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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Misleading Advertisements - Why Your Skin Care Product Does Not Work?

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Dr. Atul TanejaDermatologist • 30 Years Exp.MD (AIIMS), Clinical Fellow, Skin Oncology (New England Medical Centre & Boston University, USA), Clinical Fellow, Photomedicine (Mass.Gen.Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA), Clinical Fellow, Laser Surgery (Mass.Gen Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA)
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Nourishing shampoos and soaps, Skin brightening face washes, Oils for Stronger hair, Fairness creams, Split ends repairing products, Chemical free Natural products. You are bombarded with these kinds of wonderful cosmetic and medical claims on a daily basis and are tempted to try out these products. After all, they are promoted by your favourite celebrities!

Have you sometimes wondered why these products do not work and whether they are backed by any rigorous scientific evidence? Here are just a few examples of how many advertisements are simply outright lies while others are extremely misleading.

  1. Nourishing washes, medicated soaps: From a simple chemistry perspective, when you apply a good wash or soap onto your skin, you expect it to latch on to all the accumulated dirt, sweat and oil on your skin. And with the act of rinsing, all these should be washed off with the rinsing water. Now if your wash or soap is effective enough to wash of oils and dirt, would it not wash off any additional product that is added within it? So all that added 'nourishment and 'antibacterial effect' is washed down the drain! Also, do you expect to obtain nourishment through your gut or through your skin? So, from a scientific perspective, it is better to eat healthily and maintain a healthy lifestyle for healthy skin and to use your washes just for cleansing. Any ordinary wash or soap of your choice is ok but use mild washes if you tend to have dry skin but never use medicated washes.
  2. Stronger hair and split ends: Have you ever wondered why cutting your hair never caused you any pain or bleeding? This is because the hair shafts that you see on top of your skin is composed of a completely dead protein called keratin and contains no nerve endings or blood vessels. These hair shafts are produced and pushed up daily by living and very active hair roots below the skin. Now, no matter which product you use, you certainly cannot repair or strengthen tissue which is already dead. But yes, you can certainly use oils and other products to condition your dead hair shafts.
  3. Shampoos and oils for hair-fall: Hair-Fall, similar to fever, is just a symptom and the cause of it can vary from person to person. Your hair roots are very actively producing new keratin and lengthening the hair shafts everyday. Such intense activity of the hair roots can easily be affected by any disturbance or disease within the body, causing the hair roots to shut down and cause hair fall. Simply applying anything on top of the scalp without knowing the primary cause of hair fall would be like simply sponging your body for fever without investigating the primary cause of fever. A qualified dermatologist would be best placed to investigate and resolve your hair fall problem.
  4. Fairness creams: Your skin colour is mostly determined by your genes and to some extent by the environment that you live in. Your dermatologist could modify your skin colour a wee bit but you also need a proper environment and precautions to maintain this. Beware of fairness creams which often contain harmful or irritating ingredients. Even some medicated creams contain steroids, which if misused, can permanently damage your skin. Always obtain a valid prescription before purchasing any pharmaceutical creams.
  5. Sunscreens with SPF which make you several tones fairer: Sunscreens, like umbrellas, simply protect you against sunburns and skin cancers and do not cause any lightening of your natural skin colour. Sunscreens are important to prevent skin cancers in light-skinned races since their skin, unlike pigmented Indian skin, has very little of the protective pigment called melanin. Sunscreens are medically recommended to prevent skin cancers. Do you really use sunscreens for this reason? SPF or sun protection factor measures the ability of sunscreens to protect from UVB rays causing sunburns and skin cancers. If you are using sunscreens for other non-recommended reasons like preventing a suntan, then just the SPF number is kind of irrelevant because there are other rays besides UVB which cause skin tanning.
  6. Anti Wrinkle and Anti Scar Creams: There are medical and surgical ways to reduce wrinkles and to alter scars. Since this involves changing the human body's physiology and anatomy it comes under the realm of medical treatment. If creams or lotions were able to achieve these same effects, they cannot be labelled as cosmetics but as drugs. And can only be sold in pharmacies with a valid prescription. There are misleading words and phrases like, 'reduce the appearance of wrinkles', 'proven formula', 'helps in', 'boosts collagen production', which companies often use to fool you into believing that there is some valid scientific work behind their claims.
  7. Natural, Chemical free products: You would probably be left scratching your head if any intelligent chemistry student were to ask you to name something that is not a chemical! This claim is a clever gimmick by companies to mislead you into believing that their products are safer. Any plant, leaf of fruit actually contains hundreds or thousands of mostly unknown chemicals. It is actually much easier to perform research on just one known chemical and prove that it is safe, compared to performing research on any single so-called 'natural' product, simply because it contains hundreds or thousands of unknown chemicals.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!

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