From soil to skin: L’Oréal dives into soil microbe research to extract the best of nature

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

L’Oréal and team of researchers from Singapore will study soil microbes and how it can improve soil quality and increase plant yields in a sustainable manner. [L'Oréal]
L’Oréal and team of researchers from Singapore will study soil microbes and how it can improve soil quality and increase plant yields in a sustainable manner. [L'Oréal]

Related tags L'oréal biotech natural beauty Sustainability Skin care green beauty

L’Oréal and a team of researchers from Singapore will study soil microbes and how it can improve soil quality and increase plant yields in a sustainable manner.

In April, the French cosmetics giant announced a strategic partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to embark on soil microbe research.

The joint research initiative aims to find new ways to improve soil health and increase plant yield without needing more land or relying on chemical fertilisers.

The aim of this pioneering research is to enhance the yield and quality of cosmetics ingredients without compromising on sustainability.

“This latest partnership with NUS to conduct pioneering research on soil and plant microbes is an opportunity to create beauty that fulfils the expectations of consumers in all their diversity, while taking into consideration finite natural resources,”​ said Dr Tarun Chopra, director of advanced research, L’Oréal Singapore Research & Innovation.

Chopra emphasised that “nature is the future of beauty”​ and its new partnership with NUS will enable the firm to “extract the best”​ it has to offer.

“Today, the plant kingdom stands as a formidable source of ingredients and active compounds that have become cornerstones of the cosmetics industry,”​ he said.

As beauty consumers increasingly move away from animal-derived and synthetic ingredients, the industry is moving with it towards biotechnology to develop more sophisticated yet sustainable ingredients.

“There is a shift in focus on emerging areas of research, including biotechnology, wherein we aspire to produce unique actives and ingredients with unparalleled performance while having minimal impact on the environment,” ​said Chopra.

“The partnership with NUS further cements and builds on this approach and is aimed at designing new technologies that increase the overall output of key phytochemicals, while taking into consideration finite natural resources.”

Green power

According to the firm, it is working with the NUS Agritech Centre with a 50-sqm joint grow zone and a 30-sqm precision climate chamber.

These facilities will allow the research team to develop technologies relevant for “plants of cosmetic and dermatological importance”,​ said Chopra.

The company did not specify which plant varieties it was studying and testing.

“All of them produce phytochemicals used in the formulation of cosmetics and skin care products,”​ said Chopra told CosmeticsDesign-Asia.

Furthermore, this joint research is part of the company’s major ambition to ensure that by 2030, 95% of its ingredients in formulas “will be bio-based, derived from abundant minerals or from circular processes.”

“This approach aligns with our dedication to sustainable sourcing wherein we explore agricultural practices and technologies designed to manage water resources, preserve biodiversity and soil quality, minimize the environmental impact associated with land use and carbon emissions, all while providing biomass for innovation,” ​said Chopra.

The company’s immediate focus was to develop technologies to better understand and utilise beneficial soil microbes to increase the yields of commercially important crops.

“Once this is done, we would commence field trials for potential deployment of these solutions commercially. These plants will then be used in the formulation of sustainably produced cosmetics and skin care products and should leverage our existing capabilities,” ​said Chopra.

He concluded: “L'Oréal is committed to working with the best of partners and this collaboration is a testament for our belief in Singapore as a hub for disruptive research.”

L’Oréal’s collaborations with institutes in Singapore include a joint lab with the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE) in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to conduct research on skin and scalp microbiome.

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