Glorified truth of beauty ads

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TREAT COSMETICS advertisements as you would an insurance policy - they cover precisely what they say they cover and no more, so always read the small print. That is not the advice of a disaffected consumer. It comes from the manager of research and development for a skin-care company.

Yet the hype in cosmetics advertising is actually a useful thing, Dr Johann Wiechers, of the ICI subsidiary Uniqema, told the British Association yesterday. "The push from the marketing departments towards hype actually works as a thriving force for product innovation," he said.

But he warned that consumers should read advertisers' phrases such as "helps to" with caution: "If it says that the product helps to stop elephants getting into your living room, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have any elephants there, does it?"

Skin-care and cosmetics companies find that customers want not only to be told that a product has an effect but to sense it as well. Angela Janousek, of Quest International, said that in an anti-cellulite product, "you might want to include an element which will make the skin throb. It's sending a message that the product works."