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Misleading Scientific Terms in Cosmetics Anti-Ageing Face Creams. Beauty Glossary Ingredients in Cream

Skinflation: Medical Speak in Creams Confuses Consumers

Sometimes it really does feel like you need to have a Masters in Science to buy a pot of face cream. Stem cells, antioxidants, Q-10, active enzymes; it's enough to confuse even the most devoted of beauty queens.

That's one reason why my beauty glossary is so useful and now the New York Times agrees, with a report on how confusing scientific language is actually alienating women wanting to spend on skincare. The article states: "Once the province of academic journals, the latest concepts in science are trickling down to fashion magazines in the form of advertising campaigns for beauty products...Call it skinflation, the spiraling increase in beauty marketing that employs science buzzwords whose meaning may be lost on consumers."

For how brands can mislead consumers and what you should do, simply read more.

The newspaper cites the example of the Olay Regenerist line of face treatments which tout the company’s “Aquacurrent Science” as a skin care technology “that helps reverse the look of lines and wrinkles.” According to the Olay adverts, this technology was inspired by the discovery of aquaporin water channels (pores that conduct water in and out of cells) for which Dr. Peter Agre won a Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Similarly, a jar of one of my favourite anti-ageing creams, M-Lab, offers "a matrix of peptides, anti-oxidants and hydration factors (to) provide skin firming, retained softness, dermal elasticity, and the reduced appearance of fine lines and wrinkles". Sounds impressive, huh? However, in certain cases this use of scientific language only confuses the consumer and at the very least gives the impression of a medical cure, as oppose to a cosmetic product.

The New York Times quotes Erin McKean, a lexicographer who is the editor of the second edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary. She offered textual analysis of the words and phrases that are becoming common place in skincare. She told the paper that expressions like cellular, regeneration, bio-stimulating and cell-strengthening connotes health, not just beauty.

“The idea is, it is not vanity, it is medicine,” Ms. McKean said. “Sure, you are going to look great, but what you are really doing is helping your skin on the inside.”

Whilst cosmetics companies employ scientists who conduct high-level research into skin aging, and incorporate their discoveries into products; the brands themselves certainly do have a responsibility to back up their claims with research and evidence. Meanwhile, we can all be a little more sceptical about the promises on our face creams. Perhaps reading a medical textbook (or the Bella Glossary) once in a while wouldn't go amiss, either.


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