How One Beauty Entrepreneur Used Lockdown To Springboard Her Business

In an era of digitisation, Ashleigh Cometti speaks to one skincare enthusiast who sought to bring the dermatologist’s office into people’s homes with this prescriptive new software

Skin Lab founder Joanna O’Connor. Photo / Kate Sheffield

It’s been 18 months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) first declared the coronavirus pandemic.

Multiple lockdowns later, all this time spent at home means many of us have stumbled upon a quarantine beauty discovery.

Perhaps it's a new way to apply foundation, a mood-boosting way to use eyeliner, or a newfound penchant for dry brushing have quickly become methods to soothe both complexion and nerves.

But for Joanna O’Connor, New Zealand’s lockdown presented an opportunity to build software targeted at skincare enthusiasts.

READ: Beauty On A Budget: The Viva Team's Favourite Supermarket Buys 

The self-confessed skincare obsessive says although her background is in marketing, she got fed up with the marketing guff and Instagram trickery that aimed to push products.

Case in point: Joanna’s $400 celebrity-endorsed moisturiser lockdown purchase.

“It contained things like plant stem cell technology and was wrapped like a new iPhone. I was excited. I had nowhere to go, and nothing else to do,” Joanna says.

“I kept a skin diary, and I had zero results.”

What ensued was a research project that saw Joanna dive into medical journals written by dermatologists, chemists and scientists for their unbiased approach to skincare.

“I noticed patterns. I joined the dots between common skin ailments, what the research said and what medical professionals were recommending, and the products that some skin types should stay away from,” Joanna says.

What manifested was Skin Lab, a new online source for personalised, science-backed skincare advice.

“It doesn’t replace going and having a one-on-one consultation with a professional who will analyse your skin, but Skin Lab will help you step away from the brand hype of social media, read an ingredients label and find products that have the right ingredients to work for you,” Jo explains, adding users won’t find any products, brands or advertising on the website.

Her mission from the outset was to create user-friendly skincare software that took away the noise and presented only the facts.

“This information is out there, but brands skew it, social media debates it and marketing is even more shiny. Skin Lab doesn’t recommend a particular brand or product range. It recommends ingredients that the dermatologists and doctors with decades of study, clinical experience and research are recommending,” she says.

READ: 7 Uplifting Makeup Looks To Try During Lockdown 

The website is comprised of three tabs: a glossary of ingredients commonly found in skincare; Skin Wiki, a series of articles with scientific research sources linked; and Build Your Regime, an online tool that uses an algorithm to identify an individual’s skin type and offers a tailored skin prescription for a $10 fee.

“Skin Lab’s Regime Builder is an innovative tool for people to understand what their skin really needs, independently and without bias or agenda,” Joanna says.

“Board-certified dermatologists have recognised that there are 16 'normal' skin types. Our software uses the common questions a dermatologist would ask you on your first visit to identify what your skin type is, and then provides you with a personalised regime of essential and recommended ingredients that are most likely to help with your concerns, and what to avoid.”

This skincare “recipe” of sorts also breaks down a regime into a beginner or advanced level, based on where an individual is in their skin tolerance journey, Joanna says.

“It’s totally independent. Once someone knows the ingredient and concentration they need (for example, 5 per cent benzoyl peroxide), they can buy what their skin really needs from the brands they prefer.”


Hit refresh on your beauty routine with these clever websites and apps that serve to simplify skincare and makeup
Search for your new holy grail skincare product, share your own community collection with other Skin Carisma users, compare products, analyse ingredients and read reviews on this do-it-all skincare site.
Findation takes the guesswork out of colour matching your base products. Enter two or more of your existing foundation or concealer shades into the search engine and you’ll be recommended shade matches from a variety of makeup brands. Or apply the search filters to look for your perfect shade match in a specific product.
Check Fresh enables you to check the date of manufacture of perfume and cosmetics by analysing a product’s batch code. From there, you can establish whether a product has passed its best, or if it’s still fresh enough to use.

Think Dirty App
This app uses a barcode scanner to provide an overview of the ingredients contained in a product. Each product is given a Dirty Meter rating, and cleaner alternatives are offered. It also features a My Bathroom Rating tool, which helps you learn your current bathroom rating and track your progress to help “clean” it up.
If your aim is to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals, then jump on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database — it provides safety ratings for more than 78,000 cosmetics and personal care products.

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