At CES on Monday, L’Oréal took aim at one of beauty’s most challenging pandemic-era dilemmas: How to achieve great results from at-home hair color. The company’s answer comes in the form of Colorsonic, a new consumer device that hopes to make the process foolproof.
Touted as a tool for mess-free mixing and even application, the handheld appliance features a cartridge-loading system and a distribution system built to prevent drips and other issues. If it lives up to the promise, it may be the closest thing amateur colorists have to a magic wand.
The hardware features a custom mixer that blends precise amounts of developer and formula, plus a bristled dispenser that extrudes the color in a zigzag pattern as the user brushes sections of hair. This oscillating nozzle moves 300 times a minute to make quick and even work of the application. Moving parts typically invite mechanical issues, but the company said it went through rigorous tests to prevent leaking or oversaturation.
Customers can choose from 40 shades online, with home delivery directly from the company.
“It seems simple, which is what we wanted the consumers to know,” Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s connected beauty incubator, told WWD. “But I can tell you on a technical level, it was really complicated because you have hair colors, which are oxidative, mixed inside the machine. It has to be dosed perfectly.
“We tested it on over 400 people, from long hair to short hair to wavy to curly — we basically codesigned this tool with consumers in the first five years, and it took seven years to make it,” he said. “So we’re really excited. And I think, when you look at the hair color category today, we hope it will be a big disruptive innovation in the category.”
A benefit of the system is that the appliance can store remaining color. That’s not possible with manual box-kit counterparts, which instruct users to throw leftover color in the trash. So if the prospect of easy touch-ups or gray coverage at any time doesn’t hold enough appeal for consumers, perhaps the reduced chemical waste will.
In fact, according to Balooch, the company developed the product with sustainability as a high priority.
“[With] the cartridge, you use 54 percent less plastic in one application of this device, as you do compare it to a box color,” he continued. “We’re using reusable gloves. So there’s 23 tons of potential saving of gloves from that. It’s fully circular — the material comes from our factory from already used materials.”
Plans are also in the works for mobile app features that can help users pick the right color to begin with, thanks to virtual try-ons powered by the company’s ModiFace augmented reality technology.
The L’Oréal executive couldn’t confirm the launch date or cost, but he noted that the company wants to make it affordable for consumers. Given that, pricing will probably come to a couple of hundred dollars, as opposed to thousands. It will debut under the L’Oréal Paris branding as one of its first tech devices.
The product arrives as Balooch’s team celebrates its 10th anniversary, and it marks the latest step in L’Oréal’s multiyear mission to offer new ways of personalizing beauty. This effort has made the company a regular at major technology events like CES and other conferences, which have become important venues to showcase new products and services over the years — including the Perso custom lip color gadget, My Skin Track UV wearable sensor and dispensers that formulate individualized foundation or serums.
The context seems fitting. This year, CES returned as an in-person conference, despite major exhibitors pulling out over rising Omicron infections. The uncertainties underscore the pandemic’s deep impact on businesses.
One manifestation of that effect has been very visible and widespread: Over the last two years, as beauty salons dealt with waves of lockdowns and nervous patrons, the sight of untended roots and faded tresses have been common. It’s part of the lasting imagery from this period, like a sign of these COVID-19 times along with face masks and yoga pants.
Some consumers have embraced their gray hair or natural color, but others can’t wait to put that look — and indeed, this whole pandemic — firmly behind them.
Colorsonic wasn’t conceived with that in mind, as it has been in development for years. But the timing could boost its traction. L’Oréal noted that temporary lockdowns for salons drove a 6 percent jump in its at-home hair color business.
Not that the company will ignore professional styling services. On the contrary, alongside Colorsonic, the company also unveiled Coloright, an advanced coloring system for salons that uses artificial intelligence.
The machine starts by analyzing the hair of individual clients, assessing various factors that can influence color’s effectiveness, from natural color and gray to length and density. Then it dispenses a precise combination of dye, developer, base cream and other ingredients, essentially creating a personalized recipe for clients, with up to 1,500 custom possibilities, the company said.
“Our company was started 110 years ago by a chemist that created the first hair color in the first salon, and 50 years ago, we also invented one that we were one of the first to invent hair color at home,” Balooch explained. “And so this year, we’re coming with two products that we believe, through technology, will disrupt the hair color category completely.”