Will Consumers Use Skin Care With Bacteria In It?

Will Consumers Use Skin Care With Bacteria In It?

Suzy® investigates what consumers know about their skin microbiome

• • • • • •

iStock-947430990.jpg

Thanks to the popularity of probiotic food and beverages, most people know that their intestines are home to trillions of good bacteria, which help to regulate the digestive systems. But bacteria like this doesn’t just live inside a person's body – it's also present on the surface of the skin, where it balances pH levels, produces helpful nutrients and lipids, and serves as protection against harmful organisms.

But just as your digestive tract can be disrupted by taking medication, your skin's microbiome is often affected by antibiotics and other chemicals, leading to side effects like dryness, acne, or even rosacea. Recently, a group of researchers theorized that restoring the balance of good bacteria might reverse these types of conditions, and were successfully able to treat eczema symptoms by introducing live cultures to their patients' skin – kind of like the skin care equivalent of taking dietary supplements or eating fermented foods.

Of course, scientists aren't the only people looking to solve this problem. Some beauty and skin care companies have already begun to test and release new products that will protect their customers' skin flora. The new Deep Moisture Body Wash from Dove, for example, is said to be free from harsh cleansers that can damage "the living layer" that exists on everyone's skin. On the more extreme end, independent skin care companies like Mother Dirt and Glowbiotics are creating probiotic products with helpful bacteria strains living inside them, that are supposed to "nurture your nature" by keeping your skin's ecosystem properly balanced.

Given that the word “bacteria” carries a lot of negative connotations for most people, though, how would potential customers react to the idea of intentionally putting microscopic living organisms directly onto their skin? That’s what we set out to explore, using Suzy's on-demand panel of consumers to do some firsthand market research.

What We Found

Since the skin care industry tends to view female consumers as their target market, we asked 2000 women of all ages to tell us how much knowledge they think they have about skin microbiotica.

Nor surprisingly, it wasn't exactly a familiar topic for most of the women who answered our survey.

How familiar are you with the concept of skin flora or skin microbiotica?

 
N=2000, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

N=2000, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

 

We then broke down these women into two focus group-style categories to ask them further questions. In one group, we put women who claimed to be "very" or "a little" familiar with what "skin microbiotica" means; in the other were women who said they had never heard of it before. We then asked both groups to think about how comfortable they'd be with different kinds of products that beauty companies are currently marketing

It also shouldn't come as a shock that the first category of women, who said that they knew about skin microbiota, were mostly very comfortable with the idea of gentle cleansers like Dove's Deep Moisture Body Wash. A whopping 81% of those who took our survey marked that they would consider using products meant to protect the bacteria already living on their skin.

How much do you agree with the following sentence?
I would consider using skin care products that are specifically intended to protect the bacteria already living on my skin.

 
N=489, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

N=489, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

 

One respondent said:

The bacteria living on my skin are in balance and don’t aggravate my immune system. I would rather they stay than be killed off to be potentially replaced by a different strain that may not be so benign.


However, when it came to skin care products that actually contain bacteria, like those that Mother Dirt sells, these survey-takers were a little less sure. Only 65% were interested in the idea, and a larger percentage were unsure or uncomfortable with it.

How much do you agree or disagree with the following sentence?
I would consider using skin care products with live bacteria inside them.

 
N=489, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

N=489, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

 

One respondent noted:

[It] makes me nervous to place a bacteria on me purposefully.

Another said:

It depends on the point of the bacteria–if they are for exfoliation or processing of some waste product, but I wouldn’t want a recolonization effort.

Now onto the other group: women with no prior understanding of skin microbiotica.

Although you'd expect these consumers to be much less interested in thinking about the bacteria on their face, they were actually much more open-minded than anticipated. 59% said they might be interested in products designed to protect their skin microbiome, and 35% hadn't made up their minds one way or the other yet.

How much do you agree or disagree with the following sentence?
I would consider using skin care products that are specifically intended to protect the bacteria already living on my skin.

 
N=500, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

N=500, 100F, ages 13-73, United States

 

One respondent in this pool said:

The bacteria must be there for a reason, so if it was better for my skin to use these products, I would certainly be willing to give them a try.

Another said:

If the bacteria is going to be there anyway, I might as well take care of it.

However, these women were also much more divided on probiotic skin care products; more said they were neutral than anything else, and 11%, completely disagreed with the idea outright. 

Suzy® Says

If you're a beauty or skin care company that wants to capitalize on recent innovation in skin microbiome research, there's good news in these responses. A majority of the women that we polled seem interested in protecting their skin's microbiotic layer, regardless of whether or not they were familiar with the subject beforehand.

However, the negative connotations of "bacteria" are still a large obstacle for brands that use live cultures as an ingredient in their products. These brands should consider a more aggressive education campaign in their marketing, or using language like “probiotic” that’s already familiar to customers, in order to get them comfortable with the idea that not all bacteria is created equal.

• • • • • •


Are you someone who works with skin care or other consumable packaged goods (CPG)? Contact us for a Suzy® demo.


 

Meet Suzy®

A consumer insights platform that helps you gather information on what your potential customers care about, so you can make the right decisions for your business, product, or service.

Suzy® is a better, faster way to conduct market research at the click of a button – like having a focus group right in your pocket.