ubiome l'oréal

L’Oréal’s pursuit of beautiful and healthy skin took another step forward at SXSW in Austin, Tex., where the beauty giant announced a new partnership with citizen science start-up UBiome.

The latter will analyze samples from consumers interested in learning about their unique skin microbiome, an “ecosystem” of bacteria, fungi and other elements that protect the skin. When this ecosystem is out of whack or off-balance, any number of issues can spring up, from acne and body odor to eczema, rosacea and psoriasis.

The company performs the analysis on a swab from the subject — similar to 23andMe DNA tests, but for skin.

Part of L’Oréal’s “science of skin care” push, the deal opens up more research and understanding of the skin’s ecosystem, while also giving the beauty company access to (anonymized) data for the development of future products.

For L’Oréal, the partnership is a natural progression of its longstanding work, and follows up a string of recent projects. Its own research in the skin’s microbiome goes back more than a decade, with 50 published papers, and includes findings on things such as its effect on aging skin, among other aspects. The work has led to the development of numerous products, as well as the brands La Roche-Posay and Vichy.

Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, can also trace a direct trajectory from a few key projects in recent memory, including the My Skin Track UV sensor, its D.O.S.E. machine for custom serums and its recently announced PH sensor.

“We launched, at the Apple Store, the My Skin Track UV sensor in November, and then we unveiled our PH sensor at CES,” he told WWD. “Little by little, we started thinking about unlocking the mysteries of skin care and understanding your own skin.”

Each project tackled a different theme: For the PH sensor, it was “What is the PH of my skin and how does it relate to inflammation?” For the SkinCeuticals’ D.O.S.E. device, it was about tailormaking product.

Now the timing may be ripe for going a step deeper. “[Bacteria is one of the] most talked-about areas today,” Balooch said. “Everybody’s talking about probiotics and what are the right products for my skin.” The common theme is customized beauty.

“So many clues about our overall health come from the amazing world of microorganisms,” said Jessica Richman, cofounder and chief executive officer of UBiome. “L’Oréal is an ideal partner for UBiome as it has had a strong focus in scientific innovation in this space for years.

“Their expertise, combined with UBiome’s advanced understanding of the skin microbiome will allow us to pave the way for the future of personalized skin care,” she said.