By Louise Whiteside

          “Look 20 years younger in just two weeks!”

          “Have beautiful, blemish-free skin after just 10 days of using our product!”

          “Your lips will look luscious, moist and pouty.”

          “Have mysterious, longer, seductive-looking lashes.”

          In newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, and nearly everywhere we look, we are inundated with beauty claims like the ones above.   And, no matter how old or young or worldly-wise we are, or how many times we’ve spent hard-earned dollars on that “magic” beauty product, still we fall for the latest offer, only to be disappointed once again.  Something inside us seems to say that, finally, we have found the miracle potion that will transform us into ravishing goddesses.

          Let’s face it:  the cosmetic companies are in business to make money.  Cosmetic lines repeatedly bring out “amazing new” products, without ever telling us what was wrong (or less “revolutionary”) with the earlier product that was touted as spectacular last year.

          If you’re anything like me, you love to hear that a product can turn back the clock, lift that saggy skin, or eliminate wrinkles, and you’ll believe all the hype put out by cosmetic companies, simply because you want to believe it.

         With that in mind, here are some buzz words that you should be wary of in cosmetics ads:

          “All natural or organic.”  This does not assure you that you are getting an accurate picture of safety or effectiveness.  Even when this claim is made, a product may contain many “unnatural” ingredients.

          “Hypoallergenic or good for sensitive skin.”  A company can make this claim without proof, because there are no standardized guidelines.

          “Fragrance-free.”  Many products bear this claim, but still use fragrant plant extracts that can cause skin irritations or allergic reactions.

          “Dermatologist-tested.”  It’s possible that one doctor applied this product to his or her own skin, and decided that he or she liked it.

          “Miracle ingredient.”   Skin care does not rely on one single ingredient to enhance your skin’s appearance or to erase wrinkles.  Every month new ingredients are being advertised (such as some exotic plant from a distant land) as being the answer for your skin. Yet the majority of these have no definitive research backing up the claims being made.

          The sad truth is that cosmetic companies constantly get away with misleading information because getting around cosmetics regulations worldwide has become an art. Often, by the time regulatory boards get around to challenging advertising claims, the ads have been replaced with ads for a new product.

          Something else to consider:   It’s easy to believe that “expensive” means “better” when purchasing cosmetics. The truth is that the amount of money you spend on a cosmetic does not improve your appearance; the products you use affect the condition of your skin.          So how can you be sure of what you’re buying?   The best way is to become familiar with the ingredients in your cosmetic products.  Read the ingredients on the labels that are now required by the Food and Drug Administration to be listed in the order of concentration.  When you are unclear about what an ingredient is or does, or when faced with a claim about some “miraculous” ingredient, you can consult  an online cosmetic ingredient dictionary available at or  (Note that you have to sign up as a member at the Beautipedia site.) You’ll find that legitimate research rarely matches what a cosmetics company wants you to believe.

Sources for product-by-product reviews. 

Begoun, Paula.  Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me.  8th Edition.

Renton, Washington, Beginning Press, 2010

Cosmetic ingredient dictionary,

Free reviews and information,

Find out which products are safe and those that are hazardous:

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