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Personal Care

Sensory in skin care – capturing consumers from the first touch

First impressions matter. Whether it’s the exhilaration of a foaming cleanser helping you wake you up in the morning, a swatch of moisturising cream slathered on dry arms, or the refreshing spritz of sunscreen on sun drenched skin, how a product feels is critical to the experience created by its use, playing a key role in perceptions of the quality and efficacy of skin care products.

Whilst consumers continue to search for products with proven benefits, they are increasingly prioritising favourable and desirable sensory attributes as they crave new experiences and put greater focus on self-care. This shift follows a time of stress and uncertainty for many, who during the pandemic used beauty routines as an easy and accessible place for comfort and establishing a sense of normality. 
smiling woman applying face cream

In fact, Mintel research found that 45% of 16-34-year-olds in the UK have done more beauty and personal care activities to reduce their stress and anxiety levels since the pandemic began (Lightspeed/Mintel, 2020). This is really no surprise, as, historically, individuals have turned to personal care products in times of crisis, with the “lipstick effect” a well-known phenomenon. This is the theory that cash-strapped consumers will still spend on less-costly, luxury items, such as lipstick, during times of economic downturn. 

graph showing the global skincare market (Euromonitor International, 2022) 

However, over the past two years, it is skin care that has been the go-to category for consumers. The market saw an 8.4% growth between 2019 and 2021, and is expected to grow a further 36.8% by 2024 (Euromonitor, 2022). To appeal to consumers in this growing market, brands need to not only provide quality, functionality and visual appeal, but also meet their sensory expectations. 

Touch is crucial in skin care, since consumer acceptability of a product often depends on its sensory properties; perceived before, during and after use. Consumers have come to expect certain attributes from each stage of the application process, and these have an invaluable impact on the perception of quality and efficacy, establishing continued use and, ultimately, driving repurchase. For example, a light, cooling serum could stimulate feelings of freshness and hydration, or a thick body butter may convey luxury and pampering. These feelings of instant effect can engage consumers and make them more likely to use the products again, helping achieve brand loyalty. 

However, it is important to note that the descriptive language used and the sensory attributes that appeal to consumers, may vary across different demographics. This can make navigating the sensory space as a formulator a challenging task, raising questions such as:

How does sensory language use differ between consumer groups? 
How can the language of the consumer be translated into the technical language of the skin care formulator? 
How can we harness this information to enhance the product development process?

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Discover how to formulate your own sensory story

To help address these questions, we have created the SenStories™ selector tool. This new digital selector links the language of the consumer with the language of the formulator to provide meaningful sensory observations. It utilises a reliable and reproducible methodology to connect insights on consumer perception and language choice with the knowledge that ingredient combination and colloidal structure are responsible for a given sensorial feel. 

The understanding gained by using the tool can help enable predictive ingredient selection. By allowing the development of formulations with a targeted and desired sensorial profile, valuable development time can be saved, offering the formulator a head start in their product development process. Watch the video below to find out more about SenStories. 

Published by

  • Abigail Usher Marketing Coordinator, Personal Care

SenStories™ presentation

SenStories presentation file cover
3.3 MB

SenStories™ selector tool infographic

SenStories selector tool infographic
1.4 MB
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SenStories™ selector tool

This tool helps you make suitable oil-in-water emulsifier recommendations based on consumer expectations to help develop skin care formulations with targeted sensories.

Find out more about SenStories™

The data that powers the tool has been generated through the exploration of how two distinct groups of consumers perceive the touch-sensory characteristics of simple skin care formulations. The consumers were based in either Singapore or France, thus providing insight into two prominent yet culturally opposing regions in terms of consumer beauty routine. Using consumer analytical tools, any correlations or differences between the descriptive language used by each consumer set (the sensorial semantics) and the technical sensory language (the sensorial syntax) were identified. The SenStories selector tool was then developed using a proprietary algorithm to offer users a quick and easy way to discover recommendations for oil-in-water emulsifier systems based on the desired sensory of their target consumer. 

SenStories syntax and semantics definitions

To use the tool, simply select the consumer set you wish to explore and then one or two semantics (consumer language descriptors) that describe the sensorial language you would like to be associated with your formulation. You can then select any of the necessary refinement options before emulsifier recommendations are displayed. Click here to explore the tool.

how to use the SenStories selector tool

Formulation expertise

Along with the tool, we can also offer further formulation support. We have global teams dedicated to tactile sensory and texture, who provide reliable data to support the entire lifecycle of formulation development and innovation, as well as a sensory lab in Singapore and textures lab in France. Click here to find out more.

Skin care ingredients

Woman applying white lotion to top of left hand


Sensory and texture play a vital role in beauty & personal care, differentiating products and stimulating thoughts about these products. Learn how Croda can assist in ingredient selection to evoke targeted experiences from your formulations.

Would you like to discuss SenStories with a member of the team?