Where Beauty Product Efficacy Ratings Come From and What They Mean

If you’re like me, you hit the beauty aisle of almost every store just to see what’s new. There are so many beauty products it’s…


If you’re like me, you hit the beauty aisle of almost every store just to see what’s new. There are so many beauty products it’s utterly mind-boggling, which is part of the reason I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to makeup and skincare. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many options.

I’m an avid review reader when it comes to anything consumer-related. That’s how I discovered the items on my latest beauty product wish list. But there’s another way to weed through the thousands of beauty products that are sitting on shelves.

Efficacy ratings serve as proof that a beauty product will perform as expected. What are they? Where do they come from? Why do they matter?

Let’s find out!

Efficacy Ratings: What Are They and Where Do They Come From

We’ve all seen beauty product efficacy ratings at one point or another. Companies make a lot of claims about how amazing their products are, but some take the extra step to back those claims up. Whenever you see an advert or packaging label that states how well a product works in terms of percentages or comparisons this is an efficacy rating.

Beauty product consumer research firms like The Benchmarking Company help companies determine how well their products actually work through a variety of tests. One of the most common methods used today is called in-home consumer use testing. This means the research company will hire everyday people (often those who are within a target demographic) to use the products just like regular consumers would. The testers follow the product instructions and the researchers poll them on what they think of the product after a certain period of time.

You can tell when efficacy ratings are based on in-home consumer use testing because you’ll see things like “90% of women saw an improvement in skin clarity”  or “85% of users experienced increased moisture.” They have basically substantiated consumer reviews, which gives you a good idea of how well a beauty product worked for the test group.

There is also clinical testing, which goes a step further than in-home consumer use testing. With this method, a team of researchers and doctors does the measuring. They will measure skin quality at the start of the test for a baseline. Then they’ll measure the skin quality at set intervals to determine if there has been an improvement. Researchers work within a lab setting and use futuristic-sounding tools like dermal phase meters and chromameter technology.

Clinical testing gives you a good idea of not just what the user thinks but what the product is scientifically proven to do. There may also be before and after pictures to provide visual evidence of the findings.

What Efficacy Ratings Mean for Consumers

Although efficacy ratings provide useful information, they aren’t foolproof. The first thing to remember is that everyone is different. Even if a beauty product gets a 5-star efficacy rating from hundreds of people, there will be those few individuals that it just doesn’t work for no matter what. Sucks to be you in that case, and hopefully, the product can be returned.

It’s also important to pay attention to where the beauty product is made. Each country has its own guidelines for efficacy testing. In the U.S., where many beauty products are made, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t test products for efficacy. So, third-party testing is often the best barometer you’re going to get. But they do regulate false claims through the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.

Here in the U.K., there are cosmetic product safety regulations and they must be ‘fit for purpose’, meaning that the product fits the description on the packaging. If the product doesn’t work as expected you can return it for a refund. While this is a safeguard for your pocketbook, it still isn’t a guarantee that the product will live up to the hype.

Ultimately, you’re guaranteed that a beauty product is safe to use as advertised, but because everyone is different, the results vary. Beauty product efficacy ratings give you an idea of what you can expect, however, you never really know until you give it a go yourself.


  1. I’m always so skeptical of efficacy ratings – everyones skin is different, we all react differently to products and let’s be honest, if it only worked for 12% of people they’re not going to put that on the packaging lol! I’d say the efficacy ratings catch my eye but I always scour online for reviews and write ups before I commit to buying, especially if it’s something high end!

    Sarah 🙂

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