L’Oréal CEO Nicolas Hieronimus at CES 2024 Keynote (Image: David Benjamin)
By David Benjamin
LAS VEGAS — “Beauty tech” made its debut on the big stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Tuesday in a keynote presentation, introduced by Consumer Technology Association (CTA) czar Gary Shapiro and accompanied with strobe lights and fog machines, by Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of the French cosmetics giant, L’Oréal.
L’Oréal holds a dominant position in the beauty industry by virtue of its 115-year history, its 37 brands sold worldwide and more than 87,000 employees. However, its toehold in the technology turf of CES came down Tuesday to a handful of cute but not momentous beauty devices demonstrated by Hieronimus and L’Oréal’s R&D leader, deputy CEO Barbara Lavernos-Dupuis.
At one point, Hieronimus engaged in conversation with a robotic advisor, Beauty Genius, an interactive application similar to Alexa or Siri. After taking a selfie and submitting it to Beauty Genius on his smartphone, the L’Oréal CEO conversed with Beauty Genius about the condition of his skin, as observed and diagnosed by the application’s algorithm. Beauty Genius told Hieronimus that his skin was in pretty good shape and suggested products to make it better.
When the app turned to the issue of his hair, Hieronimus, who is coping with male-pattern baldness, hastily ended the dialog.
The glamour moment in the L’Oréal keynote was the arrival on stage of actress and producer Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”), who engaged in a lively exchange with Lavernos-Dupuis over a hair-coloring gun called Colorsonic, which Longoria endorsed enthusiastically in both a video and in person.
Other products paraded during the L’Oréal keynote included a Lancome branded handheld computerized makeup applicator, designed for use by people with hand-motion disorders, arthritis, Huntington’s Disease, and following stroke-related motion challenges.
Hieronimus also highlighted the L’Oréal Water Saver, a shower head developed in collaboration with a Swiss company, Gjosa SA, that reduces the volume of water used 69 percent by increasing the speed of the flow while reducing the size of water droplets. Hieronimus added, parenthetically, that L’Oréal recently reached an agreement to acquire Gjosa.
Hieronimus cited also the joint development of an infrared-based, energy-saving hair dryer, the Air Light Pro.
The L’Oréal CEO also offered to his CEO audience the increasingly familiar mantra of corporate social consciousness, touching on environmental issues, sustainability and health, as well as his company’s commitment to diversity and humane research. He noted that L’Oréal discontinued using animals to test its products 35 years ago.
This emphasis on voluntary action by corporations to mitigate social problems dovetailed with CTA chief Shapiro’s annual advocacy at CES for “light-touch rules” applied to technology industries by the federal government.
Although the beauty industry indulges largely in “low” technologies like hair dryers and makeup application, it is a multibillion-dollar industry with immense social and political influence. It is likely this market muscle prompted Shapiro to welcome L’Oréal into his empire of CES exhibitors ten years ago and made possible the French company’s appearance on the keynote stage this year.
David Benjamin, an author, essayist and veteran journalist, has been examining the human element in high technology for more than 20 years. His novels and non-fiction books, published by Last Kid Books, have won more than a dozen literary awards. Most recently, his coming-of-age novel, They Shot Kennedy, had won the 2021 Midwest Book award in the category of literary/contemporary/historical fiction.
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