Opinion

Two Views: Beauty consumers and chemicals

expert opinion column Two Views beauty consumers chemical ingredients

For this installment of Two Views, Cosmetics Design asked science communicator Louise Hidinger, Ph.D. and indie brand founder Kari Gran about what consumers know and want to know about chemical ingredients in personal care and cosmetic products.

Consumers’ knowledge influences how they shop for beauty. And here, two experts weigh in on what that means, given current concerns about ingredients.

Louise Hidinger, Ph.D., Science Communicator

“I have been giving public seminars about the topic of the science behind beauty products at libraries in and around Toronto for the past two years.…many audience members, by the end of the talk, can see why a basic understanding of the science goes a long way towards understanding how the products work, and they really appreciate the information.

“…most consumers know very little about their beauty products, and the majority lack basic science literacy to understand how they work. Unfortunately, environmental organizations have been very successful as portraying most conventional beauty products as being filled with ‘dirty’ chemicals. At every seminar, I get questions from consumers about whether their personal care products are harmful, and what ingredients to avoid. When I dig a bit deeper, it often turns out that these questions are motivated by fear and suspicion that the beauty industry is tricking consumers with false product claims, while secretly poisoning consumers with toxic ingredients!

“From my perspective, the beauty industry needs to take a new approach, educating consumers about the science behind beauty products, and explaining how specific ingredients work and why they are used in a formulation.

"The traditional approach has been to assume the consumer knows little about what goes into personal care products and is not interested in knowing; marketers skip any explanation of how a product works and instead blanket the consumer with effusive claims about what the product can do. This leaves an information gap that can readily be filled by whatever pseudoscience or bad information abounds on the internet. There are numerous examples of ingredients that have been needlessly vilified, such as the parabens and talc (as in the Johnson & Johnson court case). As a result, the beauty industry already has a serious trust deficit with the public. To regain trust, the industry has to do a better job of being transparent, and keeping the public informed and educated about the products and the ingredients to go into these products.”

Kari Gran, Co-Founder of Kari Gran

“We started the Green Beauty Barometer survey in 2015 to see how women felt towards and if they bought all-natural beauty, because data was limited. So, we worked with an objective third-party survey company, Harris Poll, to conduct a survey among more than 1,000 U.S. women aged 18 and up, to measure their attitudes and purchase behaviors across a number of beauty product categories, including: skin care; hair care; makeup; sunscreen; fragrance and nail care.

“Our second-annual survey revealed that 55% check ingredient labels on beauty products to avoid specific ingredients and 35% intend to purchase more all-natural beauty products in the next two years. It also showed that mass market drug/grocery stores perform the worst when it comes to all-natural product selection, with 14% saying they are unsatisfied. This was followed by department stores at 13% and specialty drug/grocery stores at 12%.”

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