It’s no secret that 2020 was a challenging year for many people and industries, but for some it was also the perfect opportunity to tackle new endeavours and branch out in ways they could never have previously imagined.
Joanna O'Connor, for instance, is one person who used lockdown to her advanatge – with the launch of an exciting science-backed and dermatologically researched new skincare site. Skin Lab is a website that uses an algorithm to group common skin concerns into 16 different skin types, in turn suggesting which ingredients that person should use and avoid – among other innovative things.
Below, BD chats with Skin Lab founder, Joanna O'Connor, to find out more about the website, how it works, what we can expect and what we can look forward to in the future.
Can you please tell us a bit more about Skin Lab and how you came up with the idea?
Skin Lab is an online source for independent personalised science-led skincare advice. There are no products, no brands and no advertising on the site. Skin Lab’s regime builder is an innovative tool for most women and men to understand what their skin really needs, independently and without bias or agenda.
Board-certified dermatologists have recognised that there are 16 'normal' skin types. Our software uses the common questions a dermatologist would ask you on your first visit to identify what your skin type is, and then provides you with a personalised regime of essential and recommended ingredients that are most likely to help with your concerns.
I often to say to my friends who asked me why I built Skin Lab for other people. You can go to a nutritionist and find out what foods hold the right nutritional content for you to achieve your goals or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Or you can go to a Michelin star chef who is going to give you a meal that will taste incredible, it’ll blow your mind, but it probably isn’t balanced with the nutrients your body needs, and you can’t live off it.
The expensive, wonderfully packaged, great smelling, social influencer endorsed products we’re getting are our Michelin star meal. During Melbourne lockdown, I purchased a $400+ moisturiser that was celebrity endorsed and contained things like plant stem cell technology and packed and wrapped like a new iPhone. And I was excited. I had nowhere to go, and nothing else to do. I kept a skin diary, and I had zero results.
I kind of had a meltdown. I wanted results! I had paid for results. So… I turned to the nutritionists of skincare. I started reading what the dermatologists were saying. I respected their 10 years of study into skin. I respected that they referenced unbiased scientific evidence.
I noticed patterns. I started a scrap book. I joined the dots between common skin ailments, what the research and medical professionals were recommending, and then the products that some types of skin should stay away from.
Skin Lab ultimately is a shrine to dermatologists, chemist and cosmetic doctors. The recommendations are a connection of the science, and algorithm behind the profession. It doesn’t replace going and having a one on one consultation with a professional that will analyse your skin. But, Skin Lab will help you step away from the brand hype and drama of social media, be able to read an ingredients label and look to find products that have actual ingredients that will work for you.
Is Skin Lab backed up by science?
Absolutely. The purpose of Skin Lab is to cut through the marketing, the brand hype and the social media trends, and use the science and medical industry’s research and publicly available information. This information is out there, but brands skew it, social media debates it and the marketing is more shiny.
Skin Lab doesn’t recommend a particular brand or product range. It recommends ingredients that the dermatologists are recommending. Like Dr Davin Lim, a dermatologist from Brisbane, advocating on his YouTube channel that a moisturiser shouldn’t cost you more then $40. Because the products that contain all the ingredients you need, are easily and cheaply available. They just aren’t packaged like an iPhone.
Do you have any experience in the skincare or science industries?
I’m not a medical professional or a chemist. Skin Lab uses the recommendations of independent doctors with decades of study and clinical experience and research that takes the skill and understanding from the most respected and referenced researchers in the scientific community.
I have however, over a decade of experience in spending all my discretionary income on skincare. Beauty therapy treatments. Fade potions and lotions. Natural ideologies. Powders and their promises. And my skin wasn’t bad, but I was seeing beauty therapists who were selling me laser treatments at $500+ a pop to deal with my melasma (pigmentation) and I felt it wasn’t worth it.
What can we expect to find on the Skin Lab website?
Here’s what you won’t find: products, advertising or hype.
We have three key areas of the site. The first is a glossary, so skincare enthusiasts can start understanding their alpha-hydroxy-acids from their antioxidants.
The second is the Skin Wiki, where every article provides a link to the research, the doctors or chemists that provide the backing behind the recommendation.
Then head to Build Your Regime, wait some precious seconds of anticipation for it to load, and straight up you’ll pay $10 and then start the journey to identify your skin type.
How does one go about building their skincare regime on site?
The Regime Builder will ask a series of questions on your skin concerns and experiences, much like a dermatologist would on your first consultation.
Based on the answers, your skin type is identified and with that you’ll be presented with a downloadable paper on what your skin needs, and what it doesn’t as well as two levels of regime, beginner and advanced. Advanced being for once your skin is tolerant to the actives you’ve introduced at the beginner stage.
To use the Regime Builder and identify your skin type and get a personalised downloadable/printable regime it’s $10 – think of it as your first consult with a dermatologist, in fact we recommend taking yours to your dermatologist and cutting straight to your second visit having introduced the fundamentals to your regime already.
Once someone knows the ingredient and concentration they need (e.g. 5% benzol peroxide), all they need to do is a google search of the ingredient and they can buy the product or the brand they prefer.
How did you come up with the on site algorithm?
I found a pattern in what medically qualified skincare professionals were advocating and discussing. I started with an enthusiasm to understand it for myself, then for my friends, and then to make this advice more accessible to others.
To do that, I identified that there are 16 different ‘normal’ skin types that each have ingredients that will work, and that should be avoided. With a bunch of mind maps and informational flow charts – I started building the algorithm behind the Skin Lab Regime Builder.
Do you have any plans on expanding any of these features?
I do, but the key thing is that I get feedback from Skin Lab users. For now, I’ve had some great feedback from users about how it’s helped them and that’s a great starting place.