Many of us can’t remember the last time we wore a full face of foundation due to stay-at-home orders and mask mandates. Most have traded full-coverage formulas for lighter ones like tinted moisturizers, or have even given up on it altogether and just dab on a little concealer here and there. And once the pandemic subsides—please be soon!—and life resumes some state of normalcy, we may never want that full-face feel again, but we will still want a way to hide our imperfections.
That’s where OPTE (launching next month) comes in: it covers dark spots and evens skin tone, but your skin feels completely bare, like you have nothing on, and I mean nothing. I spoke to the creator and founder of OPTE, Thomas Rabe, to find out more about how this futuristic innovation works. Here’s the scoop.
Essentially, OPTE is a tiny ink-jet printer inside a handheld device that deposits “ink” in the form of serum onto dark spots and discoloration to make the skin look even in tone without the need for face makeup. “It combines a complex algorithm with the precision of thermal ink-jet printing in your hand,” says Rabe. “It’s been in development for about 13 years and it’s truly a breakthrough—no product has ever been invented like it.”
The idea came to Rabe after spending many years in the beauty industry and continuously being frustrated with the concept of foundation. “The challenge with foundation is that you can’t cover dark spots with it alone, and we try to get as close to our skin tone as possible with it, but it’s never perfect because we have a really small window of pigments that we’re allowed to use that are approved by the FDA. Additionally, healthy skin is radiant, and sometimes foundation prevents the light from entering the skin and doesn’t give the radiance of bare skin,” he says. “I started thinking about the science of camouflage and how we can precisely cover certain spots, but let the rest of the skin remain bare in order to preserve that natural radiance.”
Rabe began conducting studies, analyzing images of women’s bare skin for hyperpigmentation (the device also works on men, too). “I was shocked to see that everyone had less than 10-percent imperfections, even women with a lot of sun damage, and of all ethnicities. I thought, ‘Why are we covering 100 percent of our skin with makeup to fix the 10 percent that bothers us.’ In another study that tracked the eye movement of participants looking at images of women’s faces, we discovered that the number-one thing the human eye is most sensitive to when judging health, attractiveness and age, is hyperpigmentation. The human eye is somewhat designed to pick out imperfections.”
Building on the “camouflage” theory, Rabe created the device to layer microdots of white pigment over dark spots to lift their lightness without affecting the surrounding skin. As you glide the device over your skin, the camera runs at 200 frames per second, detecting imperfections with the help of blue light and then instructing the printer—120 nozzles smaller than the size of a human hair—to deposit the pigmented serum ever so gently. “The blue light isn’t a laser—it’s there because it actually helps the device see even the faintest, most subtle spots,” says Rabe. “It fixes so many tiny micro-imperfections that you don’t even realize are detracting from your overall skin image. Even perfect skin is multichromatic with small color variations.” Although the pigment droplets are invisible to the naked eye, “the device also feathers out the edges of the spots to take out the hard, crisp edges so it becomes even less visible,” Rabe adds. “It fools the eye into thinking it’s really not there—that’s the science of camouflage.”
The serum comes in three shades, but Rabe stresses that the goal isn’t to shade match. “We’re using something much lighter in microdots to lift the spots. Our three shades work on 98 percent of skin tones. The 2 percent being the darkest of African skin, but the contrast of spots is nearly invisible on that skin tone.” The formula is completely water-based and contains only four active ingredients: titanium dioxide, mineral oxides, niacinamide (to add a bit of a treatment aspect), and propylene glycol, a humectant that helps keep the nozzles moist when jetting, but also moisturizes skin.
“In early testing, some women cried when they saw their skin,” says Rabe. “They said it felt like they had nothing on, but their skin looked so much better—they were shocked.” I was lucky enough to get my hands on the device and get a one-on-one tutorial from Rabe himself. There’s a little learning curve involved—it took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but it’s incredible once you witness the results the first time. “It should feel like a feather on your skin, and you’ll hear a clicking sound,” says Rabe. “The more clicking, the more correction you’re getting.”
As far as what it will cover: all types of dark spots, sunspots and discoloration—even stubborn capillaries around the nose—but not large areas of uniform redness because it sees it as all the same color, rather than finding the imperfection. It also won’t confuse a wrinkle for a spot. “We intentionally designed the device and the camera to take texture out of our analysis and just look at tone,” says Rabe. And although it doesn’t claim to cover acne spots, it will apply to red spots and heal conceal a little bit, and Rabe notes that it won’t clog pores.
“Fainter spots you only need to go over once; darker spots may need two to three passes to get full correction,” says Rabe. Apply it as the last step in your skin-care routine (after moisturizer and SPF) and avoid putting any liquids on after using (even liquid makeup)—just stick to powder blush, bronzer and highlighter.
The OPTE set is $599, which comes with the wand, a conditioning disk (it keeps the tiny printer from drying out) and a serum cartridge, which lasts about 60 uses or two to three months. Refill sets are $129 and come with a new conditioning disk and serum.
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