Marketing Misinformation, Misbranding, Misbehavior, and Mischief

The skincare industry is worth big money, an estimated $171.7 billion globally and $21 billion in the US. (Statista)  Skincare companies spend roughly $3 billion globally and $360 million in the US on advertising alone. (Bandt) 

Advertising in the skincare industry is a give and take between the wants and needs of manufacturers and consumers.  Market reports and forecasts allow companies to decide what types of products to make to meet consumer demand and what aspects of their existing products to emphasize so that they sell, regardless of whether they meet consumer needs.  As market reports cost thousands of dollars to access, the quotes below are my excerpts from a free online skincare market forecast.

The market is driven by consumer interests…

The younger generation is more interested in skin-brightening treatments, toners, and scrubs, while the elder generation is more interested in wrinkle creams and cracked heels…Furthermore, as people become increasingly aware of the detrimental effects of prolonged sun exposure, demand for sunscreen lotions and creams is increasing.

…Furthermore, as public awareness of animal rights grows, consumers' preferences are shifting toward vegan components made completely of plant-based goods. As a result, market participants are working on developing vegan products to attract more customers and enhance income.”

…And by manufacturers who advertise and push to create new markets, in this case, creating a market for men’s grooming products…

Furthermore, increased consumer knowledge of skincare products has been boosted by increased awareness of grooming goods for men, significant advertising campaigns by manufacturers, and the digitization trend. As a result of these circumstances, male end customers have raised their desire for products like fairness creams and aftershave creams.

And, ironically, but not surprisingly, “some of the most significant stumbling blocks to market expansion” are problems caused by regular use of the products that one hopes to avoid by regular use of the products, “Regular use of cosmetic products for an extended period can harm the skin, causing irritation, redness, burning sensations, discolouration, and skin cell ageing. Furthermore, due to specific components that are not good for the individual, a few products might cause allergic responses and the development of pimples. Excessive use can potentially lead to serious problems, such as skin cancer and melanoma.” 

Remember, anyone can put anything in a jar and legally sell it as a cosmetic, and they frequently do.  The cost of goods is low, the markups are high.  It’s all about marketing.

Moreover, to lend credibility, they may claim their products are “FDA-approved” and/or “clinically-tested”.  The FDA states, "As part of the prohibition against false or misleading information, no cosmetic may be labeled or advertised with statements suggesting that FDA has approved the product."  Clinical testing of cosmetics usually refers to in-house studies that are incredibly small (30-40 people), short term (hours to weeks), and focused on subjective outcomes (the look and feel of skin as judged by the participant) that forward the manufacturers’ goal of selling anything to anybody at any cost.

The skincare industry creates trends and markets to exploit, and, having created a trend, creates and markets new products to address the effects of the predecessor.  For example, exfoliate and thin your skin, then use voguey hyaluronic acid to plump it back up artificially and temporarily.

Regarding the trendy use of crystals in skincare products,”Before any youth preservationists go trading laser treatments for chunks of hematite, know that crystals have not been proven to have medical benefits.”  Caroline Tell, The New York Times

Crystals may provide the much sought-after “glow” that, in the beauty industry, is a surrogate for beautiful skin.  If your skin glows because myriad tiny crystals in these cosmetics are reflecting light, is your skin truly beautiful, and if the “glow”can be wiped off, is it worth the trouble?

Crystals indeed are precious stones; even their dusts cost you a bundle, but they are stones; they’re rocks.  Diamond dust is used to cut, sand and etch granite, quartz and other stone, among many other industrial applications.  And, certainly, rocks are organic and natural, but I cannot imagine being expected to pay, or to be paid, as any part of some artifice, some artificial and contrived construct to rub or have rocks rubbed on anybody’s face.  That seems awfully odd and oddly awful.  Why would anyone reasonably and willingly ever choose to pay big money to rub rocks into their own face?  Seriously?

Speaking of sanding your face, exfoliation sloughs off dry skin cells; that’s the intent of mechanical and chemical exfoliation and chemical peels, to reveal the fresh, younger skin underneath.  But, you have a finite number of skin stem cells, the cells responsible for creating your skin, so the more frequent and harder you exfoliate, the faster you use up your skin stem cells.  Then you’re stuck with paper thin, fragile skin for the rest of your life.

Fads and marketing ploys come and go (Remember parabens?  Now, how about hyaluronic acid?), but human skin and metabolic processes remain the same.

If it’s novel, counterintuitive or even bizarre, as in all things, do your own research, sourcing bona fide accurate information from trusted sources.

If it seems crazy, it might be, but it could be revolutionary, evolutionary, clever marketing, outright lies, a scam, or even dangerous.  In any case, make sure.  (Read “Choosing Skin Care For Health”.) 

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Even if the claims are true, what’s the short-term benefit and long-term cost?
Read the ingredients.  Do the math.  What’s the cost per unit of what you want, and, importantly, what’s the cost incurred by all the extra junk?
Invest in long-term health, not short-term appeasement of costly vanity.
Your skin, your health, your quality of life, and your life depend on your choices.

Develop a thick, but healthy, skin.  Be yourself now.  Be beautiful forever.

A version of this blog post is published in my local newspaper, the Davis Enterprise.  There is no paywall to view my articles in the Davis Enterprise.  Simply click the X in the red circle to read my article 

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