PARIS — L'Oréal has been busy in the past month. The French firm's Episkin model, which measures chemicals' irritation on reconstructed human skin, was validated as a full replacement for testing on animals. In a statement published last week, the French beauty giant said the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods had approved its in-vitro model, which tests how irritating a substance is on reconstructed human epidermis on collagen.

According to the ECVAM, Episkin "predicts the skin irritancy potential of chemicals with great accuracy and precision and will therefore fully replace tests on animals."

L'Oréal said it was a great step toward the elimination of animal testing. "Today, Episkin is routinely used for tolerance evaluation of our products, and our commitment to develop alternative methods continues," stated Jean-François Grollier, executive vice president of research and development at L'Oréal.

L'Oréal added that this type of test would enable it to replace animals in the testing of 10,000 substances, as foreseen under REACH, the wide-reaching legislation passed in Europe in December 2006.

The Episkin model is available to other firms and is sold by SkinEthic, the tissue-engineering company L'Oréal acquired in March 2006. When it bought SkinEthic, L'Oréal said its top priority was developing alternative approaches to animal testing. L'Oréal ended animal testing of all finished products, but not ingredients, in 1989.

In other news, more than 44,000 students from 128 countries took part in this year's edition of L'Oréal's e-Strat Challenge, the online business strategy competition for undergraduate and MBA students that the French beauty firm uses as a recruitment tool. In the Paris final round on April 18, students from Germany's Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg beat teams from Turkey and Indonesia to take first place in the undergraduate competition. In the MBA category, Switzerland's IMD won first place, trumping teams from the U.K., Taiwan and Brazil. L'Oréal executives — Geoff Skingsley, executive vice president of human resources, and Béatrice Dautresme, executive vice president of corporate communications and external affairs — chaired the jury panels. Since e-Strat Challenge was launched in 2000, L'Oréal has recruited 256 students from the competition.

Emmanuel Lulin has been named L'Oréal's ethics director, a new post. The beauty company announced last Thursday that Lulin would oversee internal and external ethical issues and report directly to L'Oréal's chief executive officer, Jean-Paul Agon. Lulin's role is to integrate ethical practices and insure they're respected throughout L'Oréal. He will also supervise the development of the firm's ethical program, which includes training.

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