I wasn't surprised when the results of a new Good Housekeeping Institute study ranked Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ahead of 10 fancy moisturizers. Almost a decade ago, I gave my sister-in-law Pam a jar of this stuff to try on her dry skin, and she loved it. Over the years I've had her test a variety of others, some much more expensive, and still Micro-Sculpting Cream is her favourite.
But how exactly did GH judge the formula? How many women participated? What kind of skincare where they already using? What were those luxury creams, and how were they selected as contenders? So many geeky questions!
And I've got answers straight from the woman who ran the study: Birnur K. Aral, Ph.D., Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab.
Incidentally, this is the second Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream study the Good Housekeeping Institute has released, about 10 years after the first. (BTW, for you youngsters out there, Good Housekeeping's been around for nearly 120 years – since 1900, the investigative side since 1902 – and it's long been a trusted source of critical product evaluations. Its reach is massive: 30 million across print and digital platforms.)
olay regenerist micro-sculpting cream: the good housekeeping study results
You've seen the recent TV ads, right? Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream is a better moisturizer than 10 top prestige formulas, including one priced at $440. Per the press release:
The Good Housekeeping Institute's Beauty Lab conducted clinical and blinded consumer studies, where scientists collected more than 10,000 hydration measurements and Olay rose to the top:
1. Fast-Acting: At the three-hour mark, Olay moisturized 400% better than a cream nearly 18 times its price and beat all other products tested.
2. Long-Lasting Hydration: Olay increased moisture by 50% on average over a 24-hour period.
3. Lightweight Texture: In blind comparisons, consumers preferred Olay 80% of the time over expensive creams, reporting that it felt "rich" without being heavy.
4. Firming & Plumping Ingredients: Formulated with powerhouse ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, Olay improved skin's texture by 10% in four weeks.*
the prestige creams in the study
Of course I asked for specifics about the 10 fancy creams against which Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($34.98 CAD via amazon.ca and $28.99 USD at ulta.com) was measured. And as expected, the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab won't reveal exactly what they were.
"It's not 'top 10' prestige creams," Dr. Aral was careful to emphasize. "It's '10 of the top' prestige creams. We used our own editorial judgement to figure out what those 10 creams should be; they're from brands that, if you were to walk into a department store, you would say are prestige."
Purchased by GH, the creams were decanted into unmarked, lab-sample containers. None was unscented; neither was the current Olay formula that was used for the study.
the olay/good housekeeping study participants
Beautygeeks: How did the Good Housekeeping Institute choose the women who took part?
Dr. Aral: Over the years, Good Housekeeping has built a database that now has more than 10,000 panelists. We get testers through the magazine and online. For this clinical and consumer study, though, we had a smaller pool of subjects: those who could come to the lab in the Hearst Tower in Manhattan. For the sensory portion, the women fit into the cream-user demographic.
how good housekeeping tested olay regenerist micro-sculpting cream
Beautygeeks: How exactly was this study set up?
Dr. Aral: It was a two-pronged analysis. We did what we call a forearm clinical study to determine moisturization efficacy, and we did a sensory consumer study regarding textural attributes, how it feels on skin, fragrance appeal, and so on.
Beautygeeks: a forearm?
Dr. Aral: Basically the skin on the inner forearm is similar to the skin on the face, and you can test more areas on the forearm. It's a widely accepted protocol in the industry.
the clinical study
Results: 1) At the three-hour mark, Olay moisturized 400% better than a cream nearly 18 times its price and beat all other products tested; 2) Olay increased moisture by 50% on average over a 24-hour period; and 3) Olay improved skin's texture by 10% in four weeks*
Dr. Aral: For the duration of the clinical study, we gave the subjects a standard soap bar without a moisturizing element as the only product they could use on their forearms. They were instructed not to use moisturizer on that area throughout the study time frame, and during the 24-hour testing period, they couldn't wash their forearms, take a shower or go to the gym.
The products were applied on the subjects's clean skin, and the results were monitored over 24 hours. We tested five products on each subject's arm and we left a slot blank, without product applied there, as a negative control.
Using a corneometer, we took multiple measurements of each cream. We came up with 10,000 data points by randomly testing different spots on each participant's arm – let's say we splashed water on one of the spots and tested; next time somebody else was tested on a different spot on the arm.
*The 10% texture improvement was measured with a VISIA system during a 2016 four-week study that involved before-and-after photos. The instrument analyses eight aspects of skin; texture is one of them.
the consumer study
Results: Consumers preferred Olay 80% of the time over expensive creams, reporting that it felt "rich" without being heavy.
Dr. Aral: In the consumer study, we were just tuning into the sensory attributes, whether Olay feels luxurious – prestige implies luxury, right? There were 30 women in this part, and out of the 10 prestige creams we chose the three most expensive to test against Olay.
This was a blind comparison test. Through a syringe or dropper, we administered a specific dose of Cream A to the fingertips of the participants, then directed them to apply however they would normally, but only to the right side of the face. After that, we dosed the same amount of Cream B on another fingertip, and had them apply on the left.
Half the testers used Olay on the right and half of them used it on the left. Then they gave their initial feedback on how each cream felt on skin, the fragrance and so on, there and then. (So what the subjects were already using in their daily regimen wasn't relevant.)
olay/good housekeeping study takeaway
The takeaway from this GH Institute study is clear, isn't it? As in, we don't necessarily have to pay the biggest bucks for something that delivers real results in a pleasing, even luxurious format. Not a new concept, but not as widespread as it should be, and always, always appreciated – especially when there's back-up data.
"Our reader is a smart consumer who wants to see impactful research to convince her of a product's value," says Lori Bergamotto, Style Director at Good Housekeeping. "The magazine doesn't have a bias toward mass or prestige – our reader will spend money on something expensive if it works. She won't just buy something because it's a good deal. She wants quality."
No surprise: that sounds like most of us.
What do you think of all this Good Housekeeping study stuff? Too much geek for you? Or do these details make you want to try Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream (I love that it comes in a fragrance-free version – *fist bump*) if you haven't already?