Can anti-aging products really deliver as promised? The FDA is not so sure and in recent months sent warning letters to several cosmetic compaies including Avon and L’Oreal. Their concern? Questionnable claims made for some of their skin care products that included ” improve condition around stem cells”, “boosts activity of genes”, and “stimulates production of youth proteins” (???).
Can You Believe What You Read?
By law, the FDA defines cosmetics as a product used for cleansing and beautifying, but if it affects structure or function of the skin or body, it is classified as a drug. And if its a drug, it must go through extensive clinical trials to prove its both safe and effective. The FDA is asking that Avon and L’Oreal either prove their claims or change their marketing language. But seriously, some of these anti-aging claims are so remarkable that if true, would not just be a drug, but be eligible for the Nobel prize.
To be clear, women are not stupid. We just want to look good. When we read cosmetic advertising claims, we assume that manufacturers cannot make claims if they are not true. Not quite. The FDA does monitor cosmetic advertising and marketing claims, but they are poorly funded for beauty product oversight. The FDA reserves its time and muscle to make sure that cosmetics are free of toxic substances ( eg lead or arsenic) or bacterial contamination. They tend to ignore what is commonly known “puffery”– so-called harmless inflated marketing promises. Hmmm.
While puffery might seem like a victimless crime, I feel it can interfere with making the best anti-aging choices for you skin and hair needs. I really don’t understand why cosmetic claims are not held to the same standards as other goods and services. For example if a car maker claims a new model gets 30 miles to a gallon, but really only gets 20 miles per gallon, the manufacturer who made these claims would face quick fines, consumer rebates and some really awful press.
Maybe over-promised claims are a relic of the past. Today, real advances in cosmetic forulations have filled shelves with genuinely effective and affordable products that can make a real difference in you skin and hair quality. In my series on Budget Beauty Care, I explained how to assemble a truely helpful Beauty Tool Kit for less than $1.00/day. Because we can all be seduced by shiny new promises, I recommend shopping at stores with consumer friendly return policies. My favorites include Sephora, CVS and Bed and Body Works that will all cheerfully refund your money if you are not happy with your purchase. Nice.