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Communicating Anti-aging Skin Care Benefits to the Consumer: Part II
By: Katerina Steventon, PhD, FaceWorkshops; and Steve Barton, Skin Thinking Ltd.
Posted: January 8, 2013, from the February 2013 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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This leaves the product developer with the challenge of identifying novel ways of saying the same thing—this product will help improve the signs of aging in your skin. Formulators are driven to use complex skin assessment methods that rarely measure the identified cosmetic characteristic directly. In panels, volunteers are often selected by age group even though the particular signs of aging are more relevant. The data is then analyzed with a view to arriving at a population mean effect, when it is known that sub-groups and responses will differ. Using these methods and relating the measure to the cosmetic end-point therefore requires a skill in communication to the consumer. The industry is driven in this direction in part as a response to regulatory controls, where a single model (often a clinical trial) is the most trusted model. Formulators need to engage more with the regulators and their advisors to better understand the burden of proof.
KS: The level of evidence required depends on the target consumer group. Sometimes a good case study relates to the consumer better than a clinical trial. Visual clues to “see how a product works” are always important. Irrespective of data, consumers want to test the products for themselves. As demonstrated with the Boots example, a third party endorsement by skin care experts, dermatologists and celebrities (to a lesser degree) is successful. The online community with independent reviews and blogs is also powerful and increasing in popularity.
SB: In the U.K., the CTPA/ASA guidelines are good first reference to understand the differences in required level of evidence. The cosmetics industry is self-regulated, so it must go to some lengths to support claims. The same cannot be said for advice sources on cosmetic products. I cannot be the only developer who has carried out intensive studies on statistically valid numbers of subjects and obtained statistically valid results only to hear that a self-appointed expert on cosmetics has tested the product on 10 people and found it lacking. Underlying such opinion, there may be some useful insights. Formulators should know their consumers’ needs and engage with “independent” reviewers and consumer advocates to find out more.
Scientific Communication and Training
KS: My recommendation to the skin care industry is to communicate differently with the consumers. Communication of complex scientific issues in the media in a short space of time is difficult, but it is important to focus on claims related to well-being and self-esteem promoting skin health. Educating journalists to write competent, scientifically correct, independent articles is key. Peer group driven advertising and awareness of celebrity overuse means encouraging real personalities to share their experiences in social media. Training staff to increase their expertise and revisiting skin analysis with charts, hand held devices or imaging booths leads to higher compliance, customer loyalty and repeat purchase. This will require consolidation of instrumental methods and devices to compare results easily, for the consumers not to get discouraged by the overall complexity.
SB: Having been involved in such initiatives over the last 10+ years, I can only agree. My experience is that there need to be clear objectives and identification of the target customers and their needs. The major challenge is to create realistic expectations arising from such initiatives. This is particularly important in the context of the devices employed. Some do not directly measure cosmetic concerns. In the past, devices have done little more than provide the store advisor with more credibility, and the time spent using them is rarely rewarded financially. Those adopting such methods need to have clear expectations of the business benefits.
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