variety of courses in brand design, creating ecological packaging, and more – all of which could be applied to a career in the beauty industry.