In Close-Up: Alternative Methods
L’Oréal is committed to ending animal testing in the cosmetics industry through alternative methods such as tissue engineering, in vitro tests, and the development of predictive methods. These represent new and promising possibilities in innovation.
WHAT GOES IN?
Raw materials - responsibly tested
All new raw materials entering the L’Oréal portfolio have been tested for skin irritation on validated reconstructed skin models manufactured by Episkin and SkinEthic (RHE).
Two major areas of expertise at L’Oréal are the development of tests using reconstructed human skin and corneas, and predictive methods based on mathematical tools. Our laboratories have contributed to most of the replacement methods accepted today in the cosmetics industry – including the tests on Episkin validated by ECVAM (European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods), which have become industry standards. Another alternative method – to test for eye irritation and allergic reaction – is being validated in Europe (due 2010). L’Oréal has initiated the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA) for the sharing of validated methods and scientific advances.
Care for alternative innovation
L’Oréal is a pioneer in the development of reconstructed skin and alternative methods in cosmetics. Over 20 years, the group has invested 600 million euros: in international research centres, production sites (Episkin) and marketing sites (SkinEthic). L’Oréal employs more than 100 scientists to work in this area of research at its advanced research facilities. New ingredients for L’Oréal and The Body Shop are systematically tested on different reconstructed tissue models.
WHAT COMES OUT?
Value for consumers
Consumer protection and consumer access to the best innovations are absolute priorities for L’Oréal. A large-scale, global programme in reconstructed tissue methods is developing assessment tools in response to the regulatory challenges of 2013, and identifying effective and reliable new ingredients. Developments include a new type of allergy testing using Langerhans cells; a partnership with Hurel in microfluidics; and, through COLIPA, external collaboration on predictive methods. In 2009, L’Oréal continued its involvement in the international programme, Tox Cast, piloted by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Value for predictive innovation
L’Oréal incorporates its know-how in reconstructed tissues in a predictive approach to identify new effective and safe molecules. In this way, the group develops alternative methods based on mathematical and in silico techniques. These can enable initial human use for molecules with a chemical structure close to that of an ingredient that is already known, so avoiding recourse to animals.
Value for business partnerships
L’Oréal continues to provide training in alternative methods for key suppliers with the aim of enabling these tools to be incorporated by suppliers in the safety assessment of their ingredients. L’Oréal also works with suppliers to enhance in vivo / in vitro correlations: the ingredients retained are tested on reconstructed tissue systems.
Value beyond cosmetics
L’Oréal's scientific knowledge has gone beyond the cosmetics industry and animal welfare – contributing, for example, to the improvement of skin grafts for burn victims and to cellular therapy for Xeroderma Pigmentosum, a rare genetic disease characterised by the body's incapacity to repair damage from sunlight, which leads to skin cancers, and whose young sufferers are sometimes described as "moon children".
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Rules and laws
The 7th amendment to the European Cosmetics Directive, effective from March 2009, prohibits progressively the use of animal testing in Europe for the assessment of cosmetic ingredients.
As early as 1989 – and 14 years before the European Directive (see left) came into force – L’Oréal ended the use of animal testing for the evaluation of its finished products. The ethical issues surrounding animal testing are not simple and could even be called an ethical trilemma because of three imperatives: the protection of consumer health and safety; the need for continuous innovation (enabling L’Oréal to ensure its long-term development); and the recognition that animal testing is not in keeping with L’Oréal's vision.
L’Oréal aims to increase knowledge of skin diversity and to work on the design of new reconstructed skin models – reflecting our ambition to broaden our consumer base over the next 10 years. For example, we are partnering with the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore, and L’Oréal's research centre in Shanghai is one of the largest centres outside Europe for reconstructed skin.