When you put your moisturiser on in the morning, how long does it take you? I’d reckon, no more than 30 seconds, from opening the door of the bathroom cabinet to smoothing it on your face.
But how many of us would be prepared to wait one minute and 20 seconds while a bespoke combination of ingredients, formulated to address your skin’s needs that day, was whisked up for you?
And, crucially, would any of us be prepared to pay £2.22 every morning and evening for a single dollop of this special face cream — plus £350 for the machine that whizzes it up?
One French company is banking on the fact that we will. The new Romy HyLab Personal Skincare Lab is a sort of space-age Nespresso machine for moisturiser.
The new device will see customers be able to store their cream in a Nespresso-style machine. (File photo)
It will mix a personalised face cream using up to three of 15 different ‘flavours’. These are active ingredients, mostly plant extracts. Each ‘flavour’ comes in foil-backed capsules no bigger than a thumbnail.
According to the French experts, these capsules preserve all the potency of the active ingredients, meaning you get a face cream that’s the equivalent of freshly squeezed orange juice, rather than the long-life stuff.
‘Conventional cosmetics may be manufactured 12 to 18 months before use,’ explains biochemist Dr Alexia Garrigues Mazert, who worked with the founders. ‘They require preservatives to withstand storage, transport and shelf exposure for months or even years.’
Customers can buy these capsules in packs of ten (£8.90) and even track stock levels on an app.
In fact, you can’t do anything unless you do it via the app, as the HyLab has a phone app which it connects to via Bluetooth. It keeps track of what capsules you have and uses this information to create your daily dose.
The new Romy HyLab Personal Skincare Lab is a sort of space-age Nespresso machine that will mix a personalised face cream using up to three of 15 different ‘flavours’
Claire Coleman (pictured) decided to test out the new device which has a drawer for the cream, as well as a cleaning solution
The idea is that each dollop of cream uses one to three capsules. If you have favourites, you can choose your own, or you can rely on the My Coach section of the app, where you enter information about what you think your skin needs that day, such as radiance, anti-wrinkle or firmness.
You can also add details about your environment and lifestyle.
But, to get to this stage, you first have to set up the cylindrical device itself via the app, which is as exasperating a process as setting up any home tech device.
The machine has a drawer for the cream, as well as the cleaning solution (for the gadget, not your face), and a reservoir for water. There’s also a pull-out tray for the capsules and a hole where a spatula sits for your bespoke moisturiser to plop onto.
At first, the app just keeps telling me the water reservoir is not in the right place. Like a malfunctioning printer, I have to open and close the drawer a few times until the app agrees everything is where it needs to be.
Then, I tap in that my skin needs moisturisation and radiance, and that I am going to be in a polluted environment.
It recommends I use a capsule of Mexican aloe vera (for hydration and anti-redness), one of yuzu (for radiance and firmness) and one of bacteria extracted from Antarctic ice, which is supposed to protect skin.
And, after almost a minute and a half, my bespoke cream appears on the spatula. The basic cream, which is a standard moisturiser formulation of plant oils, smells faintly of the lavender it contains, and feels a little tacky on my skin.
It’s easily enough to cover my face and neck, which is a good job, because the machine immediately goes into cleaning mode. So if I wanted to make more, I’d have to wait another ten minutes.
I love gadgets and I love skincare, so I should love this machine. But I’m just not convinced. My first issue is the price.
While it boasts the possibility of thousands of different formulations, that’s only true if you buy all 15 active ingredients. At £8.90 for each sachet of ten, that’s £133.50, plus £19.90 for the base face cream and £6.90 for the wash solution, both of which last a month.
With the £350 for the machine, your set-up costs are £510.30.
Then, even working on the basis of using an average of four capsules a day, two in the morning and two in the evening instead of the maximum three each time, your monthly running costs will be around £133.
On top of which, you’ll need your usual cleanser, possibly a serum or two, and daily SPF protection.
I spend £82 a month on skincare, which I think is a lot, but it’s not £133, and I haven’t bought a £350 device for the privilege. And I’m not even sure if the moisturiser from the machine works.
The company says its product has ‘proven effectiveness’, but the only test on their website is one that shows how a freshly-formulated vitamin C cream has more active vitamin C in it than one that has been exposed to light and air for five days.
This doesn’t really prove anything about how effective the bespoke creams are.
Yes it’s true, there are some active ingredients that, when exposed to light and air and temperature, will degrade over time.
But that’s why preservatives are used (both the HyLab capsules and the base cream also contain preservatives), and why increasingly you’ll find products packaged in opaque, vacuum pump, protective containers.
Plus, every cosmetic product has to be stability tested to ensure the efficacy of the product is maintained during its life cycle.
Finally, I have an issue with the plastic capsules. At a point when the entire beauty industry is worrying about sustainability, something that requires four single-use, hard to recycle (the company don’t offer a scheme) plastic capsules really jars.
There’s no doubt some women will be tempted, but, to my mind, it’s an expensive, time-consuming, unproven and environmentally unsound way of applying face cream. I think I’ll stick to my 30-second manual version, thanks.