Skincare Market Research: How to Test a New Cosmetics Product

Even the most successful brands recognize there are areas of improvement or opportunities to further understand their target audience. 

When a leading sunscreen and skincare manufacturer came to a tech partner of ours for a home usage test, they knew we’d be a great fit to manage the surveys and source research participants. 

Continue reading to learn more about how our market research company successfully completed a sunscreen home-usage test with participants across the United States.

skincare market research 

Step 1: Discussing the Objectives

Our market research firm scheduled a brief kickoff meeting to learn more about the core objects of the research. In other words, what the client was hoping to learn by conducting a research project. 

There were 4 primary goals for conducting the research: 

  • Understanding consumers: who the brand’s target consumer may be and what their pain points or unmet needs are. 
  • Better understanding consumer’s sunscreen consumption 
  • Capturing feedback on the brand’s product 
  • Identify opportunities on messaging and communication or product improvement

A secondary objective for conducting the research was to better determine how a consumer's location could impact their usage of sunscreen. 

Step 2: Selecting a Methodology

This project was a 4-week home-usage test of a sunscreen product consisting of two parts, a pre-usage survey and a post-usage survey. 

The shipped sunscreen included a device that captured usage data. 

Each emailed survey consisted of around 20 questions and took 3-5 minutes to complete. 

Participants were offered a $20 Amazon gift card in addition to keeping the free product as a thank you for their time and feedback. 

Interested in learning more about this type of market research? Read our Ultimate Guide to In-Home Usage Tests (IHUTs).

Step 3: Finding the Target Audience 

Using our notes from the kickoff meeting, our team constructed a screening survey. The screener was used to outline all qualifications for the project to ensure they were a good fit. 

Once the screener was complete, our team programmed a pre-screener questionnaire consisting of core-qualification criteria.

The questionnaire consisted of the following questions: 

  • Which of the following are you the primary or shared decision-maker for in your household?
  • Typically, how often do you use sunscreen?
  • Which of the following brands of sunscreen have you purchased in the past 12 months?
  • What is your age? 
  • In which of the following states do you currently reside? 
  • In which of the following industries are you currently employed?
  • Have you participated in an in-home usage test, focus group, or interview regarding sunscreen in the past 6 months?

We also included additional questions to ensure they had the necessary tech to meet the requirements for the device aspect of the project. 

Once the pre-screener had been programmed and tested for quality, it was deployed using targeted social media ads. 

Recommended Reading: [Ultimate Guide] How to Use Social Media to Find Research Participants

Step 4: Re-screening Phone Calls

On qualitative projects, our firm utilizes a multi-step recruitment process to fully vet participants. 

Once consumers completed the pre-screening questionnaire, our team placed re-screening phone calls to those who have qualified. 

In these calls, we confirmed core qualification criteria and discussed the next steps. 

As an extra step of confirmation, following the completed re-screening phone call, our team sent confirmation emails with a required “yes” response. 

This was used to verify participants received full instructions for the project, agreed to participate, and confirmed their engagement. 

In total, our firm recruited 300 participants across four states (California, Texas, Illinois, New York) with a mix of 75 participants per state. 

Among those, we recruited a mix of the following demographics to ensure equal representation: 

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Employment status 
  • Education status
  • Annual household income 
  • Skin tone 

Step 5: Shipping and Pre-usage Survey 

Using our feedback from the initial kickoff call, our team constructed a 21-question pre-usage survey to better understand consumers' current usage of sunscreen. 

Once the product had been shipped to participants, the pre-usage survey was deployed along with shipping confirmation. 

On the pre-usage survey, we asked questions such as: 

  • How important are each of the following factors when considering a sunscreen for your face?
  • What are the main reasons you apply sunscreen on your face? 
  • What annoys you when it comes to using sunscreen on your face? 
  • What type of sunscreen do you prefer to use on your face? 
  • Which of the following best describes your skin type?
  • How often do you typically reapply sunscreen on your face when you are outdoors?

Once launched, we also shared a portal with our client that tabulated results in real-time and offered report exports in Excel, PDF, Powerpoint, and Word format. 

The week following the pre-usage survey deployment, we placed customized follow-up calls to non-responders to boost the response rate as much as possible. 

By the time the pre-usage survey field window had concluded, we received 292/300 responses -- a 97% response rate!

Step 6: Fielding and Post-usage Survey 

Throughout the 4-week product test, our firm stayed in contact with participants through follow-up reminders via email, phone calls, and text messages. 

Keeping communication open helps keep participants engaged throughout the extended period of the project. 

This also gives us the opportunity to address any technical issues users were experiencing with their product device on this project. 

After the 4-week usage period was concluded, the post-usage survey was deployed. Following the same process, we placed customized follow-up phone calls, emails, and text messages to boost our response rate. 

The goal of this part was to better how the participant perceived the product after usage. 

To reach the objective, our firm utilized some of the following questions: 

  • What is your overall opinion of this product?
  • What did you like about this product?
  • What did you not like about this product?
  • How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following phrases in regards to the use of this facial sunscreen?
  • Which of the following brands of facial sunscreen do you typically purchase?
  • How does this product compare to the sunscreen you usually purchase?
  • Please give your suggestions on how we may improve this product.

After accounting for the participants who experienced an issue with the device, during shipping, or other issues, we ended with 257/300 completes, an 85% completion rate overall! 

Conduct Skincare Market Research with Our Team

Drive Research is a full-service market research company specializing in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Our team specializes in end-to-end project management services including survey design, fieldwork, qualitative recruiting, reporting, and more.

Interested in learning more about our services? Contact Drive Research today.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


Ashley Reynolds

With nearly 10 years of experience in market research, Ashley has worked on countless quantitative and qualitative research studies. As a Fieldwork Manager at Drive Research, she’s involved in every stage of the project, especially recruitment.

Learn more about Ashley, here.

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In-Home Usage Tests Market Research Case Studies