Descriptive Skin Feel Analysis

Consumer acceptability of products, such as foods and personal care products, often depends largely on sensory properties perceived during use. Descriptive Analysis is a technique that was developed to quantify perceptual properties of samples so that their sensory profiles can be directly compared.
Descriptive analysis, although historically applied to food products, has been used to evaluate personal care products, such as lotions, creams, and cosmetics, since the 1970’s. This application was first published in 1974 by Naomi Oshinsky Schwartz of General Foods Corporation in the Journal of Texture Studies1; “Adaptation of the Sensory Texture Profile Method to Skin Care Products” was based on the Texture Profile method developed by the General Foods Research Center in the 1960’s2. The skinfeel descriptive methodology was further advanced in the early nineties with two research papers published by Civille and Dus on skinfeel methodology for cosmetic toiletries and paper/fabric3,4.
A descriptive analysis technique used to evaluate skin care products is now a standard practice in the American Society for Testing and Materials entitled “Standard Practice for Descriptive Skinfeel Analysis of Creams and Lotions” (ASTM E 1490 – 03). ASTM E 1490 – 03 outlines each step of a descriptive analysis procedure, including methods for panelist selection and training, as well as providing terms, references, and evaluation methods. The ASTM skin feel analysis is separated into three main evaluation sections: evaluation of the product in a petri dish, evaluation of the product while being rubbed between a finger and thumb (pick-up evaluation), and evaluation of the product being rubbed on the forearm (rub out evaluation)5.
Many other studies have evaluated skin feel of assorted personal care products and their ingredients using variations on the ASTM E 1490 – 03 methodology. Common attributes across these studies included gloss, stickiness, spreadability, and residue. Common references included items such as petroleum jelly, lanolin, and mineral oil6,7,8,9.
 Descriptive skin feel analysis is fundamentally the same as a descriptive analysis of a food product in terms of selection of panelists, term generation, concept formation, and sample evaluation. Obviously, however, different criteria must be applied to select suitable panelists for skin feel analysis compared to oral evaluation. Skin feel analysis panelists must demonstrate tactile acuity (primarily a function of finger size8) and apply to other criteria in terms of skin allergies, skin condition, and skin type10,11.


1 Stone, H.; Sidel, J., Sensory Evaluation Practices. 3rd ed.; Academic Press: London, 2004.

2 Schwartz, N. O., Adaptation of the Sensory Texture Profile Method to Skin Care Products. J Texture Stud 1974, 6 (1), 33-42.

3 Civille GV and Dus CA (1991). Evaluating Tactile Properties of Skincare products: A descriptive analysis technique. Cosmet Toiletries, 106:5, 83-88

4 Civille GV and Dus CA (1990). Development of Terminology to Describe the Handfeel Properties of Paper and Fabrics. J Sens Stud, 5:19-32

5 ASTM, International, ASTM Standard E1490 – 03: Standard Practice fo Descriptive Skinfeel Analysis of Creams and Lotions. ASTM International: West Conshohocken, PA, 2003; p 16.

6 Parente, M. E.; Gambaro, A.; Ares, G., Sensory Characterization Of Emollients. Journal of Sensory Studies (2008) 23, 149–161.

7 Lee, I.; et al, Terminology Development And Panel Training For Sensory Evaluation Of Skin Care Products. Journal of Sensory Studies (2005) 20, 421–433.

8 Aust, L. B.; et al, The Descriptive Analysis Of Skin Care Products By A Trained Panel Of Judges. J. Soc. Cosmet Chem (1987) 38, 443-449.

9 Almeida, I. F.; Gaio, A. R.; Bahia, M. F., Hedonic And Descriptive Skinfeel Analysis Of Two Oleogels: Comparison With Other Topical Formulations. Journal of Sensory Studies (2008) 23, 92–113.

10 Peters, R. M.; Hackeman, E.; Goldreich, D., Diminutive Digits Discern Delicate Details: Fingertip Size and the Sex Difference in Tactile Spatial Acuity. The Journal of Neuroscience (2009) 29(50), 15756-15761.

11 Meilgaard MC, Civille GV, and Carr BT (2007). Sensory Evaluations Techniques, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL