Anti-ageing beauty products that don't live up to the hype
Consumer is calling out anti-ageing beauty products which it says don't live up to the hype.
Among those tested in a newly published investigation are old standards such as "skin-perfecting" Imedeen tablets and Bio-oil, said to be "highly effective" for ageing skin, and newer products like Sothys BX Wrinkle Corrector, which is advertised as an alternative to Botox.
Consumer reviewed product trials and lab testing, where applicable, for nine products making scientific-sounding claims about their anti-ageing benefits.
It found that in some cases the claims in marketing material could not be substantiated. Sample sizes were too small, placebo trials were not always done, and there were no objective measures of product efficacy.
"Consumers should be able to take the claims on the boxes of their cosmetics at face value," says Olivia Wannan of Consumer. "It was worrying to see cosmetic companies stretching and twisting the meaning of legitimate scientific terms.
"An example of this is 'double blind' – usually you'd see this phrase describing research using a placebo, but when we started asking questions, we found its meaning was being twisted to cover far less vigorous research, a placebo-less self-assessment."
So how did the reviewed products stack up?
Trilogy Rosapene Radiance Serum
While the research sounds promising — there was a double-blind independent trial, with an 84 percent improvement in skin appearance — in reality there was no placebo and participants simply used the cream for six weeks and rated it.
Trilogy says it will no longer use these results in its advertising as "there are conflicting interpretations of the trials and [the Consumer] conclusion that our consumers might be confused by".
These tablets are said to have "skin-perfecting" effects, and to have been subjected to 15 studies.
Consumer says that of these studies just five involved people and used a placebo.
The company has been contacted for a response.
Antipodes Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream
An independent evaluator tested this cream, reporting "extremely impressive" results, but one trial involved just 10 women and there was no placebo.
Antipodes company director Elizabeth Barbalich says "our products are tested using in-vitro investigations involving human fibroblast skin cells, and placebos".
Olivia Wannan says in-vitro testing is a "good start" but "if you really believe in this stuff you should be putting it on women's skin".
This product, used for everything from stretch marks to dry skin, is said to be "highly effective" in treating the appearance of ageing skin.
Consumer found that while Bio-Oil was tested in an independent trial of 67 people, there was no placebo and no measurement of wrinkle size.
The company behind Bio-Oil, Union Swiss, said in a statement it was not possible to find an appropriate placebo for Bio-Oil. Consumer disputes this.
Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum
While the company says an American clinical trial of the product found 84 percent of women experienced reduced lines and wrinkles, it wouldn't share the results with Consumer.
Consumer said the test did not use a placebo.
The company has been approached for comment.
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery Eye Mask
Two studies of 200 women each found an impressive 97 percent and 99 percent believed their skin looked better after using this mask.
There were no placebo studies.
The company has been approached for comment.
Sothys BX Wrinkle Corrector
If you've had Botox, this stuff is said to improve its efficacy in 87 percent of cases. It is also said to work if you haven't had Botox. It was tested by an independent lab in France.
Consumer says there is little information to support this product's use as an alternative to Botox.
"Anecdotally all of our clients who have been using it are very happy with it," says brand manager Jean-Michel Tallett. He also says Consumer's "interpretation of the data could be up for debate".
"I would interpret this data as evidence the product, when used as an alternative does have a measurable effect compared to that of Botox. It is a matter of interpretation how you see the success of these results."
Snowberry New Radiance Face Serum
Tested by an independent lab and compared to a placebo, this serum was found to reduce "wrinkle volume" by 25 per cent.
Consumer says Snowberry passed every bar with its testing except large replicated studies. The sample size, at 39, was small, according to Consumer, which considers a significant trial to be one involving several hundred people.
"By saying the Snowberry sample size was 'restricted' to 39, by implication, it might suggest that the result is suspect," says Snowberry general manager Greg Billington. "Statistical significance takes into account a number of parameters and of course, sample size is critical; and the larger the sample, the lower the standard deviation. But that does not mean that a trial with 39 subjects is not statistically significant – indeed, it is possible to achieve statistical significance to the 95% confidence interval with smaller samples.
"Frankly, even to bracket the Snowberry randomised controlled trial with other brands' claims based on self-evaluation trials is ridiculous."
MitoQ Cellular Energising Cream Serum
MitoQ is said to be scientifically proven to "re-energise your skin cells and slow the ageing process". The only independent study the company sent to Consumer was run without a placebo and involved just 13 people.
Chief executive Greg Macpherson acknowledged that the company would "need to re-word how we describe our study so as to be 100 per cent clear from a consumer's perspective. We have done so."
He also said: "Because of the significant body of research behind MitoQ we have always been comfortable stating that it is scientifically proven as a compound. We are very proud of the research behind MitoQ and stand by it."