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Skin Active: creating an effective skincare range using 96% natural ingredients

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Florence L’Alloret

As the head of Garnier’s skincare labs, Florence L’Alloret worked for over two years to design and refine Skin Active, a totally new range of skincare products comprising 96% natural ingredients. A few months on from the launch, she tells us how she and her team managed this incredible achievement.

The challenge of designing a supremely natural and efficient product range

Skin Active, which officially launched in July 2017, is a range of cleansers and moisturisers for all skin types. Years in the making, Skin Active comes in four versions: Honey for dry skin, Rose for sensitive skin, Aloe Vera for normal skin and Green Tea for oily skin. “When we began developing the range, we had to meet the challenge of ensuring the highest possible percentage of natural ingredients while at the same time keeping efficiency levels at our high standards. This was a huge challenge in terms of cost, research and resources”, explains Florence.

She and her team responded by doing two things. First, they meticulously selected the ingredients required to ensure product quality. “For each module, we selected agents that we knew could deliver the requisite levels of performance and sensorial appeal.” Second, they carefully screened raw materials by origin and manufacturing method. “For each raw material, we created a naturalness index, which we obtained by combining an origin index – plant or mineral – and a denaturation index that grades the degree to which raw materials are processed. We share the index with all of our suppliers to ensure our expectations are met.” says Florence: “This charter of commitments lets us create simple compositions without superfluous ingredients and without having to compromise on quality or efficiency.”

[email protected]: a revolutionary mathematical modelling tool to optimise product formulae

Once the raw materials were selected, Florence says that the next step was to take them to the lab and come up with the ideal formulae. “Working with a large number of agents and ingredients, we wanted to obtain optimal formulae in the space of a few months. The challenge was figuring out how.”

[email protected] provided the answer that Florence and her people were looking for. This ultra-modern tool uses simulation techniques to identify a formula’s optimal composition quickly and comprehensively. “Starting with a restricted number of compositions that we had created in the lab, [email protected] enabled us to model and study the behaviour of several thousand different formulae”, she explains. This saved staff precious time: “We could work from 30 or so formulae, whereas using the standard process, we would have had to design over 100 formulae by ourselves, entailing months of additional work.” The experimental data generated by the mathematical simulations were then applied to different sets of specifications. “We scrutinised the data based on the objectives of each formula. For foaming gels, for example, we zeroed in on turbidity*, homogeneity, viscosity and, of course, price.” The formulation itself was then created using the latest lab equipment. “Taking the example of foaming gels again, we used a speed mixer and an asymmetric centrifuge”, says Florence. As a result, her research teams were able to pinpoint optimal compositions for every single formula after just under six months in the lab.

Performances confirmed by in vivo and blind tests

Once the formulae had been lab-tested and evaluated, the next step was to have consumers assess their performances. To do this, says Florence, in vivo tests were conducted for different user categories. “We ran a battery of tests for each set of needs. We had consumers with normal skin try on products from the Aloe Vera module, for instance, while Rose module products were tested by users with sensitive skin.” Consumers used the product at home every day at time for about four weeks before answering various questions, ranging from product quality to purchase intentions. “Our experts grilled them on the results they observed, their satisfaction, their impressions of the product’s smell, texture and feel, and, naturally, whether they would buy it.” To assess market potential and product competitiveness, consumers were also asked to do a blind test. “We gave some consumers our own products along with those of our competitors in unmarked packaging so that they couldn’t tell them apart. We wanted to see whether our products had genuine value added when lined up again existing products”, says Florence.

 96% natural, 100% transparency

The final stage was to strike the right tone to tell the story of these products. Florence and her team decided they needed to be as clear and informative as possible. “Rather than list the ingredients on the packaging, we decided to go further, by describing each ingredient in detail. We say which plant or mineral supplies each raw material and how that material was obtained.” Meanwhile, a detailed explanation is provided if any non-natural ingredient is used. As Florence explains: “Some non-natural raw materials may be critical to a formula’s stability, texture, smell, etc. We decided to explain this clearly to consumers, at the risk of letting down some idealists.”

A five-star welcome from consumers and bloggers

All of this work has proven to be successful. With 96% natural-origin ingredients, Skin Active products represent a major innovation for the brand. “It was a real achievement for us to design formulae that combine such a high percentage of natural ingredients with this level of efficiency”, says Florence. The range has also received a stellar reception in the dozen or so European countries where it was released. “Beyond the results from a business perspective, we are getting excellent feedback from consumers and bloggers. People understand the natural focus of our positioning, and the efficiency is there too.” Florence concludes, saying: “On the specialised websites where we have a presence, Skin Active is getting five-star ratings and great reviews. It’s a fine reward and really motivates us to head back to the lab!”

*turbidity measures the cloudiness of a liquid

Innovation | November 2017