June 7, 2021 Published by

When beauty buyers talk about products, the conversations often default to ingredients, efficacy, and cost. What about how those ingredients get delivered to skin cells and why that matters? Or the form factors used for applying or using beauty products?

It’s easy to presume female beauty consumers don’t have much of an opinion about these attributes because most of the decisions regarding them are made before products hit the market, but it turns out—consumers do care. Nearly half of US beauty buyers say it’s important for products to have a specific delivery system to help ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin. And while 72% don’t care which delivery system is used, they expect that system to work. To dive deeper into consumer thinking on ingredient delivery systems and the form factors that go hand in hand with them, The Benchmarking Company surveyed more than 3,000 US beauty buyers in April, 2021 on this topic.

Beauty Behaviors at a Glance

Even in the midst of a pandemic, when many women are sticking closer to home and wearing less makeup, keeping up with a regular beauty routine is still a priority for most, both in terms of skincare and makeup usage. In fact, when asked to self-identify, the majority of consumers (77%) consider themselves intermediate to advanced users of skincare (more than five skincare products used per day), with 79% of women claiming the same for color cosmetics.  Nearly half of all women (47%) say they always seek out products with specific ingredients when they shop for skincare, with nearly half (46%) saying they sometimes seek out certain ingredients.  She’s got a long list of concerns she’s looking to address with her favorite skincare brands and products.

Figure 1: Top Ten Skin Care Concerns

Rank Concern
#1 Fine lines & wrinkles
#2 Dark circles (under eyes)
#3 Acne/breakouts
#4 Uneven skin tone
#5 Firmness
#6 Under eye bags
#7 Large pores
#8 Helping skin look younger
#9 Dryness
#10 Maintaining youthful looking skin


To address these concerns, she reaches for a plethora of beauty products across a range of categories, both in skincare and color cosmetics. And although selection and innovation in beauty are at an all-time high, not surprisingly the products consumers still purchase most regularly are those trusted work horses which have proven time and again to be invaluable.  Eighty-three percent (83%) buy facial cleanser, followed by body lotions/butters (79%); hand lotion (72%); night moisturizer for face (68%); day moisturizer with SPF for face (66%); eye cream (63%); face serum (56%); eye makeup remover (52%); toner (50%); exfoliator (46%), retinols/retinol alternative and eye serums (44%); facial sheet masks (42%); and day moisturizer without SPF (41%).  In the color cosmetics arena, she’s also regularly buying those can’t-live-without products that women have been tucking into their makeup bags for decades, such as mascara, liquid foundation, eyeshadow, and blush.

Figure 2: Color Cosmetics She Regularly Purchases

Product Percent
Mascara 87%
Liquid foundation 71%
Eyeshadow (powder) 71%
Blush 65%
Lip gloss 64%
Eyeliner pencil 63%
Lipstick 57%
Eyebrow pencil 53%
Primer 53%
Finishing powder 51%
Concealer (liquid in tube) 48%
Makeup palettes 46%
Liquid eyeliner 45%
Liquid lipstick 44%
Compact foundation 41%


Delivery System Science

Like most consumers, beauty buyers want their products to be sophisticated and offer high quality outcomes. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate into an awareness of the technology that drives many beauty products, namely: delivery systems.  When asked, only 35% know what a delivery system is (as it pertains to skincare), while 42% say they flat out don’t know.  But even with this general lack of awareness, when asked, women managed to offer a fairly good explanation of delivery systems (as they relate to skincare): 79% said delivery systems are ‘the mechanism for how active ingredients reach the deeper layers of the skin’, while 41% thought delivery systems are the packaging or application device for applying skincare (i.e. aerosol, rollerball, etc.). Twenty-six percent (26%) said they are ‘all active ingredients in a product’, and 15% think delivery systems are ‘how products are physically shipped to stores, etc.’

“Essentially, delivery systems are what gets the active ingredients in your skin care deep into the dermis, so that they can actually penetrate and work their magic.” –Refinery29, April 2016