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Kira Karapetian

By: Kira Karapetian on August 1st, 2017

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Consumers Demand Transparency from Personal Care Products

Trends & Research

In the first three posts of our Ingredient Confusion Series, we learned that shoppers are meeting a huge roadblock when evaluating their food products - they’re confused and concerned about the basic elements that make up the food products they buy. This confusion creates a gap in trust between consumers and brands, and oftentimes prevents them from buying a product.

But think that confusion and concern only relates to food? Think again.

In Label Insight’s 2017 Ingredient Confusion Study, we took a look at consumer sentiments when it comes to personal care products and found that the same confusion, concern and changes in shopping behavior hold true for personal care products.  

American Women are Increasingly Concerned About Ingredients

While consumer demand for product transparency in food and beverage products has experienced a groundswell, our study shows that the interest in non-food product transparency is also on the rise. Shoppers are taking more interest about what is in their personal care products - from face lotion to shampoo to sunscreen - and will make buying decisions based on ingredient information.

For decades, beauty and personal care brands have heavily marketed targeted women. So, we took a cross section of our study data to specifically examine women’s perspectives when it comes to personal care ingredients. We found that American women are increasingly evaluating the contents of their personal care products and still walking away confused as to what the ingredients are and whether or not they fit into their personal requirements. In response, they are comparison shopping more frequently for personal care products with recognizable ingredients and are willing to pay more for those products.

Personal Care Ingredients Confuse Consumers

Label Insight’s 2017 Ingredient Confusion study found that consumers consider ingredients when evaluating personal care products. 68% of those surveyed believe it is important or extremely important to consider the ingredients when deciding which products to buy.

Yet, consumers often do not recognize ingredients on labels. 81% of those surveyed do not recognize ingredients on the label of personal care products at least somewhat often. Only 2% of women said they always understand what all of the ingredients are.

When buying personal care products, 79% of women said they are at least sometimes confused about ingredients listed on the package label. Of those, 45% are often, very often or almost always confused.

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How does this impact shopper behavior? When considering a personal care product to buy, if the ingredients on the label are confusing:

  • 33% of women would not buy the product and look to another product instead
  • 55% of women would look at another product to see if they understand the ingredients better
  • 44% of women would research the ingredients on their mobile phone while shopping the aisle

Ingredient Confusion Impacts Brand Trust and Purchase Behavior

The study revealed that when consumers don’t understand product ingredients, it impacts their feelings toward the brand, and purchase behavior. 45% of those surveyed say they trust the brand less when they see personal care ingredients they don’t recognize or find confusing.

When it comes to making a purchase, 61% of women are more likely to buy personal care products that contain ingredients they understand or recognize. 53% would be willing to switch to a different personal care product if they understood the ingredients in that product better. And, 49% will pay more for a personal care product that contains ingredients they understand or recognize.

Ingredient Definitions Alleviate Ingredient Confusion and Concern

We decided to put this to the test and see what shopper might do when presented with a confusing, (but harmless) ingredient. We used Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate as an example and found that 88% were not familiar with it, and because of this, 49% said they would not be comfortable buying a product that contained it. Once defined as liquid form of vitamin C used in cosmetics and personal care products that enables the vitamin C to penetrate the skin more effectively, there was a 43% increase in those who say they would be “very comfortable” purchasing the product.

Imagine if all brands made ingredient definitions and ingredient purpose readily accessible to consumers. How might it impact consumer trust and purchasing behavior?

Interested in providing more transparency for your personal care products? Learn how brands can utilize mobile tech to alleviate ingredient concern and confusion.

A note about our methodology. Label Insight surveyed 1,000 consumers who have a shared or primary responsibility for household shopping purchases. Consumers were asked about their feelings of confusion regarding the ingredients in food and personal care products, how that confusion affects their shopping and purchasing behavior, and how technology may alleviate concerns.


download the ingredient confusion study