To save animals (and money), the cosmetic company turns to bio-manufactured skin samples.
Ever since testing on animals fell out of fashion, cosmetic companies have struggled to discover ethical ways to test new products. Recently, L’Oreal partnered with Organovo, a bioprinting specialist, and announced a solution to the dilemma: they would start 3D printing their own human skin.
L’Oreal has actually been producing skin for years, with a specific wing dedicated to producing in-vitro skin tissue. Dubbed “Reconstructed Human Epidermis,” what the product lacked in catchiness it has made up for in productivity: since the 1980’s, L’Oreal has produced over 100,000 skin samples a year. That’s about 53.8 square feet of skin per year, the approximate surface area of a beef cow, or some New York apartments.
While L’Oreal has been working with skin samples for decades, Organovo’s new technology promises to be more affordable and effective. Typically, a skin sample takes about a week to generate, but Organovo’s bioprinting platform is expected to shorten the process. The final product will be three-dimensional, allowing much more room for experimentation.
L’Oreal’s partnership shows that contentious industries can pull off (slightly) creepy things in the interest of the greater good. Organovo will retain the right to sell the skin for prescription drug testing and potential future organ transplants. Although L’Oreal claims it no longer tests on animals, it does make an exception when local regulatory authorities demand it. This is the first time the beauty industry has reportedly worked with bioprinting. While the technology is still in its planning stages, Organovo expects it to have big environmental impact and commercial appeal.