News / 

Skin and Advertising Hype

Save Story

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.


There are many phrases used on the bottles and packaging of fragrances, soaps, and skin care products which are meant to lure the consumer into purchasing what is being advertised. To what degree is this marketing tactic fact or fiction? What significance do the following buzz words have for lay people: natural , hypo-allergenic, clinically tested, "helps prevent pre-mature aging." We asked New York City skin care specialist and founder of Mir Skin Dr. Tabasum Mir to clear up some of the medical jargon.

These days, one would almost need a degree in chemistry to understand some of the catch phrases on skin care products. Gone are the days when simple statements such as "oil free" would suffice. Perhaps the most common phrase is clinical formula. As Dr. Mir explains, "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."

What woman has not heard the term non-camedogenic? How many know what it means? "The surprising answer," says Dr. Mir, "is that the literal translation means that the product will not cause pimples when applied to rabbit's ears. The significance of this claim remains inconclusive. Unless one is purchasing products for a pet rabbit, choose a skincare products based on other merits. The phrase allergy tested is also one that is over used. While it does mean that the product was tested for allergic reaction, what the consumer does not know is how was it tested, on whom, and what were the results? Dr. Mir adds that, "similarly the phrase dermatologist tested could mean that a dermatologist did test the product and found it to be of no benefit at all! Therefore, the advertiser is not making a false claim. A dermatologist did test it."

Hypo-allergenic - almost no product is advertised sans this phrase. Dr. Mir stresses that, "this simply means that the product causes less allergy, but less than what? The label does not mean that is causes no allergy." Natural is yet another loosely used term. Says Dr. Mir, "if a product contains some natural ingredients, it is called a natural products despite the fact that the product is loaded with synthetic fragrances, coloring agents, and product-enhancing chemicals."

Perhaps the most appealing of all claims from a consumer standpoint is "helps pre-mature aging." Dr. Mir states that, "this is false. 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. Manufactures 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."

According to the FDA, cosmetics are substances that are applied to the human body for cleaning and promoting attractiveness. "They are not topical medications and should not be confused with them," says Dr. Mir. Today, many cosmetic manufacturers capitalize on this confusion by promoting so called anti-aging creams. Legally, cosmetic manufacturers do not need to prove that the products do what they claim to. If a cosmetic product claims to nourish the hair, the manufacturer does not need to prove that is true. If a drug product claims that its product can grow hair, the new drug must grow through years of testing to prove not only is it safe for human use, but that it can grow hair as it claimed to.

As Dr. Mir explains, "existing legislation does not require the cosmetics manufacturer to prove that people will be helped by the product. The burden of choosing falls on the consumer. There are better ways to choose cosmetics than relying on deceptive advertising or the lure of eye catching bottles. The key lies in being able to read and understand ingredient labels." The FDA requires that all cosmetic display a product ingredient label and specifies that the ingredients must be listed in order of their relative amounts as contained in the product. This means that the first ingredients listed on the label must comprise most of the product. "It is common to find that the ingredient that gets all of the media hype is the one contained in the smallest amount," says Dr. Mir. By knowing this, it is easier to determine whether a small amount of an ingredient is worth the excessive difference in price between a designer name product or a similar, less expensive product.

Finally, Dr. Mir advises consumers to, "educate themselves as to what a product's ingredients are, what effect they have on an individual's skin, and whether or not they are necessary. People may find that they have to reassess what they have been using and spending and start again using very simple, basic products."

© Health News 2003 All Rights Reserved.

Most recent News stories


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast