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Expensive beauty products – how is their price determined? Episode 172


On today’s episode we’re going to be answering your beauty questions about

  • Does a product’s price indicate anything about quality?
  • Does Glycerin and Aloe Vera really moisturize?
  • What does Salicylic acid do in products?
  • And how legit are beauty product / ingredient trends?

Beauty Science News

Unilever goes further with transparency

The Big Companies are finally hopping on the transparency trend and have pledged to list a breakdown of the ingredients in their fragrances for all to see. While they started in early 2017, Unilever has now completed their project to list the ingredients in their fragrance with a concentration of 0.01% or more. This initiative goes further than is required by cosmetic regulators. They say they did it to help inspire trust in consumers.

But if you’re curious you can check out the fragrance ingredients in Unilever products by going to http://www.smartlabel.org/ in the US & Canada or https://www.unilever.co.uk/brands/whats-in-our-products/  for people in the EU.  

71% of Consumers are Buying Beauty on their Commute

A new study done in the UK has found that 71% of consumers are purchasing beauty products on their commute. Of course, this was done in a metropolitan area, like London, where public transportation is the main method of how people get to work. The study found that the average weekly expenditure of the commuters doing the online shopping was between £89 and £153. This contributes about 22.8 billion Pounds per year to the economy, which is 14% of the overall online shopping economy in the UK.

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Questions – Product costs

Veronica asks, is there a way to determine the quality of a product when looking at the price?

This is a great question and one that I’m sure trips up a lot of consumers. I think it’s ingrained in our brains at an early age that more expensive things are better than less expensive things.  And cosmetic marketers, and marketing people in general, definitely take advantage of this phenomena. If someone can get you to pay more money for a product, that’s a good reason for them to charge more.

3 major things that affect how much a product costs.

  • Raw material & production costs
  • Distribution costs
  • Brand positioning

Question – Glycerin and Aloe vera in moisturizers

Many face mists have Glycerine or Aloe Vera in. Do these ingredients actually moisturise/hydrate or dry the skin. I have tried both and each time my skin feels drier.

Yes, glycerin does. Aloe may provide a little moisturizing but not much. Certainly less than Glycerin.

In general, Aloe vera contains about 75 potentially active constituents including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. The sugars and amino acids may have some moisturizing effects but it’s difficult to separate out just what is having the effect.  I will point out that in a 1999 review article British Journal of General Practice, the authors concluded in regards to aloe, “Even though there are some promising results, clinical effectiveness of oral or topical aloe vera is not sufficiently defined at present.” Basically, as far as its use as a medical treatment, it has not been proven.

Question – Tell us about salicylic acid

Please tell us something more about salicylic acid in beauty products. Could it be used in concentrations more then 2%,

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble active known as a beta hydroxy acid. It has different functions in cosmetics, such as exfoliation, treatment for acne, and wart removal. However, there are concentration limits depending what the salicylic acid is being used for. In instances where salicylic acid is being used to treat acne or remove warts, it would be considered an active drug in the United States.

Question – What about beauty trends?

Lauren is a listen who is glad the show is back, and has proclaimed, YAY, SCIENCE in her note to us. We’re glad you’re listening, Lauren, and thanks for asking one of today’s questions: “I’d love to know how legit trends are. For example, everyone’s doing those mask thingies. Are they even good for your skin? Is there something better you can do instead? Or are korean beauty products the new hotness? Is acai the killer ingredient that will make you younger?! Stuff like that. Because man I never know.”

You’ve got to understand that not much really changes from a technology standpoint when it comes to cosmetics.  The things you use today are pretty much the same types of products people were using 20 and 30 years ago. I once did a comparison of the Pantene shampoo ingredient list of 2018 versus one in 1998.  They were pretty much the same ingredients. Not much changes.

But in the beauty industry, you always need something new. It’s a lot like the fashion industry. And so you get these trends…

In my view, the science of cosmetic products is not changing much and the technology and products are not changing much either. The thing that is changing a lot is the marketing stories that go along with them. And it is the marketing stories that create the trends. Or maybe it is the other way around, the trends create the marketing stories.

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • amy February 5, 2019, 4:28 pm

    Marketing absolutely influences the price of products! Recently learned from an interview of the founder of Warby Parker: they were going to set their price point much lower ($45 I believe), but marketers told them people would think their frames were too cheap, therefore flimsy. So they settled on $89. This newer price point did not mean better quality, just a higher perception of quality.

  • Kim February 12, 2019, 4:35 pm

    Great episode! We know that salicylic acid in water can work as an exfoliant if in the right pH. Would salicylic acid be of any function when dissolved in oil?

    • Perry Romanowski February 14, 2019, 5:39 pm

      Salicylic acid would require water to make it behave like an acid and thus get the exfoliating effect. I doubt you’ll get much benefit from it dissolved in oil however, if the product eventually gets in contact with water then there may be an effect.

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