Drawing of a blue bathroom sink and mirror with pale yellow skincare products and scented candles on...
Illustrated by Jihyang Lim


How To Find The Best Personalized Skin-Care Brand For You

Take the decision-making out of your routine

by Tamim Alnuweiri

On one of those recent 70-degree February days, I took a break from walking around New York City, wondering if mother nature is going to implode on itself, and went into a brick-and-mortar Kiehl’s store. I initially went inside thinking I would slowly and subtly take a bath using their sampling station, but my plans were thwarted when I was distracted by glimmering lights—a neon light that literally spelled out “Personalized Skincare.”

As I stood there, gawking, Barbara Delfino, a Kiehl’s skin-care specialist, came up to me and offered a complimentary consultation. Over the last year, Kiehl’s has been rolling out its Apothecary Preparations serums and services at select locations around the country (they'll be available at every store come May); the service started with Barbara testing different areas of my face for oiliness, then testing my skin for hydration. Once we were past the skin-shattering revelations (unknown to me, my skin was only 36 percent hydrated), Barbara and I flipped through Kiehl’s Skin Atlas, which we used to help determine the severity and importance of differing skin concerns and ailments. Using all of the information garnered through the process, we decided on the two skin-strengthening concentrates best for my skin. I left Kiehl’s with my personal Apothecary concoction in hand. And, in case you're wondering, yes, it is definitely printed with your name on it; this is honestly half the fun. 

Bespoke skin-care lines have slowly been seeping their way into all corners of the industry, in large part because of the internet. Personalization, when it comes to skin care, has become possible for many niche or small skin-care brands because of the way the internet facilitates information aggregation and personalization. With an endless amount of products on the market, and in an attempt to create and retain customers, skin-care brands are making sure their products can be personalized to ensure maximum efficacy, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.  

While Kiehl’s is likely the largest company to offer this type of customized skin-care product or service, Skin Inc has a similar, if more DIY, approach, which, while available in person, can also be done online, a process which I actually prefer. This is because, in person, you have to make the difficult decision regarding the three serums you think will be best for your skin, and I prefer not having to make the choice myself (picking by color is cute, but not practical). Online, however, there is a skin identity quiz that inputs the results from a quick survey to give you your recommended serum mix, which you can either order online or scribble down and pick up in person at your nearest Sephora. 

Curology has also found a model that, because of the degree of personalization, is probably only feasible on the internet. Their online prescriptive skin service starts by going through a lengthy and detailed questionnaire, which covers everything from your skin concerns to your current medications. After you’ve submitted all of the relevant information, which includes photos of your bare skin, you’re connected with a dermatologist, who you can speak to anytime about your skin questions and concerns and who's responsible for creating and formulating a cream specific to your needs. 

For what you're getting, most of these serums and services are relatively affordable (Kiehl’s is $95, Skin Inc is $90, Curology is $20 per month), but there are more high-end options, like French company Ioma, which retails their Ma Crème bespoke day and night creams at $290 per bottle. If that seems a little steep, it’s probably because, rather than just offer a couple of hundred of formula variations, they have an astonishing 40,205. And if that seems like a lot to choose from, don't worry: They have boiled down their options into six main expert formulas, which you can pick through to still get your custom fit. 

Another option for anyone interested in personalized skin care is retailer Sokoglam, which has a concierge service that can work wonders and demystify any confusion surrounding how to pick a skin-care routine (especially when navigating the never-ending abyss of internet skin-care products and brands). After scheduling a phone consultation, you’ll receive an email with a list of products and techniques best for your skin concerns. Afterward, said service will respond to any “what if,” “is it supposed to be doing that,” and “is this normal” questions you might e-bombard them with. 

In today's bespoke skin-care market, the offerings range from DIY, mix-them-yourself concoctions to one-of-a-kind formulas and carefully curated skin-care suggestions. Their benefits include allowing consumers to take the guesswork out of choosing their skin-care products and instead leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. Sometimes having to make these decisions ourselves can seem exhausting; personalized skin care allows us to leave our skin in the hands of the professionals who know what they're doing—and what a relief that can be.