This article was first published in the August edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends.
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L’Oreal has long been one of the most trusted names in makeup, and lately the 106-year old brand has been doing some pretty cool things with technology, too. But the makeup manufacturer’s latest foray even has serious scientists’ tongues wagging…guess that’s what happens when you start 3D printing human skin.

The process is probably less Silence of the Lambs than you’re imagining. In conjunction with San Diego-based bio-printing company Organovo, L’Oreal plans to begin using 3D bioprinters to actually produce coin-sized skin patches called “Episkin” of various ages and colors for more efficient makeup testing. Not only would successful application of this idea eliminate the need for animal testing, but medical communities are also pretty excited about its implications for everyone from burn victims to plastic surgery recipients.

3-D printing may just be the next big thing in healthcare, and Organovo’s on the cutting edge; they’re responsible for the first ever bioprinted human liver. A team at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is currently perfecting the “Biogenitor,” a 3D printer capable of producing stem cells for research purposes. From a whole human skull to various dental applications, the bioprinting industry is just scratching the surface of the healthcare industry’s demand.

So, is L’Oreal’s use of 3D technology frivolous? Some say yes, but most see the bigger picture—companies like Organovo get L’Oreal’s backing and resources while the makeup giant gets some useful technology. The cosmetics company is far from the first consumer-facing brand to implement 3D printing solutions: Michelin-starred chefs are using the technology to improve food production and personal care juggernaut Proctor and Gamble recently issued their own call for 3D printing ideas applicable to their wide range of products. Will people care that their eyeshadow has been tested and perfected using skin from a petri dish? As long as it’s a superior product, probably not, which is just how L’Oreal wants it.