A given challenge

Find a new way to bring results to life.

Khaia Brogan and Shauna Axton from MRY, an ad agency that specializes in behavioral research, challenged me to find a new way to bring cosmetic results to life, in a way that is credible, believable and compelling. This meant helping people see their results better, either by designing a new way to measure results, or visualize them. 

The big picture

Neutrogena stands in a crowded category.

The skin care market is cramped with fierce competition. Many brands play on the emotional card in order to stand out from the crowd. Emotional stories such as Dove’s real beauty hit a rough patch, people are getting tired of it. Neutrogen a strives to tell a different story, one that is based of effectiveness and results.


The methodology

Let's not jump to conclusions!

This problem is vast in complex. We need to understand both, the context and whom we’re talking to, before we can come up with a solution. Once we do that, we will fraction the vast problem and tackle every part of it. There might not be one big unraveling but there are definitely a couple tweaks we can easily implement. 


The Optimistic Explorer

Sets her life by her own rules.

The Optimistic explorer has no loyalty for brands, but cherishes her products when they fit her needs. She will go out of her way to find these precious gems, reading reviews and beauty blogs. Her skin knowledge goes beyond her skin type. The Optimistic explorer likes to reinvent herself everyday. 

For each product I use, I want to know the exact reason I should use it and kind of really gear it towards my different skin needs, because my skin changes every day.

The Trusty Follower

Tailgates what works for her.

The Trusty follower has favorite brands from which she buys all her skin care products. She doesn’t spend too much time researching products because she knows she can trust the quality of her high-end brands. She’s aware of her skin type, and chooses skin care products accordingly. The Trusty follower is very confident and doesn’t feel the need to transform herself, sticking to what works. 

I rely on their products way too much, but I’ve been using them for years and my skin looks amazing.

The Pragmatic Functionista

Loves the beauty of simplicity.

The Pragmatic functionista, has no loyalty whatsoever for brands and skin care products. She spends no time and has no interest in researching these products. She doesn’t really know her skin type, but if it’s dry she’ll buy moisturizer, preferably something cheap and natural. In store, she’ll look for keywords like ‘dry skin’ or ‘moisturize’. The Pragmatic functionista likes her looks ‘au naturel”. 

I never think about it so Whenever my skin gets dry I borrow my roommate’s cream.

The cultural insight

Healthy is the new beautiful.

Today’s diets aren’t meant for weight loss but to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and foundation is not meant for covering but for hydrating. For women, being healthy means being active, energetic, feeling good, and looking great. Being healthy is what allows women to get the most out of life. They don’t need brands to remind them how beautiful they are. They want quality care products that will help them achieve their ideal healthy, moisturized, and radiant looking skin. 

These days we’re witnessing a shift from beautiful as being in the norm set by society, to beautiful as being healthy and strong whatever your size is. 

The psychological insight

Waiting for results builds frustration.

The process of getting healthier skin takes time, the results won’t be visible immediately and most women know that. But some women, especially the Optimistic explorer, will discard a product entirely when they‘re confronted with extremely positive and fast-results testimonials that don’t reflect their own progress. 

This irrational attitude is caused by Cognitive Dissonance

It’s a mental discomfort experienced by an individual who is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. In this case, knowing that the process takes time, but being confronted with people who experienced fast results. This can lead to thinking the product does not work for them.


The sociological insight

Humans have a need for comparison.

Social comparison theory centers on the belief that there is a drive within individuals to gain accurate self-evaluations. The theory explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and abilities by comparing themselves to others in order to reduce uncertainty in these domains, and learn how to define themselves.
— Theory of psychologist Leon Festinger

The media plays a large role in social comparisons. Researchers have found that in most cases women tend to engage in upward comparisons with people largely different than them, which results in more negative feelings about themselves. 

Comparison issues

Although most women know their skin is unique and has specific needs, it’s hard for them not to compare themselves with what they see in the media. Whether Neutrogena’s customers have high or low self-esteem, we don’t want them to lose their motivation for a healthy looking skin. That’s why it’s important to educate women on their health and provide them a better understanding of their own skin and body.

These women all weigh the same.

The Data

Primary Research & Interviews

Out of the 31 people I interviewed:


Secondary Research

The priorities of respondents when buying skincare products were as follows: 

The solution

First we need to tackle the reviews.

In order to bring results to life we need to address all the considerations seen above, starting with the reviews. We know reviews are the most influential factor in the purchase decision of a skin care product. So we need to make sure that reviews are most effective. 

One way to do this is to prevent bad rating due to other factors than effectiveness. It doesn’t seem fair to dismiss an effective product just because of the fragrance or the texture of the cream.

When leaving a review on Neutrogena’s website, especially if it’s a bad review, user should give the main reason for their disappointment. If the fragrance is the problem, the effectiveness shouldn’t have to called into question. 

Provide a claim card with each product, so that consumers can put their skin to the test. This might force them to admit that the product works, and even though they might not like the texture or the fragrance.

Third factor, the time

We need to address the time/waiting factor. Some of Neutrogena’s products act immediately, like their Makeup Remover but some other products like their Triple Age Repair need more time to act. Too many women lose hope after a week of treatment when they don’t see the results. Achieving healthy skin takes time and commitment, finding the right product, applying it every day... 

What if we could digitally recreate the experience of a growing plant for wired customers starting a cure. Neutrogena could invite them to hashtag their cure starting point and reply with the plant growing experience. Customers would be alerted of each new leave and reminded at the same time to check the progress they’ve made so far. This could be a way to build expectation without the all the frustration.


Round two measuring the results

The second step would be to help Neutrogena’s customers to measure their results. When talking about measuring the results most people express their need to feel the results, less talk about seeing the results, and others want to both.

See the results

The solution could be to design a small test adapted for each product. For example to test the Rapid Clear Oil-Control Foaming Cleanser which claims to rapidly and effectively remove oily skin, we can provide oil blotting paper. This rapid and easy test could be performed once before starting your treatment and once more after a few weeks.

Feel the results

A touch measurement is can be tricky to achieve, because women touch their skin everyday. They won’t be objective and will probably be harsher with themselves and their progress than their family and friends who might see (or feel) improvement. The test is to have their loved ones feel the skin. They can simply caress the person’s face for a more objective assessment. Chances are they’ll be more prone to compliment and praise their skin quality.

Lastly, let's address the comparison problem

As we saw above, knowing our skin is unique is not all, we still have this itchy need to compare ourselves with others. Although we might not succeed to resolve the issue entirely, there is much we can do on educating women about their skin. 


To prevent harmful comparison a focus needs to be put on education: the steps to efficiently hydrate your skin, the tricks to prevent acne, etc. This education will hopefully pin back on our first step and have positive results on product ratings.


Having a consumer journey allows us to see how these solutions can be tied together and where to implement them. 

  1. Improving the reviews

  2. Provide claim cards for each product
  3. Provide education for woman to learn about their own skin
  4. Offer a plant analogy to help with their patience
  5. Provide a little tester with each product to measure progress
  6. Have women ask their loved ones to test their skin