Utilizing Diversity as a Springboard for Innovation

Consumer needs as a source of inspiration for science.


Imagine a woman in France sitting at her vanity, meticulously applying her makeup. She’s expertly creating a flawless complexion by layering various products, creating the perfect mix to achieve the tone and texture she desires.

For centuries beauty criteria in India have been based on specific symbolism. This beauty code has expanded but remains essentially rooted to tradition. Thick, long and black hair has always been the crowning glory of Indian women. Tied back or weighed down, it was a symbol of control over instincts.

Thousands of miles away in Mumbai, a woman applies a cream to lighten her skin tone, and covers it with a different product – a finishing talc. This combination addresses both the desire for a light, even skin tone and skin that does not look oily, even in high humidity.

Across the Pacific Ocean, a woman in Los Angeles applies foundation and bronzer to give her face a tanned look. She still takes the time to protect herself from the effects of the sun’s UV rays in prepping her skin with sunscreen beforehand.

All of these women have unique techniques to achieve their desired beauty outcome, and we can learn from each one.

Diversity is Beautiful, and Beauty is Diverse

Our skin has many characteristics that come from a variety of factors like our age, what we eat, where we are born and even the environment. Separately, there is a diverse set of expectations for how we look. These expectations are shaped by cultural norms and desires that have been influenced by the different norms over the years. The world is full of beauty rituals, some contradictory, some complementary, and all fascinating.

While in the West beauty is often associated with make-up, Asians give special importance to their skin and complexion. Care is associated with the notion of purity, which itself means harmony with the world and with yourself. Across the region, beauty rituals, deeply anchored in tradition, often resemble ceremonies. In Indonesia, high value is placed on soothing rituals and the process of caring for skin and hair as beauty is believed to not only come from taking care of the outside but also from a healthy body and a peaceful and balanced mind.

People everywhere are beautiful and have their own unique needs and desires to enhance how they present themselves to the world, as the women described above exemplify. L’Oréal is utilizing a combination of in-depth cultural understanding and scientific techniques to create products that meet the diverse needs of people the world over.

“African women are probably the most daring when it comes to hair styles” said Bertrand de Laleu, managing director of L’Oréal South Africa.

Combining Culture with Science: Cultural Diversity Drives Innovation

L’Oréal combines science with culture to create innovation, objectively studying all of the elements that can be assessed, such as skin tone, hair texture, beauty rituals and cultural expectations.

Like in many Asian countries, skin care is an obsession among Chinese women and 70% of their beauty consumption is funneled into skin care.

From the scientific side, L’Oréal can make very granular assessments. For example, there is a machine called the Chromasphere that measures exact skin tone and helps the company gain a precise understanding of the range of skin tones across a given region. The Chromasphere allows L’Oréal to create skin care products that are a more perfect match for the complexion of the various consumers. The Chromasphere uses color calibration to allow L’Oréal to objectively measure skin tone; this objective information is combined with local consumer product expectations, and allows for the creation of products that match both skin and performance needs.

From the cultural side, the way the rituals are discovered is through direct, systematic observation of hygiene and beauty routines, combined with the assessment of local concerns such as heat and humidity. For example, when L’Oréal studied the beauty routines of women in India, it was found that a finishing talc is often used to absorb skin oils, which is a primary concern due to the hot and humid weather there.

The combination of scientific expertise and in-depth understanding of local beauty rituals helps create new products like:

As these examples highlight, it’s only by putting together both scientific and cultural components that L’Oréal can create these innovative new products that meet the needs of a new market. This is innovation borne of diversity.


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