Research looks at consumer attitudes, emotions to beauty care products

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018

OLATHE — A recent Kansas State University Olathe graduate student applies more foundation to a widespread understanding of the emotions and attitudes behind consumers' purchase of cosmetics, skin care and hair care products.

The work builds on research from the Center for Sensory Analysis and Consumer Behavior at Kansas State University.

"Emotions frequently factor into purchases and product choice, especially with items that make us feel positive about ourselves, such as beauty care products," said Audra Sasse, July 2018 master's degree graduate in nutrition, dietetics and sensory science at K-State Olathe who conducted some of the preliminary research. "Because of this, companies devote a great deal of resources into understanding how consumers feel about their products and what emotions are driving or stopping these purchases. Such emotional feedback allows for products to be retuned to better meet demands and advertising to be tweaked."

Sasse's report, "Gathering consumer terminology using focus groups — An example with beauty care," is one of the first studies to publicly share information and terminology on the emotions and attitudes consumers have about beauty care products. While beauty care companies have quantified consumer emotions through their own studies, information, results and data collection techniques from these studies are not publicly available.

Although preliminary, the work may lead to the eventual development of a standardized, public scale that measures and tracks consumer attitudes about beauty care products.

Sasse's project built on the preliminary work by Martin Talavera, assistant professor of sensory analysis and consumer behavior at K-State Olathe and Sasse's major advisor.

Using an industry standard practice in sensory testing, Sasse used information from three focus groups to gather broad and specific information about cosmetics, skin care and hair care products. Each group had seven women who fell into the age brackets of 18-35, 36-50 and 51 and older. Each woman regularly used makeup, skin and hair care products. Participants also were asked to bring a photo collage made from magazine ads or illustrations that conveyed how they felt when using beauty products to take care of their face and their appearance. They shared their ideas about beauty care and the benefit expectations they had of those products.

Women in the ages 18-35 focus group said they wanted their beauty products to make them feel "youthful," "happy" and "pretty." They also wanted the application and removal to be as easy as possible for a quick beauty care routine.

Women in the 36-50 age group said they wanted their products to make them feel "clean," "fresh," "ageless" and "confident," while one participant said she felt "powerful" when doing her complete beauty care routine.

Women who were 51 years and older said their beauty care products made them feel "confident," "glamorous" and "happy." One participant said the she could not fall asleep at night if she did not complete her beauty routine, while another said the models in ads targeted to their demographic were too young.

Focus group participants then provided single word responses about how they feel after using their beauty care products versus when not using them. This helped Sasse develop a base-level lexicon for beauty care products and chart positive and negative terminology that helps reveal an overall attitude toward a product.

Responses to wearing makeup included "confident," "pretty," "beautiful," "happy," "polished," "energized," "adventurous," "awake" and "enhanced," while not wearing makeup make the women feel "tired," "exposed," "self-conscious," "naked," "dull," "embarrassed" and "frumpy."

Women said using their skin care products made them feel "clean," "refreshed," "healthy," "protected," "accomplished," "complete," "adult" and "beautiful," while not using the products made them feel "oily," "dirty," "dry," "greasy" and "dull."

Using hair care products made the women feel "clean," "confident," "pretty," "younger," "refreshed," "approachable" and "carefree." Not using these products left them feeling "greasy," "dirty," "oily," "lazy," "self-conscious," "damaged," "embarrassed" and "frumpy."

"What I found is that skin care products are being used more for a health benefit whereas makeup and hair care products are being used more for vanity and looks, making them the more emotion-driven products," Sasse said.

Participants also were asked what ingredients would go into their ideal makeup, skin and hair care products. Answers were unanimously that ingredients should be all-natural, plant-based or water-based and allergen-free. Others wanted products to be cruelty-free in testing and to provide secondary benefits, such as a sun protection factor, vitamins and other anti-aging properties. Participants also wanted their products to be multi-purpose, long lasting and easy to use.

Congcong Zhang, a doctoral student of Talavera's, will build on Sasse's work. That project will look at emotions in a broader demographic using a broader line of beauty care products.