Rethinking glow: Consumers expect ‘a lot of things’, says Oriflame scientist

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers worldwide have different expectations around skin glow, relating it to inner happiness and health in some countries and anticipating a visual shimmer in others [Getty Images]
Consumers worldwide have different expectations around skin glow, relating it to inner happiness and health in some countries and anticipating a visual shimmer in others [Getty Images]

Related tags glowing skin glow make-up Skin care Skin health ingestible beauty beauty from within active beauty Cosmetics Consumer

Consumers have wide and varied perceptions around skin glow that differ according to country, spurring promise for industry to consider market positioning and claims more carefully, according to Swedish cosmetics firm Oriflame.

The concept of ‘glow’ had long been important in beauty, but with fresh focus on skin health in recent years, the concept of skin that glowed had proliferated globally. But how exactly was skin glow defined? And was this different depending on consumers?

Oriflame had invested in consumer research to find this out.

“I’m sure we’re all aware that glow is pretty much everywhere,”​ said Cyril Messaraa, principal scientist at Oriflame.

“There [are] a lot of claims – products with claims – but still, I think we’re struggling to have a concrete definition because glow is very subjective by nature,”​ Messaraa told attendees during his presentation at the IFSCC Congress 2022 in London.

Consumer perceptions key

Findings from a first study, conducted amongst 170 women from 18 countries, showed most women associated glow with shininess, though other words considered synonyms of glow included radiance and brightness.

Messaraa said this piece of global research interestingly and importantly highlighted the differences in consumer perceptions on glow according to country.

In Mexico and China, for example, glow was not just about outer appearance, rather more closely linked to “vibe and lifestyle”,​ he said, with Mexican consumers talking about feeling happy and Chinese consumers about health and being “clean inside”. ​By contrast, UK consumers considered glow very much external and related to having a “subtle shimmer”,​ he said.

The global consensus on glow, however, was that it related to “healthy skin”,​ he said.

Makeup, skin care and whitening shifts

Messaraa said that when considering how to promote glow, most consumers regarded skin care as an “authentic”​ way and makeup as more of a “quick fix” – ​important findings given the rise of active makeup and hybrid products. These consumer perceptions, he said, meant there were mixed feelings around products like a BB cream containing actives to achieve glow.

Oriflame’s research also showed some surprising finds around the concept of skin whitening, demonstrating how consumer attitudes were shifting in some countries. “In India and Indonesia, they felt talking about fair skin and whitening was very insensitive. For them, every skin tone is beautiful; it’s back to having a healthy skin. They don’t want to go back to idolising white skin.”

In China, however, whitening remained “the pinnacle of beauty standards”,​ Messaraa said.

In a second-step survey of 82 respondents as part of Oriflame’s research, women were shown a photo gallery of women’s faces before and after a product application and asked to assess whether images looked matte, glowy and radiant or oily and shiny. Findings from this stage also highlighted differences in perception and tolerance around shine based on country.

Respondents in Russia, for example, were “quite strict”​ and had low tolerance of an oily appearance; those in Mexico, however, had the lowest threshold on what they perceived to be oily.

The main outcome across all these studies was clear, Messaraa said: there were a lot of expectations behind ‘glow’.

‘It’s an exciting topic’

“Skin glow is sometimes a secondary claim, more like a sidekick and secondary benefit, but when you spend time with people and really try and understand what they’re expecting from glow, there are a lot of things,”​ he said. Some linked it to health and nourishment, others simply luminosity or radiance, perhaps even softness and dewiness.

So, what could industry do next to push ahead with skin glow product development, marketing and claims substantiation? “It’s an exciting topic,”​ Messaraa said.

Further global consumer perception studies would be key moving forward – across different ethnic groups, he said. Industry also had to move away from its “one-dimensional” ​assessment of skin glow, he said. “We focus quite a lot on shininess, but there is a lot more to take into account.”

Messaraa said additional research looking at what consumers thought more specifically about skin care versus makeup versus ingestibles to achieve glow would also be interesting.

No matter what approach industry took ahead, though, he said one thing was clear: skin glow was a “good ambassador for holistic beauty claims” ​because of how broad and complex the concept was for consumers.

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