Tailor-made beauty is one smartphone pic away
Lili Barbery-Coulon

PARIS – Will the young women of 2033 laugh when they learn that their mothers chose their foundation and makeup by themselves? Without a microscope or a telephone?

This is what Givenchy is betting on. The French luxury cosmetics company just launched its first Spectrocolorimeter in three of its Paris stores. Developed by X-Rite, the device is a sort of smartphone-like scanner that analyzes skin tone to assign the ideal pigment for each person’s skin.

Givenchy is not the first company to try the X-Rite Spectrocolorimeter, French cosmetics giant Sephora installed them in some of their U.S. stores in July 2012, and the French stores will follow suit this June. Called Color IQ in the U.S. and Color Profile in France, it matches skin tones to an official Pantone number, which can then assign specific foundations, brands and formulas.

Source: BeFlossy

In June, Dior, which like Sephora and Givenchy is owned by the LVMH group, will also install their own device in department stores. A sort of “skin tone iPhone” that measures precisely the different degrees of face pigmentation. The idea is to be able to assign a foundation that will become one with the skin.

“The evolution of all things digital, the fact that people are always on the go, always needing advice, all the time and everywhere, on smartphones and tablets, has incited brands to offer new propositions,” says Marie Gulin, international director of communications and digital at L’Oréal Paris.

“This is why we created free apps like the Hair Color Genius, for home hair coloring, which assigns a color after you take a photo of your hair. There is also Color Genius, which recommends makeup after you take a photo of your outfit,” says Gulin.

Source: L'Oréal Color Genius

In June, the brand will launch Skin Genius in China, an application that goes even further. The new concept: taking into account the weather forecast (UV radiation, humidity, temperature), personal details (mood, number of cigarettes smoked, hours spent in front of the computer or in public transportation), and a photograph of the skin in order to assign the ideal beauty ritual. A “pocket dermatologist,” who can even – if the user agrees – connect to Chinese microblogging site Weibo to analyze the user’s profile.

Skin temperature

“Asians, especially the Japanese, love these gadgets,” says Florence Bernardin, creator of Information & Inspiration, a company that lists beauty innovations in Asia. “Today, many of them use the Beauty Cam app, which takes photos of their skin, blows it up 30x and then puts it online on a social network so users can compare their skin with other users,” says Bernardin.

Obsessed with skin temperature, something that they believe is crucial to help them anticipate any inflammation of the skin, they also use many apps that suggest the right combination of skin care depending on the weather and their menstrual cycle.

“We are thinking about new ways to map the genetic characteristics of skin types,” says Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis, director of scientific communication at Dior. “Today, a chip that analyzes a genome costs $1000 dollars, but prices will eventually fall. Nevertheless, an ultra sharp diagnostic is only useful if you can get tailored advice.”

Nothing stops connectivity in Japan. “There is a weighing scale that, in addition to measuring body fat, also calculates the type and amount of exercise and diet needed to eliminate weight gain – all of which is connected to the phone or computer. This scale, developed by Tanita, is so successful that the company has opened health-food stores,” says Bernardin.

Amusing or disturbing, tailor-made beauty and wellbeing is still in the stages of infancy. In 2010, Sephora, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary, presented its futuristic concept store, directly inspired by the movie Minority Report. “Today, with a loyalty card and the MySephora app, customers can access a list of products that are targeted according to past purchases,” says Elizabeth Anglès d’Auriac, Sephora’s director of European marketing.

“In the future, if the customer agrees, they will only need to walk past a store with a card in their pocket for a hologram projection of new products to display on the storefront,” says Gulin. There is of course a personal data storage and usage issue. “We are closely monitoring privacy rights issues,” assures Gulin.

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Merkel's Legacy: The Rise And Stall Of The German Economy

How have 16 years of Chancellor Angela Merkel changed Germany? The Chancellor accompanied the country's rise to near economic superpower status — and then progress stalled. On technology and beyond, Germany needs real reforms under Merkel's successor.

Chancellor Angela Merkel looks at the presentation of the current 2 Euro commemorative coin ''Brandenburg''

Daniel Eckert

BERLIN — Germans are doing better than ever. By many standards, the economy broke records during the reign of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel: private households' financial assets have climbed to a peak; the number of jobs recorded a historic high before the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020; the GDP — the sum of all goods and services produced in a period — also reached an all-time high.

And still, while the economic balance sheet of Merkel's 16 years is outstanding if taken at face value, on closer inspection one thing catches the eye: against the backdrop of globalization, Europe's largest economy no longer has the clout it had at the beginning of the century. Germany has fallen behind in key sectors that will shape the future of the world, and even the competitiveness of its manufacturing industries shows unmistakable signs of fatigue.

In 2004, a year before Merkel was first elected Chancellor, the British magazine The Economist branded Germany the "sick man of Europe." Ironically, the previous government, a coalition of center-left and green parties, had already laid the foundations for recovery with some reforms. Facing the threat of high unemployment, unions had held back on wage demands.

"Up until the Covid-19 crisis, Germany had achieved strong economic growth with both high and low unemployment," says Michael Holstein, chief economist at DZ Bank. However, it never made important decisions for its future.

Another economist, Jens Südekum of Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, offers a different perspective: "Angela Merkel profited greatly from the preparatory work of her predecessor. This is particularly true regarding the extreme wage restraint practiced in Germany in the early 2000s."

Above all, Germany was helped in the first half of the Merkel era by global economic upheaval. Between the turn of the millennium and the 2011-2012 debt crisis, emerging countries, led by China, experienced unprecedented growth. With many German companies specializing in manufacturing industrial machines and systems, the rise of rapidly industrializing countries was a boon for the country's economy.

Germany dismissed Google as an over-hyped tech company.

Digital competitiveness, on the other hand, was not a big problem in 2005 when Merkel became chancellor. Google went public the year before, but was dismissed as an over-hyped tech company in Germany. Apple's iPhone was not due to hit the market until 2007, then quickly achieved cult status and ushered in a new phase of the global economy.

Germany struggled with the digital economy, partly because of the slow expansion of internet infrastructure in the country. Regulation, lengthy start-up processes and in some cases high taxation contributed to how the former economic wonderland became marginalized in some of the most innovative sectors of the 21st century.

Volkswagen's press plant in Zwickau, Germany — Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa/ZUMA

"When it comes to digitization today, Germany has a lot of catching up to do with the relevant infrastructure, such as the expansion of fiber optics, but also with digital administration," says Stefan Kooths, Director of the Economic and Growth Research Center at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel).

For a long time now, the country has made no adjustments to its pension system to ward off the imminent demographic problems caused by an increasingly aging population. "The social security system is not future-proof," says Kooths. The most recent changes have come at the expense of future generations and taxpayers, the economist says.

Low euro exchange rates favored German exports

Nevertheless, things seemed to go well for the German economy at the start of the Merkel era. In part, this can be explained by the economic downturn caused by the euro debt crisis of 2011-2012. Unlike in the previous decade, the low euro exchange rate favored German exports and made money flow into German coffers. And since then-European Central Bank president Mario Draghi's decision to save the euro "whatever it takes" in 2012, this money has become cheaper and cheaper.

In the long run, these factors inflated the prices of real estate and other sectors but failed to contribute to the future viability of the country. "With the financial crisis and the national debt crisis that followed, economic policy got into crisis mode, and it never emerged from it again," says DZ chief economist Holstein. Policy, he explains, was geared towards countering crises and maintaining the status quo. "The goal of remaining competitive fell to the background, as did issues concerning the future."

In the traditional field of manufacturing, the situation deteriorated significantly. The Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft (IW), which regularly measures and compares the competitiveness of industries in different countries, recently concluded that German companies have lost many of the advantages they had gained. The high level of productivity, which used to be one of the country's strengths, faltered in the years before the pandemic.

Kooths, of IfW Kiel, points out that private investment in the German economy has declined in recent years, while the "government quota" in the economy, which describes the amount of government expenditure against the GDP, grew significantly during Merkel's tenure, from 43.5% in 2005 to 46.5% in 2019. Kooths concludes that: "Overall, the state's influence on economic activity has increased significantly."

Another very crucial aspect of competitiveness, at least from the point of view of skilled workers and companies, has been neglected by German politics for years: taxes and social contributions. The country has among the highest taxes on income in Europe, and corporate taxes are also hardly as high as in Germany anywhere in the industrialized world. "In the long run, high tax rates always come at the expense of economic dynamism and can even prevent new companies from being set up," warns Kooths.

Startups can renew an economy and lay the foundation for future prosperity. Between the year 2000 and the Covid-19 crisis, fewer and fewer new companies were created every year. Economists from left to right are unanimous: Angela Merkel is leaving behind a country with considerable need for reform.

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