Many of L'Oreal's patents focus on hair coloring and hair straightening, and we also see potential plans for custom makeover and manicure technology.
Beauty & grooming giant L’Oreal has been extremely active in patent applications, filing over 1575 patents since 2009. Using the patent analysis tools available on the CB Insights platform, we found that L’Oreal has prioritized hair care – specifically keratin treatments – in its patent activity, though it’s also looked at devices for customizing products.
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In the chart below, we used a frequency weighting scheme to rank keywords from L’Oreal’s granted patents in every year since 2009, and found that most of the patents focus on product formulations, specifically in products related to hair care. “Hair” has been in the top 10 most used keywords each year, and “keratin’ and “fiber” (or “fibre”) also show up most years. Many patents in these categories deal with coloring hair, straightening hair, or treating straightened hair, with titles such as “Process for Treating Straightened Keratin Fibres” (granted April 2017) and “Hair Shaping Processes Using Fatty Substances, Non-Silicone Polymers or Surfactants” (granted February 2017). (All links in this post are accessible to CB Insights clients.)
L’Oreal also has a number of patents focused on skin, including various sunscreen formulations, colored cosmetics, and skin-cleansing and anti-acne products. The company also patented cosmetic applicators and packaging methods.
Annual patent activity
L’Oreal patent activity year over year has been uneven, though there appears to be a more recent upward trend. The company earned a record high number of patents in 2014 with 171, the most recent year for which concrete numbers are available. Data for 2015 onward is not yet finalized.
Spotlight: Personalization patents
Beyond products and packaging, L’Oreal has filed several patents related to producing customized products, which is a growing trend in the beauty sector. By offering custom products, beauty brands have the opportunity to engage customers more deeply and make their products more sticky.
In December 2016, for example, L’Oreal was granted a patent for a machine which can visually measure the texture and color of a shopper’s skin or hair and then print a custom blended beauty product for that shopper. According to the patent, L’Oreal sees a desire among consumers for customized products, but believes past methods of store associates hand mixing custom blends is inefficient and prone to error. They also cite paint mixing machines as used by Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other stores – which let shoppers enter a color choice from a deck of options to mix that color paint – as being insufficiently customizable.
With this patent, L’Oreal aims to custom blend a unique color for each shopper, not just show a shopper her best match from a range of pre-established colors.
In this patent, customers could use a webcam on their computer to scan their skin tone or hair color and order custom products from home, or could sit for scanning in a retail store. The patent explains the software can remember customers’ past orders, and could blend foundation, mascara, lipstick, or other colored cosmetic products.
In August 2016, L’Oreal was granted another patent for visually analyzing a shopper’s skin or hair using an iPhone or other consumer device. The patent describes a way for consumers to gain insight on their own skin or hair at home, for the purposes of matching cosmetics or for monitoring dermatological issues. The analysis would not be professional-grade, but it aims to help consumers, for example, monitor a mole between visits to a dermatologist.
Most recently, L’Oreal applied for a patent (not yet granted) that would 3D print customized cosmetic products, especially fake nails, for consumers. The application was filed in February 2017. This device could potentially replace the typical process of attaching false nails, which generally requires a salon professional and takes 30-90 minutes. In the process L’Oreal envisions, a machine could scan the 3D shape of a finger and nail, mold a custom-shaped false nail, and attach it to the user’s finger.
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