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Pricey, high-tech tools promise innovations in hair and skin care

by Andrea Widener
January 30, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 5


Bad hair brushed away


Credit: L’Oréal
Smooth operator: This smart hairbrush can tell you how to improve your hair.
Silver hairbrush with black bristles
Credit: L’Oréal
Smooth operator: This smart hairbrush can tell you how to improve your hair.

There is a surprising amount of science to a bad hair day. Now, a smart hairbrush hopes to give consumers more insight into their hair care challenges.

The brush, called Hair Coach, includes a package of high-tech sensors that can tell you the health of your hair, explains Guive Balooch, global vice president for L’Oréal’s Research & Innovation Technology Incubator, which developed the device. The brush starts with an acoustic sensor, Balooch says. “While you brush, it can detect the friction and the force on the hair, which can tell you the level of damage the hair has,” he explains. It also detects whether hair needs more conditioning because brushing sounds different when the conditioner polymers no longer coat the hair.

Other sensors include an accelerometer and gyroscope, which can examine brushing patterns, and a conductivity sensor, which can detect whether hair is dry or wet. The brush automatically uploads the data to an app that helps consumers interpret whether they need more conditioner, for example, or if they are brushing too vigorously.

This is just the most recent product from L’Oréal’s research incubator, which works at the intersection of consumer electronics and beauty, says Balooch, a materials scientist by training. Previous projects include an augmented reality app to help with applying makeup and a patch that can measure exposure to ultraviolet light.

Hair Coach, presented at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, was spurred by consumer interest. More than half of beauty-related Google searches seek hair help, Balooch says.

The L’Oréal group spent almost two years working with its partners to identify the right sensors and tested more than 400 samples to make sure the brush worked for all types of hair.

The brush is not for the casual hair care customer, however; it is expected to retail at just under $200.

How does Snow White measure up?


Credit: HiMirror
Are you the fairest? The HiMirror can give you advice on how to improve your skin.
A woman looking into a mirror with a computer embedded in it.
Credit: HiMirror
Are you the fairest? The HiMirror can give you advice on how to improve your skin.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? A smart mirror, also presented at the Consumer Electronics Show, might be able to tell you.

The HiMirror recommends skin care tips based on an analysis of a person’s “wrinkles, fine lines, complexion, dark circles, spots, and pores,” according to the product’s website. It snaps a picture and uploads it to an app that recommends a custom skin care regimen. Similarly to Hair Coach, you’ll need fairly deep pockets for the dermal analysis. The smart mirror costs $189 to $259, depending on the model.

For just $50 more you can add the HiSkin, a device you touch to your face that analyzes properties such as hydration and melanin content, according to a statement from the parent company. The company recommends daily measurements so you can monitor your progress toward perfect skin.

Will it tell you if you’re the fairest in the land? Probably not. But if you share the results on social media, your friends may have an opinion.

Andrea Widener wrote this week’s column. Please send comments and suggestions to



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