Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Imaging Needs for Personalized Skin Care: an industry Report

by Caroline Plat, DermaNest Associate Consultant

Executive Summary

Imaging devices such as MRI’s, radiography and ultrasound are medical devices regularly used to help make diagnostics. What types of devices are used to analyze the skin and the face on a dermatological and esthetic point of view? Are there imaging systems to not only view skin lesions but also wrinkles, skin redness, acne and pores as well as vascular conditions? Are there non-invasive, easy to use camera systems? We have researched such systems and studied if they are used in research laboratories and clinics, available to customers in cosmetics points of sale or destined to consumers’ households. After making an inventory of latest devices we were able to segment the market and compare the systems according to the number of applications they present. 

Most systems are dermatoscopes, handheld, lighted magnifiers with a non polarized and polarized light source. The software is where they mostly differentiate themselves. Some can analyze your skin down to your fine lines, wrinkles, pores and sebum secretion while others concentrate on skin lesions, spots on the skin. What is the ideal imaging system and what are consumers today looking for?

List of company benchmarked:
  • Aranz Medical
  • Beau Visage
  • BME electronics
  • BrighTex Bio-Photonics
  • Canfield
  • Clarity Pro Facial Stage
  • Courage + Khazaka electronic GMBH
  • DermLite
  • Enhanced Image Technologies
  • Eykona
  • FotoFinder
  • GFM
  • Ioma
  • LLTech
  • Lucid
  • Mediscope Digital Skin Imaging Analysis
  • Michelson Diagnostics
  • Profect Medical Technologies 

Discussion and Observations:

As a foreword, we thought it would be important to clarify and discuss the definition of dermoscopy, which embraces all the products that we have explored:

“Dermoscopy (dermatoscopy, epiluminescence microscopy, incident light microscopy, skin surface microscopy) is a non-invasive diagnostic technique for the in vivo observation of pigmented skin lesions (PSLs), allowing a better visualization of surface and subsurface structures (from the epidermis to the papillary dermis).  This diagnostic tool permits the recognition of morphologic structures not visible by the naked eye, thus opening a new dimension in the analysis of the clinical morphologic features of PSLs.
However, due to the complexity of patterns and their interpretation, the results of dermoscopic examination have limitations, especially for the inexperienced, and they are effective only if the user is formally trained. In order to reduce the learning-curve of non-expert clinicians and to mitigate problems inherent in the reliability and reproducibility of the diagnostic criteria used in pattern analysis, several indicative methods based on diagnostic algorithms have been introduced in the last few years. ” (Automated Dermoscopy Image Analysis of Pigmented Skin Lesions, Baldi et al., Cancers 2010, 2(2), 262-273)

Most of these imaging systems are dermatoscopes (a handheld lighted magnifier, usually consisting of a non polarized and polarized light source) and have the same technical abilities with LED light’s, polarized or cross-polarized lighting, an automatic focus, magnification… what really differentiates them is the way the images are analyzed, the software’s capabilities. The processing of images, their quality, color measurements and ease of use are to be thoroughly studied to be able to compare the devices. Most of them seem to be paired with software that can analyze every characteristic of you skin, from skin lesions to wrinkles and vascular conditions, with the same hardware. Are the devices sophisticated enough to truly visualize hemoglobin? Should they dedicate themselves to analyzing one skin condition and assure that the analysis is reliable and accurate?
It seems the ideal portable and non invasive system would include a normal lighting, parallel-polarized and/or cross-polarized lighting, UV lighting, an automatic focus, sufficient magnifying capacity and software to analyze the images and obtain a full skin diagnosis: skin lesions, wrinkles, pores and vascular condition analysis. UV lighting can furthermore be a tool to visualize the skin’s fluorescing acne lesions such as Courage + Khazaka’s Visiopor which uses UVA LED’s.

Apart from diagnostics, there are many application possibilities. These imaging devices could also be used to analyze cosmetic products on the skin, such as tone homogeneity, the exact color of eye shadow, lipstick and blush on the skin and to match skin tone. The durability of a product and its effects could also easily be followed.

It seems clear that future imaging devices will be tablets such as iPads or smart phones directly used or the camera and lighting may be improved by an add-on in order to have a polarized light source. Easy to use imaging devices are needed in cosmetics points of sale and even at home. For example, concerning skin lesions, these devices could be used to take a clinical image and send it to a dermatologist or treatment center to analyze and thus avoid going to the doctor’s unless it is really necessary.

The major issue that needs to be solved is the reproducibility problem of these images as well as color and white balance. To be able to make reliable measurements (wrinkle depth and length for example), to be able to compare and analyze photographs, they all need to be taken in the same light, the same position, exactly the same settings. These conditions can be overlooked and neglected by consumers. Understanding how a device (hardware and software) analyzes the skin with only a photograph may be many consumers’ difficulty and will most certainly affect the way they use them. Engineers and professionals use these devices; the science behind their functioning isn’t easy to understand by all consumers. A trained specialists might be recommended at Points of Sale to help consumers with the imaging devices and sell them the suggested treatments.

Today consumers wish to receive a complete, objective and understandable skin diagnosis, in a store or at home, as quickly as possible and have a treatment and make-up recommendation they can apply. The software could allow entering factors such as age, season, clothing, and the type of event you are dressing for, to help choose the appropriate skin care products and make-up. You could select a price range, evaluate previously used products in order to receive a personalized, “genius” proposition. This appears to us as the future of personalized skin-care.

An approach to such an App, is ModiFace. Using a picture taken by your smart phone you can test make-up options by seeing the potential result on your photograph. You can visualize different brands’ colors of foundations, blush, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara etc. on your photo. It does not however analyze your skin or recommend a particular product.

If there are limited regulatory barriers for the introduction of such new technologies, relevant business models need to be found to the cost of such innovations are supported by the ones who benefit the most of its value. As of now, this question is still not resolved and economic pressures exist both for innovators, large companies and consumers. We might well have to wait for a few more years to witness the widespread use of personalized (image-based) cosmetics.