Has the term ‘skin barrier’ confused consumers? Simple’s survey says “yes”.

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Simple's survey discovered that 71% of UK beauty consumers don't understand the function of the skin barrier (Image: Getty)
Simple's survey discovered that 71% of UK beauty consumers don't understand the function of the skin barrier (Image: Getty)

Related tags Skin skincare consumer behavior Personal care Skin care Consumer Ingredients Hyaluronic acid Vitamin c Unilever

Unilever beauty brand Simple surveyed UK consumers about their skin care knowledge and discovered that most are out of their depth.

The mass-market skin care brand quizzed 2,003 skin care consumers in the UK, both men and women, aged 18+ in February 2023 and discovered that 84% of respondents with sensitive skin were confused by the industry,

Furthermore, many felt cynical too – as 80% of women and 74% of men participants believed that the skin care industry was flooded with misinformation.

In the report, Magali Giupponi, Simple’s Global Brand Lead for Simple agreed with these sceptical consumers and said: “It is impossible to ignore the misinformation, the contradictions, and the prevalence of ‘facts’ being broadcast from all corners. Sometimes, I find it hard to discern fact from fiction myself, and I know many others feel the same way.”

Despite trend agencies and beauty brands claiming that skin care consumers are more knowledgeable than ever and that we are all ‘skin-tellectuals’, the results of the survey shows that there is a great possibility that many beauty brands’ marketing departments are currently overestimating their customers’ level of expertise.

When the respondents were asked which skin care ingredients they were searching for, the results were surprisingly ‘vanilla’ compared to what may have been expected.

In fact, 51% of participants were searching for Vitamin C, 38% for Hyaluronic Acid, and 28% for Niacinamide. Three highly effective ingredients, yes. But also three ingredients that have long been used in skin care formulations that could be considered a basic component of any decent day cream.

There wasn’t a cutting-edge new ingredient like bakuchiol or blue tansy in earshot.

Beware of the buzzwords

Buzzwords are another area for consideration. For example, the assumption that beauty consumers understand the concept and importance of the ‘skin barrier’ might even be overestimated.

Although this is basic knowledge for dermatologists, cosmetic scientists and marketing experts at beauty brands, the survey discovered that only 29% of respondents were confident that they understood its function and purpose. This means that 71% of UK beauty consumers are either completely baffled by the function of the skin barrier or have never even heard of it. 

To further complicate this, 52% of respondents said they had seen or read conflicting information about the skin barrier, while 19% said they had no understanding of its purpose or why they should care about it.  

Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, Founder and Medical Director of Adonia Medical Clinic in London confirmed that many of her patients don’t understand the concept of the skin barrier.

“So many of my patients come to me initially to help improve their blemished skin. When I ask them what they are doing to take care of their skin barrier, most don’t know what I am talking about,” ​she said. “The truth is that some blemishes are in part due to barrier disruption as well as inflammation, seborrhoea, and overgrowth of certain skin bacteria. Some blemishes can also be multi factual including input from hormones, diet, and even stress. If you have an impaired skin barrier this can drive the inflammation and worsen skin flareups.”

The findings of the survey could potentially give skin care brands some new 'food for thought' on how to clearly educate their customers on the function of the skin barrier and how to care for it. 

Recent product sales demonstrate that there is certainly increased consumer interest in 'derma' skin care brands that focus on why and how a product will improve the skin. L'Oréal Group ​has recently announced that its derma brands portfolio has seen strong sales for the first six months of 2023. While Beiersdorf's brands​ like Nivea, Aquaphor and Eucerin also all saw strong sales in the same period. 

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