Personalisation and the question of balance

Personalisation and the question of balance

By Richard Scott – Editor – Personal Care magazine

The quest for increased personalisation of personal care products has been a hot topic of debate for a few years now, but is showing no signs of slowing down. This desire for consumers to be treated as individuals, rather than a homogeneous group, is mirrored in other sectors there a strong cultural impetus for companies to embrace individualism and diversity.

This is not an easy task, particularly for large multinational companies attempting to supply products across multiple regions, with a range of different skin types, preferences etc. Of course, personal care companies have always ensured their products are formulated for the preferences of specific regions, but personalisation takes this further and attempts to give the consumer the ability to control the product so it suits their individual needs and preferences.

Making this happen brings with it numerous logistical and economic problems. Not least the fact that in almost all manufacturing situations, producing large numbers of the same thing keeps costs down. But as this industry is very much consumer-led, this isn’t a question of “if” we make products more personalised but “how?”.

There have been some ingenious concepts already from the industry, from luxury outlets creating cosmetics based on the consumer’s DNA sample (for example ‘Nomige’ and ‘My Genome Box’), to dispensers that create formulations at the consumer’s home (such as ’Perso’, the soon-to-be-launched device from L’Oréal). All of these options, in one way or another, involve a compromise, and it seems we are still at a stage where we’re finding out the acceptable extent of that compromise. Again, much of this is down to cost – after all, if people are willing to pay for a completely personalised cosmetic experience, businesses will become available to supply them.

For more mass-market products, ingredient suppliers are helping by creating chassis (for example BASF’s ‘Your Beauty’ concept) that give the user the sense of control by allowing them to add ‘drop-in’ actives to create their own products when they want them. This is perhaps one of the most straightforward routes towards personalisation and one I’m sure will become more and more popular.

Another big ally for the personalisation trend will be the continued advancement of smartphones, enabling consumers with the aid of Apps and/or digital attachments, such as the Neutrogena Skin 360 App, or Shiseido’s Optune, to analyse their own skin and help them to purchase the right product for their needs. This is deliverable to the mass market as much of the technology and computing power is already in most people’s pocket, and just needs additional software to help here.

Ultimately, increasing personalisation in our industry is a question of balance. The ingredient technology is there, the digital technology is there, but we need to discover the right way to deliver the personalised ‘experience’ while also delivering safe and effective products profitably.

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