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Only on A Consumer Perspective—Skin Types and the Sensorial Experience

Posted: March 30, 2012

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Since the 1990s, media attention has been focused on addressing the needs of sensitive skin, and marketing stories about environmental aggressors such as sun exposure, harsh weather conditions, air-conditioning, dramatic temperature changes, harsh facial cleansers and exfoliators, are powerful in skin care. More consumers are convinced that their skin is sensitive and in need of soothing ingredients. Creamy and cocooning formulations reinstate the pampering aspect of taking care of oneself.

Natural skin care formulations are rising in popularity, and they often contain plant oils that may, contrary to their soothing connotations, cause problems for skin types with impaired skin barrier. Research suggests that oleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid and a transdermal penetration enhancer, can disturb epidermal barrier function in children with atopic dermatitis.7 It's my view that this can be extended to all skin types with weak barrier function in genetically predisposed individuals or due to stressful life events. Oleic and palmitoleic acids, present in plant oils such as olive, grape seed and sea buckthorn, have been shown to induce epidermal hyperplasia, clinically manifesting as scaly skin, and abnormal follicular keratinization (implicated in acne) in animal models.8

Older consumers with oily skin types are often concerned about increased sebum excretion and are reluctant to apply a moisturizer. Emollient fluids that combine glycerin, dicaprylyl carbonate and cyclomethicone with absorbent rice powder work best to achieve a light texture that feels soft and smooth without leaving a greasy residue. In today’s fast-paced culture, consumers also expect to see noticeable results, immediately failing to recognize that skin care efficacy requires time. This instant gratification is provided by pleasant textures and fragrances and the feeling of an “instant effect” after application. For example, a self-heating mask can provide an instant pore opening effect through the thermal action of zeolite, a microporous aluminosilicate mineral that emits heat when transitioning from a dehydrated to a hydrated form. These are the elements that provide the daily skin care narrative with some excitement.9

Recognize the value

It is important to recognize the value consumers attach to the texture and fragrance of their skin care products. The pleasure associated with applying skin care encourages compliance, and each skin type seeks different textures and fragrances that connect them with a sense of touch, their childhood memories and reassuring rituals.


1. SW Youn, SJ Kim, IA Hwang and KC Park, Evaluation of facial skin type by sebum secretion: discrepancies between subjective description and sebum secretion, Skin Res Technol 8 168–172 (2002)