The incredible destiny of reconstructed skin
Research has always been at the heart of our approach. Our 21 research centers, located around the world, are dedicated to different areas of research. In Lyon, at the heart of the Lyonbiopôle innovation center that brings together different pharmaceutical activities, lies Episkin. It is the only center in the world dedicated to tissue engineering and predictive assessment, the world leader in the production of reconstructed human skin and mucous membranes.
A two-fold journey
In the early 1980s, one of our young biologists managed to reconstruct the first human epidermis.
Since then, almost a dozen more complex skin tissue models have emerged in our laboratories: from the first reconstructed epidermis in 1983, followed by a pigmented one in 1994, to full skin (epidermis + dermis) in 1986 and with immune function in 2006, to — more recently — photo-aged skin or skin with modular regenerative potential in 2007 and Asian skin in 2010.
These tissue models are fantastic tools for modeling different physiological functions of the skin, such as its ability to pigment or renew itself, in order to better understand it. They are also remarkable assets for predicting complex phenomena such as allergy or skin irritation. Finally, they play a key role in demonstrating the efficacy of active ingredients.
With the purchase in 1997 of Episkin's knowhow and the construction of a building dedicated to the production of these reconstructed tissue models, an industrial journey also began. This center is the fruit of a dream to one day be able to reconstruct human skin in order to predict efficacy and safety for humans. It is the symbol of our pioneering commitment to ethical and responsible beauty that is at the heart of our convictions.
Today, this center, inaugurated in 2011, houses more than 75 biologists over a surface area of 3670 m² of laboratories — including 1000 m² of cleanrooms, where the reconstructed tissues are produced.
Each year, the center produces approximately 100,000 units of reconstructed tissues, and its platforms evaluate thousands of formulas and a hundred-some ingredients. Our desire is also to ensure that this technology is exported abroad, as evidenced by the opening of a branch in Shanghai and more recently in Rio de Janeiro.
Our test platforms routinely use the dozen reconstructed skin and cornea models we produce in Lyon to safely assess a thousand formulas and a hundred-some ingredients per year. We also participate in validations by European and international authorities of alternative methods to animal testing, and five of our models have already been validated and are now marketed worldwide as replacement methods for testing corrosivity, phototoxicity, genotoxicity, skin irritation and eye irritation.
At the service of predictive evaluation
While tissue engineering is a centerpiece of predictive evaluation, it is not alone.
Predicting also requires mastering and combining data from molecule modeling, expert toxicology systems, mathematical tools for image analysis, chemical analysis to detect impurities on a trace scaling, imaging methods such as multiphoton microscopy that allows to see inside the skin without performing a biopsy, robotic platforms that perform high throughput screening, microfluidics, etc. All of these technologies generate and use data that allow us to demonstrate and ensure the safety and efficacy of our products. Predictive evaluation would be nothing without the considerable data heritage of L’Oréal, stemming from 100 years of cosmetic innovations. Today we have generated data on several tens of thousands of molecules, a treasure that has allowed us to make a real breakthrough in the field of predictive evaluation.
Ethics as a vector of innovation
It is also because ethics are particularly central to our process and our professional approach that we were led to develop these models of reconstructed human skin at Episkin. In particular, this discovery contributed to us abandoning testing our finished products on animals in 1989, fourteen years before the official ban in the European Union, in 2013.