WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU PUTTING ON YOUR SKIN?

May 14, 2012 Beauty, Health & Fitness

Mysterymakeup WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU PUTTING ON YOUR SKIN?

You’ve probably seen buzzwords like “all natural,” “hypoallergenic” and “patented” hundreds of times. But have you ever stopped to think about what they mean?

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Gone are the days when simple statements such as “oil free” would suffice. These days, one would almost need a degree in chemistry to understand some of the catch phrases on cosmetics products. In fact, as long as companies don’t claim to change the body’s structure or function, they don’t need FDA approval to market new products to the public and are not required to provide any clinical results or research to prove their claims. So we turn to Dr. Channing Barnett, a board certified Manhattan dermatologist, to help us understand the cosmetic jargon .

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*Perhaps the most common phrase is “clinical formula. ” Beauty companies love terms like these because they suggest concrete benefits that don’t have to be backed up by science. Dr. Barnett explains that “this has no real meaning.  It does not necessarily indicate that the formula was produced in a medical clinic as the manufacturers would have people believe. ‘Clinically tested’ could very well indicate that the product was tested, but what was it tested for?  What were the results?  Essentially, this marketing claim is meaningless.”

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Here are six more commonly misunderstood terms to watch for:

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1. Patented or patent pending

Patents can be granted to companies that manufacture or combine materials in new ways. But just because something is patented doesn’t mean it works.

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2. All natural

This one really bugs me! It doesn’t mean the product is organic or chemical-free. After all, chemicals are “natural,” too.

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3. “Organic

The US Department of Agriculture certifies organic food ingredients found in cosmetics, but not essential oils or plants used for cosmetic purposes. To carry the USDA Organic seal, a product must contain at least 95% organic food ingredients (read What Does Organic Really Mean in Skin Products?). Other countries have their own organic certification labels, such as COSMOS and NaTrue in the European Union and NASAA in Australia. Read COSMOS Standardizes Organic Product Labels to learn more.

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4. Hypoallergenic

Think this guarantees you won’t have a reaction? Think again. These products can still contain ingredients some people are allergic to, including preservatives and fragrance.

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5. “Fragrance-free

These products may not have a noticeable smell, but can still contain “masking” scents to cover up ingredients with unpleasant odors. Look for the words “no fragrance added” instead.

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6. Non-comedogenic

While non-comedogenic products are usually oil-free and therefore less likely to cause breakouts, there’s no guarantee they won’t. In fact, many contain dimethicone, a known acne aggravator.

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7. Helps pre-mature aging

Perhaps the most appealing of all claims from a consumer standpoint is this statement.  If a product truly prevented premature aging by affecting the structure of the skin, it would be classified as a drug and therefore would require FDA approval.  Manufactures circumvent this by utilizing the fact that sunscreens prevent premature aging by decreasing the damaging effects of ultraviolet light on the skin. Therefore, if a product contains sunscreen, it may state “prevents premature aging’ on the label.”

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So now that you’ve had a crash course in the language of cosmetic marketing, go beyond the hype to choose the products that are right for you.

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