The Consumer Is Confused and We're to Blame

March 10, 2009

With the Food and Drug Administration insisting that final regulations regarding sunscreens will be published in May, marketers better have their consumer hotlines in good working order to handle the onslaught of phone calls that are sure to follow when new sun care product labels start appearing on retail shelves.

The new system will undoubtedly confuse consumers who are already baffled by what they read on product labels and worse, websites. About a week ago, I received a frantic phone call from a consumer who read an article we wrote a couple of years back that noted more skin care product companies were adding UV protection to night creams.

The caller admitted that she had spent way to much time in tanning beds when she was younger and as a result, she was now doing all she could to stay out of the sun during the day.

“Does this mean I can’t even go out at night?” she asked.

I assured her that it was OK to be a night owl, but if she was really concerned about cumulative UV damage, she should really go to a dermatologist to get her skin checked. I don’t think I allayed her fears, since she had one more question for me, and by extension, the industry:

“If I can’t get sun damage at night, why would companies put sunscreen in a night cream?”

Good question. Maybe it’s time for companies to rethink the way they formulate. More bells and whistles isn’t  always the answer. Instead of label copy, cosmetic companies should be more concerned about product efficacy. It’s time for the R&D department to take back product development from the marketing department.

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