when neuroscience revolutionizes the world of cosmetics

when neuroscience revolutionizes the world of cosmetics

Smell good and feel good, boost your skin and your self-confidence, wear makeup and shine… Today, thanks to the neuroscience revolution, cosmetics target the body and mind.

The complexion that glows when you’re in love, the pimples that bloom when stressed… We’ve known for many moons the links between skin and brain, which have the same embryonic origin. They even cause constantly, via hormones or chemical molecules, including neurotransmitters. “When you apply a cream, 70 million nerves are activated and 10,000 trillion connections are processed in 600 milliseconds,” declare the Chanel laboratories which, in a single day, test the sensory signature of 500 formulas.

Our emotions under the microscope

It was in the 1990s, thanks to work on sensitive skin, that we began to explore the cutaneous nervous system. In 2024, neuroscience and AI have been there and, little by little, we understand it better and better. “Referring to emotions and well-being has become common in the cosmetic field, but saying it is one thing, demonstrating it is another,” notes Arnaud Aubert, teacher-researcher in neuroscience and psychophysiology at the University of Tours. , who participated in the work Cosmetics, perfumes and emotions: the contribution of neuroscience *. These 200 well-documented pages clearly show that studying and measuring emotions is not that simple.

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It is even an ultra-complex phenomenon, which involves the cognitive, physiological, behavioral dimension… Obtaining reliable results requires precise tools and protocols. Joy, sadness, fear, surprise… In the labs, all our emotions are laid bare with instruments worthy of lie detectors: electroencephalograms, thermal cameras, functional magnetic resonance imaging… Sensory analysis labs do not are no longer satisfied with simple questionnaires. We study heart rate, temperature and skin conductance, blood pressure, respiratory amplitude, posture, pupil diameter.

L’eye tracking analyzes eye movements as an indicator of attention. We measure the intensity, the intonation and the rhythm of the voice, we take hormonal and salivary dosages, we record facial expressions and even slight variations in color of the epidermis. Thus, before its launch, the routine of Chanel’s No. 1 range was tested using neuroscientific measurements, and the luxury house is closely interested in DeepBlue technology, which allows emotions to be visualized in real time, thanks to to electrodes placed on the skull.

A sensory balance

“Since 1984, Shiseido has developed protocols for evaluating the impact of perfumes on the nervous, immune and endocrine systems,” recalls Nathalie Broussard, head of scientific communications. Today, it has been proven that a texture can activate brain areas linked to pleasure, the reward system and attachment. We observed an analogy between neuronal activity during the use of cosmetics and that of different stages of a romantic relationship. From love at first sight to marriage, we love our cult products like our better half.

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Seven years of research and more than 3,000 hours of sleep analysis were necessary for the perfume company Givaudan to develop the fragrance of the new Rejuvenic Gold Multistrate Regenerating Night Balm, by Carita. This patented trail, tested with Loughborough University, provides more peaceful nights, and the melting texture also has calming properties. Same approach at Til, whose flagship active ingredient, lime, acts on both the skin and the mind. In addition to the effects of the product on radiance, the perfume, created by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, was the subject of a protocol developed by Arnaud Aubert’s neuroscientific laboratory. As a reward, an immediate and lasting state of appeasement and comfort.

Today, the beauty planet has moved to the next stage, that of bioactive neurocosmetic ingredients, capable of improving the appearance of the skin while providing an emotional benefit and positivizing the perception of our appearance. A phenomenon that is not to everyone’s taste: “Some manufacturers claim or suggest that the application of their products to the skin can have direct effects on the nervous system and the brain, therefore on the psyche and the ‘mood. If this were the case, the product should be immediately withdrawn from the market to avoid any risk of dependence,” warns the psychodermatology group of the French Society of Dermatology. Ok, some brands undoubtedly exaggerate the psychological benefits of their creams, but we have yet to see anyone under the influence of cosmetics or addicted to eau de toilette. Or, we must first ban tobacco, wine, chocolate and smartphones.

The soul skin effect

“The skin has neurons, eyes, nostrils and maybe even ears,” confirms José Ginestar, Sisley research director who, after ten years of research, is launching Neuraé, the first entirely skin care brand. based on neuroscience and the prism of emotions. On the well-being menu, neuro-ingredients, neurofragrances and neurotextures. “We act on the cells, the skin and the mind at the same time,” explains its project manager. How ? “Via neurotransmitters, which constitute the skin-brain language. We targeted the positives, such as endorphins, which generate euphoria and reduce inflammation, and Gaba, the relaxation agent which reduces anxiety and promotes healing. We were also interested in the negatives, such as cortisol, the stress hormone which weakens and sensitizes the skin barrier, and CGRP, which generates inflammation and increases the sensation of pain. Then, we identified patented phyto-active ingredients capable of encouraging positive messages and curbing bad ones.”

Four perfumes were created according to the principles of olfactotherapy and textures were created with the help of neuroscience. In the end, three routines with a patented Common Serum which reharmonizes, a Joy Emulsion which euphorizes and gives radiance, a Serenity Balm which relaxes and smoothes, an Energy Cream which gives spring to the mind and the skin. With an SOS emotion booster roll-on for each. “The results can be seen and felt,” explains José Ginestar. And they far exceeded our expectations. Not only are the hypotheses validated, but we have verified that communication between the skin and the brain, which weakens with age and stress, is improved. And, of course, everything is as natural and sustainable as possible, as it should be today. Even the planet needs well-being.

* Coordinated by Patrice Bellon, Ed. Cosmetic Valley, 2021.

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