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L’Oréal Is Getting into the 3D Printing Business—and They’re Starting with Human Skin!

Loreal-labBioprinting human skin has been around for some time, but now the famous French cosmetic company L’Oréal wants to get in on the action. And that’s totally not creepy at all. We promise.

Although this video does make things look just a little creepy!

L’Oréal announced recently that their company is partnering with Organovo, a company that specializes in 3D printing human tissue, to start printing more and more samples of human skin. But why would a company like L’Oréal, a juggernaut in the cosmetic and beauty industry, be interested in bioprinting human skin?

Believe it or not, L’Oréal is doing this for the animals. Ever since the European Union banned animal-tested cosmetic ingredients in 2013, the cosmetic company has been making the move away from testing cosmetics on animals. According to the Washington Post, L’Oréal began exploring skin culture technologies decades ago to help facilitate this move away from animal testing.

Bioprinted skin is already being explored for use in human skin grafts that could treat burns or for use in reconstructive surgery. But this will be the first application of the technology in the beauty industry, the companies said in a joint statement. The technology will also be completely free of animal testing. And, it’s actually a pretty cool process! The current technique involves incubating human skin taken from willingly donated plastic surgery scraps, and growing new cells from it.

The process already yields nine different types of human skin samples that represent different ages and ethnicities, which can be used to test various products. Both companies hope that this process will eventually be fully automated. It seems like the next logical step for L’Oréal and will yield much more skin for them to work with. But the company wants to refine the process first.

In an email to WaPo, global vice president of L’Oréal’s technology incubator, Guive Balooch, says that, “L’Oréal’s focus right now is not to increase the quantity of skin we produce but instead to continue to build on the accuracy and consistent replication of the skin engineering process.”

According to Bloomberg, by combining Organovo’s technology and L’Oréal’s expertise in synthesizing human skin, the two companies hope to speed up the process of skin production in the next five years. But even at the slow, by-hand method that L’Oréal’s scientist are currently working, their efforts produce a cowhide worth of human skin samples in a single year. An automated process using Organovo’s 3-D printing technology will likely increase the pace of production significantly.

It’s great that L’Oréal is actively moving away from animal testing to pursue a different method of cosmetic research. And they’re using the best available technology (3D printing) to make this research possible and completely humane. It won’t be long before technology reaches the point where we can print an entire human body from just a few cells! Again, we promise—that’s totally not creepy at all.

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