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Only on SkinInc.com: A Consumer Perspective—Skin Types and the Sensorial Experience

Posted: March 30, 2012

Katerina Steventon, an independent consultant to the skin care industry and the general public, explains the importance of the senses when it comes to skin care.

Sophisticated texture and a 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 on how the consumer perceives a skin care product. For example, consumers with a dry skin type require a richer moisturizer, even though the product should absorb quickly for a smooth finish.

Assessing skin type

The majority of women believe they understand their skin type, but they are often wrong. Facial sebum excretion dictates skin oiliness, with both excessive and reduced oiliness 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. There is no clear consensus within the scientific community on skin type definitions.1 Among beauty professionals, the primary classification of skin types would be the traditional dry, oily, combination and sensitive, as identified by Helena Rubinstein in early 20th century. These skin type 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 to skin care differ across the globe, and the most common skin type assessment is combination skin with two different zones in the face.3, 4 Research into oilier skin types has been carried out particularly in Asia, where there is a negative cultural attitude attached to shiny facial skin. 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

Formulation aesthetics

European women attach great importance to the fragrance, texture and comfort of the formulation. They perceive aging as a natural process, rather focusing on how the formulation feels.6 In contrast, Asian and American women value results and efficacy more than comforting textures and fragrances.