Tuesday, 15 January 2008

#61 Premature Estimation

To understand just how little guidance real women get when questing after skincare solutions, one need only recall the recent frenzy for Boots No 7 Protect & Perfect - with thousands of people (the men all apparently buying for partners) diving to get their hands on the latest 'elixir of youth.' What this serum had, that far fewer anti-ageing counterparts have been subject to, was some TV time behind it - forming part of a much-watched Horizon documentary shown late last year. So, can anyone even remember the facts behind the product? Or has hype overtaken sense yet again?

To recap, laboratory tests were headed up by an expert dermatologist - who tested No 7 Protect & Perfect and deemed it to be effective at combating sun damage.

Ah. If only it were that simple. The fact is, the test was a very small one involving just 9 volunteers... oh, and it was carried out on their forearms - not their faces.

Following the results of the initial 'HORIZON' experiment, the dermatologist (Professor Chris Griffiths), has since initiated a six-month double-blind clinical trial, involving 60 volunteers: “We are giving the cream to 30 people to use on their faces and a normal moisturiser to 30 more as a placebo. At present we are about halfway through the trial, although we have not started assessing the results yet.”

So, this is the real test. I mean, it involves actual people's faces, which is a good place to start when trying to assess whether or not a face cream works...

Of course, cosmetics companies aren't stupid. If they are to claim significant 'skin-healing' benefits that border on pharmaceutical, it would then be necessary to subject said products to an enormous battery of expensive tests that could take years. Our governing bodies might allow cosmetics companies free reign over their own research (which is not to say that most companies don't carry out impressive, stringent and exhaustive tests - well, would you risk the lawsuit?!) but pharmaceutical companies do not get the same grace - which is why we now have the frustratingly wooly term, cosmeceutical, being used to describe cosmetics with 'pseudo-pharmaceutical' benefits - a word which has, of course, been invented by the cosmetics companies themselves.

The galling thing about the No7 debacle is not that it isn't a good product. It might well be - and yes, the forearm cells of those 9 volunteers did show elevated levels of two proteins within the skin that ensure its elasticity - but we're talking about 9 people, 9 forearms - and this is all it takes to spark a 6million-&-counting shopping frenzy?

Perhaps it's got something to do with the number 7? The latest craze? The Athena 7 Minute Face Lift (currently being snatched from Harvey Nick's shelves faster than I can type the word 'HYPE') - which contains nothing more than a blend of organic essential oils (although, there are 12 of these, not 7 - that would've been freaky).

I have a pot here and will happily send it to the first person who emails in and is interested in testing it. Why haven't I bothered myself? Because I don't need my reflection to tell me that a pot of cream cannot make me look 18 again. It might be wonderful, it might be the holy grail of face masks, it might take my mug from corned beef to fillet steak, but it will most certainly not make me look as though I have had a facelift. My omniscient beauty ed's ego might be a bit inflated, I'll admit that - but I guarantee it won't be anywhere near as inflated as these readily proliferated product claims. So there.

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