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First, you complete the intake interview, a semi-lengthy series of questions about your skin, lifestyle (what medications you take, how much water you generally drink in a day, etc.), and your environment (do I live in a grimy city with poor air quality? Check). Next, you’ll use the special sensors in your skin kit (small strips of paper with stickers on one end, which you press onto different parts of your face) to measure your complexion’s oil, moisture, and pH level. After you’ve held them on different facial areas for a few seconds, following along with a handy video guide on the website, you snap a photo of the sensors and the data is uploaded to your Atolla profile. The brand recommends that you do the skin-testing first thing in the morning, before washing your face, for the most accurate results.
The first time you get your kit, it also comes with a “preference test,” which is four tiny vials of different base formulas that you get to choose from, ranging from a lightweight almost water-like consistency to a heavier, but still not very heavy, more oil-based formula. The system will recommend a base for you, but you also have the option to forgo it and just pick whichever one you like best.
Then, based on all of the skin measurements you just uploaded, your preference test and your intake questionnaire, Atolla generates your own custom serum. It also breaks down each customized formula pretty thoroughly, explaining the percentage and purpose of each active ingredient chosen by the algorithm, plus supplying a full ingredient list (which won’t be long — the month-to-month subscription model mitigates the need to use a lot of preservatives since shelf-life is so short). After your 30-day supply is nearly up, you’ll receive another skin testing kit — an abbreviated version, without the preference section — so you can test your pH, moisture, and oil levels all over again.
As far as the active ingredients go, the company’s ingredient dictionary reads just as you’d expect it to, including things like hyaluronic acid, ascorbic acid, salicylic acid, squalane and vitamin E. There are also plenty of plant and fruit-derived oils, including avocado oil, coconut extract, argan nut oil, olive fruit oil, rosehip seed oil and pumpkin seed oil.
To test this whole thing out pre-launch, I visited Sid Salvi, another one of the brand’s co-founders, at NewLabs in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Both Salvi (COO) and Meg Maupin (CEO), who were MIT graduate students when they founded the company, work out of this space in New York City, while Hirsch remains up in Boston. Salvi walked me through the process, which was much quicker and easier than I expected.