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INGREDIENT-SLEUTHING CONSUMERS DEMAND FULL TRANSPARENCY

April 07, 2021 Carla Seipp
April 07, 2021
Alexandra Tran via Unplash

While crafting extravagant-sounding marketing claims may be tempting, there’s an app ready to call you out if you can’t deliver. What’s In My Jar was created in collaboration with dermatology, AI, and science communication experts for the ingredient-savvy consumer of today.

This objective third party lets users search their products on the database, which will determine potential irritants in the ingredients list, as well as a product’s effectiveness in delivering on product claims, both rated on a 1-100 point scale. Product claims with no scientific backing such as “detoxing pores” are not registered, whereas others are simplified into general themes like moisturizing or anti-aging. The algorithm also takes ingredient concentration into account when determining efficacy. Irritability potential is measured using safety assessments provided by the EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety and U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Review, with color-coded level results (green, orange, red). “My motivation for starting WIMJ is to make effective evidence-based skin care accessible to everyone,” states co-founder Maria Semykoz. Seeing as 41% of consumers distrust brand messages, the software offers some refreshingly transparent solutions.

“As distributors, the two biggest concerns I hear from customers are about transparency and sustainability."
By Gay Timmons, Founder, Oh, Oh Organic

While it may be a radical antidote to the “hype now, buy now” modus operandi of social media, ingredient sleuthing has been on a steady rise. 68% of Americans consider the ingredients in a personal care product extremely important, but 79% are confused by what’s on the ingredient label, which is why straightforward, comprehensible approaches like What’s In My Jar, the recent surge of cosmetic chemists debunking skincare myths in viral TikTok videos, and Cult Beauty debunking greenwashing claims with Provenance blockchain technology verification are so valuable. It’s not just for individual, but also industry benefit, since (falsely informed) consumer feedback can negatively impact change.

“A lot of decisions about what goes into a product are based on marketing reasons rather than product performance reasons. Market sentiment definitely overrules science when it comes to brand decisions, and unfortunately, that means that misinformation can lead to products that are worse. The phasing out of parabens due to misinformation has led to an increase in products containing methylisothiazolinone, for example, which causes a lot more irritation and allergic reactions,” explains Michelle Wong, the content creator behind Lab Muffin Beauty Science who also holds a PhD in Chemistry from University of Sydney.

Misinformation from untrue product claims to not disclosing unethical supply-chain practices have serious consequences: 88% of consumers would boycott a brand for irresponsible business action. “Post-truth and business do not mix well in a transparent world where century-old reputations can be undone in minutes,” write Dylan Buffinton and Batoul Hassoun of Ogilvy. In order to truly resonate with consumers, brands must choose purpose over pure self-promotion, or as Buffinton and Hassoun state: “It’s a question of overcoming the opposition between lies and rational evidence in order to embark on a new path around what could be called ‘vision. ‘The challenge is to mobilize consumers in support of the company and its brand by focusing not on what the company does or how it does it, but by explaining why it does it.”

While many businesses have managed to hide under the veil of complexity and inapplicable technology when it comes to supply-chain transparency, the growth of consumers demanding socially and environmentally responsible actions, as well as their increasing willingness to find any damning evidence themselves, means that smart businesses will give this topic top priority. “As distributors, the two biggest concerns I hear from customers are about transparency and sustainability,” states Oh, Oh Organic founder Gay Timmons. “Consumers demand not only sustainable active ingredients, but also a sustainability commitment from all the supply chain,” adds Andrew Esplugas, communication manager at LipoTrue. Estée Lauder and Aveda launched one of the biggest supply-chain sustainability initiatives to date by tracing its Madagascan vanilla from farm to end product via blockchain technology.

The process is by no means easy: ethically sourced ingredients, carbon neutrality, sustainable packaging, cruelty-free status, and ethical labor practices all go into creating a sustainable supply chain. And with 74% of consumers stating brands are dishonest, there is a lot of trust to build or rebuild. However if you show up for your customer, they’ll return the favor—73% of study participants state that transparency is valuable to them, and a majority are likely to pay more for products from transparent companies.

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