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Beyond the Perceptions: the Science of the Sensory Analysis

23 August 2022

Beyond safety and efficiency characteristics, the sensory analysis is a major criterion of the personal care product objectivation by describing, discriminating and comparing them.

Everyone knows that organoleptic properties and consumer insights using direct life experiences are part of the perception of the efficacy by the consumers. The sensory analysis using the human senses are scientific studies based on experimental design and statistical analysis. They concern all types of products and are generally conducted following standardised practices and normative process covering the 4 phases of the cosmetics use: the appearance, the pickup, the application and on final touch.

The sensory analyses use two types of panels:

  • The expert ones: trained assessors who measure the various characteristicsof the product or
  • The naïve ones: subjects who test the products and give their opinion on its characteristics.


How to objectivate the real and perceived efficacy?

Sensory analyses are tailored made protocols to be deeply defined with the testing suppliers in function of the targeted countries. It requires specific equipment such as specialised test rooms (Afnor NFV 09105) with individual cabinets including :fizz network, sink, mirror, standardised daylight neon… The protocols include discriminative tests, descriptive tests for organoleptic properties (appearance, odour, texture) and for perceptions (liking, insights, acceptability, perceived efficacy).


It may be subdivided into three sections:

  • Analytical testing by the expert panel: evaluation of the objective facts of the products for the discrimination testing and the descriptive profiling: hedonic test, Product characterisation, Sniff tests, Organoleptic properties: appearance, the odour, the texture. The panelists rate the intensity of each descriptor (previously defined) answering a questionnaire.
  • Difference testing: evaluation of the subjective facts such as preferences.
  • Descriptive testing: evaluation of the biochemical and psychological aspects of the holistic sensation focused on the overall appearance of the product.

Other analyses also enable the sensory evaluation by naïve panels:

  • Consumer testing including large (50 or more) panels. It obtains subjective data, or how well products are likely to be accepted. It is simple comparative or more complexe questioning.
  • Focus group testing with small subject number obtain qualitative and deep insight mapping.


The sensory profile with expert panel is useful for all phases of the products development and represents a sensitive tool which can be complementary with instrumental measurements, imaging and autoevaluation.

More and more sensory analysis is combined with other objectivation such as sweating, heart rate, blood flow, skin temperature to objectively and accurately appreciate the feelings of subjects. Some psychophysiological and behavioural parameters are also assessed measuring: EEG, Eye tracking, fEMG, Facial Expressions, Prosody, Gestures…

Sensory protocols can be simple or complex and represent reproducible, powerful and relevant tools. They explain consumer choices and measure human responses to products and enable the optimization of the product development. Sensory analysis requiring a specific know-how, are valuable set of methods for both researchers and marketing managers and provide them many invaluable results


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By Anne Charpentier – 01/2020