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.
From the UK, Colin Sanders has been a formulator of cosmetic and topical pharmaceuticals for 27 years. Over that time he has formulated nearly every category of product including shampoos, cosmetic skin creams, pharmaceutical skin creams, face masks, lip balms and so on. He has been an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists since 1985 and in 1999 organised the first of the Formulate shows. His degree is in environmental science and he continues to take a keen interest in the impact of human activities on the planet. He regards himself as an environmental activist and all round green. When not in the lab, he writes a blog, Colin’s Beauty Pages with the intention of entertaining and hopefully informing users of cosmetic and personal care products with some insider insights, a bit of science and his own opinions.