Patents of 2020: Beauty majors target skin microbiome, personalisation and naturals

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever, Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, L'Oréal, Shiseido and Beiersdorf each filed important patents in 2020 (Getty Images)
Unilever, Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, L'Oréal, Shiseido and Beiersdorf each filed important patents in 2020 (Getty Images)

Related tags Patent Innovation R&D Skin care Oral care Hair care Naturals skin microbiome Personalisation Sun care

There was a raft of patent filings this year from industry’s biggest beauty companies, including Unilever, L’Oréal, Beiersdorf and Colgate-Palmolive. Here, CosmeticsDesign-Europe rounds up our coverage of this year’s patent-worthy innovations.

A closer look at international patent filings from industry’s major players provides a true glimpse of what is set to come, revealing research priorities and signalling categories and trends set to flourish.

In this round-up piece, CosmeticsDesign-Europe looks back at our coverage on patents filed in 2020, and highlights some key areas industry is investing time and science in.

The skin microbiome

The skin microbiome – a long-standing trend for beauty manufacturers, suppliers and scientists in the field – took the spotlight again this year with two patents from personal care major Unilever, suggesting this trend might tip over into true mainstream beauty soon.

Back in March, Unilever filed an international patent for a topical prebiotic formula​ it had developed for use in a range of products, including body lotions, face washes and deodorants. The active formula, it said, incorporated prebiotic binder saccharide isomerate for “microbiome balancing”.

Inclusion of a prebiotic in a topical cosmetic formulation, Unilever said, offered a more effective alternative to antimicrobial formulas because it promoted the growth of ‘good’ bacteria on the skin.

More recently, earlier this month, Unilever filed another patent on what it described was a “microbiota balancing”​ formula​ made using thyme and pine extracts. This formulation, it said, had specifically been developed to balance and restore microbiota diversity of the skin, particularly in amenable skin that presented conditions like atopic dermatitis and acne.

This formula, it said, was believed to balance microbiota because of synergies between the active ingredients and the host defense mechanism.

CosmeticsDesign-Europe and its sister sites CosmeticsDesign and CosmeticsDesign-Asia ran an expert online Skin Microbiome Webinar in September, this year, that can still be watched on demand​. Experts from L’Oréal, Gallinée and Cosmetics Europe said there was huge potential for the skin microbiome category​ to really flourish, particularly in oral care, intimate care and makeup.

A naturals takeover

Another hot topic featured in some of the 2020 beauty patent filings was ‘naturals’ – a trend that had been around for years but one that had also evolved fast.

In September, German personal care major Henkel filed an international patent on a natural hair styling formula​ made using saccharose and starch to enable to complete replacement of synthetic polymers if desired.

The blend, it said, could be used to create gels, foams, mousses, waxes, lotions and even clays that had the same product efficacy as those made using traditional synthetic polymers.

And this year, oral care major Colgate-Palmolive filed a trio of international patents on natural formulations for teeth whitening: a walnut-based formula​ and two salt-based formulas​.

All three patents observed the same functionality of these natural actives compared to more traditional teeth whitening ingredients.

‘Sophisticated naturals’ was one trend identified in CosmeticsDesign’s top beauty trends to watch in 2021 forecast. Watch the video here​ for more insight on this important movement set to gain ground next year.

Ultra-personalised beauty

Personalisation – an idea touted by beauty majors and Indies worldwide for some time – also featured in some important patent filings in 2020.

In June, international beauty major Coty filed a patent on a method it had developed to offer personalised perfumes​ to consumers by blending scent additives into existing products. The invention relied on a broad-spectrum starter formulation and series of add-ons that could be blended via an automated dispenser, enabling consumers to personalise perfumes, colognes, eau de toilettes and fragrance mists.

Coty said the concept plugged a “significant unmet need for new fragrances that can be customised by the individual to reflect the individual’s personal preferences”.

In September, L’Oréal also filed an international patent – this time for a smart robotic system that powered the production of personalised hair dye kits​. The system integrated e-commerce orders from consumers with a robotic filling system to fill single-unit bottles to order. The patent-pending concept was now known to relate to L’Oréal’s Color & Co.

Protective formulations

Protective beauty also featured in the raft of patent filings this year, as companies aimed to refine formulas that offered consumers more than just functionality or fun.

In May, Unilever filed an international patent on an anti-pollution skin care formulation​ that it said worked to prevent pollution-triggered skin damage. Inclusion of resin-based film formers, it said, protected the skin against lipoperoxidation-based damage better than other film formers.

Such an invention, it said, was highly relevant in a world where air pollution had become a “major concern from a health perspective”.

In August, Unilever also filed a European patent on a rinse-off shampoo formula developed that targeted dandruff​. This formula, however, had been specifically designed to act fast – promoting shorter showers or bath time amongst consumers, aiming to protect not just the scalp but the planet too.

Back in April, Japanese personal care major Shiseido filed an international patent on its invention of a range of metal-free makeup tools​ made using reinforced resin. The tools, including eyelash curlers, beauty scissors and tweezers, had been designed to address metal allergies and sensitivities experienced by beauty consumers.

A sunscreen re-fresh

Whilst the sun care category had seasonal consumption peaks, research in the field was ongoing year-round – reflected in the flurry of sunscreen patents from beauty and personal care majors in Europe.

Early on in 2020, L’Oréal filed a trio of international patents on SPF+, whitening and perfecting sunscreen formulas​ that it said provided increased protection, improved sensorial experience, enhanced appearance and skin whitening.

In August, L'Oréal filed another international patent on a waterless sunscreen​ that offered "superior stability"​ because of the inclusion of carnauba wax. The stability of all four of these formulas was touted as important, as too was the overall sensory experience for consumers.

In May, German personal care major Beiersdorf took sunscreen innovation one step further, filing an international patent on a sunscreen dispensing system it had developed that incorporated a UV exposure stamp​ to alert consumers when product needed to be reapplied.

The invention, it said, was particularly important for consumers looking to feel assured their skin was adequately protected. The stamp had been integrated into the sunscreen bottle, making the UV exposure indicator easy to apply.

A better look and feel

Whilst many patent filings address new functionality needs or replace existing ingredients with alternatives, others also aim to improve the look and feel of an existing product.

In April, the Chinese arm of Beiersdorf filed an international patent on a nourishing skin cream that offered a unique ‘bouncy’ texture ​and favourable sensory properties. The company said the formula could be described as a “marshmallow cream”​ and importantly boasted a “significantly less complex”​ formulation compared to other skin care creams on the market.

CosmeticsDesign-Europe will continue to closely follow all the latest innovations and concepts building in beauty, bringing you the most important and exciting international patent news in 2021.

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