Imagine you’re desperate to find a rich moisturizer online that’ll keep your skin from flaking throughout winter. We guarantee your first stop would be Sephora, Ulta or even the clean beauty staple Credo Beauty. You get to the home page, type in or go the section designated for moisturizers and after a few seconds, are met with literally hundreds of options. So you narrow down your results by checking a box that only pulls products meant for dry skin. But still, the number proves to be too overwhelming. Instead, you decide it would be smarter to search by ingredient–say hyaluronic acid, for example.
Though your search results prove to be a bit more manageable, it’s still overwhelming, so you settle for picking one you’re still unsure about, even if the reviews are 4 or 5 stars strong. And in the end, after test-driving the product you reluctantly spent your hard-earned money on, it doesn’t follow through on its promise. Biggest. Letdown. Ever. Unfortunately, this is the downside to shopping online. While you can easily bypass an annoying store clerk and avoid long lines, there’s also the risk of questions going unanswered and sipping the Kool-Aid that convinces us to make less-than-smart purchases.
Sabrina Noorani, ClearForMe CEO and founder, knows this all too well. About seven years before launching a next-level search tool for Credo Beauty (more on this in a sec), not even a dermatologist diagnosis could save her from getting lost in a sea of hard-to-pronounce ingredients and ill-advised recommendations. “I developed a skin allergy around my mouth. My lips would swell up, and the skin on and around my lips peeled so much I started getting frequent staph infections. I was embarrassed, self conscious and scared,” she tells StyleCaster. “My dermatologist did a patch test on me and told me I need to avoid fragrance and formaldehyde, two of the most common skin irritants found in soap, shampoo, cleansers and even baby products,”
At first, learning this information made her feel relieved because she thought she actually could do something about it quickly. The only problem…she needed to look for 32 fragrance synonyms across ingredient labels and 12 for formaldehyde. Seeing something labeled as “fragrance-free” wasn’t enough. “How was I going to navigate the sea of ingredients I use in my products? And what about my husband’s products and cleaning products? I was being asked to read ingredient labels and look out for not just two ingredients, as it sounds, but 46 ingredient names! I felt disempowered and helpless,” she says.
It was then that she had an “a-ha” moment and decided something should change, especially in an era where consumers are more informed than ever and demanding transparency and personalization. So she started ClearForMe, an online database that will soon integrate its technology into Credo Beauty’s website.
One Ingredient. Multiple Names.
First, let’s back up for a second and talk about the main problem with current search tools: they’re more generic than they appear. Sure, you can specify skin type, ingredient and/or concern, but that still doesn’t offer true transparency since ingredients can go by a multitude of monikers. The by-product of this is that shoppers are not only exposing themselves to potentially harmful combos. They’re also missing out on actually being educated on said ingredients, which could make future searches faster and easier. It also doesn’t help that the FDA doesn’t require which name or chemical synonym is used on an ingredient label. The ingredients simply need to be listed.
“It’s not just the ingredients that can be irritating that have synonyms. ‘Good’ ingredients do too. Even something as basic as water has many different variations used on labels,” says Noorani. “Vitamin C, the only antioxidant that boosts collagen production, has more than 35 synonyms. Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate the skin, has 12 synonyms.” Not only is this frustrating to the shopper; it’s also a missed opportunity for the place selling the product because discovering what those synonyms are means the person will have to leave your site to do it.
The common denominator across products are ingredients. This is the foundation of ClearForMe, which is able to cross-reference products by breaking them all the way down to ingredient level. “Our comprehensive database of synonyms, for every ingredient in each product, fills a big pain point in the market. We empower retailers to use data-driven recommendations and offer customers personalized recommendations and give consumers the ability to choose what ingredients or concerns they care most about, and make confident product choices for their skincare and beauty needs.”
Here’s how it works:
-Once you log onto the ClearForMe website, start by selecting how you want to search: by allergens, product type or recommendations from the site.
Let’s say you choose product type. The next menu would be a list of the different types. In this case, we’ll go with face moisturizers.
From there, you would select whatever ingredients you want to avoid. In this case, we’ll steer clear of fragrance.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Instead of taking you straight to a results page, you also get to choose which types of alcohol you want to avoid; yet another reminder that there’s usually more than meets the eye when it comes to ingredients.
So how will ClearForMe fit into Credo? In short, it’ll be a remixed version of what you’re already seeing on ClearForMe. The ingredient list under each product will no longer will a confusing place. Instead, ClearForMe will power product ingredient lists with information about each one. This means you’ll be able to click on each ingredient on a product page and see a user-friendly definition without leaving the site.
“In addition to reading a quick, easy-to-understand definition, Credo will use ClearForMe’s api to show customers other products that have (or don’t have) said ingredient, and/or its synonyms. Imagine if you suffered from acne and learned about an ingredient on the ingredient list that helps keep your skin clear?,” says Noorani.
Think of the value this provides. Ingredient lists are usually a dead end, but this add-on extends your site experience by actually teaching you something. And since 8 in 10 customers read ingredient lists before purchasing, its impact will likely be massive. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until the week of January 28 for this tool to fully launch, but fingers crossed that other sites take note. In the meantime, pick your fave ingredient and learn more about it on the ClearForMe website.