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L’Oreal’s ‘Smart’ Hairbrush Wants to Help Solve a Huge Beauty Problem

Jan 03, 2017

L'Oreal thinks your hairbrush could be a little smarter.

The French cosmetics and beauty giant this week will debut a connected smart hairbrush called the Kérastase Hair Coach at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. The device is a brush that comes with sensors that L'Oreal promises will measure the quality of a user's hair as well as the effects of different hair care routines. The gadget will retail for "under $200" and will be available this fall at Kérastase hair salons as well as online.

"We really want to think about what the connected bathroom will look like in the future for the beauty industry," Guive Balooch, VP of L'Oreal's Technology Incubator, told Fortune in an interview.

The Kérastase Hair Coach—with technology powered by Nokia-owned Withings—features a microphone (which listens to the sound of brushing to identify patterns); an accelerometer and a gyroscope (to analyze brushing patterns and count brush strokes); and sensors (to determine if the the brush is being used on dry or wet hair). Via connection with an app, the brush can tell a user how how often hair is brushed—and also warn consumers if they are brushing too hard. The brush vibrates to warn against over brushing.

Balooch says the brush also gives a user a daily hair breakage score—by measuring the overall quality of the hair. The device then provides tips based on the user's hair type and brushing behavior (and of course, makes a few helpful recommendations for Kérastase beauty products).

"It will basically be your hair coach," Balooch said. "When you brush you hair, it will do a good job to make sure your hair is smooth."

The smart hairbrush is the latest device from L'Oreal as the beauty behemoth behind Garnier, Maybelline and Kiehl's thinks about how it can infuse technology into those well-established consumer brands. L'Oreal itself set up an internal, tech-focused startup several years ago in Silicon Valley and has recently made investments in external digital and technology startups. One of the incubator's first products, a stretchable skin sensor designed to monitor ultraviolet light exposure called My UV Patch, debuted at CES last year.

Of course, all this raises the obvious question: do bathrooms across the globe really need a "smart" hairbrush? Most can likely live without it—but at CES, a slew of Internet-connected home devices debut each year as inventors envision a world where sensors invade more aspects of our day-to-day lives. The idea is that data from these sensors can improve or lives. Many of these devices are increasingly targeting the home—L'Oreal is specifically focusing on the bathroom.

Balooch says his team's goal is to hone in on real needs and provide data and information to improve a consumer's routine. Hair breakage is a top beauty concern for women as it relates to their hair—so helping them avoid split ends is a need that L'Oreal thinks it can meet with the smart hairbrush. L'Oreal says the goal is for the app and device to work as simply as possible. "It needs to connect to something they already have in their day-to-day routine," Balooch said.

When it comes to L'Oreal's CES product debuts, it also must comb through the company's deep bench of brands to figure out what makes most sense for the branding name to attach to the technology. Dermatological skincare brand La Roche-Posay got the nod for last year's My UV Patch, while for 2017, hair care products brand Kérastase was selected because it has a luxurious connotation among consumers.

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