Elizabeth tries out the hi-tech smart mirror
I was trying out the HiMirror Mini, a high-tech smart mirror that claims to analyse your skin, points out problem areas and recommends products to alleviate them.
The mirror was launched in the USA in July and will be available to pre-order in the UK from this month.
At £239 it’s a cheaper and more compact version of the HiMirror Plus, which was launched last year and is stocked in Selfridges stores for £349.
The HiMirror (himirror.com) is part of a trend for augmented reality which is emerging in the beauty industry.
Some products can even calculate the relative age of your skin compared to your actual age.
“It’s science fiction coming to beauty,” says Nikki Baird, a retail trend expert from Aptos.
“The technology we’re starting to see is really interesting. It can do things such as evaluating your skin, to come up with personalised recommended skincare regimes.
“Some products can even calculate the relative age of your skin compared to your actual age.”
At the moment the price tag of such products means they’re mostly available to luxury consumers but Nikki believes that will soon change.
“This is just the beginning. The technology is going to evolve and become much less expensive.
“As people grow to accept it more it will become available to the everyday shopper as well as those at the high end,” she says.
But while the technology is exciting, some experts have raised concerns about such products.
Campaigners have warned that analysing your skin on a daily basis could prove damaging to self-esteem.
“Products that highlight and even point out perceived flaws in the appearance are potentially massively damaging,” says Nicole Schnackenberg, trustee of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation.
Dr Ashley-John Brewer, a clinical psychologist at The Priory, agrees.
Technology is changing the beauty regime
“Day-to-day use of these products could impact negatively on someone’s self-esteem, particularly someone who thinks appearance is highly important,” he says.
He is especially concerned about the effect it might have on a teenage brain.
“Adolescents tend to experience emotions more intensely, be more impulsive and make less rational decisions,” he says.
“So if someone who is already prone to developing body image problems bought a mirror like this, they could find their emotions harder to manage.”
However the brand says the product is designed for adults to help them make informed choices.
“The HiMirror is designed for adults who want to take control of their skin health,” a brand spokesperson says.
Critics argue this will make women worry more about their appearance
“The rise of fitness trackers and healthcare monitors is testament to people wanting to learn more about their own bodies in order to make informed decisions. Technology like ours gives people the insight and understanding they need to do so.”
As well as analysing skin concerns the mirror recommends skincare products and features different light settings so consumers can see what their make-up would look like in daylight, indoor light and candlelight. What’s more it can be used to upload photos to social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
I decided to investigate by trying the product myself.
As I took the mirror out of its box I was immediately struck by the packaging, which is bright pink and features a cute logo with a winking face.
I couldn’t help but think that despite the brand’s insistence that the device is for adults the mirror’s cutesy appearance makes it appealing to a younger market.
And indeed when I switched it on, I was asked to create an online account and enter my date of birth to prove I was older than 13, meaning it can be used by teens. “You’re going to be awesome,” read the friendly letters on the mirror screen. The words “going to be” implying I’m not already.
Once set up I positioned my face to fit in the guide on the screen and the device took a picture.
After a few seconds it had analysed my skin according to the dark circles under my eyes, red spots, dark spots, visible pores, fine lines, wrinkles and roughness.
Depending on which mode the mirror is in it either gives a score out of 100 or a colour code on a traffic light system for each skin concern.
Having had a late night I wasn’t surprised to see that dark under-eye circles were the mirror’s main concern. Next on its hit list were the large pores on the side of my nose. Finally it pointed out I had rough or bumpy skin.
The creators of HiMirror say their gadget “takes the guesswork” out of your beauty routine.
And I can see the appeal. As a consumer it can be hard to know what skin type you are, let alone which skin concern to focus on and what products to buy to alleviate them.
But having tried the mirror I think a certain level of ignorance is bliss.
Indeed I found that having my dark circles pointed out made me more aware of them than usual.
Even after applying a heavy layer of concealer I left for work that morning feeling more than a little self-conscious.
Over the next few days the mirror began to build a graph which plotted whether my skin was better or worse each day.
When the numbers showed the dark circles under my eyes had improved I felt good. But my happiness was short-lived when they also showed the texture of my skin had worsened.
Seeing the measurements go up and down by one or two per cent made me much more aware of the changes in my skin than usual.
And I started to pay much closer detail to the concerns it mentioned.
It may not be time to completely change your beauty routine but technology is coming
While I would normally walk past the bathroom mirror at work without so much as a backward glance I realised I was scrutinising my face in the mirror, checking for bumpiness and worrying about my pores.
Once it has analysed your face, the HiMirror gives product recommendations via an algorithm.
This works as users anonymously scan the products they use into the mirror, which then tracks how effective they are in improving their skin.
If the machine detects an improvement it will then recommend that product to other users with similar concerns.
The products recommended to me were all anti-ageing, despite me being only 25 and having very few wrinkles both to the naked eye and on the skin analysis.
I can only assume the mirror thought these products would help the dark circles under my eyes.
It’s a clever system however and with more users scanning more products into the device this would expand and improve.
But after testing the mirror I realised it had made me more aware of my appearance than usual.
I told Dr Brewer and he said: “My advice would be to limit use to a few times a year.”
So I put the mirror back in its box – maybe for good.