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Cosmetics sees biophotonics in mirror

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Since the discovery of an ultraweak biological photon emission almost a century ago, biophotonics has found its way into many industries centered on health and beauty. While this specialized research is known for its applications in medicine, the insight it has provided has reaped rewards for the cosmetic industry as well. Customers of beauty products have biophotonics to thank for much of what they see on the shelves.

Born at the convergence of light and live tissues, biophotonics has long had a natural place in the life and environmental sciences, agriculture, and health care. One of its best known technical applications is the use of lasers, put to work worldwide for surgery (refractive, endovascular, dental) and dermatology and aesthetic treatments (epilation, skin lifting and depigmentation, and tattoo removal). Optical microscopy is indispensable for medical diagnostics, either of biological samples (histopathology) or in vivo (optical biopsy).

Spectroscopy is a powerful technique to distinguish between normal and abnormal cells and tissues, to detect air and water pollutants, or to assess product quality.

Biophotonics has also produced a broad range of benefits for cosmetic laboratories, in both fundamental research and the evaluation of products and ingredients. No cosmetic research would have been possible without the use of simple colorimeters or microscopes. More recently, quantum and nonlinear optics have become important tools in advanced research labs. For instance, multiphoton confocal microscopy is used to decipher the skin structure and the mechanisms of skin pigmentation disorders. Raman spectroscopy enables analysis of skin barrier and hydration. Multispectral imaging is also starting to find applications in cosmetic studies. Because different wavelengths of light interact with live tissues in different manners, this technique allows for a detailed noninvasive 3D investigation of the skin. Finally, modern imaging modalities require powerful and efficient image processing, thus implying an eventual extensive use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the beauty industry.

With a rise in personalization of health and beauty care, there is a need for fast and accurate diagnostics of skin and hair parameters to provide consumers with products tailored just for them. Devices that are used in synergy with cosmetic formulas have the potential to deliver augmented efficiency. Treatments using light also represent a great opportunity.

While modern aesthetic medicine and dermatology make full use of biophotonics techniques, today such tools are rarely designed for the home or the point of sale. Even though the cosmetic industry may benefit from innovation within the health care industry, target price, user experience, and regulation are much different between these two areas. The level of required precision is not the same, since in the cosmetic area, the beauty client does not need nanometer-scale information about her wrinkles to choose her skin care routine. What’s more, beauty devices cannot be as invasive as medical endoscopes, painful like some dermatological lasers, or even slow like confocal microscopes. After all, they will be used by beauty advisors and not by trained physicians.

The augmented beauty market is overwhelmed by numerous diverse gadgets. Various applications include skin-color analysis and diagnostics of aging signs on the face, by means of a dedicated device or a selfie-based mobile application, as well as energy-emitting instruments for skin treatment and rejuvenation. While these gadgets are accessible and affordable, the efficiency of many of them has not been proved scientifically.

Thus, more research and development is required in this field. The cosmetic industry represents a challenge for biophotonics because the number of requirements that have been previously met and resolved separately for other industries should now be fulfilled simultaneously for the augmented beauty industry to meet demand. First, augmented beauty instruments must be reliable and based on solid scientific evidence. Next, customer diagnostics and treatments should be completed within minutes; they should be safe, compliant with local regulations, and user-friendly and ergonomic. Finally, they must have a reasonable price, for both clients and brands.

Nowadays, emerging quantum technologies are going beyond the pure scientific research context and are being used in industry, particularly in computing, cryptography, or communications. Since quantum techniques such as ghost imaging and quantum illumination are of high interest for ultrasensitive biological imaging, this also concerns the life sciences and medicine. No doubt, we will soon find quantum technologies in the beauty industry, as well as a host of new elements of biophotonics. We are convinced that the new market of augmented beauty devices has great potential and is of business interest for both photonics and AI companies, even if they have never worked with a cosmetic brand before.

Meet the authors

Veronika Marek, Ph.D., is a scientist in the Devices and Algorithms Invention domain at L’Oréal Research & Innovation. She has a doctorate in photobiology from Sorbonne University. Marek previously worked for the R&D department of Essilor International, where her research focused on phototoxicity on the ocular surface and neural pathways.

Michael Haddad, Ph.D., is domain director of the Augmented Beauty U.S. Invention domain at L’Oréal Research & Innovation. He has a doctorate in nonlinear optics and laser-material interaction from École Polytechnique and an MBA from KEDGE Business School. Haddad has 20 years of experience in optics in numerous industrial sectors (defense, telecom, and automotive).

The views expressed in ‘Biopinion’ are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Photonics Media. To submit a Biopinion, send a few sentences outlining the proposed topic to [email protected] Accepted submissions will be reviewed and edited for clarity, accuracy, length, and conformity to Photonics Media style.

Mar/Apr 2020
raman spectroscopy
That branch of spectroscopy concerned with Raman spectra and used to provide a means of studying pure rotational, pure vibrational and rotation-vibration energy changes in the ground level of molecules. Raman spectroscopy is dependent on the collision of incident light quanta with the molecule, inducing the molecule to undergo the change.
cosmeticslasersepilationskin liftingdepigmentationtattoo removaloptical microscopyhistopathologyoptical biopsyRaman spectroscopycolorimetersAIL'OrealBiopinion

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