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  • Writer's pictureDianna Kim ('22)

Student Spotlight: Simplifying Skincare with Bare Skin

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Graphic / Tam Vu
Graphic / Tam Vu

Although skincare has always been a self-care essential for skincare veterans, it has recently crept into the lives of many during COVID-19 as the “next big thing” during lockdown. However, unlike many other quarantine fads, skincare is here to stay. Backed by intense research conducted by industry experts, skincare involves science more than many might think. For example, many products contain active ingredients that may clash with other formulas, balancing pH levels within products is a necessity, and different chemical acids are becoming a popular skin-refining option. The partnership between science and skincare is certainly fascinating for seasoned skincare enthusiasts. This can quickly become overwhelming for beginners, however, especially in terms of tracking and managing the various steps of skincare.

The solution?

Enter Tam Vu, a Virginia Tech sophomore majoring in computer science. Vu, along with her two teammates, developed a skincare habit tracker iOS app called Bare Skin at HackViolet in January. Hackathons are a great way for all students, regardless of major, to pitch new and innovative ideas that serve to solve problems, create solutions, and improve the already-existing. These events are also a prime example of student collaboration as teams work towards producing a final project that all members can be

proud of.

Tam Vu, the mastermind behind Bare Skin, a skincare habit tracker app. Photo / Tam Vu
Tam Vu, the mastermind behind Bare Skin, a skincare habit tracker app. Photo / Tam Vu

HackViolet, formerly known as SheHacksVT, is “a 24-hour female-empowerment hackathon open to all genders, majors, and backgrounds” (HackViolet). In fact, it was Vu’s very first hackathon! “I had never been to a hackathon before, and I originally just wanted to go to spectate and attend the workshops,” Vu said. “After joining the Discord and realizing how many other people were beginners, I got inspired to join for the heck of it and for the experience.” It didn’t take long for Vu to devise a charming, yet simple concept for her team’s mobile app idea. “I honestly love bears, and thought the pun was adorable,” Vu explained. “I pitched it to my team, and they loved it! I started conceptualizing the bear and theme, and thus Bare Skin was born.”

Bare Skin prides itself on being a user-friendly skincare habit tracker app that Vu and her teammates developed to inspire and encourage healthy skincare habits among all users. Inspired by Vu’s love of bears, Bare Skin features a cute and customizable

bear character that cheers users on throughout their skincare journey. As Vu likes to put it, your personal skincare bear “never stops believing in you, spouts skincare facts, and offers an incentive to complete your skincare routine every day, morning, and night!”

The paramount feature of Bare Skin is the routine checklist, which allows users to track the completion of their skincare routines on a morning and night basis. Skincare routines can differ drastically depending on skin type, environmental factors, and even stress levels, so Bare Skin makes it easy for users to input their personalized routines within the app. Users can even build “streaks” by regularly logging their skincare routines every morning and night. Not only do longer streaks ensure a happier skincare bear, but it also allows users to earn coins to buy accessories for their bear!

The app also showcases a community page feature that empowers users to further educate themselves by reading articles and posts about a plethora of skincare topics from combatting dry skin to beginner skincare tips. On this community page, users can save articles, comment on posts published by other community members, and even create their own posts!

Bare Skin's pitch graphic describing the inspiration behind the app and its excited features. Graphic / Tam Vu
Bare Skin's pitch graphic describing the inspiration behind the app and its excited features. Graphic / Tam Vu

Vu and her team created Bare Skin using a variety of creative programs and structural languages. The app’s memorable logo, clean design, and lovable icons were created in Adobe Illustrator. Initially, the team envisioned Bare Skin as an Android app, but with the departure of a teammate who had experience in coding Android apps, the team had to quickly adapt to their remaining skillsets. As a result, the team switched gears and began coding the web-based version of Bare Skin using HTML/CSS. Finally, the app was successfully prototyped and wireframed in Figma as an iOS app.

Given the unique format of HackViolet due to COVID-19, many participants found and formed their teams virtually from around the globe. “I found my team through messaging people on Discord, and we began working together that night,” Vu said. “One of the girls was from Nigeria, and the other was from Europe.” With Vu’s team consisting of members from three different time zones, it became clear that communication and organization would be instrumental in Bare Skin’s success. “It was difficult to coordinate,” Vu recalled. “But after a long, sleepless night and day, we managed to make it work!”

The team’s long 24-hours of coding, designing, and prototyping ultimately paid off as they received the fruit of their arduous labor. Bare Skin won first place in the Best Self-Care Hack category that was sponsored by Estee Lauder Companies.

Bare Skin includes a routine checklist feature allowing users to track the completion of their skincare steps. Graphic / Tam Vu.
Bare Skin includes a routine checklist feature allowing users to track the completion of their skincare steps. Graphic / Tam Vu.

Moving forward, the team behind Bare Skin is striving to push changes within the app to boost user engagement and experience! These updates include more customization options and the gamification of the skincare bear to allow for a more interactive experience! Users can also look forward to a weather database linking system that will improve notification customization and enable reminders (such as reminding users to reapply sunscreen more frequently on sunnier days). Lastly, Bare Skin hopes to inspire inclusivity within the skincare community by making the app more accessible for all users to include text-to-audio features and color blindness support.

Whether you are a STEM student or a coding newbie, hackathons act as a bridge between the competitors, their ideas, and learning crucial skills. “My favorite part about participating in HackViolet was definitely meeting my teammates and internationally

collaborating,” Vu said. “I also learned a lot about time management, rapid prototyping, and honestly just how to participate in hackathons.” The next time you find yourself sparked by an idea, consider competing in an upcoming hackathon — you might just be able to build something amazing.

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