Monday, April 23, 2007

Beauty "Must-Haves" In The Age of Global Warming

Like a lot of people, I think it's great that our country has grown much more environmentally aware in the last few years, mostly due to the efforts of Mr. "I invented the Internet" himself, Al Gore. While I sometimes question whether the media exaggerates the environmental disaster scenarios, I'm glad to see that people are stepping back to think about the impact of their actions upon the environment. Hollywood celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and Julia Roberts add sex appeal to the whole "go green" movement, and I've seen enough Annie Leibovitz spreads featuring beautiful people writhing in the grass and hugging trees to make me feel guilty on those days when I sleep in an extra 10 minutes and drive instead of walk to class.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before companies tried to exploit our collective fear of global warming and environmental demise to shill products. Surprise surprise, the first industry to jump on the bandwagon was the beauty industry.

Now the industry has gotten desperate enough to capitalize on the environmental craze and invent treatments for skin conditions that previously did not exist. Take for example, Clarins new Expertise 3P.
A few spritzes a day of this stuff (which retails for $40 at Sephora) promises to protect skin from "the aging effects of Artificial Electromagnetic Waves," "indoor and outdoor pollution," creating an "imperceptible physical film on the skin to reinforce the skin's own natural protective barrier." In addition, it "protects against biological stress" and "increases cellular energy."

Until now, I didn't realize that my cells were feeling particularly sluggish (a few cups of coffee might do the trick, and it's a lot cheaper), but these threats aren't very convincing to me. I tend to be skeptical of any beauty product that claims miracle results for problems I never knew existed, but maybe I'm being too tough on this product...

Now there's a reason that I'm studying art history and not science, so I decided to consult The Beauty Brains, two cosmetic scientists who blog about the chemistry and biology of cosmetics. Wielding an eyeliner brush in one hand and a pipette in the other, these ladies cut through every kind of marketing hype, giving product loving consumers like us all the info we need to actually understand beauty products, as opposed to simply appreciating them. Here's what the Left Brain had to say about Expertise 3P:

"This has got to be one of the most ridiculous new products I’ve heard about in a long time.

While I couldn’t find a complete ingredient list, I was amused to read about their “Magnetic Defense Complex with Thermus Chermophilus and Rhodiola Rosea, two powerful plant extracts which reinforce the skin’s natural barrier and provide biological protection against electromagnetic waves.” Puh-lease! This can’t possibly work. To block electromagnetic fields you would need some kind of metal or insulator. This is just ridiculous.

Even if these ingredients DID absorb EM radiation, you’d have to smear them ALL over your body before they would protect you. And finally, even if these ingredients DID work and even if you DID apply the product all over your body, there is absolutely no demonstrated negative effect on skin due to the electromagnetic fields created by cellphones or computers."

Thanks, Brains!

Anti-aging cosmetics is a very big business, and if cosmetics companies can piggyback on the environmental craze to come up with a new source of aging, whether it's from cellphone waves or "biological stress," you know they're going to do it. Really want to prevent aging caused by environmental damage to the skin? Go to the drugstore and pick up a good sunscreen. What frustrates me in particular about the marketing for this product is their use of all these pseudo-scientific words and phrases, which are intended to make you feel like they know something important that you don't. If a company is going to talk down to me, they can't expect that I'll want to purchase their products.

What are your thoughts?


Emma said...

It always makes me giggle when I encounter a beauty counter girl who tries to blind me with the 'terribly important science' that accompanies their company's products, stating that if I didn't buy the product immediately, well I might as well phone the funeral parlour tomorrow as I don't have long left.

Of course, I giggle even more if (when I'm having one of my more spiteful days) I question the science and all I get is a stuttered quasi-answer that is completely wrong :)

Natalie said...

Meg - Thanks for the post! Definitely sure now that I will NOT be buying into this product. Great research!

Laura said...

Whenever I read exceptionally silly claims on products, I am reminded of all the hilarious old ads my mom and I used to pore over -- devices to wear to bed to remove your double chin, contraptions and snake oils and all kinds of wonderful patent medicines.

This kind of thing is nothing new, except that now instead of a small-town charlatan peddling his wares, it's gleaming multinational corporations. Good times!