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L’Oreal is 3D Printing Human Skin to Bring an End to Animal Testing

It's creepy, but could 3D printing human skin put a stop to animal testing?

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

L’Oreal is looking to fund new research that will eventually lead to animal-free cosmetics testing, though there is one creepy caveat; it involves human skin instead.

Not to worry, though, as the cosmetics won’t be tested on real humans, but rather 3D printed human skin. That doesn’t sound much better, but believe me, it is. L’Oreal is partnering with Organovo, a 3D-human tissue company (I didn’t realize those existed until now), in order to print recreations of human skin taken from plastic surgery scraps given away by consenting donors.

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The research, which will be conducted in Organovo’s labs and L’Oreal’s new California research center, will eventually see cosmetic products being applied to the 3D printed skin rather than animals, something which the company is looking to move away from. However, the timeline of when this will become a viable method of testing cosmetics hasn’t been given, with L’Oreal stating that the company is looking to improve the quality of Organovo’s productions rather than getting them to provide a swift solution.

Here’s avideo from Organovo explaining how the bioprinting process works:

At the moment the process is conducted more-or-less entirely by hand, with 60 scientists currently being tasked with printing the human skin samples. L’Oreal eventually wants this process to become automated, thus allowing enough skin to be produced to prevent cosmetic testing upon animals.

L’Oreal states on its website that it “no longer tests on animals any of its products or any of its ingredients, anywhere in the world,” but adds that “an exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes.” With China demanding animal testing for “specialist” cosmetic products such as hair dyes, sunscreen and antiperspirants, it could therefore be concluded that L’Oreal may be testing its products on animals in order for them to be distributed to the country.

Animal rights group PETA, though not exactly the most highly acclaimed of activists given their various, inexplicable media stunts over the years, also moved them from their cruelty-free list to their “do test” list, saying: “While we have no definitive evidence that L’Oréal is testing its ingredients on animals, its silence – coupled with the information that we do have – leads us to believe that L’Oréal is probably not cruelty-free.”

L’Oreal currently has a research center set up in Pudong, China, that is dedicated to exploring alternative testing methods.

Photo: Getty Images