Pseudo Science Based Beauty

Happi has an article about how science is shaping the future of beauty care products. The title was very appealing to me and I eagerly began reading.

I whole-heartedly agree that to create new and innovative cosmetic and beauty products, the industry is going to have to start doing some real science. We can no longer get away with changing colors, fragrances, packaging, and stories to convince consumers that our products are really different. They are going to actually have to perform differently.

But then I read the article and was a bit disappointed. The things that Mintel considers “science based beauty” are really just more marketing stories based on scant scientific research. For example…

Pseudo Science of Skin Care

1. Gene therapy skin care. According to the article, Lancome found a link between a person’s genes and skin youth. This isn’t surprising but I don’t get how they used that knowledge to create a better performing anti-aging skin product. According to the article, proteins at the surface of the epidermis are supposed to somehow prevent wrinkles? I couldn’t find any scientific evidence that this is true. And the idea of applying a topical cream to “re-boost” the activity of youth genes is just marketing fluff. If the product actually stimulated the skin to do anything, it would have to be marketed as a drug, not a cosmetic.

2. Stem cell technology in skin care. While stem cells have made the news for their potential in treating a range of diseases, the application to skin creams and anti-aging products is premature at best. There is no evidence that stem cells (even ones that come from apples) will protect DNA and counteract premature skin aging when applied topically. This is a pseudo-science story that uses actual science terms.

3. Sirtuins. These compounds are enzymes that are supposed to prolong the lifespan of cells and slow aging. The most popular is resveratrol which can be found in red wine. With an incredible claim like this, you’d expect some incredible study that backs it up. But alas, there is no study that demonstrates topical application of sirtuins has any extra beneficial effect on skin.

I do look forward to a time when we have a breakthrough in the development of topical applications that actually reduce wrinkles or make aged skin look better.  I’m afraid that right now marketing is still getting ahead of the science.

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