On my other blog The Beauty Brains we spend a lot of time answering questions about what beauty products work and which ones aren’t backed up by science. It’s fun, but the reality is that most of the suggested treatments have barely been scientifically studied and ones that have were done by a company who won’t publish their data. It’s a bit frustrating. That’s why I’m always happy when I find some university types investigating beauty product treatments like this research out of the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus. According to the scientists, they are investigating the beauty effects of a different types of smoothie.
I watched a video put together by the lead scientist and read the report that went along with it. Essentially, what they are doing is that they have a group of 80 subjects split into 10 groups. There are 7 different smoothie formulas being tested and one control group who gets purified mineral water. The subjects have to drink their sample every day and measurements are taken on their skin to determine if there is some effect. The test is a 6 week test.
Sadly, this seems like a nearly worthless test to me. The study doesn’t have nearly enough subjects for the number of smoothie formulas they are testing (a group of 30 for each is the minimum) and they aren’t choosing the proper controls. I mean, perhaps water is a good control but the subjects who get the water will know that they are drinking water. Maybe if they double blind the study so the people assessing the skin are blinded but even that does not guarantee an unbiased evaluation.
Not that anyone asked but if they wanted to tighten this study up a bit without having to get a bunch more people, they should cut down on the number of formulas they are going to test and try to control the food and activity that the people will have over the course of the study. It might seem a bit draconian but if you have volunteers, it can be done. The way this study is designed now, there is no way they are going to get any meaningful results.
Of course, in the cosmetic industry these kind of studies go on all the time. While this type of study would not pass scientific muster, a positive result would pass the watchdogs at media outlets where products are going to be advertised.
If you want to know whether something really works, do a solid, blind-controlled study with the proper number of subjects. But if you want to support advertising you can be a little loser with your requirements. This researchers from this university should have done the former.