Dirty Secrets of the Beauty Industry


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Every year, women are bombarded with miracle ingredients and revolutionary formulations in skin care products. However, these rarely live up to the cleverly marketed promises. Glorified formulations, elusive names, glamorous packaging and advertising – believe these clever marketing strategies of today and you could part with a lot of money.

What was collagen and placenta thirty years ago became liposome and co-enzyme Q10 today. Mainstream manufacturers adopt a new trend in ‘natural’ and exotic ingredients such as lotus flower, green tea and silk proteins. Every new formulation is marketed as a new breakthrough in science and gives a new dimension in today’s beauty world.

Fortunately, not everything is allowed in advertising. Misleading strategies such as skin regeneration and anti-aging results, which are not scientifically proven, are banned. However, through clever wording, manufacturers are still able to promise eternal youth. It is not allowed to say, that a cream reverses aging, but it’s perfectly legal to say that skin appears younger. Thankfully, even those claims have to be proven.

The most popular procedure used by cosmetic companies to prove results is by asking 30 women between 30 and 65 years of age, to use an anti-aging product on one part of their face and a product without the tested ingredient on the other part. After 30 days, scientists measure roughness, wrinkle deepness and moisture levels in skin. However, comparative tests with two different products are not standard. It is not enough to get a positive result. Skin has to appear better after the cream has been used. This is often described as a direct result of one of the ingredients. But there is no scientific proof whether the skin tone has improved through a particular component of the cream.

Most creams improve skin condition, particularly in terms of moisture levels. However, this gives no indication on the effectiveness of certain ingredients. Dermatologists criticize advertising slogans such as ‘allergy tested’ as this is one of the most basic and cheapest tests to conduct. It says very little about whether a product is non-irritating and safe to use.

New substances, which are regularly marketed as miracle ingredients or revolutionary, are mostly clever marketing strategies in order to boost sales figures. The trend to include exotic ingredients such as lotus flower, water lilies, ginseng and ginkgo is down to the plant’s ability to act as an anti-oxidant. However, concentrations in creams are far too low. More and more products include plant-based phyto-hormones, which should help in the fight against aging. Theoretically, these substances could work like oestrogen in the skin and increase collagen production, which in return could regenerate sun damage. However, hormonal substances are banned from being used in cosmetics. Not such a miracle component after all!

Another advertising argument is UV filters. The problem with chemical UV filters is that they are believed to mimic hormones in the body and physical filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (used in natural/organic sun creams) are difficult to turn into soft and light lotions.

According to dermatologists, skin aging is a huge jigsaw puzzle and so far, specialists have not fully understood its process. The cosmetics industry throws themselves on these puzzle pieces and formulate products based on the little knowledge we have on skin aging. Whether this puzzle is ever going to be fully resolved is questionable. Manufacturers desperately mix ingredients, which are believed to be part in developing healthy skin, into formulations which have shown positive results in lab tests: Vitamin A is believed to stimulate collagen production, Vitamin C and E fight against free radicals and co-enzyme Q10 shall reduce stress factors. A scientific proof for this, however, is missing. Dermatologists say that there is hardly any scientific data available to prove the effectiveness of Q10. What is needed are clinical, independent studies and long-term testing to prove assumptions made by the cosmetics industry. Miracles, however, shouldn’t be expected.

Aging is a democratic process; we all age, whether rich or poor, famous or not. Or is it? According to the cosmetic industry we can do something to stay young and beautiful forever. Special anti-aging repair and lifting products keep the myth alive and suggest that we can repair aged skin from the outside. All you need is the right cream, glamorously packaged, with a hefty price tag. We seem to forget that genetic make-up, hormonal imbalances, diet and life style are directly responsible for the quality of our skin tone and texture. The fantasy that special skin care can alter this is an invention of the cosmetics industry. Promises about age control, lifting and vitality, or even 60% reduction of fine lines and wrinkles are pure marketing strategies.

Fine lines may be plumped up for as long as a cream stays on the skin, and skin may appear lifted. This effect however is only for a short period of time. Applying topical creams cannot diminish deep wrinkles.

One last thought springs to mind: you are only as young as you feel.



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