Face value: What women look for in cosmetics

March 26, 2018

When it comes to putting their best face forward, U.S. women are looking for makeup products that are “high-quality” over and above any other factor, including price.

While 40% of women are seeking only the best ingredients and finishes in the cosmetics they use daily, just 17% believe price is the key variable in their beauty products, based on findings of a poll by Civic Science released on March 20.

So what does this look like in terms of age? The results may speak to further evidence of the ways that makeup marketing and the beauty industry have changed over the years.

When we look at quality, Gen X-ers make up 43% of respondents who believe that this one factor was the most important. Baby Boomers come in at 30%; and Millennials, at 20%.

Given the fact that Millennials made up 40% of respondents who believed that price was most important, this could indicate their willingness for a tradeoff: If the price is right, this age group may agree to sacrifice on quality. The fact that society places a high priority on retaining a youthful appearance may also contribute to the rise we see in the 35+ set seeking greater quality in the products they choose.

Another major factor in cosmetic and skincare decisions, according to the pollsters, is whether a product can be classified as “hypoallergenic”— with 29% of respondents from coast to coast indicating that this particular label matters when it comes to their skincare and makeup purchases.

The second most important factor is the designation of cruelty-free, with 19% prioritizing this. All-natural is a close third, with 17% stating this as a defining quality for their beauty products.

Of the women who indicated that hypoallergenic mattered most, 39% were Gen X-ers, while 38% were Baby Boomers—meaning that the vast majority of women to whom hypoallergenic products are a concern are over the age of 35. That said, it cannot go unnoticed that Millennials made up 23% of responders, indicating that the need for hypoallergenic products may start early and continue to rise with age.

When we take a look at the next most popular response, cruelty-free, the split changes. Here, 40% of individuals are Millennials, 38% are Gen X-ers, and 24% are Baby Boomers. This is an interesting shift that could indicate greater exposure to the reality of animal testing in younger generations. The term likely was not as popular when the Baby Boomers were starting to become active buyers in the skincare and makeup markets so it may not be on the forefront of their minds when deciding to make a purchase.

That said, one term everyone can get behind is all-natural—with 38% of Gen X-ers, 34% of Baby Boomers and 28% of Millennials indicating their preference for this label. This is surprising, the researchers say, considering the fact that this term has come under fire in the past for lacking specificity in its standards.

Potential generational biases also may be present in the responses to fair trade. While this was a top priority for only 3% of respondents, 60% of those women were Millennials. Therefore, those companies that choose to prioritize fair trade products should appeal to a target audience in the 18-34 set.

While hypoallergenic products were of primary interest to women whose household income fell between $50,001 and $75,000, fair trade products appealed to those with a household income of under $25,000. This is especially relevant for companies looking to market these niche-label products to their customers. Those with a hypoallergenic angle may be able to charge a little more, while those with a fair trade item may want to keep price accessibility in mind.

When it comes to cruelty-free and all natural products, while those whose household incomes that fall between $50,001 and $100,000 make up the largest contingent of responders, those with household incomes under $25,000 also demonstrate a strong interest in these options. This might encourage companies to create two product lines at different price points, or find a way to price their products in a range that feels comfortable for all.

Finally, despite living in the digital age, product reviews were the least important aspect of the makeup purchasing process, with only 7% of U.S. women indicating this as a high priority. However, of that 7%, Millennials were the keenest to rate this as their number-one priority, with Gen Xers not too far behind.

Research contact: laurnie@civicscience.com

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