Ge­netic re­search and AI are now in your drug­store’s skin­care aisle.

ELLE (Canada) - - Beauty -

there is a small, faded blackand-white photo of the late Gra­ham Wulff, in­ven­tor of Oil of Olay, on the wall of Proc­ter & Gam­ble’s Cincin­nati ar­chive room. Likely snapped in the 1950s, it shows the chemist stand­ing in front of a prop plane. He has a re­laxed smile, as if he has just flown home to Dur­ban, South Africa, from a golf re­treat, but he was more likely re­turn­ing from a business trip. “He got his pi­lot’s li­cence so he could fly to Eng­land and dis­trib­ute Oil of Olay to drug­stores,” says Lisa Mul­vany, beauty ar­chiv­ist for Proc­ter & Gam­ble. As guardian of the brand’s his­tory, she scours eBay for early Olay ad­ver­tise­ments and pack­ag­ing, like the orig­i­nal ves­sel for the cream—a brake-fluid bot­tle, cho­sen be­cause it was in­ex­pen­sive and easy to source—which still eludes her. Mul­vany says that at one point, the am­bi­tious Wulff, who was work­ing in the wool-wash­ery business at the time, felt his ca­reer had stalled and asked his wife, Di­nah, what prod­uct he should in­vent. “She said, ‘[Women] need a lo­tion that ab­sorbs quickly and works.’” The pink-hued “beauty fluid” he de­vel­oped had a tex­ture sim­i­lar to a serum, and he came up with “Oil of Olay” by play­ing with the letters of the name of its main in­gre­di­ent: lano­lin, a de­riv­a­tive of wool—a sub­stance with which he was very fa­mil­iar.

More than 60 years later, Olay, now one of the world’s top beauty brands, is at­tempt­ing to trans­form skin­care shelves once again, thanks to its am­bi­tious Multi-Decade & Eth­nic­ity Study (done in part­ner­ship with Har­vard Med­i­cal School and ge­net­ics com­pany 23andMe), which in­cluded tens of thou­sands of eth­ni­cally di­verse women aged 20 to 75. Us­ing the par­tic­i­pants’ self­ies as well as third-party opin­ions about the images, re­searchers iden­ti­fied women who looked up to 10 years younger than their real age, dubbed them “out­liers” and then an­a­lyzed the ac­tiv­ity of their skin genes. They found that 2,000 genes were work­ing harder in the out­liers than they were in the other women. “We all have those genes, but in these women they are more ef­fi­cient due to DNA, the en­vi­ron­ment and choices in skin­care, life­style and habits,” ex­plains Dr. Jay Ties­man, a ge­nomics group leader. “If we un­der­stand how to ac­ti­vate them, we can make ev­ery­one an out­lier.”

So far, that has trans­lated into re­for­mu­lat­ing serums and mois­tur­iz­ers in Olay’s anti-ag­ing Re­gener­ist line with new in­gredi­ents like carob seed—known for pump­ing up col­la­gen growth and as­sist­ing with cell re­newal—and launch­ing two new boost­ers de­signed to am­plify the de­liv­ery of those in­gre­di­ents. In or­der to get these prod­ucts into the right hands, Olay cre­ated its Web-based Skin Ad­vi­sor us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI). The first di­ag­nos­tic beauty tool pow­ered by what is known as a “deep learn­ing” al­go­rithm, it scans a selfie and uses a ques­tion­naire to iden­tify the user’s skin age and po­ten­tial ar­eas for im­prove­ment and then of­fers per­son­al­ized prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tions. The al­go­rithm, ex­plains Dr. Frauke Neuser, prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist for Olay, mim­ics how the hu­man brain works in terms of how it pro­cesses very com­plex in­for­ma­tion. “The more di­verse data points the al­go­rithm pro­cesses, the smarter it gets,” she says, which is why Olay trained it us­ing images of thou­sands of dif­fer­ent women and its ac­cu­racy is sharp­ened with ev­ery new user. The 2.0 ver­sion rolls out this sum­mer with new fea­tures, such as an al­go­rithm that iden­ti­fies poor selfie qual­ity. It can sug­gest that the user re­take the photo af­ter re­mov­ing her glasses or find­ing bet­ter light­ing. It can even de­tect when the user is grin­ning, in­struct­ing her to keep her fa­cial ex­pres­sion neu­tral in­stead. Be­cause smil­ing, as Gra­ham Wulff was that day in front of his plane nearly 70 years ago, won’t yield the most ac­cu­rate re­sults. n

BRIGHT LIGHT In­fused with hy­drat­ing glyc­er­ine and dark-spot-fad­ing niaci­namide, Olay Lu­mi­nous Mir­a­cle Boost Con­cen­trate ($35) preps skin for Olay Lu­mi­nous Tone Per­fect­ing Cream ($35). Olay Re­gener­ist Mir­a­cle Boost Con­cen­trate ($45) fea­tures an anti-ag­ing pep­tide that works in tan­dem with Pal-KTTKS, a pep­tide in Olay Re­gener­ist Micro-Sculpt­ing Cream ($45). For de­tails, see Shop­ping Guide.

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