To be clear, this system isn't meant to replace hairstylists. In fact, it requires the input of an experienced professional to fill out a brief questionnaire about your hair, based on her observations and expertise. At Schwarzkopf's suite in Las Vegas, I was attended to by the company's professional global ambassador, Lesley Lawson, who quickly entered my hair length, color and previous chemical treatments.
Then she picked up the scanner and ran my hair through the opening, just as you would with a flat iron. Depending on your hair length, your stylist may scan one, two or three different points to judge its quality. Since my hair cascades down to my lower back, Lawson sampled a swatch of hair at my roots and again down closer to the tips.
The scanner, which has an image sensor to capture color data and an infrared sensor to measure cysteic acid levels, will send that information to the app. Schwarzkopf's reps said cysteic acid is produced when the bonds holding protein strands in our hair are broken, so the more of it is present, the more brittle your hair is. According to the scanner, my hair condition is a relatively poor 60 percent (average of results scanned at the various sample sites), but a healthy 33 percent moist.
After getting your results, you can use the app to pick a dye and get to see what the actual hue will be, based on your original hair color. You can also overlay the shades you're considering over your hair in real time via the app's AR function. Unfortunately, we were running out of time at my appointment and I didn't get to try this feature out. But if it works well, it could help people better communicate with their stylist on the look they want or what colors best complement their complexion and their face.
At the end of the session, the app generates a shampoo formula based on your hair data and sends it to what Schwarzkopf calls the SalonLab Customizer, which is basically an on-site shampoo "printer." In merely 45 seconds, my little sample bottle of shampoo was ready, and the Customizer also spat out a little sticker that used the first two letters of my name to create a faux element, à la the periodic table. This label also has a barcode that can be scanned at other partner salons to simply refill your formula.
I haven't used my personalized shampoo yet, so I can't comment on whether it indeed makes my hair feel better. Although customized hair products and AR apps to try out hair colors aren't new, there hasn't been an implementation that's as comprehensive as Schwarzkopf's. Plus, this is more of a professional solution that actually uses data from your manes, unlike competing custom formulation services that base your product on your answers to a set of questions.
Schwarzkopf recommends that salons offer SalonLab Analyzer as a premium service to its clients, although it doesn't dictate how much they charge. Depending on your local stores, you may be able to try out this service for free, or pay a small fee. Although I haven't been able to get any real benefit from trying out the new system yet, I would feel more confident about working with my stylist if we both had such information about my hair. I'd also be more inclined to pay more for an add-on like a moisturizing treatment if presented with data about my hair quality.
To some, this may seem like yet another one of many services hairstylists are known for trying to upsell to you. But when combined with the app and custom shampoo service, this feels like a more well-rounded approach that could actually be useful.
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