Growing popularity of the beauty ingredient “retinol”! What is the difference with people who are interested in “cica”?

Growing popularity of the beauty ingredient “retinol”! What is the difference with people who are interested in “cica”?

Recently, “retinol” is promoted in ads for its wrinkle-reducing effects. Once considered difficult to incorporate into cosmetics, many Japanese and Korean cosmetics now have retinol products. What made people interested? We compared it with data for the ingredient cica, which has exploded in popularity in recent years.


First of all, what is retinol and cica? We asked an expert

First of all, what kind of ingredients are retinol and cica? We asked beauty analyst Takae Kochigami.

Takae Kochigami:
"Retinol is an ingredient that stimulates skin renewal. It makes the skin feel smooth and is effective in treating fine lines. However, as effective as it is, it can also be irritating to the skin. Since applying retinol alone can cause strong irritation, all cosmetic manufacturers include ingredients that are compatible with retinol to help reduce the stress on the skin.

In fact, retinol has been attracting attention as an active ingredient for a long time, but due to insufficient guaranteed safety and evidence, it has been difficult to qualify it as a quasi-drug. Shiseido was the first company in Japan to launch a product containing retinol with their product ELIXIR.

Cica, on the other hand, is an ingredient that has been used for many years. The main ingredient is Centella extract, which has an anti-inflammatory property. It is also used as a medicine to suppress inflammation post-medical beauty treatments.

If retinol is 'offensive cosmetics' that is both effective and stimulating, cica can be considered 'defensive cosmetics' that suppresses inflammation."

Innisfree & Kiehl's helped boost retinol’s popularity. Was it also influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Next, let's take a look at the trends in people searching "retinol." This research was conducted using VALUES' online behavioral data analytics tool "Dockpit,” which allows you to analyze competitors’ websites and research trends using behavioral data that is updated monthly, all within your browser.

Below are the changes in the number of people searching for "retinol" over the past two years. The number of people searching fluctuated around 40,000 from January 2021 to July 2021 and has been gradually increasing since August 2021. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a significant rise in February to March and May, and an upward trend has also been observed in September and November.

Figure: Changes in the number of people searching for “retinol”
Period: January 2021 - December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

In February 2022, when the number of people searching increased, the Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree launched its Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule, a serum containing both retinol and cica. This product has become so popular that it won second place for the Best Cosmetics Award for the first half of 2022 on the Japanese cosmetics and beauty website @cosme.

Similarly, Kiehl's Retinol Serum has remained popular since its release in September 2021. These products appear to have helped boost the popularity of retinol.

Additionally, online cosmetics and beauty shops have sales several times a year. In particular, Qoo10, which sells many Korean cosmetics, has a sale called “Megawari,” meaning “mega discount,” four times a year, around March, June, September, and November. This seems to be associated to the increase in the number of people searching for retinol.

Takae Kochigami shared the following perspective.
Takae Kochigami:
I think the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the popularity of retinol. During the pandemic, the need for cosmetic dermatology increased due to the inability to meet people. Similarly, there were many people who wanted to improve their skin and appearance using retinol to become prettier while they were unable to meet people in person.”

Differences in the needs of people searching for retinol and cica

What is the difference between people searching for retinol and cica? Let's look at gender, age groups, and keywords.

People in their 20s for retinol and people in their 40s for cica

The chart below shows the trends in the number of people searching for retinol and cica over the two-year period from January 2021 to December 2022. You can see that the number of people searching for retinol is increasing while the number of searches for cica remains around 30,000.

Figure: Changes in the number of people searching “retinol” and “cica”
Period: January 2021 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

Next, we will look at data for the period from January to December 2022. Regarding the gender ratio of people searching for "retinol" and "cica," over 80% of people searching were female. Women are more interested in beauty products as a whole, but men are slightly more interested in cica than retinol. Men may be more concerned about improving rough skin than reducing wrinkles, as men can have rough skin from habits such as grooming their facial hair.

Figure: People searching “retinol” and “cica” by gender
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

Looking at the search data by age group, we can see that most people searching “retinol” are in their 20s. Among people in their 40s, more people search for "cica" than "retinol." It is likely that young people in their 20s are the first to respond to new beauty findings like “retinol.”

What’s interesting is that younger age group of people in their 20s are reacting to “retinol,” which promotes its anti-aging claims. In addition to wanting to try something new, people may be considering retinol if they want to quickly treat areas where they notice early signs of aging, such as smile lines or wrinkles between the eyebrows or at the corners of the eyes.

Figure: People searching “retinol” and “cica” by age group
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

Interest towards retinol as an ingredient, cica for its beauty products

Next, let’s take a look at other search keywords that are of high interest to people. Looking at the keyword combinations for "retinol," some skincare brands include Kiehl's, ZO SKIN HEALTH, and Innisfree. Names of other ingredients also ranked, such as niacinamide and vitamin C derivative. Takae Kochigami provided her analysis regarding the reason behind the interest in the many different ingredients.

Takae Kochigami:
"Retinol can be too irritating when used alone, so you need to mix it with other ingredients to balance it out. Even products that use the same retinol can have different effects and efficacy depending on how much of the other ingredients are incorporated. This is why people are exhibiting high levels of interest in other ingredients."

Figure: Interest words for people searching “retinol”
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

On the other hand, in addition to skincare brand names, specific beauty items such as “serum” and “sheet mask” also ranked for cica. It can be said that people searching for retinol are particular about beauty ingredients, and people searching for cica are looking for beauty products and cosmetics to use.

Figure: Interest words for people searching “cica”
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

There is also interest in using retinol in combination with other ingredients

When looking at the keyword combinations, names of other ingredient are frequently searched together with “retinol.” It is also notable that words such as “combined use” and “usage” are also mentioned. Since retinol is a highly irritating ingredient, people are likely looking for ways to soothe skin irritation caused by using retinol and the precautions.

Figure: Keyword combinations with “retinol”
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

If you look at the inflow webpages for the keyword combination for “combined use" and “retinol,” you will see web pages addressing the compatibility of the ingredients and how to use them. In particular, it is characteristic that the pages are lined up with negative titles such as “It's not compatible,” “You shouldn't do it,” and “Effectiveness is reduced by half.” People searching probably are worried that their skin will react negatively and irritate their skin and it will be difficult to heal.

Figure: Inflow web pages of keyword combination of “retinol” with “combined use”
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

Now, for the keyword combinations for cica, it is often searched in combination with “retinol” and “usage,” with overlapping interest with retinol. People searching may be comparing methods for mixing retinol with other ingredients and comparing to secure benefits of both "defensive ingredients" and "offensive ingredients."

Figure: Keyword combinations with "cica"
Period: January 2022 – December 2022
Devices: PC & smartphone

VT (VT Cosmetics) also appeared in the keyword combinations ranking, and web pages about VT products were also listed on the inflow web page for the keyword combination with "mask" and “cica.” It is thought that VT's cica masks attracted attention.
VT is a Korean cosmetics company. Considering the popularity of products from Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree, Korean cosmetics are likely to remain popular for some time.

Summary|Retinol focuses on other ingredients and combination use

Searches for “retinol” can be summarized as follows.
・Retinol is currently highly recognized among people in their 20s.
・Retinol is expected to be effective in treating fine wrinkles, but it is also highly irritating, so people are interested in the ingredients it can be mixed with and using it in combination with other ingredients.
・Sometimes it is used in combination with cica, which is a "defensive ingredient."
・Korean cosmetics, including skincare products, are expected to remain popular.

When creating content related to retinol, it is a good idea to cover information about ingredients and how to use them together, assuming that you understand the product and have the supervision of an expert. It would be a good idea to aim for the release date to coincide with a sale on a shopping website that handles cosmetics.

Some people may have been preparing their skin for the day when COVID-19 subsides and they take off their masks. Will there be products like Innisfree and Kiehl's that greatly influence search trends in the future?

[Research overview]
・Analysis based on online behavioral data and user attribute information with the cooperation of consumer panel members nationwide
・Behavioral data analysis target period: January 2021 - December 2022 and January 2022 - December 2022
*Volume is estimated based on the frequency of the consumer panel participants owned by VALUES and according to the Internet population in Japan.
*Target devices: PC and smartphone

About Dockpit

▼Data from Dockpit was used in this case study. Dockpit is an online behavior analytics tool provided by VALUES, Inc., and it allows you to access online behavioral data (updated monthly) via your browser so you can research competitor websites and investigate trends. There is a FREE version of Dockpit, so if you are interested in using it, please register below.

dockpit Get free version

※日本語での記事はこちらをご確認ください

人気の美容成分「レチノール」の検索者が急増中!「シカ」に関心がある人との違いは?

https://manamina.valuesccg.com/articles/2202

「しわ改善に」などのフレーズで、「レチノール」という成分の名前を広告やTVCMで見かけるようになりました。レチノールはかつて化粧品への配合が難しい成分とされていましたが、ここ数年で、日本の大手化粧品メーカーや韓国コスメでも使われるようになっています。レチノールにいち早く反応している人は、どのような気になりごとを持っているのでしょう。ここ数年で人気が爆発した成分「シカ」と比較して、調査しました。

この記事のライター

Born and raised in the Bay Area, U.S.A, I was fascinated by the different social and purchasing behaviors between Japanese and American consumers. I studied communication for undergrad and international marketing for my graduate studies. My professional background is in bilingual recruitment and Japanese-English translation.

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