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Consumer Perception of Fine Lines and Wrinkles

By: Rosanna Mootoo, Stephanie Basile, Cristina Stroever and Christian Oresajo
Posted: August 26, 2013, from the September 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

Editor’s note: This article is the edited verion of the article “Consumer Perception of Fine Lines and Wrinkles Assessed by Qualitative Methods,” which ran in the January 2013 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine. All rights reserved.

  • Researchers from L’Oréal USA conducted a study on women’s perception of wrinkles and fine lines on the face, as well the related skin care needs.
  • Broken into age-based groups of 41–50 years old, 51–60 years old, and 61-70 years old, the study’s particpants showed a distinct understanding of the differences of fine line and wrinkles, although distinct differences were seen between age groups.
  • The different age groups also had different feelings about what kind of skin care product would best treat their skin concerns, as well as what their expectations were for a quality outcome.

The ways in which consumers identify their individual skin are invaluable to product development. In particular, consumer perception toward aging descriptors is of paramount importance to the category of anti-aging skin care. Within this segment, there appears to be a trend for pairing specific aging descriptors with consumers of a certain age, especially where marketing is concerned. The older consumer is associated with formulas to address deep wrinkles, whereas the younger consumer is associated with minimizing fine lines and more generic types of skin maintenance.1–4

Marketing campaigns for various anti-aging portfolios share a common vocabulary. Wrinkles are correlated to either “loss in skin elasticity,” “dryness” and/or “lack of firmness,” to name a few. Moreover, products geared toward wrinkles often are described as “rich creams” versus lotions, gels and/or other product forms. In contrast, products addressing fine lines are more ambiguous in nature, and not necessarily branded specifically to address fine lines. Instead, they use advertising cues such as “renews lackluster skin,” “lightweight formula” and/or “nourishes skin.” They also typically are presented as moisturizers or lotions rather than creams, which suggests a lightweight, less viscous composition.

While these well-established market strategies for aging descriptors exist, it is crucial to investigate consumers’ perceptions of fine lines and wrinkles, to determine whether current market and product development strategies align with the core values and expectations of consumers, as well as to provide insight for anti-aging skin care. This exploratory study implemented in-depth qualitative interviews to assess consumer perception of fine lines and wrinkles on facial skin. The primary objectives were to derive definitions for each aging descriptor as well as determine how they are differentiated, if at all. Results indicated consumers have varying definitions for these descriptors, although certain opinions are unanimous across age groups. Older consumers correlated aging descriptors with certain skin concerns, and younger consumers discussed fine lines and wrinkles in a more objective sense, as will be shown.

Methods

For this study, 60 mass and prestige product consumers were recruited from the Clark, New Jersey area by phone and screened with the inclusion criteria: Caucasian female, ages 41–70 years old, with self-perceived fine lines and wrinkles on her facial skin. Subjects were divided equally into 20 per each of the following age categories: 41–50 years, 51–60 years and 61–70 years. In-depth qualitative interviews of approximately 1.5 hours per subject were conducted. Panelists were naive to the study design, had no prior special training and received compensation for their participation.

Panelists were interviewed individually in a closed, one-on-one setting. First, the interviewer established a rapport with the subject and obtained demographic information. Subjects were then re-screened to ensure suitability for participation in the study. Finally, the interviewer explained the experimental design, specifically noting there were no correct or incorrect answers for any of the questions asked. Also, the interviewer emphasized that subjects were not being “quizzed” for their knowledge on fine lines and wrinkles in any capacity, but instead probed for their open, candid opinions regarding these descriptors.

Subjects were then asked a series of questions by the interviewer and verbally provided their individual opinions in an honest and explanative manner. They were informed that questions may sound repetitive at times but were asked to remain patient and provide thorough feedback during the interview. To ensure accuracy when transcribing the responses, the interviewer confirmed each subject’s answer verbally. Feedback suggested that participants were comfortable with the study design and one-on-one interview set-up. They did not find the interview process or questions presented to be cumbersome. The interview guide is depicted below in a cluster-type arrangement by information category. Interview questions were presented to all subjects in the order listed here.

Individual ‘textbook’ definitions: How would you define a fine line as it pertains to your facial skin? Are there different degrees of fine lines? If yes, please explain. How would you define a wrinkle as it pertains to your facial skin? Are there different degrees of wrinkles? If yes, please explain.

Visual definitions: What do you consider to be the visual signs of fine lines; that is, what do they look like? What do you consider to be the visual signs of wrinkles; that is, what do they look like?

Visual awareness: When did you first become aware of the appearance of fine lines on your face? At what age and/or time in your life? When did you first become aware of the appearance of wrinkles on your face? At what age and/or time in your life?

Differentiation and/or correlation between descriptors: How do you distinguish between fine lines and wrinkles on your face? i.e., difference in texture, skin feel, depth of lines, etc. Based on appearance, how are fine lines and wrinkles different, if at all? Can a fine line be a wrinkle? If yes, explain.

Causes and/or factors: What factors do you feel cause fine lines? What factors do you feel cause wrinkles? Are the factors the same? Different? Self-perception of descriptors: Do you find more fine lines or wrinkles on your facial skin? Explain how you draw this conclusion. Do you find that fine lines are more likely to appear in certain areas of your face than wrinkles? If so, in what areas do they appear the most? i.e., eye area, around the lips, on the forehead, etc. Do you find that wrinkles are more likely to appear in certain areas of your face than fine lines? If so, in what areas do they appear the most? i.e., eye area, around the lips, on the forehead, etc. Emotional perception of descriptors: What feelings, positive and/or negative, do you associate with fine lines, if any? What feelings, positive and/or negative, do you associate with wrinkles, if any?

Skin care routine and correlation to descriptors: How do you choose a skin care product for fine lines? Is there anything you look for, in particular? i.e., claims, texture, ingredients, etc. How do you choose a skin care product for wrinkles? Is there anything you look for, in particular? i.e., claims, texture, ingredients, etc.

Skin concerns: Which of the following are you more concerned with at present: facial skin free of fine lines, or facial skin free of wrinkles? Please explain your choice.

Results and Discussion

Key responses for consumers are provided in Tables 1 and 2 for fine lines and wrinkles, by the age categories 41–50 years, 51–60 years, and 61–70 years, respectively. A comparison of responses by age segment indicates that “textbook” definitions for fine lines and wrinkles vary only slightly. The second group, ages 51–60, provided an interesting definition for fine lines—expression lines; that is, they associated fine lines with emotional responses or “expressions.”