If ‘the most powerful woman in beauty’ launched an app to sort your skincare woes once and for all, what would it look like? We found out

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If Caroline Hirons were an actual rock star, she’d have the No1 album, movie and tour in the country right now. Having turned herself into the nation’s premier skincare agony aunt through forthright opinions and a background in skincare therapy and development (quite rare among ‘experts’ these days), she set about building her ‘Skin Rocks’ no-bull science-backed skincare advice empire, breaking records (and the internet) with her skincare book, pop-ups, product collaborations – and mugs!

Today she launches - what else - her Skin Rocks app, a fount of advice and product recommendations – a sort of Hirons-in-your-pocket ("only with less swearing", she says). Predictably, it’s already rocketed to the No1 slot in the Health & Fitness app chart with more than 30,000 downloads on the back of her soft launch to her Facebook followers (you know you’ve made it when your fans adopt a collective name – Hirons’ are ‘Skincare Freaks’). The rest of us can download the free app for Apple and Android from today.

While Caroline is very much present in the app, it’s not all about her, and deliberately does not bear her name. The idea is to have every skincare product under the sun eventually listed there (even those that have felt Caroline’s wrath on her blog) so that when you’re browsing the aisles at Boots, for example, you can log in and find out what’s in it, what it does and whether it’s right for you (each product has a “you need this if… you don’t need this if…” summary). Rather than buying three products 'just in case', you're more likely to walk out with the one that really suits you. 

Brands can’t pay to be bumped up the listings or have a ‘featured’ review, by the way, to keep the searches authentic, however they can pay to have their image on the product home page (see main image, left) or to advertise in the content section.

What can you expect? We had a play and here’s what we found:

Easy-to-digest advice

The Skincare 101 tab features Caroline’s famous Cheat Sheets, essential info and how-tos on the most common skin issues, such as how to use vitamin A and the 101 on exfoliating acids. Not sure what the hell is going on with your skin? There are real-person pics of blotches, imperfections and skin textures to show you exactly what melasma, periorial dermatitis, visible pores and a host of other bandied-about terms actually look like. A clever and rather helpful touch if you’re self-diagnosing your skin condition.

All the trending buzz

‘Spotlight on’ has news features and trending topics such as ‘Why the Clean Beauty movement needs to clean up its act’ and ‘do collagen supplements really make a difference?’. This is for you, if only the latest and buzziest skincare will do, or if you want to keep abreast of what’s making skincare tick right now.

The science bit for skincare nerds

If you need the skinny on ingredients and jargon, you’ll find it under the ‘Think Science’ tab. Not remotely as exhaustive and detailed as Paula’s Choice’s famed Ingredient Dictionary or INCIDecoder.com, it’s nonetheless very handy to have in your back pocket when shopping. It’s insightful on all the ‘big hitter’ ingredients the vast majority of skin enthusiasts will want to know about – think peptides, vitamin C, cica and more. Want to know what a clinical trial actually proves or how organic your ‘organic’ products really are? That’s here, too.

Rants and opinions, Hirons-style

The ‘Founder Hub’ tab is Caroline holding forth on myths and topics she has something (or a lot) to say about. You CAN use retinoids while breastfeeding. Fungal acne does not exist. Menopausal skin doesn’t necessarily need thick unguents for moisturisers.

Search for products tailored to you 

According to the press release, the ‘Products’ tab will “revolutionise how you understand your skin type and discover products that best match you… Essentially, it’s like having Caroline go shopping with you, telling you what you personally do and absolutely don’t need to buy.”

This section is where you can get your products or your entire regime. You can fill out a relatively standard questionnaire, where you select your concerns, the type of product you’re after, your skin type and age bracket – and then you can opt to select favourite brands, ingredients you do and don’t want to see included, and specific requirements such as ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’. Filtering a choice of more than 10,000 (and growing) products, the results are tailored to your questionnaire.

Your personal profile

To make things more bespoke, you’re advised to create a personal skin profile under the ‘Me’ tab; once that’s uploaded (it asks for a few additional details such as skin tone and gender), your product recommendations ought to get far more focused, with ‘It’s a match’ tags popping up once you return to the ‘Products’ tab.

What happened when we tried it

After I filled out my questionnaire, my search for the perfect moisturiser yielded 528 hits, which was a bit much. But that was before I created my personal profile and did my search that way. This time I got 2501 results but only three ‘It’s a Match!” hits, one of which just happened to be my all-time favourite, Medik8 R-Retinoate Day & Night. The other two were not up my street (but correct for my skin type and concerns).

The app will filter out whatever can compromise your particular skin (based on the information you’ve provided) and will choose the most fail-safe options, which can in some cases limit the suggestions unnecessarily. For example, when I flagged that my skin is sensitive, my only suncream suggestions for sensitive skin were those with mineral filters – the right and safe choice as they’re the least likely to cause irritation. But it left out the wide range of non-mineral SPFs formulated for reactive skins, which are slightly less fail-safe but still great for most sensitive skins, and for those who don’t like mineral formulations (like me!). No mistakes or bad recommendations here, just an opportunity to make things more bespoke in future.

The information on each of your selected products is exhaustive, so you can determine whether the options really are right for you at your leisure. You can actually buy through the app – you can add products to your basket and are then directed to buy via the brand's website or an online retailer such as Cult Beauty. The Skin Rocks app takes an affiliate commission on sales as one way of keeping the service free for the user. 

So, all in all, it’s not quite like having Hirons opining in your ear as you pick your products (but there is a ‘Can’t find what you’re looking for?” feedback button where you can place your comments and are told the team will ‘work on it’, but this is how a new app gets progressively better as it moves beyond its start-up stages

As with everything that this original beauty blogger does, input from her public is what builds and perfects her products, so this app and its functions will be refined and improved as time goes on.

For now, this is a fabulous resource to have in your pocket for all those times you can’t see the wood for the skincare trees, and you just need a fast, reliable and no-bull science-backed product problem solver to virtually hold your hand.

The free Skin Rocks app is available on Apple and Android now (Download here)