Smooth Marketing

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Claims such as 'dermatologically tested' or 'dermatologist approved,' found on many cosmetics, toiletries and some washing powders are confusing and potentially misleading.

Claims such as 'dermatologically tested' or 'dermatologist approved,' found on many cosmetics, toiletries and some washing powders are confusing and potentially misleading.

An investigation by Health Which? found these 'derma' claims imply that a product has reached a certain level of safety or effectiveness, but what the public is less aware of is that there are no standard industry-wide definitions setting out how a product must be tested, and the results it needs to achieve, before a company can make such a claim. What's more, the absence of agreed definitions means that tests designed by companies to substantiate these claims may not necessarily replicate how a product is actually used.

Health Which? surveyed over 1,000 peple about label claims on cosmetics and toiletries. When asked what they thought the term 'dermatologically tested' means, over a quarter said they believe the product had been tested on human skin. While this is correct in a very literal sense, the term doesn't tell you what the tests were designed to show, or whether the product passed the tests.

The survey showed that nearly three-quarters of respondents thought that 'dermatologically tested' could also mean something else, or didn't know what it means. 13 per cent of people said it means the product is kind to skin, 22 per cent thought the product would not cause allergies, whilst 10 per cent thought the product is unlikely to cause skin allergies.

To find out what these claims really mean Halth Which? wrote to ten leading cosmetics companies asking for evidence to support their claims. They were Accantia, Beiersdorf, The Body Shop, Boots, Clarins, Johnson & Johnson, Lever Fabergé, L'Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Revlon . Eight replied but, despite repeated requests, neither Clarins nor Revlon responded. Health Which? asked two independent experts to assess the companies' responses.

The eight companies that did respond provided only general information about the tests they carry out. Without specific details on the methods used, or the results achieved, the experts were unable to assess fully whether the products live up to their claims. This lack of openness means that consumers are unable to judge the extent and quality of the tests, which support such claims.

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