Science-y-ness sells face creams
February 11, 2011
Face creams moisturize, making the skin appear supple and healthy. However, there is no reason to believe that they do more than that. The FDA does not require manufacturers to prove that cosmetic products are safe or effective but simply prohibits claims that a product alters body structure or function or treats or prevents disease.
But the lack of real science does not stop the act of near-religious faith that propels well-heeled, hopeful women from purchasing “Revive Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit” at Neiman Marcus for $1,500 for four ampuls of serum.
The Chicago Tribune, January 31, reports on the “science-y-ness” of face cream claims, a term borrowed from Dr. Ben Goldacre. In his book, “Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks and Pig Pharma Flacks,” Goldacre says that “science-y-ness is used decoratively as marketing in a way that is meaningless.”
For example, Perricone MD Cosmeceuticals states that one of their ingredients, DMAE, “allows for face-lift benefits as well as other long lasting anti-aging contributions when applied to the face or taken as a supplement.” Perricone supports these claims with consumer studies. A medical literature search turned up no clinical trials though several small published studies have looked at its effect on skin cells, suggesting it can help with firming. Pharmacologist Francois Marceau, Laval University, Quebec City, found that when skin cells were exposed to DMAE tiny compartments inside the cells swelled and some cells died. The swelling is a likely explanation for skin thickening or firming. Marceau said this is not necessarily dangerous, but has not been properly analyzed scientifically.
“The Youth As We Know It Moisture Cream” from Bliss, selling for $79 at Sephora boasts that it has the “10 most anti-aging ingredients” and helps to “promote collagen production” and “boost oxygen microcirculation.” When asked to back up these claims with scientific studies, Bliss spokeswoman Brooke Temner writes, “There are studies on the raw materials executed by our raw material suppliers that demonstrate the ingredients’ functionality, however, Bliss is not at liberty to share this proprietary information.”
Dermatologists interviewed for the Tribune story said most skin creams are harmless, so if you like a luxury cream, enjoy it, but don’t expect it to be any better than Neutrogena or Cetaphil. If you want to improve your facial appearance, contact the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and arrange a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.
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