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L’Oréal’s Latest Tech Glow-ups Hit CES

With new tech-driven makeup applicators, L’Oréal tackles deep challenges — from mobility issues to the problem of shaping the perfect brow.

If everyone deserves to feel beautiful, as cosmetics companies often say, then why is makeup application so difficult to get right? If it weren’t, the world wouldn’t be awash in online tutorials (and the beauty influencers behind them).

This is where L’Oréal’s obsession with hardware devices may pay off. At CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday, the beauty giant took the wraps off a pair of new prototypes that promise better and more precise makeup application.

“This year at CES, L’Oréal is bringing two new technologies, Hapta and L’Oréal Brow Magic, that offer people the chance to achieve results that were not possible with their bare hands,” Guive Balooch, L’Oréal’s global head of research and innovation’s tech incubator, told WWD.

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This is where an important distinction must be made: The goal is not to make end users look like carbon copies of each other, as a simple mechanized wand or other piece of technology might do. The effort, according to the company, is a way to “expand access to beauty expression.”

In the lexicon of L’Oréal innovation, equity and inclusiveness are vaunted terms — though they may be overused as jargon or slogans in the modern brandsmanship’s state of play. Perhaps eager to prove that the business doesn’t just love the words, but their meaning, the company noted that roughly 50 million people worldwide live with limited fine motor skills. If mundane tasks and gestures are difficult, tasks that require any sort of artistic sensibility or precision may seem herculean.

Enter Hapta. The ultra-precise computerized handheld was designed for makeup applications, such as steadily applying lipstick, specifically for people with limited hand and arm mobility. The tech at the heart of the prototype was developed by Verily to hold and stabilize eating utensils using magnets and articulation with 360 degrees of rotation and 180 degrees of flexion. Just as the tool encourages independence at the table, it could inspire confidence in a beauty context.

Hapta’s battery takes three hours to fully charge and allows for one hour of continuous use for more than 10 makeup applications. The device will be piloted with L’Oréal’s Lancôme this year as a lipstick applicator first, before venturing into other makeup applications later.

The other device, Brow Magic, is also targeting a specific need, but for a broader audience of consumers — people who can’t quite achieve flattering eyebrow shapes for their faces.

According to L’Oréal, the tool’s “bespoke” eyebrows come courtesy of technology that sounds more suited to inkjets and paper than cosmetics and skin. The company worked with Prinker, a company that specializes in printed, temporary tattoos, to develop a system that creates customized “professional-like” brows at home based on the person’s natural brow and facial features. To achieve that level of refinement, the unit comes packed with 2,400 micro nozzles and a printing resolution of up to 1,200 drops per inch (dpi).

Like Hapta, Brow Magic will arrive later this year. No prices were disclosed at press time.

Balooch has often talked about the interplay between different types of technologies and learning from other kinds of developers, because they can bring a new perspective to the beauty biz. That’s key for the L’Oréal executive and his tech incubator. The group has conceived and created everything from skin health scanning tech to machines that customize and mix on-demand serums and foundations. The latter two borrow from the printing business as well, it turns out, and they’re only part of the broad landscape of beauty applications L’Oréal has been eyeing.

The company was recently honored in Time magazine’s 2022 best inventions in November for its Colorsonic applicator, a device that mixes and applies hair color for at-home treatments. Its latest duo, Hapta and Brow Magic, are newly minted CES 2023 Innovation Award winners. While it’s not clear where the approach will take the company next, Balooch seems excited about the possibilities — especially if it exceeds physical barriers and limitations.

“Both [the Hapta and Brow Magic] devices take us into the future of beauty,” he added, “where our hands are not the barrier to achieve our desired result.”