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Cutting through the hype of celebrity endorsed skincare products

Another week, another celebrity endorsed skincare product has been released on an already very crowded market. If you want to cut through the hype and claims of benefits here’s a couple of things to look out for.

1) Be wary of testimonials and celebrity comments
These take the form of quotes from people who use the products. While it is interesting to hear what some users say about a product, it doesn’t prove that the product does what it claims.

2) Look behind the statistics in clinical data
We’ve all seen it – the skincare products advertised on television or in magazines where a number is quoted along the lines of ‘85% of women felt that they had visibly better looking skin’. Look down the bottom of the page for the number of people actually tested, and if its 40, or 100 or even 250 its not representative enough.

How can skincare products prove that they actually work
In order to truly support the benefits of skincare products, manufacturers need to:
1) Test the formulation on enough subjects to be statistically significant. By that I mean that the number of subjects tested on is big enough so that what those subjects experience can be taken to be representative of what would be experienced by the broader population. Statisticians help determine what that number is but we are talking about many hundreds and potentially thousands of subjects

2) Do a blind clinical trial. This means that half of the subjects have the product being tested applied and the other half of the subjects are given a placebo (like a common moisturiser) with none of the subjects knowing if they are using the product or placebo. In some trials we find that subjects who use nothing more than a common moisturiser also find they experience the same benefits.

3) Use clinical measures to assess the benefits of the product. Measuring what subjects feel about using the product, or the subject assessment of the product is interesting, but not particularly scientific. Manufacturers should use measures that are scientifically accepted, robust, and can be repeated with the same result. So if I measure and someone else measures, we both get the same result.

The main reason that manufacturers don’t perform this level of testing is that it is very expensive. Some might say that they also don’t go to this level of testing because it would show that their product is no better than a common moisturiser.

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