In her latest ad for l’Oréal, Cheryl Cole appears foundation-free, promoting the French beauty brand’s latest skincare product, Skin Perfection.
In The Daily Telegraph Cole is quoted affirming that “Skin Perfection works to perfect your skin - it tightens pores, gives luminosity and helps to improve skin texture. It has all the skincare benefits you want before you put on your make-up, which means you don’t need to mask your skin”. To which the columnist, Katy Young, snidely remarks that she “has the backing of 73 per cent of the 123 women who tested the range”.
A panel that small can hardly be representative of the UK, or any population you say? Yet it is actually larger than many panels I found leafing through French, British and American consumer fashion magazines, searching for scientific-sounding claims from make-up, skincare and shampoo brands. Oh they don’t lie, most of the time. They just omit or exaggerate.
Aside from the opinion panels that feature fewer than 200 women (Are they randomly picked up in the street? Paid? Relations of people working for the brand?), there are the products that improve your skin or hair, but only when used in conjunction with another, retouched photos, the much bragged about but often unconfirmed patents…the list is almost endless. I look forward to a beauty brand telling the exact truth in its ads. This is a USP I would certainly buy into.
1 - “82% of UK women agree that Double serum is more effective than their regular serum”. The small print: “Satisfaction test - 194 UK women”. Clarins Double Serum [Hydric + Lipidic System] (Ad published in Vanity Fair, March 2013)
2 - “25+ Patents Worldwide”. The small print: “Patents and patents pending”. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (Ad published in Vanity Fair, September 2013)
3 - “Improves the appearance of Fine Lines -31% Deep Wrinkles -34% Radiance +36% Clarity +30% Even Skin Tone +25%”. The small print: “Improvement in average clinical grading - 34 women”. Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate (Ad published in Harper’s Bazaar UK, July 2013)
4 - “96% of women would recommend it to a friend”. The small print: “Lancome trial panel of 124 women”. Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate (Ad published in Harper’s Bazaar UK, August 2013)
5 - “One out of two women tempted by a cosmetic procedure decided to postpone it”. The small print: “After 4 weeks of consumer use. Consumer evaluations of women 35 to 49 years tempted by hyaluronic acid, laser or chemical peeling. Results not equal to a medical procedure.” Lancôme Visionnaire (Ad published in Vogue US, July 2012)
6 - “Our revolutionary gel-mousse formula has 40% less hard waxes”. The small print: “Vs. our leading volumizing mascara”. Maybelline The Mega Plush Volum’ Express (Ad published in Vogue US, July 2012)
7 - “Get results comparable to the leading $200 prescription wrinkle cream”. The small print: “Based on pricing data from November 2010 to October 2011. Use as directed. Pro-X hydrates to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Prescription takes 24 weeks to see full results and results may be different”. Olay ProX (Ad published in Vogue US, July 2012)
8 - “If your mascara promises volume but delivers clumps - that’s false! True volume comes from our big brush, not from big clumps. Try LastBlast Volume for yourself. You may never go “false” again.’” The small print: ”Lash inserts were applied to both of Nicole’s lashes to add lash count before applying mascara.” CoverGirl LashBlast volume mascara (May 2011)
9 - “3 Hot looks in 1 mascara”. The small print: “shot with lash inserts”. Rimmel 1-2-3 Looks Mascara (November 2010)
10 - “Firm, lifted, toned skin in just 4 weeks”. The small print: “77 women - consumer test”. Clarins Extra-Firming Day Wrinkle lifting cream (Ad published in Vogue US, May 2012)
11 - “100% more nourishment” The small print: ”Shampoo ad conditioner system vs. non-conditioning shampoo”. Pantene Pro-V Aqua Light (Ad published in Vogue US, May 2012)
12 - “After 10 days 88% reported skin is firmed and toned”. The small print: “Results obtained using product twice daily, following a self-assessment of 100 women”. Algenist Firming & Lifting cream (Ad published in Vogue US, February 2012)
13 - “86% of women saw fewer dark spots and more luminous skin”. The small print: “In 8 weeks”. L’Oréal Youth Code Serum Corrector (Ad published in Vogue US, February 2012)
14 - “Gel-like shine shatterproof color up to 11 days”. The small print: “When worn with ColorStay base and top coat”. Revlon ColorStay Longwear Nail Enamel (Ad published in Vogue US, February 2012)
15 - “Fiber-fix brush has 6 different contact points with each lash for optimal fiber placement”. The Small Print: “Points of contact between fibers and lashes will vary”. Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions (Ad published in Vogue US, March 2012)
16 - “My hair feels stronger, full of life, replenished with a healthy shine. It’s got its mojo back.” The small print: “Styled with some natural hair extension” L’Oréal Elvive Full Restore 5 (November 2009)
17 - “After two hours, wrinkles start fading out”. The small print: “Affects wrinkles appearance: in vitro testing” Estée Lauder Perfectionist Wrinkle Lifting Serum (Paris Vogue, March 2010)*
18 - “100% of women surveyed found that wrinkles were smoothed” Small print: “Consumer tests on 55 women after 2 months” Dior Capture Totale (see ad here)
19 - “The first universal skin boosting superserum by Dior”. The small print: “Bi-daily applications of One Essential + Crème Multi-Perfection for two weeks vs. Crème Multi-Perfection applied on its own”. Dior One Essential (Paris Vogue, March 2010)**
20 - “The skin is suppler and denser (+53%)”. The small print: “Result shown after four weeks according to a clinical study on 25 women” Dr. Brandt Collagen Booster (Paris Vogue, February 2010)***
21 - “76% of women said their friends found their skin looked more beautiful and revitalized in just 2 weeks” The small print: “Self-assessment - 111 women - 8 weeks study” Lancôme Rénergie Lift Multi-action (Ad published in Vogue US, August 2013)
22 - “90% of women find it more effective than their current serum” The small print: “Satisfaction test, 50 women reported, 4 weeks”. Clarins Double Serum (Ad published in Vogue US, August 2013)
23 - “Deep reconstruction in just 5 washes”. The small print: “With shampoo and Express Treatment Conditioner use”. Dove Express Treatment Conditioner (Ad published in Look, 5 August 2013)
* French copy: “2 heures et vos rides s’effacent deja”. “Action sur l’apparence des rides : tests in vitro”. Translation my own.
** French copy for the small print: “t = 2 semaines d’application bi-quotidienne de One Essential + Crème Multi-Perfection vs Crème Multi-Perfection seule”. Translation my own.
*** French copy: “La peau est plus souple, plus dense (+53%)”. “Résultats obtenus apres 4 semaines selon une étude clinique réalisée sur 25 femmes”. Translation my own.