Say What? Skin Care Advertising Hype Revealed
- Posted by Anna on June 23, 2011 at 02:04PM
I consider myself to be somewhat literate when it comes to reading labels. Forty dollars for a maxi dress means I just scored myself a deal on a cute, trendy outfit. Three hundred calories for a poppy seed bagel means I will have to jump on the treadmill at some point today. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil means don't, under any circumstance, allow whatever it is into my mouth. You get the point -- one thing means another and I'm not a complete idiot.
However, when it comes to reading labels on skin care products, it's easier than you might think to get confused. Despite possessing what I believe to be a somewhat healthy knowledge of the beauty industry, I am still guilty of getting sucked into advertising hype.
Walking up the drugstore aisle or perusing the department store beauty counters, we are bombarded with advertising buzzwords. And as tempting as it might be to take something like 'clinical formula' or 'patented' as cold, hard evidence for the product's unique ability to say, fight wrinkles, we should know that some phrases are really just eye-catching (yet purposely vague) promises.
But how do they get away with using these sometimes misleading terms? Dr. Channing Barnett, a board certified Manhattan dermatologist, says the industry is full of these unclear terms because they imply substantial benefits that don't really have to be backed by science. She says that as long as the buzzwords don't "claim to change the body's structure or function, companies don't need FDA approval to market new products to the public and are not required to provide any research to prove their claims."
Here are eight popular terms Dr. Barnett says to watch out for:
1. 'Patented' or 'pantent pending'
"Patents can be granted to companies that manufacture or combine materials in new ways. But just because something is patented doesn't mean it works."
2. 'All natural'
"This one really bugs me! It doesn't mean the product is organic or chemical-free."
"The US Department of Agriculture certifies organic food ingredients found in cosmetics, but not essential oils or plants used for cosmetic purposes. To carry the USDA Organic seal, a product must contain at least 95 percent organic food ingredients. Other countries have their own organic certification labels, such as COSMOS and NaTrue in the European Union and NASAA in Australia."
"Think this guarantees you won't have a reaction? Think again. These products can still contain ingredients some people are allergic to, including preservatives and fragrance."
"These products may not have a noticeable smell, but can still contain 'masking' scents to cover up ingredients with unpleasant odors. Look for the words 'no fragrance added' instead."
"While non-comedogenic products are usually oil-free and therefore less likely to cause breakouts, there's no guarantee they won't. In fact, many contain dimethicone, a known acne aggravator."
7. 'Helps premature aging'
"Perhaps the most appealing of all claims from a consumer standpoint is this statement. If a product truly prevented premature aging by affecting the structure of the skin, it would be classified as a drug and therefore would require FDA approval. Manufacturers circumvent this by utilizing the fact that sunscreens prevent premature aging by decreasing the damaging effects of ultraviolet light on the skin. Therefore, if a product contains sunscreen, it may state 'prevents premature aging' on the label."
8. 'Clinical formula'
"This has no real meaning. It does not necessarily indicate that the formula was produced in a medical clinic, as the manufacturers would have people believe. 'Clinically tested' could very well indicate that the product was tested, but what was it tested for? What were the results? Essentially, this marketing claim is meaningless."
Skin care products aren't the only things subject to fluffy hype. Check out what readers say are the six most overly-hyped products here.
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