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Close to 50% Users Stockpiled Unused Skincare for Beyond a Year Easily Causing Wastage Equally Unwise to Purchase Full Product Range Based on Brand Hype

  • 2021.12.15

As the saying goes, “Skincare is an important part of self-care”. Many ladies are willing to invest in skincare for a glowing complexion and smooth, wrinkle-free skin, and some might even swear by certain beauty brands. However, the actual performance of skincare products might not be equally satisfactory for all. According to the Consumer Council’s latest opinion survey on skincare products, users expressed varying satisfaction levels for different products of the same brand, whereas the satisfaction rating and cost-effectiveness of a product might not be correlated. Besides, close to half of the respondents hoarded unopened skincare products for over a year, while half the respondents stated that they would still use the product after its shelf life/expiry date, which might impose dermatological risks. The Council reminds consumers not to purely base their skincare purchasing decisions on brand effect, and not to be lured into excessive buying of skincare products because of offers and discounts, resulting in stockpiling and wastage.

By random sampling, the Council conducted phone interviews with 1,650 female respondents aged between 20 and 60 to understand their purchasing and usage habits of skincare, as well as their satisfaction level, cost-effectiveness rating and likelihood of re-purchase, including facial cleansers, face serums, moisturisers and face masks. It was found that women in Hong Kong have an average yearly spend of $3,100 on facial skincare products. Those aged between 30 and 39 had the highest spend (around $3,500) with over half of the respondents of that age range spending more on higher-priced face serums, whereas respondents aged 20 to 29 spent the least (around $2,500).

            Big-name brands generally offer a wider range and different lines of products, yet the survey revealed inconsistent satisfaction across different product categories from the same brand, whereas the satisfaction of a product might not be directly related to its cost-effectiveness or the user’s likelihood to re-purchase. For one of the facial cleansers receiving a high satisfaction rating of 4 points, its cost-effectiveness was rated a mere 2.5 points, reflecting that users may consider it relatively less value for money. However, the moisturiser from the same brand had the highest satisfaction and cost-effectiveness ratings (both 4.5 points) amongst all brands, while its likelihood to re-purchase was also reasonably high (4 points). Another brand which carried all 4 types of surveyed products showed disparity amongst the products’ satisfaction ratings (from 3 to 4.5 points), of which the facial moisturiser had the lowest satisfaction, yet received 4 points for users’ likelihood to re-purchase and 3.5 points for cost-effectiveness. The results signified that it may not be the wisest move to purchase the full line of products solely based on brand effect.

            The survey results revealed that the user’s decision factor in selecting a product had a greater impact on the satisfaction level after use. Respondents who prioritised the claimed efficacy and whether it was suitable for their own skin type when selecting skincare products, reported a higher satisfaction rate. On the contrary, users citing price as their key decision factor generally had a lower satisfaction rate. Therefore, consumers should refrain from using price as the key indicator of quality when buying skincare products.

Skincare products touted different efficacies. However, respondents were not fully satisfied with the various claims. Taking face masks as an example, only 32% of the respondents were satisfied with the claimed anti-ageing efficacy of certain products, under half (46%) were happy with the pore-refining claims, whereas oil control, multi-functional and hydrating efficacies had a higher satisfaction rate (63%, 65% and 69% respectively). For facial cleansing products, the claimed additional benefits such as whitening and spot-removal, and anti-acne efficacies only received satisfaction ratings of 37% and 49% respectively.

Respondents spent the most on face serums, ranging from $40 to $3,000 per item, an average of $395 per item. However, the user satisfaction for face serums was the lowest (64%) amongst all 4 product categories, likely due to the fact that consumers had a higher expectation for higher-priced items. Amongst all claimed efficacies, “anti-wrinkle” only received a satisfaction rating of 44%, while “lifting/firming” and “multi-functional” also proved mediocre (53% and 56% respectively). As every person’s skin type and reaction differs, while the personal experience and preference also vary, the Council recommends asking for samples before trying out new skincare products, or purchasing it in a smaller size. Do not buy larger-sized products on impulse simply because it seems to be a better deal.

The respondents also had an average brand loyalty in terms of facial cleansers, face serums and moisturisers. For these 3 categories, over 40% of the users would try out products from different brands, while the remaining respondents would chiefly purchase products from a few brands. Face masks had the lowest brand loyalty, with 65% respondents expressing that they would try out different brands. Furthermore, 76% respondents expressed that they would only buy skincare products from physical stores, while the rest would purchase from both physical and online stores, or from online stores only. Consumers who frequently switched skincare brands could seek recommendations from salespeople or try out the product in person in-stores, in order to select the suitable products.

With the festive season just around the corner, many skincare brands tend to tout quantity discounts which may entice consumers to purchase and stockpile a larger number of products than needed, resulting in product expiry and wastage. Some consumers even continued to use products beyond their shelf life/expiry date, which could increase dermatological risks. Close to half (49%) of the respondents admitted to owning facial skincare products which remained unopened for over a year, most of which were face masks (42%), followed by moisturisers (30%), facial cleansers (25%) and face serums (17%). After a skincare product has expired, close to half the respondents (49%) would discard it, yet 38% would apply it on other parts of the body, and 25% would even continue to apply it on the face. The Council reminds consumers that skincare products beyond their shelf life/expiry date might have spoiled or even become a breeding ground for bacteria. Continued usage of expired products could irritate the eyes and skin, and may cause adverse reactions such as itchiness, redness and swelling, or even inflammation. Consumers are also advised to pay heed to the shelf life/expiry date and period after opening (“PAO”), form the good habit of logging the date of opening, and finish using it within the shelf life/expiry date and PAO. As for sealed skincare items that have been stored for a long time, check whether it has passed the shelf life/expiry date and for signs of spoilage, such as odour, de-emulsification, sediment, etc., in which case the product should be discarded.

The Council advises consumers to shop rationally, try to understand the product’s efficacies and scrutinise the ingredients list, select skincare suitable for their own skin type. At the same time, only purchase an appropriate quantity to avoid stockpiling of products resulting in wastage; do not purely base purchasing decisions on the brand’s fame, product advertising and promotions, price or discounts. Skincare products should be used according to the instructions to achieve the best skincare efficacy. Consumers should also pay heed to the shelf life/expiry date and PAO of the product, and discontinue use immediately if the product has expired.


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