L’Oréal at 100
Leadership & Longevity
growth,” said Karen Grant of The NPD
group, Port Washington, NY.
According to Virginia Lee of
Euromonitor, L’Oréal “rightly used
acquisition to increase its market position globally. Through acquisitions
L’Oréal has developed a range of
brands, together which helps the firm
rule a given market.”
For example, in China’s anti-aging
market segment Olay is the leading
brand, but L’Oréal is the leading company simply because it has a wider range of
brands to offer, Ms. Lee explained.
L’Oréal’s Innovation and Research Milestones
With an average of 500-plus patents registered each year, L’Oréal is responsible for
many major advancements in cosmetic and beauty science. Here’s a quick look at
some of the patented molecules and the products that stemmed from those advances.
Patent 1974 • First product 1978
At the end of the 1970s, L’Oréal research laboratories attempted to answer an important question: what ingredients could help prevent hair dye from causing damage to
hair? Studying more than 200 types of polymers, the group’s research teams selected
Ionène G as the most effective molecule in repairing and smoothing hair fibers. The
miracle molecule was first integrated into hair dye products in the 1980s, including
Crescendo and Majirel.
Patent 1990 • First product 1996
The result of more than 15 years of research, in June 1996, L’Oréal discovered its first
anti-baldness molecule, providing an important step forward in the treatment of
alopecia. Aminexil was first used in the anti-baldness treatment Dercos Vichy.
Patent 1991 • First product 1994
In 1985, laboratories discovered that certain products could help fight against the
effects of aging on hair using a lipid called ceramide: the idea was to use the molecule
as a kind of cement, filling intercellular gaps and thus strengthening hair. For
four years, researchers studied the molecule’s potential for application, establishing
39 patents for its use. It first appeared in 1994, in Elsève shampoo, and was subsequently integrated into skin care products.
Patent 1982 • First product 1992
Mexoryl SX, the first and only stable sun filter designed to protect skin from short
UVA rays, emerged as the best technology in sun protection, representing an
important breakthrough in the field. The Mexoryl SX patent was granted to L’Oréal in
1982, but took 10 years for it to be introduced into products. Today, all sun-protection products in the company benefit from Mexoryl XL.
Patent 2000 • First product 2006
Anti-aging skin care has always been one of L’Oréal’s key areas of research, and the
discovery of Pro-Xylane represents a breakthrough in skin care. Pro-Xylane is derived
from beechwood, marking an important breakthrough in green chemistry.
“The wide range of brands also gives
L’Oréal the flexibility to enter different
markets. For example, in India, where
average consumer income is much
lower than that of those in the western
market, Garnier is a more suitable
brand with its more competitive pricing,” she added.
L’Oréal’s executives recognize that
global expansion is critical to success.
The firm is currently present in more
than 130 countries with 23 international brands. According to chief executive
Jean-Paul Agon, the globalization of
the cosmetics market “provides our
company with a huge opportunity for at
least the next 20 years.”
Driven by Science
While L’Oréal has found success
through acquisition, scientific research
remains at its core. The firm has more
3000 employees focused on research
endeavors and dedicates 3.3% of its
turnover to R&D (which it points out is
the highest ratio in the cosmetics
industry). As proof if its commitment to
science, L’Oréal secured a record 623
patents in 2008 alone.
“L’Oréal has—and always will—
continue to achieve success in the beauty
market thanks to our key strength,
an obsession with quality and a passion for innovation,” said Patricia
Pineau, L’Oréal scientific communications director. “That passion for innovation has driven L’Oréal forward
over the past century.”
The company continues to make
strides in the understanding of skin
and hair. Recent discoveries regarding the role that genes play in cutaneous aging are opening new investigative horizons for its scientists,
according to the company. Officials
contend Lancôme’s Génifique has
sparked new perspectives in anti-aging. In addition, L’Oréal says a
more thorough understanding of
stem cells’ biological behavior, which
is responsible for skin and hair
regeneration during aging, has
allowed it to select the active ingredients to protect them.
“Huge advances in skinomics, stem
cell biology and cell reprogramming