Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A few thoughts about making claims...

Why are you using camellia seed oil in your hair care products? Is it because it's been used for hundreds of years by Japanese women on their hair? And if so, what the heck does that phrase mean? Think about it for a moment...I could say that women have been using CP soap in their hair for centuries and it doesn't mean a thing! They could have loved it or hated it, but without some kind of definition - women have been using and loving camellia oil for centuries - it means nothing!

For fun, take a look at the bottom of the screen when you see any shampoo or conditioner products. Almost all of them say your hair feels healthier or looks shinier or seems nicer in some way "when compared to women who used non-conditioning shampoo" or "when compared to shampooing alone". I could wash my hair with a terrible shampoo followed by a conditioner and my hair will likely feel better than when I've used a really great shampoo without conditioner. We know that conditioner is a really vital part of our hair care process, so leaving it out means you're going to have hair that generally doesn't feel very nice. This claim means nothing!

And consider this - what does "clinically proven" really mean? It generally means that some kind of study was done by someone who might be a scientist, but it doesn't mean that it was a sound study that had actual control groups or was well conducted. You'll notice that most of the things that are clinically proven are subjective - women reported that in two weeks their skin felt smoother, women reported that in three weeks their skin looked more alive, and so on.

When I gave my family doctor some bath & body products, she told me that they were just lovely and made her skin feel nice. I joked that my new labels for my body wash would have a claim that 100% of the doctors surveyed felt this product made their skin feel nice! The scary thing is that I think I could get away with it! 

Please don't make claims about your products. You aren't allowed to say they cure or heal anything - for instance, eczema or dandruff - because those are drug claims. You are allowed to say cosmetic things about your products - that skin looked smoother or that you preferred this to another shampoo - because we're making cosmetics, not drugs. If you're in business, I really suggest you consult the health agency in your country to ensure you aren't breaking the rules because it really can be difficult to figure out what is a health claim and what is a cosmetic claim. Something "soothes dry skin" could be a drug claim where you live!

And don't trust people who make claims about their products. If you're a buyer of products, look for people on the various craft selling sites who make claims about what they make. I've seen people call their products "cures", for instance, and that's simply not allowed. Again, I get that we want to tell the world when we've made something awesome - for instance, I made a cuticle balm that friends report helps cracked fingertips heal - but using that kind of language is simply not okay!

If you are really interested in learning more about how to evaluate claims and studies, I really recommend Ben Goldacre's page Bad Science and the book by the same name, and this e-book of Testing Treatments. It makes you realize it's not just cosmetics companies making all kinds of claims!

Related posts:
What does "coconut derived" really mean?
Defining your product by what's NOT in it! 
Much maligned ingredients (a series) - part 1
What's the difference between moisturizing and hydrating?

Related reading:
What does "clinically proven" really mean?
Ben Goldacre's blog - Bad Science
What does "dermatologist tested" or "clinically proven" mean? (Personal Care Truth)


Lise M Andersen said...

Another great post Susan. I had to chuckle about the 'woman have been using this for years' mention. I just did a post on henna - which women have been using for centuries - but it still doesn't change the fact that henna doen't have much to offer in the way of 'care and feeding'.

Briny Bar Soap said...

I always try to phrase things so that I don't make any claims in my product descriptions. It's tough.

Little Bird said...

Brilliant post Susan. I've made it a rule for myself not to buy from anyone who makes medical claims, or lists their product by what is not in it.

I love using rice bran and avocado oils in my stuff because of the feel of the oils and how my skin feels afterwards. I think it is important for manufacturers, large or small, to learn how to describe and "brag" about their stuff without making medical claims. And really, it isn't that hard once you get the hang of it.