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January 04, 2007

The same vat in New Jersey: Dermatologists slam skincare scams

Kudos to the New York Times and reporter Natasha Singer for laying bare the scams of skin care.

Dr. Mary Ellen Brademas, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center, said the paucity of rigorous published science on cosmetics makes it difficult to determine how well creams work, whether they cost $10, $100 or $1,000.

“People are spending $450 on a jar of cream just because it is made out of something exotic like salmon eggs or cocoons,” Dr. Brademas said. “But the cheapest products work just as well as the more expensive ones.”

A study of wrinkle creams published last month by Consumer Reports concluded that there was no correlation between price and effectiveness. The study, which tested nine brands of wrinkle creams over 12 weeks, also concluded that none of the products reduced the depth of wrinkles by more than 10 percent, an amount “barely visible to the naked eye.”

The Consumer Reports study found, for example, that a three-step regimen of Olay Regenerist products costing $57 was slightly more effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkles than a $135 tube of StriVectin-SD or a $335 combination of two La Prairie Cellular lotions.

“I am seduced by fancy packaging as much as the next person,” Dr. Brademas said. “But I have a theory that all these skin-care things come out of the same vat in New Jersey.” [NYT]

Check this: Even the industry shill doesn't claim that his products actually work...

John Bailey, the executive vice president for science of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, an industry trade group in Washington, said that skin care varies widely in price because of amounts spent on research and development of ingredients and product formulas, and the cost of manufacturing and packaging.

But, he said, it is difficult to measure performance differences among products.

“Cosmetics don’t have the same quantitative analysis as drugs, so you don’t have a set gauge you can use to determine perceived and actual benefits,” said Dr. Bailey, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry. “Ultimately, consumers will have to try products out and find what works best for them.” [NYT]

In other words, enjoy your $1800 placebo effects, you La Mer-slathering suckers.

According to the article, the only products you really need are daily sunscreen and gentle way to clean your face (i.e., a clean washcloth and a mild liquid cleanser). People with specific skin problems like acne, pigmented spots, or dry skin may need to add another product or two to target their specific condition.


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“But I have a theory that all these skin-care things come out of the same vat in New Jersey.”

Back in my second year at Victoria College (now University of Victoria), 1959-1960, my Inorganic Chemistry prof, Ed Savannah, used to tell us stories from his earlier life as an industrial chemist.

One story was about the time his boss asked him to look into the idea of producing and selling face cream.

He found that the basic ingredient could be obtained in 45-gallon drums from Shell Oil, and that all they would have to do would be to mix in some perfume and package it nicely.

Also see this great series on Noka chocolate.

You may never have kissed a woman daubed with wrinkle creams but trust me, there are a few products that taste worse than any medicine or vitamin you imagine and sometimes only high-proof liquor can wash away the taste. The reason you don't smell it on people is the low volatility of the ingredients. I'll smooch a few wrinkles gladly to be free of that memorable unpleasantness.

Well a gal should look nice for her wedding but no better than most makeup tastes, it'll be good if she showers well before retiring to the bedroom.

[I thought it was an odd link to find on your blogroll Lindsay and an oddly on-topic post for the one and only and absolutely random click that took me there.]

I think the previous owner of Creep and Blink sold the domain before moving on to a new site. I should take that off the blogroll.

Price of skin care cream found not to correlate to effectiveness! In other news to day, a dog bit a man in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

I admit, I use expensive, hard-to-find preservative-free organic skin stuff made by Ilike. It's not crazy expensive (meaning it's "only" $30 for cleanser and $50 for moisturizer). But, in my defense, I have bizarrely sensitive skin (rosacea) and the drugstore and department store stuff messes me up bad.

I wouldn't necessarily say it's "better" than the other stuff, but at least I'm not constantly getting breakouts and cysts anymore. (The last cyst I had, before I started getting facials, actually scared the dermatologist. Seriously. He walked in, saw it, and stopped dead.)

What about acne creams?

They are not really about wrinkles. They are potlatch. As such, the expensive ones intrinsically far outperform the cheaper ones.

It's my belief that there is no group of women more suckered by phony cosmetics claims than Taiwanese females past the age of 20 and before the age of 40 (I live in Taipei). Despite the fact that the GDP is roughly half that of the U.S., I'd bet you dollars to donuts that we use more La Mer per capita.

However, more recently, industrial chemistry companies have gotten in on the act by marketing their products as "DIY beauty product bases" marketed in conjunction with essential oils and additives and extracts in smart brown chemists' bottles. They're doing a roaring business.

I think I might get a shampoo base and some peppermint essential oils next time I pass their outlet...that'll wake me up in the morning.

If the acne cream you buy at the drugstore is making your acne worse -- and you've tried using salcylic acid products rather than benzoyl peroxide, which many people have a bad reaction to -- then it's definitely worth seeing a dermatologist for prescription medication.

As far as skincare, the drugstore brands that treated my crazy skin halfway decently were Olay and Aveeno. I'm definitely better with the stuff I'm using now (and my Metrogel) but those two were pretty darn good.

Oh, god, if only I wouldn't be breaking confidentiality to make pertinent commentary...

Our 7 offices and 140+ associates services the entire state of New Jersey!!

Very nice work, admin :) Good luck!i

As an organic chemist myself, it scares me when i hear "don’t have the same quantitative analysis as drugs". Cosmetics are created to cross our dermal barrier in some cases...i want to know what the heck is crossing my skin and what possible by-products are there with it. yuck.

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