The multi-billion dollar beauty industry has a few deep, dark secrets in the closet that they don’t want you to know about – but in this article we’ve thrown open the door and shone our Brightreviews light! 

1. There’s nothing wrong with you if you have wrinkles. 

Aging is perfectly normal and it happens to everyone. “Aging is not a disease any more than puberty or menopause are,” said S. Jay Oishansky, professor of Public Health at University of Illinois, Chicago in an article for Marketwatch. But relentless marketing has convinced an aging population that they need to remain looking young. As the 76 million Baby Boomers grey and retire, this has resulted in a explosion in sales of all sorts of creams, lotions, injections, and surgeries rising to $261.9 billion in 2013, almost $100 billion more than 2008. That’s a lotta Botox!

2. A cheap product is often as effective as a $100 cream.

For example, Matryxl was introduced in 2000 and was a popular ingredient in many fancy creams. Now, Matryxl is used in many over-the-counter products that are a fraction of the price. According a scientists at Reading University in the UK, Matryxl was shown to double the amount of collagen in a small study they conducted. But you don’t need to pay hundreds for products that contain Matryxl. “I think the $5 product is as good as the expensive ones that may cost hundreds of dollars,” said Dr. Kenneth Beer a dermatology instructor at the University of Miami for an article in Newsmax. (Read more about cheap vs. expensive skin creams here.)

3. There is no such thing as a cosmeceutical.

The word is a fusion of “cosmetics” and “pharmaceutical” and designed to imply drug-like benefits to beauty products. However, this is not a term that is not recognized by the FDA. According to the FDA website “If a product has drug properties, it must be approved as a drug.” But because the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act doesn’t require cosmetics to be tested like a drug would, this has created a loophole many cosmetic companies exploit. “There is concern that the use of the term cosmeceutical is deceiving to consumers who think these products are held to the same standards as drugs and are regulated by the FDA as such,” noted Patricia K. Farris M.D. for the Dermatology Times.

4. Free Trials Aren’t Free. 

Many companies use the lure of the trial offer to get your credit card. While they may promise a 14 or 15-day trial, the fine print often reveals very strict limitations; often this 15-days starts from the date of order, not when you receive it. This can lead you to think you have more time to try the product (after all, many of them say they take several weeks to work) but before you know it, your card is charged $94.90 and you are signed up for an auto-ship program that you can’t cancel. 

Susan J. of Bloomington, MN writes us about Dermaktive:

I ordered a "FREE" 14-day trial. Before the trial period was up I was charged $174.32 for a re-order. Called their "Friendly Customer Service Rep" and got a recording instead of an actual person.

5. You may be experiencing a placebo effect. 

If you put a lotion or cosmeceutical on your skin, many people are in the mindset (or at least hope) that it will work. A an experiment conducted by Marie Lodén, Izabela Buraczewska and Karin Halvarsson published in Skin Research and Technology involved 80 women. They were given 1 of 3 products: A) an expensive anti-aging cream in a fancy jar, B) a regular moisturizer in a fancy jar, or C) the expensive cream in a neutral jar. After 6 weeks, they were asked to self-evaluate the effectiveness, were evaluated by a trained observer and also looked at under a microscope. While group B felt their cream was the most effective, there was no difference in appearance. The fancy package was merely good at people use more cream. Read more about the placebo effect here

6. The science behind these products is questionable. 

According to Dr. Ben Goldacre in his blog Bad Science cosmetic companies take lab studies of amino acids done in a test tube or petri dish and use it as proof it will do the same thing on your skin with “no explicit claim from the company that rubbing that actual amino acid on your face is what is going to make you look better.” Because of competition many of these so-called studies are also kept secret and not published in medical journals for fear of being ripped-off. Many of these studies are very small and conducted by the same company that has a vested interest in the product’s effectiveness. For more information about check out our article about how to read a clinical study here

7. There is NO Fountain of Youth! 

Perhaps this should be number #1. Time and time again, Consumer Reports has tested many products over the years and has yet to find one that truly lived up to its promise. A 2012 investigation of 9 products in various price ranges found that their ability to reduce wrinkles was “at best slight, and fell far short” of the hype in the commercial. In 2008, 51 scientists issued a paper that stated no anti-aging product in the market has been proven effective, and the same holds true today. (We searched for the so-called Fountain of Youth and concluded the same thing.)

What You Can Do

Now that you have this hidden information, we strongly suggest:

  • Never purchase any anti-aging product with a trial offer
  • If you decide you’d like younger looking skin, use an inexpensive moisturizer, don’t shell out the big bucks
  • Keep your expectations low

Here’s another tip. Since as we mentioned cosmetics are essentially unregulated and some of their ingredients have been cause for concern, we recommend you visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database where they have investigated 69,000 beauty products, including 2,570 listed as anti-aging. They rate the products’ safety and some of their results may surprise (if not scare) you. For a $5 donation you can receive their Quick Tips for Safer Cosmetics Shopping.  

Let us know what you think of our article. Did you learn anything? Tell us below!