Meet the new L'Occitane brand bringing the lab into consumers' bathrooms


The Nespresso-inspired Duolab system provides a tailor-made and highly active skin care programme

Meet the new L'Occitane brand bringing the lab into consumers' bathrooms

L’Occitane Group has introduced a new business start-up called Duolab, which offers fresh, personalised skin solutions, inspired by coffee pod machines like those offered by Nespresso.

The system comprises a formulator device (£250), which brings the laboratory into the home, enabling 15 different capsule combinations made up of three moisturising bases (Melting Cream, Light Cream and Night Cream) and five targeted concentrates (Skin Brightening, Energizing Radiance, Refined Texture, Soothing Comfort and Skin Firming).

The formulas take advantage of L’Occitane Group’s expertise in making natural skin care, and because the ingredients are emulsified on-demand at the last minute, their potency is maximised.

Moreover, because the Duolab pods are manufactured in a cleanroom environment there is no need for preservatives or alternative preservative systems, making all combinations biome-friendly.

A pack of 14 capsules costs £17.50, and subscription models are available. It is recommended that used pods are stored in a ceramic jar that's decorated to complement the formulator device. Once full, the jar can be emptied into a pre-paid envelope (provided with each purchase) to be sent to Duolab’s recycling partner TerraCycle, or alternatively dropped off at Duolab’s London pop-up on Regent Street, or selected L’Occitane Stores.

Customers are encouraged to download the Duolab app on their smartphone. The app combines LoxSkinAI, which identifies different skin problems and DlabPredictAI, which generates a unique programme of Duolab capsules for the user’s profile.

Profiles can be re-evaluated as often as desired and adjustments to the programme based on skin changes can be made.

How the Duolab device was made

Commenting on the genesis of Duolab, Pascal Portes, Director of Scientific Innovation, Biodiversity & Sustainable Sourcing at L’Occitane Group’s Research & Development Department, told Cosmetics Business: “At L’Occitane we are very interested in the transfer of technology, for example technology coming from the food industry – and during an R&D team brainstorming session, we had the idea of applying the Nespresso machine concept to our cosmetic products.”

One of the biggest challenges was reducing the emulsification process, which normally takes 20 minutes in the laboratory or between four and ten hours on an industrial scale, to a mere 90 seconds to obtain a “real, fresh emulsion” every time.

“We had to miniaturise in the device the emulsification process, because it’s a real emulsion,” Portes said.

“In the device we use two capsules: one for the base, which is the lipid phase, and one for the active ingredient, which is the aqueous phase.

“When we put the two capsules into the dispenser, we induce pressure on both capsules, so the lipid phase will come through a very tight connection and go inside the capsule with the active. Then it goes back and forth several times to mix and we obtain a real shearing of the emulsification thanks to this very tight connection.”

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During the 90 seconds, the mixture is heated for more efficient emulsification then cooled to between 37-42°C (just above skin temperature) for use, which in turn helps the custom-blended formulas be more effectively absorbed by the skin.