Adverts for beauty products make big claims. Well when you read them literally in the way a lawyer would read a contract they often make no claims at all, but they are certainly designed to give you the impression that they are going to do a lot for you. I am not a lawyer and the fine print leaves me cold. The fact is that you are being led to believe something and what you are being led to believe is pretty clear.

And the reality is that some brands do live up to the promises they make while others oversell. And in fairness, we all have subtly different physiology and what works for one person may well be useless for another. Often the only way to sort out the sheep from the goats is to buy it and give it a try.

But how long should you give something before you decide whether or not it has done what you paid your money for or not?

This is one of those questions to which there is no right or wrong answer, but it is nonetheless one that I am pretty sure I know the answer to.

If you can’t detect a noticeable benefit in a week, I think you are justified in deciding that the promise will not be fulfilled and you are justified in taking your custom elsewhere.

Now it is certainly the case that if you want to prove that something works in a clinical trial, it will take a lot longer to do it. Clinical trials on pharmaceutical actives for conditions like acne sometimes run for six months. And there are good reasons why this should be the case. If you use a product for a week and it works that does not prove anything scientifically. Scientists want to generate enough data to carry out a statistical analysis to give themselves confidence that any observations are significant. And quite right too.

But as a consumer you don’t have to prove anything to anyone else, but you do have to prove it to yourself. If something is going to take multiple weeks before you notice it, the effect is going to be pretty small. And you will start to get taken in by the sunk cost fallacy. Having put that much effort in, the temptation to think you must have done some good is great.

I have been deliberately vague about what benefit I am talking about here, because I really think this applies across most product types. A moisturiser should moisturise your skin noticeably within a week. An anti-wrinkle cream should be reducing your wrinkles within a week. If it doesn’t do anything you can notice in that time, multiplying that effect by twelve is still a very small effect. You should be paying for something that you can see reasonably quickly.

There is plenty of choice out there. If what you have tried doesn’t work, try something else. And try something different. There are more choices available now than at any time in history so there is no need to settle for poor performance.


Doug Schoon is an internationally-recognized scientist, author and educator with over 30 years experience in the cosmetic, beauty and personal care industry. He is a leading industry authority, known for his technical and regulatory work that has helped shape the beauty industry. He is Co-Chair of the Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC), and as Creative Nail Design’s (CND) Chief Scientist, was head of the R&D laboratory, QA, and Field Testing/Evaluation departments for almost 20 years. Schoon has authored several books, video and audio training programs, as well as dozens of magazine articles about salon products, safety, and best practices for salon professionals. Schoon is well known for his captivating presentation style and his unique ability to make complex concepts easy to understand. In 1986, Schoon founded Chemical Awareness Training Service (CATS) – the beauty industry’s first safety training company. This was followed by his book, Nail Structure & Product Chemistry, 1st and 2nd Edition, which has become essential reading for nail salon pros. Schoon is a chief contributor to Milady’s Standard Nail Technology and Standard Cosmetology, as well as several medical reference books such as Baran and Maibach’s Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology: A Comprehensive Medical and Surgical Text. Schoon serves as an expert witness in legal cases, and doctors, dermatologists and podiatrists often consult Schoon when writing articles, books or scientific papers. He has worked as a scientific researcher, author and lecturer for almost 35 years and holds a Masters Degree in Chemistry from UC-Irvine. He currently resides in Dana Point, CA. Overview Industry Experience President, Schoon Scientific + Regulatory Consulting, LLC (2007- present) Co-Chair, Nail Manufacturer’s Council (NMC) (2003-present) V.P., Science & Technology – CND (Creative Nail Design, Inc.(1987-2007) Executive Director/Founder of Chemical Awareness Training Service (1986-89) World renowned expert; considered a leading scientist in the field Works with state, federal and international regulators to develop beauty industry related standards and regulations. Experienced working with EU and Japanese cosmetic regulatory agencies and many domestic and international trade associations Experienced working with activist groups to address industry issues Over thirty years experience as a researcher, lecturer, author and educator Regularly writes articles and makes contributions to several domestic and international beauty trade magazines Author of science and safety books for beauty professionals, including the industry standard, “Nail Structure & Product Chemistry“, Second Edition, 2005 Contributing author to many educational books used in beauty schools Contributing author to several medical texts used by dermatologists and doctors Bachelors Degree Chemistry, Cal State University- Long Beach, CA (1982) Masters of Science Degree in Chemistry, University of California-Irvine (1984)

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