The Nanotech Makeover
By Rachel Metz

(Business 2.0) – To create natural-looking makeup, L'Oréal is borrowing a concept from nature. Next year the Paris-based cosmetics powerhouse will unveil a line of nanotechnology makeup that gets its color not from pigments but from microscopic layers of liquid crystals and minerals. The lipstick, eye shadow, and nail polish appear white in their packages, but when the layers interact with light, the makeup takes on vivid hues. It's a look cribbed from the animal kingdom: The wings of morpho butterflies turn colors when light bounces off layers of protein-rich cuticle.

Other companies, such as Japan's Teijin Fibers, have used light-manipulating layering. But L'Oréal, which pours about 3.4 percent of its $17.5 billion in annual sales into research and development, is the first to apply it to cosmetics. The company plans to price its new makeup competitively with standard offerings, though customers will have to depend on labels to see how the colors look on various skin tones. "At the lab stage, it works perfectly, so we are confident," says L'Oréal research communication director Patricia Pineau. Nanotechnology expert Richard Jones says the layering technology could eventually find its way into other applications, such as large-scale solar power cells. Green eye shadow today, green energy tomorrow.