How much do consumers really know about eco claims in beauty? A study

Published: 19-Apr-2023

Annika Lagut is the winner of the Cosmetics Business prize for the best essay on the 2022 SCS Diploma in Cosmetic Science course. This is an abridged version of her essay

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When it comes to claims on cosmetics, consumers seem to feel like they are made-up nonsense with zero substantiation. This may be due to decades of mystical-magical-secretive messaging around beauty products.

The industry wanting to make consumers feel special has resulted in them feeling talked down to or even tricked.

In 2013, with the founding of The Ordinary and its unconventionally descriptive product names like 5% Lactic Acid Serum, the mass market took a turn towards more transparent, chemistry-focused claims.

The consumer finally felt like they got a peek behind the curtain of ‘lab magic’. Now, the consumer is starting to catch up to the science-like lingo and is no longer impressed by simple percentages on the bottle, they want to know how the products were tested and how they work.

The Kantar 2021 Who Cares? Who does? study showed that 65% of people try to buy environmentally friendly packaging, which does not mean regularly avoiding plastic to 71% of people.

While this might seem like a backwards result in contrast to the ‘anti-plastic, glass-only’ marketing utilised in the highly popular ‘clean’ beauty movement, it is good news for the people working on the circularity of plastic.

As professor Kim Ragaert points out in her TEDx talk titled ‘Plastics Rehab’, we simply do not have enough paper, glass and aluminium to replace all the current packaging.

Furthermore, the environmental cost of such an action would be enormous: we would need 500g of glass versus 20g of PET per litre and we would spend double the energy on transport.

The aim of this essay is to create claims for a moisturiser and a leave-in hair conditioner, analogous to popular claims on the current market; analyse the messaging of Innisfree’s ‘paper bottle’ against the UK CMA Green Claims Code; conduct a consumer survey on their attitudes and habits with regards to beauty packaging and sustainability; and, finally, to analyse the consumer understanding of environmental claims and issues based on the survey.

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