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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.

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The third group, ages 61–70, defined fine lines very narrowly; that is, they associated them solely with the eye region of facial skin, describing fine lines as crow’s feet. The first group, ages 41–50, compared to the remaining groups, defined fine lines in the most impersonal manner—thin lines on facial skin. Responses for factors causing fine lines and wrinkles were comparable by age group, with sun exposure, aging and facial expressions cited most frequently. For areas of the facial skin most susceptible to fine lines, the three groups unanimously cited the eye area. For areas most susceptible to wrinkles, responses were comparable among the age groups.

Responses for the ideal skin care formula for fine lines varied among age groups. The first group indicated that product smoothness, non-greasy texture and feel, and absorption were critically important attributes for fine lines. The second and third age groups’ responses varied only slightly. The second group cited adequate moisture as a key element for facial skin care directed to fine lines, while the third group indicated consistency; i.e., a viscous, thick and creamy consistency was considered necessary to address fine lines. This aspect of the interview process provided much insight into the varying mindsets per age category. Consumers in the first age group, 41–50 years, were mostly concerned with a lightweight, comfort-oriented skin feel. They did not want to “feel” the product on their skin per se, but rather enhance their skin visually.

By comparison, consumers in the third age group, 61–70 years, indicated preference for a heavier, denser and richer product; that is, a product with a thicker consistency, to which they correlated a moisturized skin feel. Similar to findings for fine line skin care, responses for the ideal anti-wrinkle formula differed among the age groups, as seen in Table 2. For wrinkle-specific skin care, consumers listed minimized wrinkles, plumper skin and a lightweight, non-greasy formula as core expectations. Again, consumers in this age category were comfort-oriented in addition to their wants and/or needs for wrinkle-targeted skin care. In slight contrast, consumers within the 51–60 age category associated moisture and UV protection with wrinkle-specific skin care. Also, UV protection was not mentioned as a necessity for the first and third age categories, despite sun exposure being listed in all age groups as a causal factor for wrinkles.

Lastly, consumers within the 61–70 age category had formula-specific ideas for anti-wrinkle skin care. As cited for fine lines, consumers in this category required a thick, viscous formula consistency, which was associated with moisture and smoothness. This correlation is quite logical, as older consumers indicate that their facial skin is more susceptible to dryness than it was in younger years. They also draw the conclusion that dry facial skin yields a cracked skin appearance, which aligns with the visual cues for both fine lines and wrinkles. Therefore, a skin care product that properly addresses issues of inadequate moisture and/or hydration should minimize the appearance of both fine lines and wrinkles.


Research, development and marketing of successful anti-aging skin care products are driven by consumer needs. This study shows how consumers across varying age categories were capable of astute observations regarding their individual skin requirements, specifically for fine lines and wrinkles. The most important finding was that consumers had a well-established vernacular for these aging descriptors as well as what they considered their ideal product form to address fine lines and/or wrinkles. In addition, consumers differentiated between fine lines and wrinkles. Therefore, the overall conversation was dependent upon the descriptor.

For emotional perception, responses were intrinsically different by both age and descriptor categories. Findings suggested that fine lines are more tolerable than wrinkles, as wrinkles are indicative of an irreversible step in the aging process. Also, based upon feedback for the ideal wrinkle skin care, older consumers did not expect drastic results. Instead, they tailored their expectations to an overall healthier skin appearance, which they indicated would help to minimize the appearance of wrinkles—not remove and/or fix them. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this type of consumer would respond well to reasonable product claims, which specifically speak to healthier, smoother, moisturized skin. Further studies may be carried out regarding the believability of anti-aging skin care claims and sub-grouping findings by different age brackets.

The present findings indicate that consumers are able to distinguish between fine lines and wrinkles on their facial skin and that they rate each descriptor by depth. Lines appearing closer to the surface of the skin are considered fine lines, whereas lines deeply indented into the skin are considered wrinkles. By this logic, it is reasonable to conclude that consumers have an identifiable “formula” for classifying fine lines and/or wrinkles by the depth of an indentation on the facial skin.

It is important to note that these findings may not apply or hold across different ethnicities or cultures. Further research is needed to understand these inevitable differences, and further investigation is also recommended to determine how naive consumers across similar age categories would evaluate photographs of others’ skin as well as their own facial skin for the presence of fine lines and/or wrinkles in varying degrees, if applicable, and using a universal aging scale.5


  1. L Meneely, A Burns and C Strugnell, Age-associated changes in older consumers’ retail behavior, Intl J Retail and Distribution Management 37 12 1041-56 (2009)
  2. P Shukla, Television advertising and senior market: Perceptions and reality, AIMS Intl 1, 1-2 (Jan 2007)
  3. BH Weiss, M O’Mahony and S Wichchukit, Various paired preference tests: Experimenter effect on ‘take home’ choice, J Sensory Studies 25 5 778-90 (Oct 2010)
  4. B Ying and Y Rui, Self-perceived age and attitudes toward marketing of older consumers in China, J Family and Economic Issues 31 3 318-27 (Oct 2007)
  5. R Bazin and E Doublet, Skin Aging Atlas, vol 1, Paris: MED’COM (2007) pp 38-51

Rosanna Mootoo, Stephanie Basile, Cristina Stroever and Christian Oresajo work in research and innovation for L’Oréal USA, and are based in Clark, New Jersey.