L’Oréal: Customised experience and precision beauty the future of tech R&D
Tech innovation will trigger important advances in customised consumer experiences and precision beauty in the coming years; the challenge will be making products with strong values, says the head of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator.
L’Oréal soared into the beauty tech spotlight again this month with the launch of its artificial intelligence (AI) powered at-home device Perso. Showcased at the Consumer Technology Association (CES) 2020 in Las Vegas, the 6.5-inch 450g innovation device uses real-time data and trend analysis to create personalised skin care formulas, dispensed using a patented motorised system. L’Oréal said a global roll-out was scheduled under a leading skin care brand next year, ensuring the technology was accessible to all.
L’Oréal has invested heavily in beauty tech in recent years, notably since the inception of its technology incubator in 2012 – designed as a start-up within its research and innovation division. From My Skin Track UV launched at Apple for smart skin tracking to Le Teint Particulier for custom-blended foundation, the incubator has developed numerous products aimed at plugging market gaps and meeting consumer needs in the beauty space.
“The goal at the beginning was a bit more exploratory,” Guive Balooch, head of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
“It was at a time where there were no beauty companies going to the CES show and everything was at a stage where we were just trying to see if there was an opportunity to have an intersection between beauty and data and tech,” Balooch said.
Beauty tech is the future, ‘I’m convinced of that’
In 2020, beauty tech was now “no longer up-and-coming”, he said, rather strong and here to stay.
“There is no situation where I think technology won’t be a part of beauty in the future, I’m convinced of that. I’m biased, obviously, but I’m biased because I believe in that. I wake up every day and am driven by it.”
Balooch said within the beauty tech space, personalisation would continue its growth trajectory and precision beauty would take centre stage in the coming years.
“Obviously, we believe very much in this idea that beauty for all is really moving towards unique, customised experiences for consumers that are really based on true facts and data,” he said.
“…I also have a big belief in precision beauty. At this moment, we’re looking in the future a lot about how we can bring a lot of different technology platforms together to create spectacular results on the skin that could not be done with bare hands. We think that level of precision will allow a lot more beauty results that would be difficult to do without technology.”
However, as the market became more saturated – with various gadgets and tech-based trends – Balooch said the values behind beauty tech innovations would be critical to success.
“I know beauty tech will become big, but what’s more important is there will still be very few [products] that will break out and really change the life of people. I think that’s going to be the most important thing.”
Beauty tech needs inclusivity, performance and sustainability
For L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, Balooch said this meant developing products around three core values: inclusivity, performance and sustainability. Each beauty tech project, he said, looked to solve the challenge of ‘beauty for all’; bring a level of performance impossible without technology; and create products with better purpose.
He said the team – spread across New York, San Francisco, Paris and China – sometimes fleshed out an idea based on a new technology and other times worked backwards from a final product idea but always considered these as a base.
“I won’t lie, I run a very fast-paced team. But at the same time, if everything is incremental we’ll never do the big projects in terms of disruptors.”
This, he said, was why balancing risk in the incubator remained vital, with some slow-burner projects taking up to three years and others turned around in just six months.
External inspiration – health & wellness, precision medicine and industrial design
Importantly, the L’Oréal team often collaborated with external partners on its projects, he said – My Track UV, for example, was achieved in partnership with a health and wellness start-up and Make-Up Genuis with an animation firm. “I’m looking outside as much as I’m looking inside. For me, I just want to get the right level of technology and we can’t do everything just internally.”
There was also plenty of inspiration outside of beauty, Balooch said, particularly in health and wellness space and precision medicine.
“I also look a lot in design. So, by design I mean I work with industrial designers that work in other industries, like lifestyle but also personalisation in other fields. I’m a big believer that industrial design is a very important way to fuel innovation in our industry because it’s so user-centric.”
Asked what the biggest challenge was in the future of beauty tech, Balooch said: “Making sure we don’t launch too fast or too late, and making sure we solve the problems that really need solving. They’re not tech problems but they’re very important. The risk we take is getting too excited that it’s a new space and not remembering what we’re trying to do.”
“…Longer term, the biggest challenges will be in really finding the right innovations that come between tech innovation and consumer needs, and to think of what the big bets will be; the big ways we’ll change our industry through beauty and technology.”