Monday, 21 October 2013

The Beauty Blogger Challenge to Ask for Evidence

Beauty and health product manufacturers are keen to open their doors to questions from users in order to get people on the web talking about their products ( If you're interested in following some of the chat then just look at #bblogs on twitter). But with the doors seemingly opening there's still a lack of people asking the right questions about what product testing takes place to create the claims they put forward and the real scientific basis behind their formulations and potions.

Beauty and health blogs are huuuuge business, many get numbers of hits that print newspapers would be jealous of. I'm tempted to mention a few products just to score myself a better ranking on google..  Beauty and health manufacturers know this, exploit it and often run events and send free samples just for beauty bloggers. Some blogs offer critical reviews of products, others just seem to like the freebies. Then there are the really shameful attempts at debunking that are just used to promote other products. Beauty and lifestyle magazines know this too and they engage with bloggers to get the lowdown on the latest and best things that the bloggers are enjoying (or not enjoying).

This is the bit I do not understand. Beauty bloggers are a clever bunch. They have codes of conduct and disclose which products they bought and which were PR samples. They pride themselves on reviewing and providing overviews of products but they don't ask for evidence from the product manufacturers on product claims.

This is a plea and a question to beauty bloggers out there. The ones I follow and the ones that I don't know yet....why don't you ask for more information and would you consider doing it in the future? 

I know many read these blogs for enjoyment and escapism but asking a few more questions about the product testing and results isn't about taking away the enjoyment of health and beauty it's about making better decisions regarding products so you can understand what is worth a higher price-tag (other than the packaging). What works for which skin/body types, which products can make a difference and pick the best for you. 

I'm going to illustrate this with an example of 'seemingly open doors but then closing them in your face when questions are asked' approach from Rodial on a Cosmo magazine webchat. 

I spotted that Rodial, the famous manufacturer of the 'boob growing cream', were doing a live webchat with Cosmopolitan. They promised to answer all questions, so I thought that might be an opportunity to ask them about some of their formulas and what testing they actually do in order to generate the claims they put forward.

They did answer my question on the post (you can link to the full Q&A session by clicking on the picture and take a look at what everyone else was asking).




They didn't answer my question fully, so I asked for more information and was given an email address. I wrote up my experience of asking for evidence for the amazing 'Sense About Science' Ask for Evidence Campaign where you can see other great examples (and outcomes) of people asking for evidence and advice on how to ask.

I followed up with email(s) to Rodial....




They weren't forthcoming with information and they still haven't answered by last response. I'm hoping this blog post will give them an extra nudge and will continue to try and discover how they have tested their claims to see if they can really back up what they are saying on their packs.

I enjoy reading beauty and health blogs for various reasons and there's no reason why these powerhouses of influence can't start asking more questions about the products and claims they are told. There are some resources online, such as beauty by the geeks (but even they don't ask how products are tested to make the claims on packs) and bloggers that tackle the science behind the products but I think the bloggers themselves (and encourage the magazines) to be more critical of the products (it's not like there's a lack of them on the market)... and challenge what is being said so it becomes normal routine rather than being a niche area for only some. 

You know what, with the masses of people available to beauty bloggers with their huge readerships with support they could even design and run their own some well planned and organised randomised controlled product trials of their own.



For more info on the boob growing cream see - http://jdc325.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/silencing-critics-legal-chill/


9 comments:

  1. Great article and we here at the Beauty Brains applaud your efforts asking beauty companies for proof of their claims!

    We encountered similar questions about snake venom and wrinkles. We had a hard time finding information as well but we did come across an ingredient “sell sheet” that provided some additional information.

    Syn-ake is an anti-wrinkle material based on a synthetic tripeptide that “mimics” the effects of a peptide found in the venom of the Temple Viper snake. It was created by Pentapharm Ltd, a Swiss based chemical company. Reportedly, they are the largest snake breeders and keepers in the world too.

    According to the company literature, Syn-ake acts in a manner similar to a peptide in snake venom. It supposedly blocks some receptor and keeps muscles relaxed. This is supposed to smooth out your wrinkles. The relaxation of muscles is also how Botox is supposed to work.

    In the chemical sell sheet, data is presented from 2 studies. The first suggests that Syn-ake can reduce muscle cell contractions in a laboratory test. That’s not in people but in a cell culture of muscle cells.
    The second study shows that after 28 days of using a Syn-ake laced cream, you get a shrinkage of up to 52% of wrinkle.
    That must mean something, right? Well, maybe not.

    The data presented as proof that Syn-ake works raises a number of questions. For example,
    What was the placebo that Syn-ake was compared to?
    Where is the proof that Syn-ake penetrates to the lower layers of the dermis where it might possibly have an effect?
    How does the performance compare to Botox or any other anti-wrinkle treatment?
    How many subjects were tested?
    Who did the testing and was it blinded?

    I could go on but there’s really no point. The data presented here is incomplete and not useful for drawing conclusions. A quick search of the medical literature revealed that there were no peer reviewed studies of this ingredient. With such thin data and such incredible claims, I remain skeptical.

    Then you have to add in the Marketing speak that runs throughout their press materials. Notice they don’t claim that Syn-ake is a peptide found in snake venom. It only says that it “mimics the effect” of a peptide found in snake venom. It also says Syn-ake “acts in a manner similar to that of Waglerin 1″ (the compound in snake venom shown to block the acetylcholine receptor).

    “Mimics” and “Similar to” are weasel words that cosmetic marketing companies use when they want to create the impression that two things are related even when they aren’t. You could say body wash mimics soap but that doesn’t mean they are the same thing.

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