The information age – a double-edged sword
In our last article we looked at the still worryingly widespread confusion that exists when it comes to nappy rash and chemical burns and how, despite clear evidence to the contrary, 30% of parents still believe that nappy rash is in fact a burn caused by chemicals in baby products such as nappies and wipes. But this confusion between nappy rash and chemical burns is just one of many examples of how it’s more important than ever to validate and communicate accurate scientific facts about skin health safety.
Because whilst we do live in an age of easier access to information than ever, especially online, there are no guarantees as to the accuracy of that information. And if bad science, hearsay or misinformation does go viral it can very quickly become an assumed truth that can reshape entire markets for decades. For example, just look at the laundry aisle in a UK supermarket for one prevailing example.
Biological vs Non Biological
Following a public health scare in the early 1980’s about how biological detergents could cause skin irritation – especially in babies – the correlation was so wholly accepted as fact that the UK laundry detergent market split into two clear categories, Biological and Non Biological. But what few people in the UK seem to be aware of is that it’s not much of a concern anywhere else in the world, and the science is unequivocal: biological detergents are no more likely to cause skin irritation in those with normal skin than non-biological.
So widespread, and indeed understandable, was the concern at the time, that it even influenced official guidance provided by NHS Choices – guidance that remained unchanged until 2015 when a member of the Royal Society for Chemistry’s Water Science Forum asked them what evidence their advice was based on, and they had to conclude that it was seemingly based on no evidence at all.
Yet nonetheless, recognising the concern of their consumers, detergent brands did successfully innovate a plethora of Non Biological products that are scientifically proven to be even better for those with sensitive skin.
So in one way, an unexpected and unplanned for success: new products were developed that are even better for sensitive skin than what went before. But it does also illustrate just how easily a hunger for information – especially when there is possible cause for alarm – can lead to confusion, and even acceptance of unproven facts.
And in an age where, whilst infectious diseases are statistically very much on the wane, we are at the same time witnessing a sharp increase in allergies and autoimmune diseases. Are things getting better, or worse? It’s not always immediately clear, so it’s hardly surprising that in lieu of good science, when confronted with fears of potential harm, consumers will take any science on offer. (Although this particular conundrum is now broadly understood by the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’, which you can read more about here.)
New parents, new opportunities
All of which sets the scene for what we believe might be a new and as yet largely untapped opportunity for brands and products committed to skin health safety to shout about it – especially when it comes to products made for parents and children.
And the benefits of doing so would be manifold.
In the first instance, there is clearly a growing number of parents desperate to know and understand what products are skin safe for themselves and their children – and brands are increasingly making their products safe in all the ways parents want them to. So the time has never been better to broadcast and amplify this great news to parents so that we can all help protect both young and old skin.
But if there might be any hesitation about what this kind of campaigning might cost, there’s good news as well from a purely financial perspective. In this research from 2018 from the US, it was shown that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1994) are already parents to 50% of today’s children, and that more than 1 million millennial women become new mothers each year.
Why might this be significant? Well, 69% of millennials earn more than the national median, and make a huge contribution to the $1 trillion U.S. parents already spend annually on raising their children. But, more importantly to the opportunity for skin health conscious brands and products, is the fact that millennials not only hold a positive outlook on their futures, they’re also much more likely to research the products they purchase – 78% use their phones to research before buying, compared to 58% of other parents.
In a survey of parents we conducted just last year, we discovered that scientists were significantly the most trusted influencers of parental decision making – trusted by 75% of parents. All of which should encourage brands that make products that are skin safe for both adults and children to confidently ramp up their communications to parents – the market is there, it is waiting to hear from you, and it’s very keen to buy your products.
Is it perhaps time for brands to start looking seriously at ending the ongoing segregation between baby-safe, child-safe, and adult-safe, that in many instances no longer needs to be there. What products are there already out there in the market that are safe across the board, but which aren’t as yet telling consumers that’s the case? We’d love to learn more from any brands that believe they might already have products like this in their portfolio.
The time for scientific clarity
If we’re genuinely serious about protecting people’s skin, then we must continue to amplify the trusted voices and platforms that deliver the science needed to promote products that are skin safe for all. And that’s core to our own mission. At the Skin Health Alliance, we work tirelessly to clarify mixed messages in the marketplace and correct bad science in the minds of consumers – and to help brands validate and communicate the scientific facts of their skin health safety.
If you’d like to know how we can help you communicate the safety of your products, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.