L’Oréal’s latest tech aims to make hair color foolproof – WWD


At CES on Monday, L’Oreal tackled one of beauty’s toughest dilemmas in the pandemic era: how to get great results with 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 device features a cartridge loading system and dispensing system designed to prevent drips and other issues. If it delivers on its promise, it’s perhaps the closest amateur colorists have to a magic wand.

The hardware includes a custom mixer that mixes precise amounts of developer and formula, and a bristle dispenser that extrudes color in a zigzag pattern as the user brushes sections of hair. This oscillating nozzle moves 300 times per minute for fast, even application work. Moving parts usually invite mechanical issues, but the company said it has undergone rigorous testing to prevent leaks or oversaturation.

Customers can choose from 40 shades online, with home delivery direct from the company.

“It sounds simple, that’s what we wanted 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 perfectly dosed.

“We tested it on over 400 people, from long hair to short hair to wavy and curly hair – we basically co-developed this tool with consumers in the first five years, and it took seven years to create it,” he said. “So we are really excited. And I think when you look at the hair color category today, we’re hoping that’s going to be a big disruptive innovation in the category.

The device uses a cartridge-based system and a dispenser that prevents mess and allows for even application.
Courtesy photo/JEREMY SAILING

An advantage of the system is that the device can store the remaining color. This is not possible with the manual kit counterparts, which instruct users to throw leftover color in the trash. So if the prospect of easy touch-ups or all-time gray coverage isn’t appealing enough to consumers, perhaps reducing chemical waste will.

In fact, according to Balooch, the company developed the product with sustainability first.

“[With] the cartridge, you use 54% less plastic in a single application of this device because you compare it to a box color,” he continued. “We use reusable gloves. So there’s 23 tons of potential glove savings from that. It’s completely circular – the material comes from our factory from materials that have already been used.

Plans are also underway for mobile app features that can help users choose the right color to start with, through virtual try-ons powered by the company’s ModiFace augmented reality technology.

The L’Oreal executive couldn’t confirm a launch date or cost, but he noted the company wants to make it affordable for consumers. Given this, the price will likely reach a few hundred dollars, as opposed to thousands. It will debut under the L’Oréal Paris brand as one of its first technological devices.

The product arrives as the Balooch team celebrates its 10th anniversary, and it marks the latest step in L’Oréal’s multi-year mission to deliver new ways to personalize beauty. This effort has made the company a regular at major tech events like CES and other conferences, which have become major venues for showcasing new products and services over the years, including the personalized lipstick gadget. Perso, the My Skin Track UV portable sensor and dispensers that formulate foundations or individualized serums.

The context seems appropriate. This year, CES returned as an in-person conference, despite major exhibitors pulling out in the face of rising Omicron infections. The uncertainties underscore the profound impact of the pandemic on businesses.

One manifestation of this effect has been very visible and widespread: Over the past two years, as beauty salons faced waves of closures and nervous clients, the sight of unkept roots and faded hair was common. It’s part of the enduring imagery of this period, as a sign of these COVID-19 times with face masks and yoga pants.

Some consumers have embraced their gray hair or their natural color, but others are itching to put this look — and indeed, this whole pandemic — firmly behind them.

Colorsonic was not designed with this in mind, as it has been in development for years. But the timing could boost its traction. L’Oréal noted that the temporary salon closures led to a 6% increase in its home hair coloring business.

Not that the company ignores 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 begins by analyzing each client’s hair, evaluating various factors that can influence color effectiveness, from natural color and gray to length and density. Then it dispenses a precise combination of colorant, developer, base cream and other ingredients, essentially creating a custom recipe for customers, with up to 1,500 custom possibilities, the company said.

“Our company was started 110 years ago by a chemist who 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 offering two products that we believe, through technology, will completely disrupt the hair color category.”


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