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LVMH Symposium Highlights Cosmetics as a Science of Interfaces

The different speakers at the event discussed the diversity of such interfaces.

PARIS — Cosmetics as a science of interfaces was the subject of LVMH Recherche’s 10th symposium, held here last month.


“In our laboratories, we have scientists from 31 different disciplines developing our products,” said LVMH Recherche director of research and development, Eric Perrier, explaining the theme.


These include physical chemists, phytochemists, medical scientists and social scientists, to name but a few, he said, proving how important the “cross-fertilization” of different disciplines is to cosmetics development. He added, “We must continue to seek the science of interfaces wherever it exists.”


The different speakers at the event highlighted the diversity of such interfaces.


LVMH Recherche marketing and consumer intelligence director Germaine Gazano explained how the company measures semantic interfaces to predict buying behavior, particularly in terms of driving a repeat purchase.

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“A first purchase is about branding, but a repeat is about pleasure,” she said.


In a study of consumer demands from a serum, for example, the company found that key words were “quality,” “rarity” and “craftsmanship.”


In separate research, the company profiled 300 consumers in France, the U.S. and China to define the language it needs to use for its fragrance branding.


“All three nationalities used the words ‘flowery,’ ‘sweet,’ ‘fresh’ and ‘fruity,’ ” she said. But specific words also came out: “elegant” in China, “spicy” in France and “clean” in the U.S., even in describing the same fragrances.


Nina Jablonski, department head and professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, spoke of how “the skin is an interface with the physical and societal aspects of the outside world.”


She explained how human skin had taken on its present form, distinct from our primate relatives, and how skin decoration has become so important as a way of communicating status, health and youth.


When women put makeup on, for example, they generally highlight the eyes, lips and cheeks, all prominent features in infants, who we supposedly subconsciously emulate.


Jablonski also spoke of the social importance of skin color. “Changing skin color has great social meaning, even to the detriment of health,” she said.


“The degree to which people change their skin depends on advertising and role models. As we manipulate the interfaces between the skin and cosmetics, we must think about the effects and our responsibilities for these effects.”


Role models like Michelle Obama, for example, who is proud not to bleach her skin, could have a profound effect in years to come on attitudes toward skin lightening, Jablonski said.


African-Americans living in northern climes will see continuing problems from vitamin D deficiency, she said, while Caucasians in equatorial regions will see increasing levels of skin cancer.


Desmond Tobin, professor of cell biology and director of the Centre for Skin Sciences at the University of Bradford in the U.K., revealed the results of studies on how different types of light affect the skin. Combining the use of red light and green tea, for example, showed reduced photo-aging.


Research with LVMH, meanwhile, found that UV radiation stimulates melanin transfer in skin cells. “Light can switch on regulation mechanisms in the skin,” he said.


Emmanuelle Noblesse, manager of LVMH Recherche’s Life Imaging Platform, Biology and Cutaneous Objectivation Department, told the audience of scientists about the importance of the interfaces between different types of cells in the epidermis. “Junctions between the dermis and the epidermis are less regular in wrinkled skin,” she said.


Marc Giget, director of the European Institute for Creative Strategies and Innovation, gave an entertaining speech about how cosmetics advertising over the past century has reflected societal changes and the link between innovation and dreams.


“Advertising must reflect society,” he said. “There is wide room to maneuver in creative terms, but it is important to reflect society as it is at a given time.”


Giget’s presentation featured visuals from advertising for Guerlain’s 1889 fragrance Jicky, which portrays a woman driving a car, to recent ads for Miss Dior Chérie with a bicycle, highlighting sustainability awareness.