(With apologies to Benjamin Disraeli who may have originally coined the first bit – or not, according to Wikipedia)
Anyone can start up a beauty blog on the internet – absolutely anyone. They could be a cosmetic scientist, a nuclear physicist, or they could be someone with an IQ less than their shoe size. Many of the beauty blogs I have encountered give no clue as to the real identity of the owner, or their background, or any reason why they should be treated as a credible source of information. In the past few years, I have spent time on many different blogs, trying to contribute and to offer good information where there were errors posted. Many blog owners don’t like this, and the comment never gets through “moderation” (a misnomer, if ever there was). Some blog owners DO appreciate good information or, at least, permit an alternative point of view to be shared.
The question is, how do “ordinary” (ie non-scientifically-minded) consumers decide what blogs to believe. Relax – the answer is here! This is Dangerous Dene’s Guide to Beauty Blog and (private joke, there – sorry).
There are certain signs to look out for, by which the credibility of the site, and the likely accuracy of the information may be assessed – these are various buzzwords and phrases:
1) “Toxic chemicals” (or “toxins”; “nasty chemicals” or anything that sounds similar) – one or two mentions are probably ok, but more than two or three should start the alarm bells ringing – hysteria alert!
2) A list of 7 (or more) ingredients to avoid, with a short paragraph on each ingredient. This is a piece of information that has been copied and pasted from blog to blog for several years. It doesn’t contain any accurate information, and there are never any scientific references to substantiate the claims made. At least ignore this list, if not the entire blog.
3) Any claim that the cosmetics industry is not regulated and cosmetics manufacturers can use any ingredient is a warning sign. It IS regulated; maybe not as closely as some would like, but it IS regulated!
4) Any mention of the Environmental Working Group, or the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics (and the Skin Deep database) is a warning sign, especially if there are repeated references. These are not scientifically credible sources of information, certainly not in terms of assessing the true safety of cosmetics.
5) If references to studies ARE given to substantiate any claims made, check to see how many different sources are cited. If there are many references to just a single source, this may not be credible information (see 4, above, especially).
6) Whilst I am not a fan of the “vested interest” tag, if the blog relies for its information on other sites that are selling a particular type of product (Dr. Mercola being a classic example), especially if there are a lot of chemophobic statements, think very carefully about the reason behind the statements being made.
7) If the comments on the blog are all very gushing and overwhelmingly supportive, there is a chance that the blog owner does not permit any negative comments to be posted. Ask yourself why (although it could also be the case that I have not yet found the site and tried to add my own comments).
8) If the blog contains a statement at all similar to “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t be safe”, close the screen immediately and remove the link from your browsing history so that no-one need ever know that you looked at the particular blog, because you have just stumbled across the most moronic statement ever made in connection with cosmetics, and the blog should be awarded no credibility whatsoever.
These comments are aimed mostly at general blogs that are not actually directly selling product. If the site is engaged in selling product, take all of the above, and add the point that if the “does not contain” list of ingredients is longer than the list that a product DOES contain, then beware!
This list is not exhaustive, and I am sure that others can come up with more examples – please feel free to do so!
This is obviously (I hope) slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the real message is to not automatically believe all the scary stories on cosmetics blogs without checking elsewhere and (on PCT, of course).