Beauty tech at CES 2020 is a luxury for the rich, out of reach for most of us

Smart mirrors that tell you if you're repeating an outfit, inkjet-printed makeup, and lotions personalized by artificial intelligence -- it's all here.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert
5 min read
Opte CES 2020

The Opte smart makeup applicator.

Corinne Reichert/CNET

With more than 4,400 companies exhibiting at CES 2020, the answer to getting noticed isn't always obvious. Sometimes, it's an upgrade you didn't realize was missing from your life. Sometimes, it's an upgrade you definitely don't need -- but want anyway.

Cue the entry of beauty tech. Some ideas have been showcased for years or have finally been transformed into products we can buy. For a hefty price.

Given the high costs, I checked out a variety of beauty-tech products on display at CES 2020 to see if I would ever actually use them. Skincare, makeup and outfit planning are all part of my daily routine, so what can technology really add to them?

Opte: Smart makeup printer

One of the first things I looked at was Opte's makeup technology. It's kind of like a smart concealer, in that it covers up little marks like freckles, sunspots and age spots. But the company is pushing it as a replacement for foundation, pointing out that instead of putting a whole layer of makeup on your face, you could even out your skin tone by choosing which specific parts to conceal.

Opte's mini inkjet printer spits out tiny dots of liquid after scanning your skin with a digital camera. It camouflages marks by tricking your eye and making them look the same tone as the rest of your complexion.

My takeaway is that at $599, plus $100 every time you need a refill -- which they say you'll need every two to three months -- it's a steep ask. I can't see how it's possibly that valuable for my makeup routine, given the foundation I use costs $35 and lasts longer than that. At this point, I want to use it just to see how the fascinating technology works: Opte says 70,000 lines of coding is used in the devices to analyze the size, shape and color of your spots and to direct the 120 thermal inkjet nozzles to print what it calls "optimizing serum" for you.

For me, it would be a whole lot more useful if it could target pimples and dark eye circles, but it can't conceal anything that's either raised on the skin or a larger surface area than a small dot.

Perso: AI-driven, personalized moisturizer

Loreal CES 2020

L'Oréal's personalized skincare product, Perso.

Sarah Mitroff/CNET

With makeup getting smarter, lotion is close behind. L'Oréal is working on a product called Perso, which uses artificial intelligence to create a moisturizer, serum and under-eye cream that's personalized for every customer. And because it uses artificial intelligence, L'Oréal says, it will improve constantly.

Perso creates skincare formulas by taking into account your environment, skin type and personal preferences. It looks at whether you've got dark spots, wrinkles, visible pores, rough skin, pigmentation and dullness. Travel a lot for work? It'll look at your new surroundings using geo-location data. If you happen to be, say, in the desert of Las Vegas for CES, it knows a little more moisturization is required. Perso considers a location's air quality, pollution, pollen, allergens, humidity and temperature.

It then dispenses your personalized lotion in "a perfectly portioned, single dose." It even adjusts the formula for whether it's night or day.

L'Oréal says Perso will also create custom lipstick and foundation formulas. Using color-matching technology, you'll be able to formulate a lipstick on the spot that matches your outfit.

I would without a doubt absolutely use every single function described. A personalized moisturizer with that many variables is enough of a differentiator from lotions on the market now, especially since I travel so much for work. It also feels like something that could be expanded in the future into products I could use for tasks like exfoliating or cleansing.

This is all dependent on price, of course, which we don't yet know. It will likely launch in 2021.

Read more: Best sunscreens for 2020: Neutrogena, EltaMD, Supergoop and more  

Mira: Facial technology

Mira facial CES 2020

La Luer's Mira gives you an entire facial treatment.

Corinne Reichert/CNET

The next beauty routine getting the tech treatment is the facial. La Luer's Mira product is designed to provide you an entire treatment with one small, round tool. They gave me a five-minute facial on one of my hands, using aloe vera gel as the ultrasound lubrication as they showcased its four modes called detox, tone, lift and infuse.

Like other smart facial products on the market, Mira uses blue, red and green LED lights, ultrasound, sonic pulses, radio frequency, electric impulses and ion infusion to stimulate "your skin's natural ability to regenerate," according to La Luer.

Mira facial CES 2020

One of these hands had a facial.

Corinne Reichert/CNET

One of my hands was definitely smoother and almost juicier than the other afterwards, and they also showed me before and after photos of another woman's face -- a Sephora exec, they said -- whose wrinkles noticeably decreased in appearance.

As someone who doesn't spend money on facials, I wouldn't personally use it. But for people who get them regularly, it's surprisingly a lot of bang for buck. It retails at $530, plus $32 for a jar of the aloe vera gel that works as the ultrasound lubrication. An average facial can cost around $80. So if you use Mira once a day, three to five times a week -- as they suggest -- you'd almost make that cost back within the first week. 

Mira is already sold in high-end department stores in the US, London and Paris. It's also exclusively online from Urban Outfitters, and they're looking to get it into Sephora stores nationwide.

Project NeSSA: Smart mirrors to judge your outfit

Less useful for me are the smart mirrors on display at CES 2020. One of them gives horrifyingly detailed descriptions on what you need to do to fix your skin, while another analyzes your outfit and warns you if you've worn it before.

A spokesperson for Shiftall, which makes Project NeSSA, confidently told me that no one wants to repeat outfits: What if you're meeting a friend for dinner three weeks after last seeing them, and you can't remember what you wore? The mirror integrates a calendar and a camera. A light at the top will flash red if you're wearing the same outfit you wore last time you met with that friend. If it flashes green, you're good to go.

NeSSA smart mirror

This smart mirror warns you if you're repeating an outfit.

Corinne Reichert/CNET

It's not dissimilar to Cher's smart closet in Clueless (although it doesn't tell you if something matches), but it's far less charming. Maybe that's because the tech is now in the real world and not a punchline from a '90s cult comedy. Maybe it's not so funny anymore to think of an elite class with so many clothes in their wardrobe that they can wear different combinations every single day. Or maybe I don't like the idea of people who are so self-obsessed that the thought of repeating outfits horrifies them enough to buy a piece of expensive technology that will take up an entire corner of a room.

Would I ever use it? No. I love putting together outfits. But if the day ever comes that I'm concerned someone has seen me wear the same ensemble twice, I can always check back in my camera roll for the photos from that day.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.