Beauty patents 2021: Smart devices, next-gen CBD actives and naturals

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

P&G, Beiersdorf, L'Oréal, Estée Lauder, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive all filed important beauty patents in 2021 [Getty Images]
P&G, Beiersdorf, L'Oréal, Estée Lauder, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive all filed important beauty patents in 2021 [Getty Images]

Related tags Patent Innovation Beauty devices beauty tech active beauty natural beauty CBD beauty Oral care Skin care Hair care

A raft of patents were filed in 2021 from industry heavyweights, including L’Oréal, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive and Estée Lauder. Here, CosmeticsDesign-Europe rounds up our coverage of the year’s patent-worthy innovations.

A deep dive into the international patent filings of the beauty and personal care world certainly provides a nod to what’s ahead, revealing research and development 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 2021, and highlights some key areas industry is investing time and science in.

The future of ‘smart’ at-home beauty devices

Beauty tech continued to advance fast in 2021, with many of the major brands investing plenty of research time and money in this space. An exciting field, full of breakthrough consumer-led innovations, personalisation and efficacy were undoubtedly driving this category. 

[Getty Images]
[Getty Images]

. P&G ​Just this month, Procter & Gamble (P&G) filed an international patent for a hair grooming device​ it had developed to analyse the time, speed and force of a user brushing – collecting and storing data to communicate and guide consumers on personalised hair care needs.

. Beiersdorf ​In October, Beiersdorf filed an international patent detailing an AI-driven method​ it had developed to profile skin based on moisture levels and geographical location. Via a mobile phone, it provided an accurate picture of a consumer’s overall skin condition and enabled personalised product recommendations to be made by the brand according to real-time and evolving needs.

. L’Oréal ​In July, L’Oréal filed its own international patent on a digital skin diagnosis system​ that analysed protein biomarkers to predict trends likely to be experienced by a consumer because of these, also enabling customised formulations to be made along with more suitable product recommendations.

In February, L’Oréal also filed an international patent on a smart skin treatment device​ that responded to voice cues from consumers and provided audio guidance during treatments to optimise the user experience. The device offered a range of cleansing and massaging options.

. Estée Lauder ​With more of a focus on efficacy, in August, Estée Lauder filed two international patents for two separate functional devices​ – one made with a reusable pump that simultaneously cooled and dispensed product and another single-use cosmetic pad with a self-heating function and preloaded formulation. Both inventions, it said, improved shelf-life and product efficacy for consumers at home.

. Unilever ​In May, Unilever also filed an international patent for a user-friendly teeth whitening kit​ that combined a film and light source to improve efficacy. The kit, it said, also simplified the process for consumers.

Next-generation active formulas with CBD and naturals

There was also a continued focus on active beauty innovation, using upcoming alternative natural ingredients in skin care, hair care and oral care. The goal? To take beauty up a level and offer consumers more benefits, beyond aesthetics.

[Getty Images]
[Getty Images]

. Colgate-Palmolive ​In April, Colgate-Palmolive filed three international patents on CBD oral care blends​ that integrated a cannabinoid – cannabidiol (CBD) – for antibacterial efficacy and anti-inflammatory action. The blends, it said, could be used to make a range of oral care products, including toothpaste, mouthwash, oral gels, mouth spray and even chewing gum.

The personal care major also filed an international patent on a CBD antiperspirant blend​ it said offered anti-irritant properties for the skin.

. Unilever ​In November, Unilever also filed an international patent on a metal-free antiperspirant blend​ made without traditional metal-based actives like aluminium, instead using film forming polymers, solvents and plasticizers as an alternative. The blend, it said, could be used to make stick or gel roll-on antiperspirant products.

Earlier that year, in March, Unilever also filed a patent for a zinc salt toothpaste​ that it said lowered blood pressure via enhanced nitrate reductase activity. The company said findings had been backed by a six-week clinical study.

. L’Oréal ​In September, L’Oréal filed an international patent for curly hair styling formula​ made using sugar compounds and plant fibres, offering a natural and light-weight alternative to polymer and silicone products that it said were often sticky on application and dried stiff. The formulation, it said, offered durable styling, shaping benefits, curl definition, improved shine and frizz control.

. Beiersdorf ​In January, Beiersdorf filed three international patents on a collection of alternative UV filter blends​ it had developed for use in cosmetic applications and sunscreens that addressed stability and nano particle concerns. The blends, it said, could be used in a range of formulas, including ointments, creams, low-viscosity lotions, sprays and even integrated into plasters or cloths as an impregnation medium.

Circular, sustainable and beautiful packaging

Industry also continued to innovate in alternative packaging materials, with a focus on circular opportunities in post-consumer waste - a challenging space, particularly for premium beauty.

[Getty Images]
[Getty Images]

. Unilever ​In August, Unilever filed an international patent on a sustainable black coloured packaging​ made from layered post-consumer resin materials that would previously have been treated as waste. The invention, it said, offered an acceptable colour for premium beauty products – the biggest challenge when using post-consumer materials.

In October, the European Patent Office (EPO) released a study​ outlining that cosmetics and detergents were the two categories innovating "most intensely" in bioplastic technologies worldwide, with Europe and the US leading the charge.

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