'Face Feeling' Is a Serious Business

PHOTO: Face Feelers use their tactile senses to observe the effect of personal care products.

Are you looking to take a more hands-on approach to your career? Then perhaps becoming a trained "face feeler" is on your professional horizon.

Face feelers, also known as "sensory scientists," are behind the product testing of personal care items. Everything from face cleansers to razors have been evaluated by these professional feelers.

“Sensory scientists are trained experts who are able to form an objective opinion about a product,” Judy Heylmun, a sensory scientist of 35 years and president of Fore Sense + One, a company focused on product sensory research, told ABC News.

Face feelers use their hands to feel the faces of consumers who are testing a product, using their tactile senses to determine the product’s effect.

Such sensory testing is serious business, with some sensory researchers attending a European conference this week to set the standards of sensory testing internationally, ensuring that every sensory scientist is following the same protocol.

“They go through numerous hours of training,” Heylmun said of the process of becoming a sensory expert.

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The first step in the road to becoming a face feeler is the screening process.

“When you’re screening, you ask [candidates] questions like, ‘Are you available? Do you have hands?’” said Heylmun. “You obviously need to make sure they have fingers and hands.”

Candidates also undergo an acuity screening, which tests their tactile sensitivity and ability to detect small differences in the skin.

“If they have baby oil on one hand and Vaseline on the other, can they tell the different between them? We need see their ability to detect product differences,” Heylmun explained.

After the screening process, it’s time for training, which typically takes about three months.

During training, the sensory scientists are taught how to clinically describe what they are feeling, using measures such as gloss, shine, and drag, or slipperiness, to convey their analysis. After months of training and practice, candidates are official face feelers.

Here’s a typical day for these tactile professionals.

Two or three face feelers would test around 25 to 50 consumers who might have one lotion on one side of their face and a different lotion on the other. The feelers would go around and feel the faces of the consumers to get a measure of how the product would work across a broad range of people.

Interested in face feeling? There’s no academic requirement to be a sensory scientist, but the training is intensive.

“Think of it as learning a language or learning to play golf,” said Heylmun. “Some people may have a natural skill, but you never knew how to speak Spanish or play golf until you were taught.”

Face feelers can also be trained in other areas of the sensory evaluation field as well, so if faces aren’t your thing, perhaps feeling hair or arms would be more your style.

Typically working two to three hours a day, two to three days a week, these sensory scientists can expect to make roughly $10 to $25 an hour, and Heylmun said she’s known Sensory Scientists who have practiced the trade for over ten years.

“It makes for a nice part time job,” said Heylmun.

So, if you’re feeling like a change of pace, perhaps you should try feeling faces.

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