/ Health

Have you been caught out by cosmetics ads?

Woman putting on mascara

Claims of targeting ‘limp, lifeless hair’, or gaining ‘up to 60% longer looking lashes’ aren’t unusual in beauty ads. But is the cosmetics industry playing fair or are we falling for clever marketing?

There’s an eye cream in my cupboard that promises to ‘fight against fine lines and wrinkles’. Compelling marketing, but does it actually mean anything – after all, don’t all fights inevitably involve a loser?

There’s been a lot of adverse publicity about the way that companies advertise cosmetics. Remember the furore back in 2008 about Boots enhancing actress Keeley Hawes’ lashes with ‘lash inserts’ in their mascara advertising?

Consumer complaints overruled

Regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that Boots hadn’t done anything wrong as there were on-screen disclaimers such as ‘enhanced in post-production’.

Then, this year there were forty complaints about Cheryl Cole’s hair extensions in adverts for Loreal’s hair care products. These weren’t upheld by the ASA either. Part of Loreal’s defence was that ‘Cheryl Cole was already well known for having hair extensions and openly discussed that with journalists’. Oh, that’s alright then.

We put anti-wrinkle eye creams through lab testing last year and found that none (regardless of price) came close to eliminating the appearance of wrinkles. But – if I’m really honest – I think I knew that already.

Cosmetic companies do, of course, have to be able to justify the claims they make, prove they’re safe and back them up with scientific evidence. The problem is, beauty products aren’t prescription drugs or medical treatments so don’t require the same level of research.

Complaints to the ASA about health and beauty advertising rose 14% between 2008 and 2009 and it’s now the third most complained-about sector. But out of complaints on 1311 adverts, only 206 were found to be in breach of the Advertising Codes, suggesting that the codes may not be adequately reflecting what consumers see as the real problems.

Will the new rules work?

This month, revised advertising codes came into force. The rules say (among other things) that advertising must not exaggerate the capability of a product or omit material information. Plus, marketers must have evidence to back up their claims about what a cosmetic actually does, not just what it contains.

But I still have unanswered questions in all this. Firstly, I’m concerned that cosmetics companies will still use clever marketing to hide the caveats and ensure they’re not falling foul of the regulator.

Will the new advertising regulations mean that consumers’ complaints are upheld more often? Do we simply have to accept that the devil is in the detail and look carefully at the small print?

Time will tell. Maybe I should just buy a large pinch of salt and a hefty dose of scepticism along with my battle-scarred, youth-enhancing eye cream?

Have you felt misled by beauty ads?

I don't buy stuff based on ads (55%, 44 Votes)

Yes, I've regretted buying certain products (44%, 35 Votes)

No, I'm happy with what I buy (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 80

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Yes i fell for that hair shampoo that Cheryl Cole advertised doing exactly has it said you can call me a mug if you want but i used a lot of their products and found them not too bad especially hair shampoo. But i must admit i was a bit miffed by that one it certainly didn’t leave my hair feeling how she described even after the number of washes they said to use it so i went back to my old shampoo. Also would there be any chance of all these company’s making their products in small tester bottles for a very small price so people can use them the once to test how they feel on their hair or whatever they use the product for instead of having to buy a huge bottle and throw it all away, it would help save the environment afterall, it’s so annoying.

The mascara adverts are crazy

Use this amazing mascara to make your eye lashes longer

Then in small print underneath..

We used fake eye lashes in this advert

What a crock

Also the crazily small sampling that takes place for the 9 out of ten idiots thought their hair was wavier after using this product

Define wavier!!!

Grrrr makes me angry – and they never seem to get grief from ASA

Donnie says:
7 October 2010

The incredible thing is they’re enhancing lashes in mascara adverts using CGI now, as well. Not only are you not looking at the results of the mascara, you’re looking at something that doesn’t even exist.

Some of the small print in adverts these days are verging on something from a comedy spoof show. However, they’re clearly working as they not only continue (which they wouldn’t if people didn’t buy the product) but get more and more devious/misleading.
Is the end ‘issue’ though that we want to look as good as Cheryl/Claudia/Davina and if they use that product then it’s doing a cracking job. Perhaps it’s the celebrity who is really doing the deceiving.

smallprintspotter says:
24 September 2010

I’m looking forward to seeing a cosmetic ad where the product is so good that they write “Not enhanced in any way” all over the bottom of the screen. I won’t hold my breath!

D. Robins says:
24 September 2010

I’m afraid i fell for the Jane Fonda ‘because you’re worth it’ ads. I just thought that maybe she did use the stuff and maybe I’d look that good at 70 – but it was just a fleeting thought, common sense says that I’m never going to look as good as Jane Fonda, but what the **** – I can dream.
PS it’s not working yet!

Hype cynic says:
26 September 2010

Instead of being wowed by creative advertising copy, promising dreams coming true, doesn’t it make more sense to ask, ‘Will the product harm my health?’

Do we really think synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, parabens, silicones, phthalates, mercury, artificial colours and even crushed beetles, will be good for us? Those ingredients are in some cosmetics

There are superb, natural alternatives available – made in the UK in West Sussex.

Hype cynic your comments are alarmist and not helpful. All cosmetics and toiletries sold legally in Europe MUST be safe in use (see Cosmetics Directive) and the personal care industry works very hard to ensure this. Naming certain types of ingredients and suggesting they may be harmful is blatant misinformation. See Personal Care – Truth or Scare for lots of discussion in this area, and to find the real facts about cosmetic ingredients, both of synthetic and “natural” origin.

Bijoux says:
29 September 2010

It’s not so much the cosmetic ads that get my goat as the claims of toiletries. No matter what colour I paint my gob, it’s still going to be my gob, with added colour. Mascara ads just take the p**s. 70% longer, thicker, wider, volumising, millions of lashes etc. who do they think believes the claims. I still buy mascara, I’m blessed with long lashes, that just need a bit more definition. How do I choose a mascara once I’ve decided on the colour, it’s which container looks the prettiest for under a fiver! I wouldn’t be surprised if that how most people decide, budget, and I haven’t had an allergy to any of this company’s products.

But it’s the claims of toiletries that can get me splashing out. Anti-cellulite creams. Rub this in for 2 weeks and watch your waist go down a dress size. Turn back the years with our magic potion of the ancients. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve fallen for a few of these. I have had some success with ‘anti-ageing’ creams, for as long as you use them. But they don’t do everything. I used to be cursed with dark ******** on my face, (now treated successfully on the NHS) I was a sucker for any ‘anti-ageing cream that claimed to reduce age spots, some did, but then the wrinkles come out to play. But I have to say I started using a new more expensive ‘anti-ageing’ product 2 weeks ago along with a new session of the NHS treatments and it is producing surprisingly good results, that have been noticed!!! Maybe my problem is, I live in hope….

Curious says:
20 May 2013

The last postings are in Sept.2010. Any up-to-date views/comments on the progress or otherwise of cosmetics since then?

TriciaK says:
17 April 2014

Still nothing up-to-date, and it’s now April 2014!

a tull says:
18 September 2015

I do a lot of shopping online and always read all of the reviews written by other buyers………. I’ve always found these to be open and more honest than beauty products adverts claims.