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Safety First for Baby Skin Care

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Say the words skin care and inevitably what comes to mind are those antiaging products aimed at slowing the hands of time, not those designed for the still-youthful skin of children. Yet just as prevention becomes a larger part of the antiaging discussion, so does caring for young skin. While children’s toiletries may be a small segment of the overall skin care market, it has potential for growth as consumers demand safe products for their children.

Better Ingredients, Better Skin Care

Gentle “no tears” formulations are associated with younger consumers. Johnson & Johnson, for example, has built their brand reputation around the idea of gentle skin care for babies and children. The brand’s philosophy falls in line with the trend of natural skin care for the youngest consumers, based on the medical axiom: First, do no harm.

New natural skin care lines are introduced regularly; however, for baby skin care, the presence of natural ingredients should not be the deciding factor when selecting a product, according to one marketer. “One must ensure that all ingredients, even the natural ones, respect the delicate nature of baby’s skin,” said Rebecca Infusino, sales and marketing manager, Mustela USA, a baby and mother-to-be skin care line best known for its premium-priced and specialized products with multi-language packaging.

As parabens and other ingredients come under fire in the media, consumers are looking for products free of these ingredients. While consumers today are more label conscious, they also are educating themselves about ingredient risks and benefits. “The trend is for more and more awareness about the need for safety and quality, yet more companies are producing baby-safe products using the natural claim when in fact the ingredients are far from natural,” said Natalie Geary, MD, vedaPure, a baby skin care line with offerings for the whole family.

“The overriding concern for any ingredient being used in the baby skin care market is safety,” said Infusino. Consumers are looking for brands that demonstrate a concern for safety and manifest it through extensive testing. “Children and babies have a higher surface to volume ratio, so the amount of absorption of product through the skin and into the bloodstream is higher. Therefore, the quality and safety of the ingredients used is that much more important,” said Geary.

As a result, a brand entering this market must make educating the consumer about its philosophy and product line a key part of its marketing strategy. “When parents purchase any product for their baby, safety is their top concern, along with efficacy, as we all want products that perform well,” said Infusino.

Ease and Education

At the point-of-purchase, brands need to create a simple system for consumers to locate the appropriate products for their children’s skin needs. “For baby skin care, helping new parents find and use appropriate products quickly and easily is key. The Mustela line is color coded, unifying all Daily Hygiene, Bath Time, Skin Protection, Diaper Change and Sun Protection lines according to the color found on each package. These groupings are maintained at point-of-purchase so parents can find what they need in an instant,” said Infusino.

Adult consumers choose products differently for themselves than for their children. Often, what draws them to the product may be the packaging or a gift with purchase. Their choice may have little to do with the product itself. “At point-of-purchase, for parents, what’s most important about skin care products for their baby is communication. What is the product for and, in some cases, why is the product needed?” said Infusino.

Parents expect this education to continue at the point-of-purchase, and will gravitate toward companies that provide educational information, safe and effective products and  skin care advice. Point-of-purchase education goes beyond in-store retail to include Internet shopping sites. Johnson & Johnson’s Web site includes tips for new parents on a variety of concerns, including sleeping through the night and skin care. Mustela USA offers expert advice for new parents regarding skin care both during and after pregnancy. vedaPure provides a blog, newsletter and advice from Geary. Additionally, these sites serve as points-of-purchase for customers. “Growth in the category will come from better informed parents who will select products that meet the special needs of their baby’s skin,” said Infusino.

A brand builds a relationship with its consumers by personalizing the shopper’s experience. For example, Love Me Baby Me’s founder Rosemary Anthony invested five years in product development, personalizing her brand’s story with her own experiences as a parent of a child with sensitive skin.

When a parent finds the appropriate product, the packaging must contribute to the consumer’s ease of use. Parents are looking for products packaged to fit the job of bathing children. “Mustela makes sure that the packaging of a new product is easy and practical to use for the comfort of parents, especially for bath time products, when the parent usually has only one hand to get the product as she is holding the baby with the other,” said Infusino. Packaging, while appealing to parents, must also appeal to children, through colorful statements and illustrations. Great packaging notwithstanding, the ultimate deciding factor for the consumer may be the price point.

Benefits for the Buck

While consumers are conscious of ingredients and packaging, they are often hesitant to spend large amounts for children’s skin care. “Parents are less willing to spend a lot of money on children’s skin care, so the large scale retailers are still wary of devoting a lot of shelf space for baby products. Most of the high-end baby products are sold in small boutiques,” said Geary.

To appeal to these parents, a brand must help them understand the bang they get for their buck; at the same time, a brand must be aware of the distribution channels that will match them with a consumer base willing to spend on this category. Brands can also create appeal through products that multitask, such as a shampoo that serves as body wash or bubble bath.

For a brand, being aware of customer needs and wants in this category is critical to long-term growth. As a result, a brand that markets its products for the whole family will appeal to consumers with price point concerns while expanding its market base.

A consumer may be torn between ingredients and cost when considering personal care products for babies and children. Educating customers on the positive message and benefits of its products can help a brand to truly connect with its base and provide long-term growth.

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