L'Oreal Turns to Plant-based Hair Dye As Natural Cosmetics Thrive

PARIS (Reuters) - L'Oreal is launching its first wholly plant-based hair dye as cosmetics companies look to win over customers who are becoming increasingly wary of chemical ingredients. The French company, the world's biggest maker of skincare and beauty products, said on Wednesday the new range based on ingredients such as henna would be aimed at professionals for use in salons across Europe from May 2018. The organic cosmetics boom has been driven by rising numbers of younger consumers rejecting chemical-based products in favor of plant-based ones. The natural and organic beauty market was worth around $11 billion worldwide in 2016, consultants Ernst & Young said, adding that it was likely to double by 2024. L'Oreal believes the natural beauty market already stands at 24 billion euros ($28.2 billion) and is growing at 12 percent a year, said Marion Brunet, manager of L'Oreal Professional, one of the brands within the professional division that caters to salons. "There's very strong demand from women to move towards healthier formulas," Brunet said, adding that a branch of cosmetics that used to be the preserve of more militant "green" consumers 15 to 20 years ago had spread across society. The vegan range, called Botanea, is sourced from three plants found in India and is not available for mass market consumption yet, as the different shades need to be mixed to measure. Revenue growth at L'Oreal - founded almost 100 years ago by a chemist as a hair dye company - has benefited from a make-up boom in the age of "selfies" on social media, while its luxury brands such as Lancome are also doing well. But its professional products division has lagged, however, with like-for-like sales growth down 0.3 percent in the nine months to September, while other areas including the smaller active cosmetics business, which caters to dermatological conditions, expanded. L'Oreal, which spent 3.3 percent of its 26 billion euros ($30.6 billion) in sales last year on research, rivals large groups such as Estee Lauder. But small start-ups in skincare and beauty have acquired visibility and are reaching a greater audience through online sales and marketing in recent years. L'Oreal sold The Body Shop earlier this year to Brazil's Natura Cosmeticos, after the label, one of the pioneers in the field of natural-based cosmetics, struggled against rising competition. ($1 = 0.8512 euros) (Corrects paragraph 5 to reflect that Brunet does not run entire division but a brand)

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