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Cosmetics – are they worth it?

For those who don’t know me I am the peroxide blonde who wears too much make up and sits to the front of Hampshire sceptics in the pub. With this in mind it may surprise you as much as it does me to find that I am writing a blog post on the subject of cosmetics and their woo factor.

Rightly or wrongly people wear make up, and most of those people are women. There is a lack of up to date information that I can find but one source reports that in 2003 the cosmetics industry in the UK was worth £4.5billion, a staggering figure – goodness knows what that figure is now in 2010. It is no surprise then that manufacturers and their advertising exec’s need to come up with more and more fantastical reasons for people like me to buy their cosmetics. One section of the market as an example, exhibits a plethora of ‘natural’ cosmetics; these come adorned with added minerals, vitamins, herbs, spices, et cetera, et cetera and it is still not clear that these added ingredients provide any benefits at all to the consumer so I remain sceptical. However, this is not to say I don’t succumb to the promises made by anti ageing creams and potions and I do have about fifty lipsticks in every shade one might imagine! Partly this is to do with liking a change of face every now and then, a lot of this is to do with media pressure and a great deal of this is to do with the fact that cosmetics are often the only luxury item I can afford in contrast to say, a Prada dress. It’s a treat, and like many women I treat myself to a small piece of self esteem over and over many times a year.

When we purchase cosmetics we women should be aware that the studies of ladies who would recommend the product as claimed by the manufacturer may only have contained a couple of hundred subjects or less; we should notice that often the advertising has to carry a (usually very very tiny) footnote to say that the luscious lids of the mascara’d madam portrayed, contain infills or have been CGI’d; we should question the relevance of the same old cream with dubious added ingredients and wonder if those ingredients really help to keep us looking younger. We should think about the amount of money we spend on said cosmetics and if it’s really worth it. Finally we should demand proof that these cosmetics work, and this is something I hope to address in so far as contacting cosmetic companies and requesting data and, oh OK I might ask for the odd freebie as well. Hopefully I will have some wild claims of fountain of youth face creams and details of imaginative ingredients to report back with later in the year.

Caroline

5 comments to Cosmetics – are they worth it?

  • Linda Dewhurst

    One of the weirdest claims I’ve seen was on a tube of mascara, of all things, that was supposed to “make the lashes healthy and plump and glossy” (or words to that effect). How it was going to do that it didn’t quite say, but how the hell would we tell anyway if we are covering the lashes in mascara?
    I normally take make-up claims with a pinch of salt but that one annoyed even me.

    As you mentioned, tests for face creams are usually done on a tiny amount of people (read the small print in an Avon catalogue). And, if the creams had anything other than a temporary, cosmetic effect i.e. if they actually DID what they claimed to, then they would be classed as a pharmaceutical product.
    Although, having said that, I suppose it’s possible that some of the creams may have a more permanent effect but the cost of testing and licencing them as a pharmaceutical would be so prohibative that the companies carry on selling them as a cosmetic cream and rely on the marketing men to push sales.

    In the end I ignore the claims (well, mostly, I am a girl after all) when it comes to creams and buy what I like the look of. And when it comes to make-up, I’m a sucker for nice packaging.

  • Clio

    I too have had the thought “Gosh, I too could have eye-lashes like that if only I bought X” Somehow it never quite works…I wonder why?
    I regularly remind myself of 2 things. In blind testing what we used to call ‘cold cream’ seems to do as well as the posh stuff.
    And secondly I was only marginally happier with my looks 20-30 years ago – and I’d pay a plastic surgeon a small fortune to look like that again. So maybe we should see ourselves though the eyes of our 70-80 year old selves and be a bit more satisfied. If only ;)

  • Clio

    Interesting point about hte lasting benefit Linda, only 2 things have lasting benefit. One is any make-up with a sun protection factor in (for obvious reasons!) and the other is prescription only – for acne and extreme sun-damage. Anything else has a temporary effect, plumping the skin so filling in lines. It does annoy me when they persuade young girls to part with money thinking it will save their skin when they are older. Staying out of the sun and not smoking are the only things that’ll seriously achieve that!

  • Pretty lies

    Donchajust luv em?

  • Caroline.

    I am looking for someone to give a talk to Lewes Sceptics on the Pub on the subject of how skeptical we should be of the claims made about cosmetics and more generally on the “woo” around beauty, dieting, childcare etc that is specifically targeted at women. Would you be able to give such a talk, or perhaps know of someone who writes on this subject who might be able to do a talk for us?

    Thanks.

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