No matter where you shop for skin-care or makeup products, you’ll find one or more product labels with claims that are misleading, false, or exaggerated. Chances are you’ve bought products partly on the basis of the following claims.
While the Food & Drug Administration has primary responsibility for cosmetics safety such as labeling and ingredients, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising claims and expects advertisers to have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to support any claims made regarding products. Companies must also be able to substantiate all reasonable interpretations of their claims, including messages they may not have intended to convey. The FTC may challenge an advertisement based on the fact that it is:
- False or deceptive
- Likely to mislead reasonable consumers
- Likely to influence consumer purchasing decisions or affect important consumer decisions
Likewise, The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureaus and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) are self-regulating bodies that review factual claims for truthfulness and accuracy. Both organizations offer alternative dispute resolution and accept cases involving:
- Product performance claims
- Superiority claims against competitive products
- Scientific and technical claims
Top 4 Most Commonly Used Cosmetics Claims
Now that we know how cosmetics claims are regulated, here are the top 4 most commonly used cosmetics claims.
Hypoallergenic is meant to imply that a product is unlikely or less likely to cause allergic reactions and, therefore, is better for allergy-prone or sensitive skin types.
What to look for instead: If sensitive or allergy-prone skin is of concern, look for products that are free of irritants. The major irritants that show up in products are fragrance (both synthetic and natural fragrance) and alcohol (isopropyl or SD alcohol).
Won’t Clog Pores
No matter what a product contains, a company can claim that their product won’t cause breakouts even if it contains ingredients that are known to trigger breakouts. Unfortunately, purchasing oil-free products does not guarantee that a breakout will not occur for oily or breakout-prone skin.
What to look for instead: Avoid products that have a thick, creamy consistency as these ingredients are prone to clog pores making skin feel greasy. Choosing products that have a liquid, gel, serum, or thin, water-based lotion consistency are essential, as products with thinner textures are less likely to clog pores or worsen breakouts.
Dermatologist-approved or dermatologist-tested
Dermatologist-approved could mean something or it could mean nothing at all. The challenge is that consumers do not know what standards the dermatologist used to approve the product. Likewise, we are unaware how much time was devoted to testing the product formula or how or if the dermatologist designed the study substantiate the company’s claim.
What to look for instead: Try not to depend on dermatologist endorsements and focus on finding products containing ingredients that have proven to be effective for your skin – such as broad-spectrum sunscreens, antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, and well-formulated exfoliates.
Specially formulated for mature skin
A number of products claim to fight signs of aging. In reality, age is not a skin type – concerns focus on wrinkles, sagging, and uneven skin tone. Women of all ages can struggle with oily skin, dry skin, breakouts, redness, and sensitivity. “Mature skin” isn’t automatically dry skin, any more than acne-prone skin is only for teens. There are no special formulary standards that make products labeled “for mature skin” any better than products formulated for other skin types.
What to look for instead: As most products in this category are emollient moisturizers, it is important to find products with quality ingredients and follow a consistent skin-care routine that addresses the needs of your skin type and your skin concerns.
Remember This, Take Action
If you purchase a product that doesn’t perform as claimed on the label or as advertised take it back to where you purchased the item. Also, if the product is causing harm contact the FDA and the brand and let them now your experience. Taking action can prompt our favorite brands to develop products that meet both our needs and desires as their loyal fans and customers.
- FDA, Cosmetics
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The National Advertising Division
- Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program
- Clinics in Dermatology
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
- Clinical Experiments in Dermatology
- Ostomy and Wound Management
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