Kristy Hooper

June 18, 2014

4 Min Read
Beyond the looking glass: Packaging and skin care rituals
5 steps of the universal skin care ritual

Brands in the beauty industry know how to appeal to women. It is what they do best. More than any other consumer-packaged goods (CPG) category, beauty companies can tap into female consumers’ desire to be beautiful, feel cared for and present the best version of themselves—regardless of what beauty routine they follow, or what country they live in. Fostering a loyal relationship between product and consumer starts with an emotional connection; and, as we are now learning, these connections are a crucial component to the most sacred part of any women’s beauty routine: The skin care ritual.

Our 2014 Skincare Research & Insights Study uncovered a common global skin care ritual that women across the globe use. Though products and price points may differ wildly, the ritual that women follow to care for their skin remains constant.

Packaging, of course, plays a significant role in this global ritual, offering brands the opportunity to further differentiate themselves, develop deeper connections with their consumers and build lasting and impactful brand loyalty. Packaging is the brand brought to life. It is the physical extension of the product inside, and it can significantly sway consumers’ perception of the brand as a whole. 

Tracking patterns: The 5-step ritual

We set out to study women across the world to see just how and why women actually use their favorite skin care products. Through our research, an interesting pattern emerged: When choosing new products and building loyalty toward their favorites, women do not simply like or dislike skin care products, they feel them—the velvety density of a moisturizer, the sensation of a cleanser, the lightness of a BB cream. These feelings transform their functional connection with each product into an emotional one, and they choose the products that best satisfy the rich sensorial experience that they unconsciously look for. The sensorial experience is such that women often use a mix of mass, masstige and prestige brands. And surprisingly, this sensorial experience is so important that it can outweigh a product’s price point and lead women to choose one brand over another.

So what does this ritual actually look like?

We approach the skin care ritual in five steps, each of which should evoke a specific sensorial experience and feeling, and all of which can be influenced by the product’s packaging. Here’s the basic rundown:

1. Cleanse: The first step is characterized by feeling refreshed and cared for, which can be enhanced through packaging that feels clean and simple and familiar. Dispensing systems that can be operated with one hand, and dispense the right amount of product to prevent drips or spills.

2. Moisturize and hydrate: After cleansing comes moisturizing. During this phase, consumers should feel a sense of pampering and indulgence. Women expect the products to be backed by scientific assurance, be completely hygienic, have a controlled dispenser and be easy to store—all attributes that can be met with thoughtful packaging.

3. Renew and brighten: This step is most commonly associated with anti-aging measures and whitening products (popular in Asia). To excel here, brands need to aim for a perceived sense of luxury and effectiveness, which can be communicated through packaging. Women want to see scientific efficacy on the label. They do not want unnecessary gimmicks or product waste and they want to get their money’s worth out of the container, down to the last drop.

4. Protect: This step is most critical in summer months, and for women living in areas of high sun exposure, like Brazil. Often repeated throughout the day, this step is crucial for preventing sun damage and premature aging, and should evoke a sense of reassurance and comfort. Brands that serve this step should always consider the role packaging can play with options like one-handed operation, easy and controlled dispensing, and portability for easy reapplication. This step is often combined with either Step 3 or Step 5.

5. Beauty base: Women use foundations or BB/CC creams that provide feelings of tranquility, protection and cleanliness. Packaging must follow suit. It should be clean in design and hygienic—especially in preventing residue buildup. A small and portable package is also a plus.  

Lessons for brand owners

This ritual was repeated by women in every market we tested. Customizing product packaging to fit within the parameters of this ritual can help brands better fulfill the unmet needs for all products—no matter the brand’s price point. In the end, a well-thought skin care line should be timeless and classic—much like the products used to create it, and the packages that hold it all together.

Beauty and personal care brand owners have long understood the power of packaging, and how it can help their brands connect with consumers on an emotional level. But with the articulation of the universal skin care ritual, brand owners can now apply these learnings in new ways, and play to the exact emotions that their target woman wants from her skin care products.

Kristy Hooper is category manager of skincare and cosmetics at MeadWestvaco (MWV), where she uses a consumer insights-based approach to innovation in developing scalable solutions for skincare and cosmetics brands. MeadWestvaco (MWV) is a global leader in packaging and packaging solutions, providing innovative solutions to the world’s most admired brands in the healthcare, beauty and personal care, food, beverage, home and garden, tobacco, and agriculture industries. For more information about MWV’s solutions, visit:

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