A few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to visit the L’Oreal Paris laboratories in Paris, France for their global Skin Summit (did I mention how much I love my job?). My academic background is in science, so putting on a crisp, white lab coat and safety goggles brought me right back to my University days.
Except it was in Paris. And it was all about beauty products.
Our day began with a discussion panel about the latest innovations, key ingredients and testing methods, which we later were able to experience ourselves in the labs. The main takeaways? L’Oreal Paris is doing some pretty amazing things to advance the industry (not only for their own benefit, but for the scientific community as a whole), they’ve employed some incredible methods to test the efficacy of their formulas and they’re launching some awesome new products very soon.
One of the most excited parts of my tour was the very first workshop—learning about tissular engineering. It’s the kind of thing you hear about, but don’t quite fully appreciate until you’ve seen it right there in front of you. We learned how skin cells are harvested from plastic surgery waste, amplified then reconstructed in order to create EPISKIN, which is then used for cosmetic testing. Then you learn that L’Oreal Paris actually sells their recontructed tissue models to other companies (pharmaceutical, cosmetic and others) to eliminate the need for testing on animals.
You know when you read a claim on the side of a product’s box like “reduces fine lines by 25% in 6 weeks,” have you ever wondered how they got that number? I knew that there were some pretty cool analytical tests that could be performed to develop quantitative results of a product’s efficacy, but I had no idea what exactly they were.
We discovered several different tools that L’Oreal Paris uses to test their products, like Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), Ultrasound and Confocal Microscopy to measures epidermal thickness and skin organization, Fringe Projection to precisely measure skin texture from subtle roughness to deep wrinkles, Chromosphere to accurately measure skin colour and Skinchip (which was adapted from fingerprint technology) to detect levels of hydration in the skin. All of these advanced technologies allow L’Oreal to test the efficacy of their products and see exactly what their formulas are doing to the skin.
Speaking of formulas…
The Art of Formulation
The last part of the visit was also a memory I’ll cherish for a long time—seeing how they formulate their products in the lab. I remember synthesizing Aspirin in one of my labs and it sure wasn’t nearly as cool as whipping up a small batch of Age Perfect cream, which we observed at one of the lab benches. We learned that every formula starts with 5 main components; an oily phase, an aqueous phase, stabilizers, actives and cosmetic additives (like powders, pearls and pigments). They are precisely weighed and then combined in a seven-step process that can take months or even years to master. The formulas are then tested against a variety of controls for safety and stability.
Long story short, it’s a long process to go from an idea to a product on your bathroom vanity shelf—one that can take years from start to finish.
Two launches in particular that I was able to get a sneak peek on were the upcoming Pure-Clay Masks, a collection of three clay masks designed to purify, illuminate or exfoliate skin, as well as the new Revitalift Bright Reveal collection which features peel pads (!) among other products to exfoliate and brighten the skintone. I’ll be talking about each of these collections closer to their launch dates this summer, but I had to give you a little heads up!