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Consumer Perspective—Skin Types and Sensory Experience
By: Katerina Steventon, PhD, FaceWorkshops
Posted: March 30, 2012, from the April 2012 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Sophisticated texture and fragrance as part of a formulation’s aesthetics are important to the discerning consumer, and skin type—i.e., dry, sensitive, combination or oily—is the primary influence behind how the consumer perceives a skin care product. For example, consumers with dry skin require a richer moisturizer, even though the product should absorb quickly for a smooth finish.
Assessing Skin Type
Most women believe they understand their skin type but they are often wrong. Facial sebum excretion dictates skin oiliness, with both excessive oiliness and low oil, i.e., dry skin, being undesirable. Skin type assessment is based on the consumer’s subjective view of dryness or oiliness; however, discrepancies are often found between this subjective view and objective measurements. Within the scientific community, no clear consensus regarding skin type exists;1 whereas among beauty professionals, the primary classification of skin types would be the traditional dry, oily, combination and sensitive, as identified by Helena Rubinstein in the early 20th century. These categories are still widely used by skin care manufacturers when marketing products tailored to a specific skin type, although they inadequately address other clinically observed skin features such as pigmentation or wrinkles. The innovative and more complex Baumann Skin Typing System classification differentiating four independent spectrums—dry to oily, sensitive to resistant, pigmented to non-pigmented, and wrinkled to tight—has not yet been broadly accepted.2
Skin types and cultural attitudes toward skin care differ across the globe, and the most common skin type assessment is “combination” skin, with two different zones on the face.3, 4 Research into oily skin types has been carried out particularly in Asia, where there is a negative cultural attitude attached to shiny facial skin. Interestingly, research in Asia has shown that only in cases where consumers have a specific concern, such as shiny and oily skin, is their self-assessment correct.5
European women attach great importance to the fragrance, texture and comfort of a formulation. They generally perceive aging as a natural process so rather than focusing on the effects of a formulation, they focus on how it feels.6 In contrast, Asian and American women value results and efficacy more than comforting textures and fragrances.
Since the 1990s, media attention has been focused on addressing the needs of sensitive skin, and marketing messages about environmental aggressors such as sun exposure, harsh weather conditions, air-conditioning, dramatic temperature changes, harsh facial cleansers and exfoliators, etc., are powerful in skin care. More consumers are convinced that their skin is sensitive and in need of soothing ingredients, thus creamy and cocooning formulations reinstate this pampering sense of taking care of oneself.