Why do people buy cosmetics?

You work hard as a cosmetic formulator. You research the ingredients, you optimize the levels, and you do it in an affordable way. Then you evaluate the performance and adjust the formula so it will work perfectly for your intended consumer. But then your company puts the formula in an uninteresting package or creates a dull story and no one buys it. This happens all too often in the world of cosmetic formulating.

You should never let the marketplace performance of a product be an indication of how good or bad your formula is. Lots of really great formulas are never tried and lots of lousy ones are bought over and over again.

Consumers buy on emotion

It turns out there is a good reason that the performance of the formula doesn’t always predict the sales of the product. According to research done out of the University of the Basque Country, people primarily buy cosmetic products for emotional reasons.

The study showed that both the utility and emotional effect of a product had an impact on consumer satisfaction, but it showed that the emotional piece was just much greater. Meaning: The marketing, story, image, and packaging have more impact than how well the product works.

Some other interesting things from the study…

1. For cosmetic advertising to work consumers must be made to first feel negative about their appearance.

2. Very attractive models make people feel inferior.

3. Emotions are used to make purchasing decisions which are justified rationally.

Cosmetic Chemist implication

So, does this mean you can just make any old product as long as you put it in a excellent package and give it a great story?


The performance of the product still has some impact on whether people like it or not.

But what it does mean is that you shouldn’t feel too bad when your product bombs even if you have testing that shows that it should not.

People buy and like your product for reasons other than how well it works.

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