More Than a Feeling: Multisensory in Bath & Body

In body care formulations, it’s expected that the product will go on smoothly, leave a nice after feel on the skin and, if fragranced, impart a pleasing scent. A brand should cover all these bases, but to take their products to the next level, the product should let the consumer take a multisensory journey.

According to Arnoldo Fonseca, marketing manager, personal care division, Air Products, “It is always worth remembering that smell and touch are but two facets of a formulation.” Indeed, the other sensory benefits a product can deliver provide the brand with another opportunity to stand out from its competition.

“Consumers not only enjoy how products feel on their skin but also enjoy the entire experience that products create,” says Madie Blaize, brand manager, Dr. Teal’s. “We believe that multisensory formulations are the key to an overall successful experience.”

Suppliers share their secrets of how they’re creating ingredient technologies that go above and beyond.

Great Expectations

First of all, a formulation has to look appealing, and it’s even more crucial when the product comes in transparent packaging.

“Visual properties of formulas are quite important because what you see, especially in a clear bottle, is the first point of attraction,” explains Penny Antonopoulos, marketing manager, hair and body division, BASF. “In body washes, the use of pearlizers provide a visual effect and a luxurious character. BASF Care Creations has a complete range of pearlizers to deliver different effects, from pearly metallic to sparkling satin to luxury marbled.”

And the way a product is expected to appear when in use can have an effect on consumer perception of efficacy. “Consumers associate cleansing effectiveness with foam quantity and quality during showering,” explains Paul Washlock, vice president, personal care division, Evonik. “Unfortunately, the presence of oils/emollients typically diminishes the foaming power of a body wash formulation. TEGO Sulfosuccinate DO 75, for example, brings the two opposite worlds together without compromising one over the other. It helps build a structured surfactant system, allowing [the incorporation of oil] in a body wash formulation while maintaining foaming properties.”

The after-effect of the product is especially important for products promising to leave a healthy sheen on the skin. “Refractive indices vary between materials and surfaces; the higher a material’s refractive index is on a specified surface, the greater the reflectivity of the surface,” says Rocco Burgo, chief technology officer, INOLEX. “For this reason, the incorporation of [ingredients such as] LexFeel Shine can impart gloss in body products, such as after-sun body sprays, in which a light sheen can accentuate the tan.”

Changing Appearances

On the flip side, a touch of the unexpected can be a positive for many formulations. In several instances, the changing appearance of a formulation can provide an important visual cue for consumers. “Imagine a thick cream that can be sprayed in a fine mist, or a clear gel that can suspend colorful droplets,” says Jennifer Donahue, marketing manager, skin care division, Croda. “These visual cues offer the consumer an indication of the experience in use. Both of these effects can be achieved with our Volarest FL polymer-based product.”

Coast Southwest also creates formulations designed to evolve once in use, notably its Endicare EP-430 is an absorbent acrylate polymer produced by a new microbead technology. “When the powder hydrates, it beads up,” says Jacklin Vetkoetter Hoffelt, senior marketing specialist, personal care. “The beads are spherical and have a homogeneous size distribution, excellent for skin, body and foot care products. It is also a great heat insulator for facial or body masks.”

Changing Sensations

A change in the product’s feel also can impact consumer perception. Air Products helped Jafra International achieve success when introducing a new feel experience into an existing line, thereby renewing excitement about the brand. “Jafra International included our skin conditioning Deposilk Q1 polymer in its Royal Almond brand of hand soap to provide its Latin American customers with a new, different feel profile,” says Fonseca.

A touch of the unexpected can make a lasting impression on the end-user. “Our emulsifier range can provide visually interesting products that feel great on application,” says Donahue. “One example of this would be our clear ringing gel formulations that vibrate when touched. We also have many liquid dispersion polymer systems that create very thick creams that feel weightless on application.”

Indeed, the removal of a feeling—resulting in weightlessness—is sometimes the most desired sensation of all. BASF’s newest emollient, Cetiol Ultimate, offers traditional skin care lotions an upgrade through a multisensory approach with two distinct feels as it is absorbs into the skin. Explains Katherine Spetrino, marketing manager, skin care division, BASF, “First, during application, this BASF Care Creations emollient is very light as it easily distributes over the skin. Then, as it quickly absorbs into skin, [it imparts] a distinctive ultra-lush powdery, dry after feel.”


Perhaps one of the biggest sensory experiences a product can provide is a change in temperature. “Everything is totally interactive today, and customers like a signal that a product is working,” says Hoffelt. “For example, when they open the foil pack of a masque and squeeze it into the hand, they feel a warming sensation.”

Washlock agrees. “Psychologically, a sudden change in sensation, such as cooling or heating when the consumer applies a product, can be a sign that the product is working; that sort of triggering mechanism can be a real advantage in the marketplace. “TEGOSOFT SH, for example, is a waxy emollient that provides a sensory trigger with its cooling sensation. This ingredient can be incorporated into products such as sunscreen and after sun wear to deliver a memorable ‘wow’ effect.”

As always, each sensory attribute of an ingredient must align with the brand’s bigger picture. “Texture, color, shine and taste impact how a product is perceived,” says Burgo. “If an ingredient in a product has a desired look, feel, smell and taste, it is associated with luxury. If an ingredient in a product has an undesired look, feel, smell or taste, it will be associated with the [negative] sense it evokes, despite performance.”

Lisa Doyle was formerly the associate editor of GCI magazine and is a freelance writer in the Chicago area. Her work has appeared in Skin Inc. magazine, Salon Today, America’s Best, Renew and Modern Salon.

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