There's more to cosmetics than meets the eye

Podium: Dr Chris Dederen; From a paper presented by a technical manager of the chemical firm Uniqema at the British Association's science festival

COSMETIC ADVERTISEMENTS would like us to believe the impossible. But can everything be claimed? There is indeed a delicate balance between science and hype in cosmetic claims, caused by what is technically possible on the one hand and business pressures on the other. The introduction of the Sixth Amendment to the Cosmetic Directive in 1997, requesting companies to provide evidence for cosmetic claims, has had a positive impact on the product and the consumer.

Products have improved because increased detail was given to measuring their efficacy, whereas consumers were better and more accurately informed. But the push towards hype will and should remain as a thriving force for product innovation. Hype should be regulated, but not over-regulated. Knowing when to give and take, that's the question in cosmetic claim substantiation.

"Your wrinkles will disappear within days when using our product." We've probably heard it all before. In fact, we've heard it so often but seen so little of it that we tend to agree that cosmetic claims are based on hype. Nevertheless the cosmetic industry has come a long way to tip the balance in favour of science. This work may have been forced upon them by regulatory bodies, but customers and companies have all come out as winners.

"What is a cosmetic claim?" A description given early in 1998 reads: "Claims for cosmetic products are statements made, usually in advertising, with regard to a product's functions." In reality, cosmetic claims may also relate to physical or chemical characteristics or consumer perception. I would like to focus on the most controversial claims, ie those relating to clinical efficacy. The first type of claim comprises emotive statements such as "Because I'm worth it". They refer more to the product user or the brand than the product itself and can therefore be argued not to be claims at all. They certainly do not require any substantiation. The second type of claim is the ingredient claim. Vitamin C may be described as "an anti-oxidant that helps protect the new skin that's revealed". Quoting such a statement in your ad does not mean that the product containing vitamin C will protect the new skin. However, the strength of such a claim is that it implies product efficacy. Evidence for ingredient claims needs to be provided by the company making the claim, but this can easily be obtained in the literature or from the supplier of the raw material. As a consequence, ingredient claims are most often made for well-known cosmetic ingredients such as vitamins.

The third type is the product claim: "Your wrinkles will disappear within days when using our product." An anti-ageing activity is claimed for the product itself and not merely one of its ingredients. Evidence, therefore, should be generated in studies where the marketed product is tested. These claims are technically the most difficult ones to substantiate.

The principles for creating the evidence underpinning cosmetic claims require the skills of a scientist, but the wording of the claims is crafted by marketeers or advertising agents to make the claim as attractive as possible. This may lead to unrealistic claims. In the UK, the broadcasters and publishers are legally responsible for what they release. In order to protect themselves, they have installed the British Advertising Clearance Centre (Bacc) to do the pre-vetting on their behalf. Within Europe, the Bacc is one of the toughest scrutineers of cosmetic claims. Forced by external regulation, the cosmetic industry has introduced more realistic claims and has tilted the balance towards science.

Products have improved because non-efficacious products are no longer introduced into the market and consumers are better informed. However, an advantage of the push towards hype will and should remain as a thriving force for product innovation. When we as scientists are forced by our marketeers to do the impossible, the impossible may materialise. Regulation of claims has contributed positively towards product improvement, but a degree of hype should remain, as it is creative and healthy for product innovation. If regulation could stay one step behind hype, and restrict its excesses, we might get right not only the science/ hype balance, but also the product improvement/ product innovation balance. Knowing when to give and take, that's the question in cosmetic claim substantiation.

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific