A scientific approach to the senses

  • Print
  • Share

A skin care treatment or beauty gesture stimulates all our senses. This is why L’Oréal has always paid great attention to the sensory evaluation of its products, the key component in consumer preference.

Instrumental testing at the Center for Research and Innovation in Pudong, China

Instrumental testing at the Center for Research and Innovation in Pudong, China

Instrumental testing at the Center for Research and Innovation in Pudong, China

Instrumental testing at the Center for Research and Innovation in Pudong, China

The use of a cosmetic product - cream, shampoo, mascara... - involves our senses. Identifying these sensations and translating them into objective data to better understand them is what sensory analysis aims to do. L'Oréal has long been in the front runner in this field: as early as 1987, the group created a research laboratory entirely devoted to this discipline. Its teams contribute their expertise to the development of new products or to the evolution of existing products. Only sensory analysis can really ensure that the performance of a product meets the expectations of consumers.

A scientific method

The process begins with the definition of precise terminology to describe the sensory profile of the product. For example, a cream could be described and sticky or greasy. Some twenty terms are defined this way. Systematically used by the experts in tests, they make it possible to gather consistent and precise reactions. Each product is tested by at least 30 trained and experienced panelists, who intervene as veritable "human instruments of measure". Based on their reactions, a sensory profile of the product is established. If the results are considered satisfactory, the product will be tested on a panel of consumers. This last step also calls for rigorous analytical techniques, such as the cartography of emotions expressed during the tests, or the analysis of consumers' body language, filmed when they use the product.

Instrumental evaluation

To verify the performance of a product, L’Oréal's teams of engineers, mechanics and opticians have designed machines used to measure the physical properties of skin and hair after applying a formula. The objectivity of these methods rests on their capacity to reproduce the actual conditions of application or use of the products. Between the hair, skin care and make-up divisions, nearly a hundred machines have been imagined: topographical analysis of the microrelief of the skin, xenotest, chromasphere, skinchip, flexibility pendulum, curl flattener, mobile wig, nail polish scratch tester, water resistance test for mascara…