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Beauty marketing: how far can we trust adverts’ promises?

How do beauty manufacturers come up with their claims, and how are they marketed to us? We asked Vichy Scientific Communications Officer Laurie Jacquet to explain.

Where do all the facts and figures come from?

All information regarding a given product, including statistics and percentages, are derived from clinical tests. Clinical tests are held under dermatological conditions, with product elements undergoing testing to examine their principal effects, such as anti-aging, hydrating, or brightening. Numerical data can be extracted from these tests via one of two ways. ‘Clinical scoring,’ in which subjects are initially given a score ranging in general from 0 to 10 by an expert, sees each factor or problem area evaluated before application, one week afterwards and 4 to 8 weeks afterwards on average, with the subsequent change in this score used to determine effectiveness. This usually appears in the form of a percentage to give a relative result, i.e. +13% regarding skin radiance, -28% regarding the appearance of fine lines, etc. ‘Instrumental’ measurements use the latest technology to examine the product and observe the changes it undergoes (texture, colour, odour) when submitted for testing under standardized tools. Self-assessment generally takes the form of a questionnaire or satisfaction survey, with a sample group of 50 women asked to rank or qualify their experience with the product. For example, the claim ‘98% of women say their skin feels smoother after using this product’ derives from an identical percentage of product testers having responded positively to the question ‘Does your skin feel smoother after using this product?’. Regardless of how the data is obtained, the results must be statistically significant in order to be used in any subsequent press or brand marketing.

How is the consumer panel chosen?

Product testers are usually chosen if they meet the following criteria: corresponding age bracket, skin type, and the key issues/problems the product aims to correct, e.g. dullness, wrinkles or fine lines, dry or oily skin, blemishes or acne, dark spots, weakness or droopiness. At Vichy, lifestyle and environment are also taken into consideration, with UV damage, pollution, stress and fatigue all taken into account when selecting and observing a consumer panel.

What are the legal restraints?

Crucially, European law requires that any claims or promises made regarding a given product be justifiable, in order to avoid deceiving or misleading the consumer.

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