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The story doesn’t end there, fortunately for Cupid. Eventually Psyche eventually woke up and they lived happily ever after. While it’s nice to see true love triumph, the myth does leave a nagging question for us science types can cosmetics really relax you enough to make you fall asleep? Believe it or not, modern science suggests that this may actually be possible.
Does Aromatherapy Really Work According to an article in the April 2004 Issue Of Natural Health, Namni Goel, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. conducted a study that indicates that smelling lavender oil can make you sleep more deeply.
122 - The Science of Smell His study involved 15 women and 10 men who were asked to intermittently sniff one of two vials for 30 minutes before sleep. One vial contained lavender oil, the other contained an odorless control (the panelists were told this might be a scent diluted so much that it was undetectable.) Then, using electrodes, Goel measured the sleeping panelist’s brain waves.
His results showed that the panelists who sniffed lavender oil had significantly increased slow-wave sleep brain patterns which is indicative of a very deep stage of sleep. While this research doesn’t mean that lavender can replace sleeping pills, it does indicate there may be a valid scientific basis for some aromatherapy claims.
Chapter 9 Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz The 3 Biggest Lies That Cosmetic Companies Tell You
I’m testing out Arbonne right now, but am thinking I can’t afford it. My motherin-law is a “beauty consultant” for BeautiControl and they seem to have a pretty extensive line of skin care products. Do you know anything about the quality of their line (I’m looking mainly at cleansers, toners, anti-aging products and moisturizers) and/or can you recommend any of their products?
The Left Brain Lashes Out:
Based on what I’ve seen, the Beauticontrol products seem to be of reasonable quality. They’re also very pricey, but if you can afford them, that’s 124 - Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz your decision.
What bugs me, and the reason that I would not recommend them, is the way the company hypes their products. I understand the need for creative marketing, but when a company makes statements that border on untrue, that disturbs me. I just hate being lied to and I REALLY hate being lied to under the guise of science. To me there’s at least 3 tip offs when a company is stretching the truth about their products. Let me give you some examples
1. Claims of Exclusivity What’s the lie?
They tell that “only” their products can give you a certain benefit.
What’s the truth?
The truth is, unless they have a patent or a documented trade secret, they’re using the same technology as everyone else in the industry.
What’s the example?
Beauticontrol says “only BeautiControl offers comprehensive, customized skin care that addresses what your skin needs when it needs it.” Based on their product catalog they appear to have typical cleansers, toners, lotions, etc. that are offered by many, many other companies. Why do they say “only” Beauticontrol offers this kind of treatment?
2. Implying Superior Performance without Substantiation What’s the lie?
They tell you their product works better than anyone else’s.
What’s the truth?
If they make claims like that they’d better have some kind of proof.
Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz - 125 What’s the example?
Beauticontrol says “Far beyond traditional dry, combination and oily skin care, BeautiControl takes an innovative, personal approach, to provide total skin wellness through” Blah, blah blah. Again, with conventional products there is no way they can convince me that their products are far beyond traditional ones. Yes, they may be applying a different marketing spin, but there is no technology muscle behind their mouth.
3. “Magic” Ingredient Claims What’s the lie?
They say that some sexy sounding ingredient makes the product work.
What’s the truth?
In reality, most of the time it’s the formula as a whole and not any single ingredient that makes the product work.
What’s the example?
Beauticontrol says one of their products is “formulated with the rejuvenating minerals of the Dead Sea.” Minerals don’t rejuvenate skin, moisturizing agents do.
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, maybe Beauticontrol isn’t “lying” to us (I’m going to catch hell from the Right Brain for this) but they certainly are overstating the uniqueness of their line. And as a scientist, that kind of hype turns me off.
Are You Confused By Organic Products Too?
For chemists like the Beauty Brains, the meaning of ‘organic’ is clear. It is any chemical compound that contains Carbon. In fact, to get a college chemistry degree you take a year of Organic Chemistry where you memorize endless chemical reactions between hydrocarbons, oxygen, nitrogen and more.
126 - Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz Many a chemist wannabe switched to marketing degrees after flunking organic chemistry.
What does organic mean for cosmetics?
But ‘organic’ doesn’t quite mean the same thing in the cosmetic industry.
To consumers it can mean ‘natural’, ‘green’, ‘chemical free’, or ‘found at Whole Foods’. But according to this article, the US organics market is completely confused. Primarily because there is no industry-agreed meaning for terms like ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. Unlike the farming industry, these terms are not regulated for cosmetics. Companies can pretty much claim anything is natural or organic.
For example, imagine a body wash formula. It contains all kinds of synthetic surfactants, fragrances, preservatives and colors. But it also contains 85water. A company might simply claim “90% organic or natural” and be telling the truth. Certainly, this isn’t in the spirit of what people believe organic to mean, but it is within the law.
Our good friends at Burt’s Bees are outraged by the tricks some companies are playing on the public. They are campaigning to get tighter regulations on cosmetics that use terms such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. Stay tuned to see if they will make a difference.
Are organic products better?
Incidentally, natural or organic cosmetic products don’t really provide any added benefit for consumers. Most companies are just fooling you when they say their products are natural. What isn’t? And for companies like Burt’s Bees who strive to make ‘organic’ or ‘all-natural’ products, their finished products are mostly functionally inferior to more mainstream products. This is the real trade-off of natural or organic products. That and an incredibly higher cost for an inferior product.
Remember cosmetics are not food. No one has ever proven there is a benefit to ‘organically’ derived cosmetics.
We frequently field questions asking if expensive name brands are better than other products (See e.l.f. as an example.). Our answers usually deal with the functional aspects of the formulas and we routinely find that there are good and bad quality products at all price points.
Why advertising works But here’s a scientific study we found that sheds some light on WHY people tend to like these expensive (and usually well advertised) brands better.
According to this article on brains and branding, researchers at University Hospital in Munich Germany used Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology to scan people’s brains while they were shown different brand logos. The more popular logos “lit up areas of the brain associated with warm emotions, reward and self-identity while less-recognized brands triggered more activity in brain regions associated with working memory and negative emotions — suggesting these products were less easy to process and accept. Hmmm. Maybe that explains why I start to drool when looking at the Tiffany catalog.
The Beauty Brains bottom line This study is part of a new scientific trend called neuroeconomics in which psychologists, neuroscientists, radiologists and marketing experts work together to unravel the mysteries of the consumer’s mind. Fascinating stuff but just a little bit scary!
128 - Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz 5 Home Beauty Gadgets That Really Work
I’ve read that an at-home tool called a Wellbox is supposed to help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Has anyone tried this device with promising results, or is this a waste of (significant) money?
The Right Brain Responds:
Megan, we’ve blogged about cellulite treatments before, and they really don’t do much. At best they only give you a very minor, temporary effect so you should probably save your money. But you might be interested to know that there ARE several new beauty gadgets on the market that really do work.
At least according to a Dermatology Times article that quotes Dr. Thomas Rohrer, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology, Boston University Medical Center. He says that “We are getting to the point where, for certain things, patients may be able to treat themselves safely and fairly effectively at home.” However, Dr. Rohrer also points out that these treatments are still less effective than the devices used by physicians: “They’re not going to be nearly as powerful” but “they may be effective enough…to improve some
conditions.” Here are 5 beauty gadgets that Dr. Rohrer says really work:
1. Hair-removal (the Epila SI 808 Laser and the Spa Touch from Radiancy) According to Dr. Rohrer, Spa Touch showed moderate efficacy with patients reporting an average 66% reduction in unwanted hair counts. At nine months follow-up, patients noted about a one-third reduction. Furthermore, there were a minimal side effects.
2. Hair loss (HairMax LaserComb from Lexington International LLC) This device is one of only three treatments that are FDA-approved for hair growth. Dr. Rohrer says that “in a 26-week, multi-center, placebo-controlled study with this device, 93 percent of subjects noticed an increase in hair count.” Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz - 129
3. Acne devices (Zeno from Tyrell and ClearTouch Lite from Radiancy) Both devices thermally treat acne lesions and according to the Dr., Zeno achieved 90 percent reduction in lesion counts in one to two days.
4. Facial photo-rejuvenation (NuLase from NuLase International LLC and ClearTouch Lite from Radiance) Light Emitting Diode devices are safe, relatively pain-free, and can provide “subtle but real changes in the skin.”
5. Facial Toning (Facial Toning Device from Radiancy) Dr. Rohrer claims the Radiancy devices uses LHE technology and is capable of reducing age spots and wrinkles. However, the study he cited has not yet been published so we’re more skeptical on this one.
How Salon Brands Get Away With Lying To You A comment from a salon operator who’s concerned
about L’Oreal buying Pureology:
I just noticed that the first ingredient listed in the Pureology shampoos and conditioners is now water. It`s crazy how L’Oreal buys them and the first thing they do is “water down” the product (but not the price). My clients loved that there was no water in the products because they so concentrated. They really liked the first ingredient listed being certified botanical extracts. I guess I’ll have to switch my Pureology clients over to something else because it’s no longer unique.
The Left Brain responds:
I certainly can’t tell you what products you should recommend for your clients, but as a scientist I do want to help you understand the science of what you’re selling.
Small companies can be sneaky The old Pureology shampoos and conditioners are good, although overpriced, products. But just because the first ingredient is a botanical blend 130 - Scandals and Secrets of the Beauty Biz instead of water doesn’t mean the products are more concentrated. And it certainly doesn’t mean the products didn’t contain any water!
What it really means is that Pureology was a small independent salon company, and they chose not to strictly follow the cosmetic labeling laws.
Many small companies use this trick of listing extracts first, thus making it look like they don’t have any water. Don’t fall for it! It’s one of the oldest tricks in this industry and it’s misleading and unfair. The formula is still mostly water!
Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other agencies that fight this kind of consumer fraud are too busy with more serious issues and don’t have time to chase after small companies who are tricking consumers with these kind of labeling lies.
Bigger companies follow the law Since L’Oreal is a much bigger company they tend to play by the rules that all the big companies are held to. In the end, this is better for the consumer because you’re getting more truth. Instead of being upset with L’Oreal, you should be thankful that they’re labeling the products honestly.
And by the way, since L’Oreal has a much larger research staff than Pureology, any formula changes they made are probably for the better!
The Beauty Brains bottom line As we’ve said many times, if you like a product and you can afford it, buy it.
But if you’re buying a product because of hype you hear from the company that sells it, you’re being fooled. Save your money and buy something less expensive!
Our friends at Real Simple magazine have a great online series about how to fix broken beauty products. They describes the cause of each problem, how to fix it, and how to take steps to prevent it from happening again. Nicely done, Real Simple!
Here is the list along with a few comments of our own. You can go to the Real Simple webpage to see their summary and pictures.
1. Broken Lipstick After you make the repairs they suggest, you can make your lipstick shine like new by VERY CAREFULLY passing it over a candle flame. Kids don’t try this at home!