Evolution of sensation – why sensory matters so much now

By Belinda Carli, Institue of Personal Care Science

- Last updated on GMT

Evolution of sensation – why sensory matters so much now

Related tags: Silicone

Touch has such a big impact on human emotions. Have you ever noticed how the feel of your personal care products can have a similar effect? In this guest article from an industry expert, Belinda Carli takes a look at the evolution of sensation in beauty.

Next time you try a product, take note of your own behaviours. Chances are you’ll smell it first, then use a small bit and spread it a little, then a lot. Without even noticing, you will be making sensory assessments about how much you like or dislike the products aroma, pick-up, immediate texture, play time, rub out and after feel.

With increasing competition in this sector, sensory now matters more than ever to help a consumer really fall in love with every aspect of your product. With so many products, and so much choice focussed on sensory, it is important to captivate your target market from that very first touch through to everyday use. It’s almost as important now as how well the product actually works!

Feel good products to feel great

Lucas Meyer were the first to actually study the ‘happiness in a jar’ concept in 2015, using their Lecigel and monitoring facial expression, pupil dilation, tone of voice and skin conductance. Their results provided clinical evidence that a product could have a positive effect on emotion during application.

While focussing on sensory aspects was already a growing trend at the time, their research helped snowball the importance that brands and formulators placed on providing consumers with a pleasing sensory impact to really captivate their purchasing behaviour.

Sensory trends

So how is industry evolving in this area, and what are the latest trends? We’re seeing:

  • bounce back: products that deform when touched but ‘bounce back’ in the jar – can be in a cream, gel or cream-gel form
  • non-greasy oily gels: lipid based serums with a gel-like consistency without greasy residue
  • changing textures: product forms that start as one thing and finish as another; more on this in a moment
  • luxury sensory: ‘gliding’ spread with soft touch to velvety effects, depending on the sensory desires of the target market

Changing textures continue to surprise

To incorporate a real WOW factor into your next development, here are the latest concepts in ‘changing textures’:

  • gel-to-milk: oily gels that turn into milk when water is applied
  • cream-to-water: gel creams that transform to water feel
  • cream-to-powders: based on volatile silicones in generally W/Si bases using various novel silicone polymers
  • powder-to-water: modified silicone powders that can ‘capture’ water within an inner core so the product is in powder form but crushes on skin contact to provide water and a hydrated feel
  • gel/milk-to-cream: products that are low viscosity in the packaging but thicken when applied to the skin to give a ‘rich’ sensory experience
  • crackling products: products that foam when dispensed but incorporate ‘fast break’ principles to crackle on the skin
  • temperature effects: incorporating materials that provide instant cooling or heating when applied to the skin – in some cases the heating effect may be intensified with the addition of water

Consumers know what they like... do you?

Consumers have come to expect certain products to feel a certain way on application and indeed measure this as a mark of quality in some cases. For example, a viscous face cream is considered more richly moisturising regardless of whether it actually is or not; a shampoo that foams excessively is considered to give a better clean than one that doesn’t, even though chemically, foam is not a true measure of performance.

Use the sensory enriching materials that are now available to meet or exceed your market sensory expectations, or give them a different but pleasurable wow factor during application to really win their attention.

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