Valid Claims and Over-Promises

What does "smoother skin" mean? "Pore-tightening"? "Wrinkle-reduction"? Are there any scientific metrics by which these marketing claims are measured? The short answer: yes, there are measurable biophysical effects to the use of certain skincare ingredients and products. The trouble is, most skincare products don’t have the scientific proof that their products actually meet these metrics. Oftentimes, claims are made on a good guess, or a hopeful wish.

Two phrase claims can only be so specific. That’s intentional. To legally make specific claims rigorous (verifiable and repeatable) research needs to be carried out, and clinical trials completed. That’s a very long and expensive process that most brands can’t afford to complete before heading to market.

These claims don’t speak to direct results, only tangential consequences. If you add water to the skin, it will be hydrated. That’s a consequence. If you add water to the skin via H-bond linking to a chain of low molecular weight Sodium Hyaluronate, the direct result is skin hydration. Of course the extent of hydration (percent skin permutation, for example) requires a series of clever clinical trials to legally make the “skin hydration” claim. The point is, there’s a spectrum of veracity when it comes to claims. In the competitive skincare world, however, there’s an arms race to sell with the fanciest-claim, but not necessarily in the rigorous science to support these claims.

The easiest way to spot a snake oil product from one with integrity is to compare the front-of-label claims to the ingredients on the back. If an ingredient listed on the front of a label is low in the ingredient list, there’s a good chance it does not perform in the formula (and on your skin) as is claimed. Often times brands will sell products with promise of one ingredient’s function, but only supply a product in which that promised ingredient plays a very minor role, and certainly not the one for which it was promised. This is most common in face wash and moisturizers, where alcohols and glycols often mimic effects to which brands give more expensive- (ahem, or natural-) sounding ingredients credit.

Before you spend a lot of money on miracle-claiming products, do a quick gut check with the ingredient list.

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