Personalized skin cream from a beauty mini factory

Young handsome caucasian man applying cream routine in the bathroom. Indoors, copy space.
Young handsome caucasian man applying cream routine in the bathroom. Indoors, copy space.

Source: Elena_AdobeStock

Human skin is exposed to numerous influences: Car exhaust fumes, heating air and sunlight affect the skin every day. It is therefore important to clean and care accordingly. A cream is effective if it meets the requirements of the respective skin type. Fraunhofer researchers have developed a system that makes it possible to produce such a personalized face cream economically. It is free of superfluous ingredients and adapted to the current skin condition.

The selection of face creams is huge. But which skin care product is right for your skin? Finding the right cream for your individual skin type is not that easy. Numerous factors such as season, stress, hormonal balance and age additionally influence the condition of the skin and make the decision even more difficult. Many women want a face cream that is tailored to their personal needs. Viktor Balzer and his colleague Dr. Lars Rüther, molecular biologist at Dermatest GmbH, have launched such a personalised day care product with their company Skinmade, a spin-off of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Automation IPA. Customers can already buy the skin cream at three Douglas stores in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Sindelfingen, Germany.

Batch sizes 1 production without high unit costs

The product, which complies with all regulations of the EU Cosmetics Regulation and has been dermatologically tested, contains five years of research, numerous tests with test persons as well as the know-how of a multidisciplinary team of IT specialists, engineers, mechanical engineers, dermatologists, pharmacists and biologists. The result is a novel cyberphysical production system that makes it possible to mass-produce the personalized skin cream in an economical way. The price for Skin made Personal Skincare (30 ml) is 40 Euro. The beauty mini factory, the size of a wardrobe, includes a complete production line, machine control, raw materials, crucibles and lids as well as measuring equipment to analyse the moisture and fat content of the skin. The machine is operated via a touch display and at the end of production the finished product ends up in an output tray. “From a technical production point of view, it is basically a matter of mass production in batch size 1, i.e. the profitable manufacture of individual products,” says Balzer, a scientist at the Fraunhofer IPA. The research team around the industrial engineer has developed a patent that enables batch size 1 production with simultaneously positive economies of scale and economies of scale, i.e. lower unit costs. “We eliminate the actual contradiction between tailor-made products and high unit costs. In this way, a relatively low-end consumer price can be achieved. Of course, we do not reveal how our patent works. Just this much can be said: The necessary processes of dosing, homogenizing and cleaning are integrated in one process step. That’s why we can produce very quickly,” explains Balzer. The companies can dose even the smallest concentrations with precision – up to 3 microliters. Another building block of the success is the special know-how in dermo pharmacy, i.e. the effect of ingredients on important biomarkers.

Produce personalised cream in seven minutes

Before production can start, the moisture and fat content of the skin is determined on the forehead, cheek and below the corner of the mouth. This skin analysis measures biomarkers that indicate the current skin condition. The researchers use corneometry to determine the skin’s moisture content. The method is based on the measurement of the dielectric constant of water in the uppermost skin layer, the stratum corneum. This skin layer reaches about 20 micrometers deep. The content of surface lipids in the skin can be quantified using sebumetry. The measuring method is based on the so-called fat spot photometry. A matted band is held on the skin for a standardized measuring period of 30 seconds. After contact with the sebum, the band becomes translucent and provides information about the fat content of the skin via the degree of transparency of the band. Another measurement determines the elasticity of the skin. Self-learning algorithms and specially programmed neural networks evaluate the measurement result and calculate which ingredients the personalised cream should contain and in what concentration. Balzer and his colleagues have also prepared the AI training data required for this. A cloud solution controls the entire cyberphysical production system. Once the evaluation and analysis have been completed, the measurement results are transferred to the machine control system. At the end of the complete production process, which takes only seven minutes, the customer receives a completely filled crucible with 30 milliliters. She can even choose the scent and texture of the face cream. After six weeks a new measurement is recommended. This is the only way to find out whether the skin has changed and whether a different mixture of ingredients makes sense. The buyer therefore always receives a product adapted to the current skin condition. “An off-the-shelf product can never work as well as a personalized one. It is possible that the standard care product contains ingredients in a concentration that you don’t even need. This can result in over- or undernourishment,” says Dr. Lars Rüther.

Mini skin measuring device for at home in the planning stage

Anyone who wants to can be measured at home in the future: Upon booking request, consultants come to the customer with a mobile measuring station. After the measurement, the data is evaluated in the cloud and the finished skin cream is sent by post. For added convenience, a mini skin measuring device and app can be ordered online. The customer is then able to carry out the skin measurement independently at home and transmit the data to Skinmade via app. This variant should be available by 2020. But the Skinmade team still has a lot of plans – further personalised products are planned: a range of cleansers, tonic and serum are to complete the portfolio. The aim is a tailor-made system care whose products are optimally matched to each other.

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