The skin microbiome has been going mainstream in the area of beauty and personal care.
New research by Intpact – an intelligence company that leverages human expertise, digital and AI to investigate industry trends and dynamics in real-time – has taken a deep dive into this growing trend, using media listening and analytics tools to tap into the global conversation over 2021.
We sat down with Raphaël Mestanza, co-founder and co-CEO, for a Q&A session to learn about some of the key findings when it comes consumer understanding and perceptions in this area…
Can you tell us a bit about the tools and methods used to conduct this research?
Starting from an initial brief provided by DSM, we leveraged INSIGHTSXPLORER, a solution capable of worldwide real-time scanning of more than 150 million sources – including websites, magazines, blogs, forums and social media – and generating instantaneous analytics thanks to AI. We mainly analyze conversations in English. As tools alone are not enough, an analyst was appointed to extract insights and key findings. We created two reports respectively, analysing periods from 1 April to 30 June 2021 and 1 September to 30 November 2021.
Did you find that there continues to be significant consumer interest when it comes to the skin microbiome?
Absolutely. The skin microbiome continues to be of great interest to consumers – it is a trend that is both stable and steadily increasing not only for the skin, but also when it comes to nutrition and gut health.
We have seen a significant number of conversations focused on this area, and in relation to cosmetics. Just in December, for example, there were 6,000 posts on the topic of the skin microbiome. The United States – followed by Europe and then China – are leading the conversation, but it’s a global topic.
We have also seen microbiome-related claims amongst beauty and personal care products skyrocket, with 150% growth rate year on year over the last four years. In the first half of 2020, we saw more product launches referencing ‘microbiome’ than all of 2018 put together.
Have there been any major changes, or drivers of change in consumer interest and their perception of the microbiome?
Big drivers over the past year have been wellness and immune-related trends, with COVID-19 being a key factor that has accelerated the maturity and rise of such areas. For example, working from home is thought to have drawn attention to the skin microbiome due to behaviours such as increased use of Zoom, and the pandemic has driven a bigger focus on the microbiome for better immunity and vaccine efficacy. The clean beauty trend also rapidly accelerated as people increasing prioritized product solutions that are clean and safe.
There is also increasing scientific evidence of skin microbiota imbalances triggering or worsening skin concerns, such as atopic dermatitis, rosacea, dandruff, acne and aging, potentially highlighting the importance of the skin microbiome to consumers.
Did you note any other beauty and personal care trends that are popular? Where does the skin microbiome currently sit in relation to these?
We found six key hot topics during our research:
- Natural and organic
- Sustainability and circular beauty
- Clean beauty
- Beauty tech
- Ethical beauty
As you can see, the microbiome comes in at fourth place, but it is often talked about in relation to the other trends too. Plant-based products have also been popular.
What key benefits are most popular among consumers when it comes to skin microbiome products? What are they looking for?
A few different approaches stand out within the skin microbiome trend.
When you look at new product launches, the claim is most often focused on achieving healthy and balanced skin. ‘Balanced skin’ is interpreted as hydrated skin, skin that is protected from environmental aggressors such as pollution, skin that is protected against triggers that lead to inflammation, irritation and sensitivity, and skin with a balanced microbiome to help protect against disruptions that can lead to infections and skin disorders such as eczema. Microbiome- and skin-friendly ingredients are also popular, and those that offer highly specific microbiome modulation and personalized skincare solutions.
Skin aging, wound healing and female health are also key areas observed when it comes to the microbiome in beauty and personal care, as is the gut–skin axis – our research showed that the gut microbiome and health is a popular area.
Are there any emerging opportunities based on consumer interests?
Positive benefits related to the skin microbiome that are popular in the conservation among consumers include balanced and hydrated skin, brighter and younger skin, skin health maintenance (less acne, eczema, rosacea etc.) and keeping the skin defence line strong against pathogens and free radicals. Other benefits that appeared in the media analysis include reductions in inflammatory reactions (for example, less dryness), protection against environmental damage and premature skin aging, and alleviation of skin infection and scarring.
Consumers are also interested in microbiome-friendly skincare and naturally derived ingredients, and products targeted at specific skin types.
From a communications perspective, simplification of the message to the consumer and having a clear claim would be beneficial. Also focusing on the effect or disease rather than the bacteria, and any clinical evidence.
Are there any key pain points or areas for improvement?
The consumer perception of the skin microbiome is extremely positive. Many consumers previously considered bacteria as a negative thing, but new scientific discoveries have made us all consider bacteria more as an essential collection of microorganisms living in or on our body – the balance of which is extremely important and beneficial for our well-being.
In line with this, we found very few negative perceptions – ten times less relative to the positive perceptions. The negative perceptions that we did find were generally about mislabelling, violation of cosmetic regulations, misuse of products and rare incidences of side effects, or pathogenic bacteria (‘bad bacteria’).
One point that may be worth nothing is that bloggers are recommending and/or criticizing brands after reviewing the products (mainly in aging creams and sunscreens).
Based on the research, what advice would you give to brands developing and promoting products to help support the skin microbiome?
The best way of communicating with consumers is based on transparency and simplicity, with a clear and direct message on claims and methods.
Work on communicating the exact claim or benefit, be very specific and mention clearly the disease or conditions that the product can help – for example, direct and clear indication for product benefits such as ‘fighting skin aging’ or ‘treating eczema’. Also relate the information to the specific skin type – this is an important point for consumers.
Reliable reviews from dermatologists or skin experts, for instance, usually get a high reach between consumers as they simplify the message, by giving straight forward information:
- Clear composition of a specific product from a brand
- Direct effect on the skin
- Skin type
- A clear and concise message about the skin disease or problem itself rather than focusing on the bacteria, and how a certain product can be helpful
Scientifically proven claims backed-up with clinical studies are also important for consumers – for example, when it comes to the efficacy of a prebiotic or probiotic.
Do you think there is still an educational element for consumers when it comes to the skin microbiome? Are consumers engaged in this way?
Definitely – the skin microbiome remains an emerging topic and we are still seeing numerous educative articles from experts. For example, the microbiome trend is popular across key media channels – such as Forbes, Wired, New Atlas and Medical News – and amongst well-known influencers. One example is Alex Engler (@alex_blair_), Director of online beauty blog mindbodygreen (@mindbodygreen).
However, consumers already show an understanding of the benefits of looking after the microbiome – including its potential to help balance and look after skin health, as well as the use of biotics. For instance, prebiotics were attributed to beneficial effects such as ‘good for skin allergy’, ‘healthy gut bacteria related to healthier skin’ and ‘strengthens skin and grants it immunity’, and postbiotics were linked to topical benefits such as immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects.
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- Intpact Microbiome Analysis Report
Period: 01/04/2021 – 30/06/2021
- Intpact Microbiome Analysis Report
Period: 01/09/2021 –30/11/2021
Intpact is a market intelligence company helping B2B/B2C decision makers in taking informed decisions. To do that, the company leverages the best of digital & AI with the best of human by providing & integrating Data/Platforms/Expertise & Business processes. Intpact provides a wide range of tailored solutions to support business development, marketing, innovation, corporate strategy professionals in their main “jobs to do”, ranging from value chain monitoring, end consumer voices, technological & market trends, market sizing & forecasting, and much more.