NEW YORK — L’Oréal’s Ethnic Hair & Skin Institute welcomed more than 220 people to its second conference in Chicago last weekend. The event serves as an open forum for scientific discussion on both clinical and basic research advancements in ethnic hair and skin. The one-of-a-kind conferences have earned a reputation as a fertile ground to discover a plethora of new research.
The Institute, which celebrated its grand opening in June — but held its first conference in September 2001 — is a six-story, 58,000-square-foot laboratory dedicated to basic science research, product development and product evaluation for people of African descent.?
Like the first show, this year’s conference focused on six topics: basic and clinical research on ethnic hair, basic and clinical research on ethnic skin, cosmetic and pharmaceutical research on the development, safety and efficacy of ethnic products, and cosmetic procedures.
And, similar to the 2001 conference, scientists and researchers submitted abstracts with the hope that theirs would be selected to be presented and discussed at the conference.
“I really believe having a peer review selection process to have your research presented here helps bump up” the quality of the research conducted between conferences, said Dr. Victoria Holloway, director of the Institute. Holloway also serves as assistant vice president, research and development, L’Oréal USA.
The selection process is made by L’Oréal’s scientific planning committee, a group comprised of L’Oréal and non-L’Oréal doctors and researchers, including Holloway and Dr. Rebat Halder, professor and chair, department of dermatology, and director, ethnic skin research institute, Howard University College of Medicine.
Audience members were mainly researchers and dermatologists, but ranged from hairdressers to consumer product marketers, too, said Holloway. The day-and-a-half event was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. The information-filled conference was lightened up with a “Moulin Rouge” theme party Saturday night.
Twenty six abstracts were ultimately selected from more than 50 submissions. The presenters included doctors and researchers from prestigious hospitals, companies and universities around the world, such as Dr. Fran E. Cook-Baden of Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York; Dr. Cheryl M. Burgess of the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Ncoza C. Dlova of Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine of Durban, South Africa and Dr. Janusz Z. Jachowicz of International Specialty Products of Wayne, N.J.
Additional abstracts were displayed throughout the conference area, including data by researchers from Johnson & Johnson and Pierre Fabre.
The conference also recognized young researchers who have been out of residency for less than five years. Dr. Trisha Daley of the University of Michigan was this year’s recipient for her work on how pigmentation protects against UVA damage.
Many types of research were unveiled at the conference. There was a presentation on ethnic hair that evaluated the impact hair loss has on the quality of life of black women.
Dr. Angela M. Neal-Barnett of Kent State University in Ohio presented her research on the existence of hair pulling as an anxiety disorder in African-Americans. The disorder was previously thought to be rare among black women.
Dr. Andrea Trowers of the University of Miami School of Medicine provided information that showed African-American children indeed get head lice, a condition previously considered rare within the ethnic group. Trowers explained that hair weaves and hair extensions might even be more prone to lice than natural or relaxed hair.
A presentation by Dr. Genevieve Loussouarn of L’Oréal Recherche discussed how African-American hair grows slower than Caucasian or Asian hair.
“We know [African-American hair] is more fragile, and we know that using heat treatments makes it even more fragile, so [this research] highlights the dilemma that the hair not only breaks off more easily but also grows back more slowly,” Holloway said.
Advances in ethnic skin care were also revealed. Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd of the University of Miami reported that keloid skin, defined as an overgrowth of scar tissue — a significant problem for African-Americans — has a gene abnormality that would normally help skin know when to stop growing. “Identifying that is of course the first step to coming up with a treatment,” Holloway added.
While the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Medical Association provide forums for discussion on ethnic-related hair and skin issues, Holloway noted that conferences given by these associations are more clinical in nature rather than research based, which is why the L’Oréal conference fills a need in the medical and research community.
“Ours is the first forum that focuses exclusively on new research and it combines cosmetics and dermatology. It also has a selective process where the best abstracts are chosen for presentation,” Holloway said.
Attendance at this year’s conference jumped 35 percent over the first, though the original gathering took place two weeks after Sept. 11. But Holloway is impressed with people’s commitment to attend. “One hundred and seventy people got on a plane that day. That says a lot about how eager people are to hear what everyone is discovering in this field.”