Confusion Over Personal-Care Ingredients Impacts Purchases

Retail customers are having difficulty making purchase decisions for personal-care products due to unfamiliar ingredients on product labels, according to a “2017 Ingredient Confusion” study by Label Insight, a product-transparency agency. The study found that 81 percent of the more than 1,000 consumers surveyed do not recognize ingredients on personal-care product labels on a regular basis. And a mere 2 percent “always” understand what they are reading on labels.

It’s no surprise that consumers are looking at labels, and comparing and contrasting products based on what they see in the ingredients lists. This trend has been growing through the years as consumers become increasingly health- and antiaging-conscious, which is underscored by the 68 percent of consumers who said that ingredients impact their buying decisions. But the conclusion that consumers are finding labels unintelligible and are leaving products on the shelf out of confusion offers the store owner greater insight into how to more expertly stock store shelves. Furthermore, shoppers shared that they were inclined to pay more for personal-care products with recognizable ingredients.

"While consumer demand for product transparency in food and beverage has experienced a groundswell, our study shows that interest in transparency for personal-care products is also on the rise," said Kira Karapetian, vice president of marketing for Label Insight. "Women in particular are concerned about what is in their personal-care products and will make buying decisions based on ingredient data. It will be important for manufacturers to respond and to provide order to address these demands."

Based on the study, however, not only do unrecognizable ingredients dissuade customers from making some purchases, they can mislead them. Eighty-eight percent of shoppers said they would not feel comfortable purchasing a product containing tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate; until they learned about its beneficial nature as a liquid form of vitamin C. With the group’s newfound knowledge, the percentage of shoppers who would feel “very comfortable” purchasing the product increased by 43 percent.

Highlights from the study that store owners may want to keep in mind are that when women find personal-care product ingredients confusing …

  • 55 percent look for a different product with easier-to-understand ingredients
  • 44 percent research the ingredients while shopping the aisle
  • 33 percent look to purchase a different product

Additionally …

  • 61 percent are more inclined to buy products with ingredients they understand or recognize
  • 53 percent are willing to switch to a different product with more understandable ingredients
  • 49 percent are wiling to pay more for a product with ingredients they understand or recognize
  • 45 percent trust brands less when presented with confusing or unrecognizable ingredients

[Image Label Insight]