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Why do people have such variable responses to products?

I realize that everyone has different levels of sebum protection, cell turnover, environmental factors, etc. I'm just wondering if you guys have a relatively concise answer as to the actual mechanisms that affect how well a product works on an individual's skin. Why are there so many "hate it or love it" products out there? Is it just psychological? And, knowing more about the reasons why products do or don't work for us, how do we apply that information toward finding more effective products? Thanks!


  • Wow! That's a BIG question. 

    You may not like this answer but  a lot, lot, lot, lot, lot of personal preference is driven by what we call the "halo effect." That means that aesthetic factors like color, fragrance, and texture can dramatically impact how well you think a product works. 

    For example: we have taken a single batch of shampoo (or conditioner or hand lotion) and split it in half. The two halves are EXACTLY the same except we added a different fragrance and in some cases a different color. 

    Then we gave the two identical products (identical except for how they looked and smelled) to a hundred or so women to try. Afterwards they filled out a survey of what they liked or didn't like about the product. Since the products were FUNCTIONALLY IDENTICAL they participants should have liked them about the same, right? 

    WRONG! Some women thought one of the products cleaned or conditioned or moisturized much better than the other? Yet they worked just the same. How is this possible? The "halo effect" (which is similar to the placebo effect seen in drug testing) strongly influences how we perceive how products work. 

    This is not to say that there are NO physiological differences that account for differences between products. For example, if you have very dry skin (or dry hair) you might find an intensely moisturizing product too heavy or greasy. But in many cases the difference is psychological.  
  • Thanks so much for your answer Randy. As a psych major, I can definitely believe that perceptions and expectations have a significant effect on perceived efficacy. It's just so frustrating sometimes not to know whether something is working or your mind is playing tricks on you, so I really appreciate sites like the Beauty Brains cutting through the hype. 

    There is a lot more to my question but I think I will need to give it some more though in order to be more specific. Thanks!
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