L’Oreal “grows” Chinese skin to perfect targeted cosmetics range
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L’Oreal “grows” Chinese skin to perfect targeted cosmetics range

It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but Parisian cosmetics giant L’Oreal is growing Chinese skin in it’s Shanghai laboratory. What’s the story behind this bizarre revelation? The company is hoping to use the reconstructed skin – which contains cells from living donors – to perfect a range of Chinese-facing cosmetics that will capture the country’s massive market.

It’s pretty easy to see why the company is so eager to court Chinese consumers. By 2021, the country will have eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s biggest cosmetics market, and Euromonitor International expects it to be worth more than $40 billion. This growing powerhouse won’t be easily wooed, though. 

graph 0902 loreal

Sanford Browne, L’Oreal’s vice president for research and innovation in China told the press that: “the Chinese consumer is the most demanding in the world in almost all our product categories.” According to Browne, a popular attitude on the mainland is “I’m willing to pay for it, but I have to see a real benefit, and it has to be designed for me.” That’s where the reconstructed skin comes in.

Seemingly small differences can make or break cosmetic innovations. Waterproof mascara and UV ray-proof foundation are just two examples. What’s more, the difference between different ethnic groups’ skins is a well-known fact. At the cellular level, Caucasian and Asian skin reacts differently to things like sunlight and ageing. These differences can lead to different reactions to cosmetic treatments. Browne said: “It’s in understanding all these things that we can innovate.”

As out there as laboratory-grown skin might seem, it’s nothing new. L’Oreal has been growing Caucasian skin for the same reason since 2005. This news is a sign that the company is now taking China as seriously as its domestic market. The company won’t reveal the level of its investment in the country, but MainFirst Bank AG estimates that company’s China revenue has jumped by 40% over the past five years. That’s a track record the company will be eager to replicate – and even surpass.


Dominion holds L’Oreal in its Global Trends Luxury Fund.

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