HelloAva makes skincare personal

by Kate Lee

HelloAva is a smarter way to receive skincare recommendations just for you. Founded by Siqi Mou, this chatbot startup could save you a trip to see your dermatologist or esthetician. the regimen sat down with Siqi to talk beauty and brains, and of course, to test out HelloAva.


When we think of artificial intelligence (AI), the brain can make leaps to everything being fun and games until robots start becoming sentient and take over (I mean, this is actually the plot of Westworld). What we'll discuss today isn't the case. In fact, it's combining AI with human expertise. And in the skincare industry, HelloAva seeks to be the brains behind your beauty.

Image courtesy of TechCrunch.com

Image courtesy of TechCrunch.com

Featured on Cheddar, Racked, and Byrdie, HelloAva has the potential to revolutionize skincare in the age of apps. Back in May of this year, Siqi Mou launched HelloAva to the public at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York. As one of the companies featured in the coveted technology Battlefield, HelloAva harnesses machine learning to more carefully curate a skincare regimen for you. But, before Siqi got to the Disrupt Battlefield stage in New York this May, she had a fairly serendipitous path towards the beauty industry.

Siqi is your standard high-achieving, multi-talented woman. She has her Econ degree and MBA from Stanford, an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, and was a competitive concert pianist for over 20 years. She's previously worked at Morgan Stanley managing and creating portfolios, the Federal Reserve Bank in New York working on capital regulation, and was an anchor for Bloomberg TV in Indonesia. So, how does a finance expert land in the beauty space? 

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Many women were unaware of what they're using because it was difficult to understand product labels, if they read them at all.

Siqi was asked to promote a product for a commercial during her time at Bloomberg TV. Admittedly never having looked into product ingredients before, she was advised to do so, if only to avoid negative backlash on a product that she didn't research herself. After examining the ingredients, she was shocked about two things 1) the amount of harmful chemicals that are swimming in skincare products, and 2) how unaware many consumers could be about what's really in their products.

Frustrated with how the skincare industry can be difficult to navigate, Siqi sought an alternative. During the last year of her MBA at Stanford, Siqi and fellow classmates interviewed around 300 women about skincare. According to Siqi, over 90% of women were unaware of what exactly they were using because it was difficult to read and understand product labels, if they read them at all. Most important of all, was that women needed help with selecting which products to use in the first place. There was a need to standardize skin type, recommendations, and product preferences. Enter HelloAva.

You can use the service in one of two ways: an SMS recommender or a Facebook Messenger chatbot. Simply send a message through their Facebook page and a friendly skincare doc greets you. Although the interface is not quite as friendly via SMS, you get the same recommendation system. HelloAva helps you navigate through a series of skin-related questions. The decision tree on the algorithm is pretty impressive (I've tried) and it gets very detailed. You also get to send the app photos of your face for a more in-depth skin analysis so that your recommendation can be further customized for you. All of your responses, however, aren't relying on the AI prowess of a robust dataset. A selected team of estheticians and dermatologists comprise the HelloAva skincare advisors that review the chatbot's recommendations. A video chat interface is also in the works for individuals who want more detailed walkthroughs for their personal skincare regimen.

Users can navigate HelloAva using the Facebook Messenger app or via SMS, as shown above.

The experience doesn't simply end with a skincare consultation. Siqi wants to offer customers a "seamless e-commerce experience, not just an AI consultation service". Not only are you getting product recommendations tailor-made for your skin type and key concerns, but you are able to purchase these products directly through HelloAva. Every product that HelloAva carries is personally tested by her team as well as a community of beta-testers with various skin types. "This way, we'll know which product is suited for which person when we decide to carry it on our platform." Products are evaluated on their claims, ingredients, user experience, and price. Although HelloAva boasts some well-known brands in their product database, such as Dr. Dennis Gross and Murad, Siqi has also made an effort to seek bourgeoning brands that have clean beauty and natural ingredient-centered missions, like Indie Lee and Youth to the People. At the heart of it all, Siqi and her team believe that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for skincare. Everyone is different. A personalized approach for something as personal as skincare, therefore, makes the most sense.

On July 8, Soho House in NYC hosted a Summer Skin Festival beauty event. Attendees were able to meet Siqi and her team, as well as receive HelloAva customized skincare consultations, mini facials from AmorePacific, and BECCA Cosmetics highlight tutorials from pro makeup artist Campbell Ritchie. It didn't hurt that everyone was able to play with the assortment of skincare products that HelloAva carries as well. For more events like this, follow HelloAva on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with the latest news.