camille rose naturals aloe whipped butter gel

Ever wondered why so many of your favorite products are named after food? From SheaMoisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie to Kinky Curly’s Curling Custard to Camille Rose’s Aloe Whipped Butter Gel, and all the butters, jellies, milks, soufflés and puddings in between, it seems you can’t read the name of a product for naturally curly hair without being reminded of food. Add to that the fact that many of these products smell like tropical fruits, chocolate, baked goods or something equally yummy, it does make you wonder why companies seem to want us to associate their beauty products with food.

To shed some light on the subject, I reached out to fellow curly girl, Dr. L . Vasquez, who has years of experience in the cosmetics industry and is currently focused on scientific communications and science education awareness for young girls.

Why do personal care product companies use food names?

“To answer that question we need to consider the very common, yet understudied practice of Food Imitating Products, which is basically the use of food names or appearances to identify hair products. According to Basso et al., when presented with these products, consumers are more likely to think automatically and positively about food than about an unpleasant chore, in our case wash day.”

Naming beauty products after food is not unique to natural hair products but it does seem to be more prevalent within this sub group.  Another group of products that use food names to great effect is lipsticks. In fact, a study entitled Truly Toffee and Raisin Hell: A Textual Analysis of Lipstick Names concluded that most lipsticks are named after food, sex, beverages or romance. The researcher Debra Merskin, states that “names draw upon the imagination first, then memory.” This statement echoes those of Basso et al., as referenced above by Dr. Vasquez. Basically food names are associated with good things and are easily referenced by our imaginations and our memory.

Dr. Vasquez explains that naming products after food may cause consumers to forget that these products are made of chemicals and think of them as inherently safe.

Dr. Vasquez explains that naming products after food may cause consumers to forget that these products are made of chemicals and think of them as inherently safe.

“To put it in context of the modern day, we are seeing changes in consumer behaviors towards more ‘natural’ products, so it is only logical that certain social communication aspects of advertising tend towards that direction as well – and what feels more natural than food?” On the downside, there have been requests from members of the scientific community to regulate this practice because it has created a false sense of safety for the consumer, portraying the product as more “natural” than “chemical,” and by association safer. However, in reality all matter is made of chemicals and whether something is naturally harvested or synthetically created does not tell us how safe a product actually is. Food is a safe place for most people and food terminology is universal and easily understood by everyone.

Is there a connection between the name and the appearance?

“That depends on the product, but there should be” Dr. Vasquez says. “If a product cannot deliver in its physical description, as a consumer I would feel hard pressed to trust that brand. If a hair milk is advertised, the consistency should be more fluid, if it is a pudding, it should be less fluid. The consistency of a product will change the results for the end user, so I think it is important that it at least makes sense for the buyer.”

Interested in delving further into this topic? Check out the references below and sound off in the comments section. Also check out Dr.  Vasquez’s blog,  The Hair Lab and follow her on Instagram.


Why People Drink Shampoo? Food Imitating Products Are Fooling Brains and Endangering Consumers for Marketing Purposes

Frédéric Basso , Philippe Robert-Demontrond, Maryvonne Hayek, Jean-Luc Anton, Bruno Nazarian, Muriel Roth, Olivier Oullier

Published: September 10, 2014

Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the mediated marketplace

William Leiss, Stephen Kline, Sut Jally, Jacqueline Botterill

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