Deliver Your News to the World

SXSW highlights: The smart tech behind Unilever’s new skincare science

Check out three insights from Dr Samantha Samaras’ SXSW presentation to see how we’re unleashing artificial intelligence to design and create groundbreaking innovations across beauty, wellbeing and personal care.


With artificial intelligence, we can discover more than the human brain could possibly comprehend. - Dr Samantha Samaras, Global Vice President of Science & Technology, Beauty & Wellbeing and Personal Care, Unilever

SXSW brings together the brightest minds in science, tech, entertainment, culture and education – and this year Unilever’s Dr Samantha Samaras (pictured) was among the presenters.

As Global Vice President of Science & Technology in our Beauty & Wellbeing and Personal Care business groups, Sam shared how we’re harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for some incredible new science and insights.

Read on for extracts from Sam’s SXSW presentation

“With artificial intelligence, we can discover more than the human brain could possibly comprehend. The possibilities really are incredible.

”Using AI, we are starting to understand on a deep and fundamental level exactly how a unique combination of factors – from genetics to lifestyle to environment – can cause some of the most common conditions that impact our health and wellbeing. From dry skin to inflamed gums, body odour or breakouts. Just because they’re normal, doesn’t mean they’ve got a simple cause or cure.

“AI is helping us to distil insights and testable hypotheses from overlapping, complex and high-dimensional data coming out of genomics, microbiomics, lipid and proteomics and how these contribute to everyday issues like pimples or dandruff.”

1. Demystifying the microbiome to make super-smart soap

“Let’s get it out there: you are actually only about 50% human.

“Nearly half of the genetic material in and on your body is not human, and when we talk about the microbiome, we’re talking about these 100 trillion+ microbes. The fellow travellers that have evolved in partnership with our bodies over millennia and how they play important roles, good and bad, in our health and wellbeing.

Lifebuoy Vitamins liquid handwash, infused with vitamins B3 and E, boosts the skin’s AMP production and leaves it clean, moisturised and protected from bacteria for up to 10 hours*.

“These microbes live in us and on us, from the top of our scalp to the tips of our toes and everywhere in between – from our mouth to our skin to our intestines. And we’re just getting started when it comes to understanding how the microbiome and our bodies interact.

“Microbiome research that would have taken decades is now taking months with AI. We are able to create computational models that can simulate biological processes. And we can understand much more quickly how skin is reacting to ingredients that can boost its own natural immunity. Amazing, right?

“For example, we’ve learned that by introducing a specific ingredient to a handwash product, it can feed the skin, boosting its antimicrobial peptides. These so-called AMPs help form the first line of natural defence against infection-causing microbes that land on your skin.

“It’s a discovery that has huge potential to help improve hygiene and fight preventable disease.”

2. Creating a carmine-free, 100% vegan red lipstick

“A red lip has been a symbol of power, glamour and confidence for centuries.

“But it takes 1,000 crushed beetles to make each tube of lipstick. The ingredient is called red carmine, and for literally millennia it has been the best pigment to create that beautiful red lip.

Hourglass Red Zero lipstick symbolises the brand’s commitment to animal welfare: zero animal byproducts, zero insects harmed.

“Carmine is in approximately 18% of all colour cosmetics. Over 10,000 cosmetic products were launched in the past five years alone with red carmine in them and its depth of colour and intensity has just never been matched by anyone.

“Until our scientists turned to AI to find a vegan alternative. The key here wasn’t creating a new synthetic molecule to replace red carmine. It was putting together new combinations of ingredients that would take years for scientists to do on their own.

“You start by analysing and really defining what makes that carmine red special. Using computers which can define every single colour combination possible to the human eye. Once you have that true colour signature, you can set the AI to work, creating combinations and possibilities that would take millions of physical experiments to replicate.

“In 2021, our Hourglass brand used the results of this pioneering work to launch its Red Zero lipstick.”

3. Using data to deliver stronger skin from within

“You’ve probably heard of ceramides by now – they are one of the hottest skincare ingredients on the block and a whole host of brands are talking about them on their labels.

Dove’s Deep Moisture Body Wash in the US and Vaseline’s Pro Derma range in China include microbiome-nourishing ingredients developed in Unilever labs. We have over 20,000 patents protecting our microbiome breakthroughs.

“They’re a type of fatty acid or lipid that’s found in your skin and they play an important role in keeping your skin healthy by helping it to retain moisture and protect itself from the environment.

“Think of ceramides as the ‘glue’ that holds the cells in your skin together and helps to form a protective barrier. This barrier helps to keep your skin hydrated and prevents harmful substances from entering your body.

“Ceramides are also important for preventing signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles. The reason they are used in so many skincare products is because they are thought to help improve the overall health and appearance of the skin.

“In truth, these are pretty big molecules. There’s quite a bit of evidence to show that depositing ceramides onto the surface of the skin doesn’t do a whole lot. Sorry.

“But there is good news! The skin actually produces its own ceramides naturally all the time and they’re an essential part of your skin barrier.

“Using artificial intelligence, we can understand how the skin works with the microbiome and the external environment and then identify the precise combination of ingredients that stimulate the skin to produce more of its own natural ceramides. Stronger skin, more moisturised, all by feeding the skin from within.

“This research just wouldn’t have been possible with AI. It allows us to assess huge amounts of biological data, studying how the skin reacts to different ingredients and beneficial metabolites.

“And we can go further than ceramide production. Thanks to advances in AI, we can not only find out more about the skin’s natural microbiome, but also combine millions of data sets to create a stronger, more connected microbiome and see how this reacts with our skin’s own biology.

“It’s a pretty cool time to be a microbiologist right now.”


  •  Versus representative Gram-negative bacterium, with regular use

    ( Press Release Image: )


    This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.

    News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.