The Strength of the Halo Effect in Cosmetics

In your cosmetic formulating career don’t be surprised if something like the following happens. cosmetic-halo-effect

You spend months and months developing a new shampoo formulation.

You test & re-test.  Formulate and re-formulate.  Until finally, you get the perfect formula.  The shampoo to end all shampoos.  Nothing beats it in lab tests.  It wins every trained panel test.  By all measures it is great.

Then you give it to consumers against a standard control and they notice no difference.

Why?  The Halo Effect strikes again.  Your consumers couldn’t notice the specialness of your formula because they were too distracted with the fragrance, color, and packaging.

While we’ve previously written about the Halo Effect, I don’t think cosmetic chemists realize just how powerful it can be.  As an example, consider this recent report from the BBC about cutlery and its effect on the taste of food.

Cutlery affects taste

According to their research, white spoons make yogurt taste better than red or blue spoons.  And eating cheese with a knife makes it taste more salty than when it’s eaten with a fork.  Smaller spoons also increased the sweetness of certain foods.  Of course, there is no chemical reason why this should be the case.  These are all psychological affects and they are extremely important in the world of food.

They are also important in the world of formulating cosmetics.

If you want to create the best formulation that you can, you need to consider (and test) the color of the formula, the fragrance you’re going to use and the packaging.  You cannot get hung up on making minor improvements to a formula when some of the biggest impact is going to be on the type of packaging that you use.

The moral of the story…test all aspects of your product while in the product development phase.  The chemicals in the cosmetic formulation have a limited effect on satisfaction.  Color, package, and fragrance and at least (or maybe more) important.

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