Say Hello to Ava: Is She Really the Brains Behind Your Beauty?
Online skincare consults: love them or hate them? We’ve all been to brand websites and taken their “skin advisor” questionnaires and magically been recommended heaps of products. They aren’t my favorite, they’re usually fairly basic and don’t get enough information from me before recommending products. I am happy to have my skincare obsession to guide me into researching skin and skincare, but what if you don’t have that love? Where do you get your product recommendations? I can imagine it being very overwhelming if you aren’t sure what your skin type is and what you should be using in your regime.
Enter HelloAva, a startup aimed at taking the guesswork out of purchasing skincare. The process is simple: chat with the chatbot, Ava, and go through a series of questions about your skin and your skin concerns. Next, a professional will reach out to you to discuss your answers and have a personal conversation about your skin. Finally, products are recommended specifically for you that you can either purchase, or not. Sounds good, right?
When HelloAva reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in trialing their service, my first instinct was to decline. I have always believed that it is best to have a professional physically touch and evaluate your skin, see how it responds firsthand to treatments and then to help you in making a plan for your at home regimen. We’ve all done the countless online skin checks on brand websites and I see many people on Instagram offering skin consultations through email and it’s just never been my thing; however, I get messages every single day from people who are looking for product recommendations or help selecting the best ingredients for their skin, so there is definitely a need for something like HelloAva out there. I decided to put my reservations aside and go for it, I was definitely intrigued and excited to see if Ava could a) correctly match my skin type and b) recommend products for me that I didn’t already have, which is a challenge on its own.
I clicked on the link and to my surprise, the messaging app on my phone opened, complete with a number to text and an intro message already typed out for me. I immediately closed it thinking it must have been a mistake, but tried again and the same thing happened. I’m not so comfortable giving out my phone number (if you do have my number, never call me, I hate talking on the phone) and the thought of chatting with Ava over text seemed too personal, but I went for it anyways and immediately, she responded. I had a new (bot) friend!
The beginning 6 questions were simple: my name, age, primary skin concerns I wished to address (there were 11 options and you could choose as many as you like), what products I was looking for, and if I preferred organic products. When it came to what products I was looking for, I selected a cleanser (shocking), moisturizer, and SPF. The list was comprehensive and included an option to discuss an entire routine, or to discuss no products at all just to learn about my skin type. Ava then asked me to send her a picture if I was comfortable doing so, and I agreed. It felt weird to send my new friend a picture of my bare face, and I felt a bit nervous wondering who was going to be analyzing my awkward selfie. I asked HelloAva’s CEO, Siqi Mou, who evaluates the photos and it turns out it’s the advisors, aka humans.
That was it for the first set of questions. Once Ava received my picture she recommended the “evaluation” phase which she told me was similar to an office visit and would help to better recommend products for me. Twelve questions, three minutes, easy peasy. I did have the option to pass and just go straight to the product recommendations, but I’m not sure how someone could possibly recommend products for me without having an actual discussion about my skin. The questions are pretty comprehensive, covering everything from how my skin appears, feels, tans, and reacts to new products, to the environment I live in and how my skin heals post blemish. These questions are a critical part of the platform for HelloAva because the answers form the initial skin diagnosis. I talked with Siqi about these questions - they were developed by a team of dermatologists and estheticians and the goal was to focus more on descriptive questions about the skin versus asking you to diagnose your own skin. I like this concept because most people wouldn’t be able to properly diagnose their own skin but can describe how it feels and behaves with more accuracy. After I was finished the questions, Ava analyzed my answers against 30 different skin types in the database and here was my result:
The good: I was so happy to see that this diagnosis wasn’t your typical “your skin is oily” and that’s it. There was more depth to it and I think that’s so important. Resistant, pigmented, slightly wrinkle prone are all true for my skin. The not so good: my skin isn’t oily, it’s more on the drier side if anything and my answers to some of the questions indicated that my skin appeared dry and felt dry before applying moisturizer. I did say that my skin appeared somewhat shiny several hours after moisturizer but that’s because my dehydration can cause oiliness, which it usually does. That’s the tough thing with online questionnaires, you’re forced to select an answer but don’t get to explain the nitty gritty behind your choice. Luckily, this is only the first part to HelloAva, and in part two, you get to speak with an actual trained professional about your answers and your skin.
After giving me my skin type, Ava told me my personal advisor would reach out to me the next business day and just as promised, at 9:36am the following day I heard from Nellys who would be my advisor moving forward. All of the advisors for HelloAva are licensed professionals with at least two years work experience guiding customers in skincare in either a retail or professional spa setting. Nellys trained at the Christine Valmy Institute in NYC and Siqi mentioned to me that most of the advisors have been hired from there as well. Nellys reviewed the results of my skin assessment and gave me some goals for my skin care routine: to address dark spots, fine lines, and oiliness with products that will deliver anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties. She mentioned I should be using products with anti aging benefits as well as Vitamin C. So far, we were both on the same page as this is exactly what I focus on with my current routine, aside from the oiliness.
Before we began discussing products she wanted to talk about my skin and the current products I use. She asked me to send her what products I am currently using and I laughed when I read it. I refrained from sending her a split image of my bathroom cabinets and my bank account balance and explained that I was a beauty blogger and used way too many products, but that the focus of my mornings was Vitamin C and my evenings were reserved for retinol. We discussed a lot about my current products and what I liked/disliked, and I explained my skins dehydration vs true oiliness. It was really nice to talk to Nellys and explain the reason behind my answers and my choices in what I put on my skin daily. When she felt she had enough information, she told me that she was going to get back to me with recommendations for a cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF, exactly what I had told Ava I was looking for.
What were my recommendations and where do these recommendations come from? I’ll start with the latter: Hello Ava curates a database of products, right now it sits at about 250, each one of them going through a strict 56 day testing period. The recommendations come from both humans and Ava, the computer, and they are working with another AI startup company that is taking product reviews from multiple sources online and aggregating it so everything is in one place. The goal is to have a database of high quality products that work. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical before getting my recommendations: would they be able to pick products that I don’t have and haven’t tried before? Turns out, they could.
I was impressed! The Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser has been on my radar for quite some time. I had found the Brightening Cleanser to be a bit too drying for me, but had heard that this one was aimed more at dehydrated skin which sounded promising. I am new to the Drunk Elephant bandwagon but almost everything I’ve tried so far, I’ve liked, so the Lala Retro was a recommendation that was great for me. As for the SPF, it also sounded like something I would like. I opted to go for the cleanser and the moisturizer, and a week later, they were at my door. I’ve been using both for a couple weeks now and I am really happy with them. The cleanser doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight, and the moisturizer is hydrating but not heavy.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I was pretty skeptical of HelloAva when they first reached out, but after going through the process, I had a really great experience. Nellys made sure I was comfortable with the recommendations and it was really nice to talk to someone about my skin and skin concerns without feeling like I was being pressured to purchase an entire line from a brand. There is no pressure to purchase with HelloAva, but if you do want to, they have their own inventory and checkout. Your personal advisor will check in with you after you’ve used your purchases to see how everything is working out and the feedback you share is then put into the system to make it smarter and help for future users. At the moment, it is completely free to start with HelloAva, but if you want to keep benefitting from the service (follow up texts, etc) you will have to make a purchase. Worried about your purchase? HelloAva has a great return policy and if you are unhappy with your items, they can be returned even once opened. They offer this generous policy to encourage their users to give honest feedback, which then gets put into the system and benefits future users.
I’m really happy I tested out HelloAva. I liked speaking with a professional and enjoyed discussing my skins needs in the comfort of my own home. I still believe that it’s best to physically have someone analyze your skin, but I know this isn’t realistic for everyone and this is a great option to have if having a facial or visiting a derm isn’t possible. If you’re struggling with product selection or aren’t sure what’s best for your individual skins needs, HelloAva may be the service you’ve been looking for. Want to give it a try? Click here and scroll down to get your name on the waitlist!
I hope you all have a wonderful week,
*This post is not sponsored by HelloAva; however, my recommended products were gifted to me