Retail in Asia


L’Oréal’s tech incubator head Guive Balooch on how innovation is transforming the beauty industry

Growing up with a father who taught as a professor at UC Berkeley, Guive Balooch, Head of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, was no stranger to science and technology. Following a stint in developing compound phamaceuticals, Balooch, who holds a PhD in biomedical engineering, “fell” into the world of beauty when he was tapped to lead L’Oréal’s open research and innovation. The cosmetics group has since developed a number of beauty products that combine extensive market research and first-to-market technology, including two new prototypes debuted by L’Oréal at CES 2023.

Balooch speaks with Retail in Asia on his innovation strategy, products to watch, and why the beauty industry must become more inclusive.

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RiA: What are some of your primary objectives as head of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator?

Balooch: Our Global Technology Incubator celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, and our goal hasn’t changed: we want to offer everyone the best of cosmetics innovation in terms of quality, efficacy, and safety; and meeting the infinite diversity of beauty needs all over the world. It is through technology that we can meet these needs. Thanks to technological developments and integration of the physical and digital, we’re able to create objects or devices that can achieve results. And we can solve some of the biggest challenges of our beauty consumers today with tech.

RiA: Can you share what a typical day looks like for you?

Balooch: Every day is different, but the idea that we have had from day one on my team has been: How can we enter create elevated beauty experiences for people around the world by using tech? We start by looking at age-old consumer needs things that have been around [forever]. Beauty has been around since almost the beginning of time. So, when you think about that, the needs of consumers are the most important.

We look at areas like personalised beauty — this idea that every human being should have a product made for them without having to go through a maze of 1,000 options and auditioning every product in the world. To get there, we look at things like the ability to give people the right data using tech — about their skin tone, about their skin and their habits. We look at sustainability: How we can use tech to make the world a better place, in terms of water consumption and areas like that.

 RiA: L’Oréal has launched a couple of new innovations. What is HAPTA?

Image credit: L’Oréal

Balooch: An estimated 50 million people globally live with essential tremors, limiting fine motor skills, making some daily gestures, like applying makeup, challenging. L’Oréal’s purpose with the unveiling of HAPTA is to develop inclusive products that expand users’ ability to express themselves through beauty without limits. HAPTA is the first handheld, ultra-precise smart makeup applicator for users with limited hand and arm mobility, offering them the ability to steadily apply lipstick at home.

RiA: Can you describe the research and development process for these innovations?

Balooch: L’Oréal partnered with Verily, a health tech company that first used stabilisation technologies to stabilise and level utensils to give people with limited hand and arm mobility the ability to eat with confidence via a robotic spoon. HAPTA uses that core stabilisation tech with a new attachment which can hold lipstick; the device will be tested as a potential technology that aims to provide a full range of motion to apply colour cosmetics and piloted with Lancôme.

RiA: What conditions or impairments more prevalent in Asia are you hoping to address in the near future?

Balooch: One example is we’re working to better understand how we can measure at home the biology of our skin and how we can help people [from that biology] have more and more effective and efficient products for their skin and their hair.

RiA: Why is inclusion important to L’Oréal?

Balooch: L’Oréal’s approach is to try to reach everybody, to try to give individuals personalised and precise information. Technology plays a huge role in inclusivity. Society is evolving and with the advent of more skin tones and diversity means more people are expecting personalised offers for them. L’Oréal strives to have a product and/or shade for every consumer, and we want all our products to deliver on this promise of inclusivity.

SEE ALSO: South Korea makeup market to grow 5 percent CAGR through 2026

RiA: What comes to mind when you think of the future of the beauty industry?

Balooch: In the last 10 years, we’ve seen consumers shift to want more access to smart data and a better understanding of how to create services to give extreme performance – they crave something new, better, customised. With AI and machine learning, we can coach people on how to do the most difficult aspects of beauty. We’re challenging ourselves to bring that experience to a higher level.

The convergence of technology, lifestyle and beauty is pushing the industry forward – we’re already using design and tech to provide precision and empower consumers to create their own experiences and products though technology. Hopefully in 5 to 10 years, AI and AR can play a role in helping the beauty industry be filled with truly personalised and inclusive experiences.