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The beauty industry is always progressing. If you have been using beauty products for the last decade, you’d probably have noticed how much easier it is now to find great quality at a more affordable price.

The progress is only possible because of innovation, and this is why cosmetics companies plough investments into research so they can develop better products to satisfy consumers who will only get more demanding.

And the latest research reported by Bloomberg Businessweek is done by cosmetics giant L’Oréal and it comes in the form of blobs of Chinese skin in petri dishes, used by scientists to help create beauty products that are customised for Chinese faces and skin.

How does the company create skin?

The Chinese skin is reconstructed from living cells donated for research, and researchers are able to use these skin samples to develop cosmetics products that are more suited for consumers from China. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that according to Euromonitor International, China is L’Oréal’s fastest-growting market, and that cosmetic sales in China are projected to be more than USD40 million in the next four years, taking over the USA as the biggest market for makeup and skincare in the world.

Loreal Chinese Skin 3

This is how reconstructed skin looks like. | Source: L’Oréal Research & Innovation

Sanford Browne, vice president for research and innovation at L’Oréal China Co, told Bloomberg Businessweek that Chinese consumers are the most demanding in the world, and they’re discerning across almost all product categories. He said that Chinese buyers had shared with the company’s researchers about their willingness to make purchases but only if they see that the products are designed for them and benefit them.

Alain Oberhuber, an analyst in Zurich for MainFirst Bank AG told Bloomberg Businessweek that companies used to think that the Chinese go for European brands, but the trend has changed and consumers are opting for local beauty brands instead.

Loreal Chinese Skin

Testing on reconstructed skin. | Source: L’Oréal Research & Innovation

Browne explained why it was important to test products on real skin. He said that there are many differences at the cellular level of skin between races and that Chinese and Caucasian skin react in a different way to factors such as UV rays. The way skin age is different too; while Caucasian skin tends to develop wrinkles with age, Chinese skin forms pigmentation.

He also said that a foundation that works well on Caucasian skin may cake on Chinese skin, because it produces more sebum.

“It’s in understanding all these things that we can innovate,” Browne told Bloomberg Businessweek.

This is not the first time L’Oréal is growing skin

And the research method of growing skin isn’t new to the cosmetics giant. L’Oréal had already grown Caucasian skin cells in Europe decades ago. They are now replicating their previous experience to achieve similar success with the reconstruction of Chinese skin. The lab facility to do so is a 20,000-square-foot space in Shanghai, and they are using the results to customise ingredients in beauty products for the Chinese.

Loreal Chinese Skin 2

Episkin Academy in China. | Source: L’Oréal Research & Innovation

Examples of how the lab research is yielding results include these:

  • The skin samples are used to test the whitening efficacy of white peony, a well-known traditional Chinese medicine, in order to produce skin-brightening products
  • Chinese hair is put into a box filled with smog so that researchers can understand how pollutants are hanging on to the locks, so that they can produce anti-pollution hair products and cleansers that work for the Chinese

Besides using reconstructed skin as a great way to customise products, this technology can also help L’Oréal develop products without going through animal testing. China is the last major beauty market where it is compulsory for all imported cosmetics to go through animal testing before they can be sold in the market. Industry-insiders are hoping that Chinese authority will eventually allow the lab-produced skin to be used as a substitute for animal testing.