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Is Beauty Killing Us Slowly?

10 Mar MakeUp

As the famous adage goes; “beauty is pain,” but should it be killing us…?

I recently read an article in a local newspaper that centred around the growing concern over chemicals used in cosmetics, lotions and other beauty products which is stimulating a worldwide debate over whether we are slowly poisoning our bodies.

Over recent decades, the incidence of cancer has escalated to epidemic proportions. Stacey Malkan, author of the award winning book, “Not Just Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” and co-founder of the campaign for Safe Cosmetics in the U.S, believes that the two are undeniably linked. What is deeply worrying is that now cancer is striking nearly one in every two men, and over one in every three women. Even more disturbing is the recent recognition that this already high incidence of cancer is going to increase further and by the year 2050 will be doubling in comparison to the current high incidence rate.

In an article titled “10 Things to Know about Cosmetics and Cancer” Mulkan states, “personal care products that we apply to our bodies daily –including soaps, shampoo’s, lotions, deodorants, colognes and make-up – commonly contain chemicals. Some of these chemicals can be   toxic or harmful to our bodies; such as endocrine disruptors, allergens, asthma triggers, carcinogens and neurotoxins.”

In May 2010, the US President’s Cancer Panel issued a report detailing concerns about the chemical exposures in our daily lives and the lack of scientific data showing safety. Research on toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in personal care products and cosmetics was highlighted in the report as one area for which environmental cancer research is needed to improve our understanding of environmental cancer and to support environmental cancer hazard assessment and control.

A few alarming facts:

  • According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database; 1 in 5 personal care products contain at least one chemical linked to cancer.
  • It was revealed that 17 out of 28 children’s products, including many marked “pure” and “gentle” contained both formaldehyde and dioxane.
  • Ingredients in products such as hair dyes, anti bacterial soaps, skin lighteners, fragrances and even sunscreens (!!!) are linked to cancer.

How can a “trusted” brand add any value to the lives of consumers when it is on the contrary selling us hopes and dreams from which we ultimately awake to the harsh reality of irreversible damages done? Personally, I find this all very paradoxical. With numerous cosmetic houses competing against each other in a $40 to $50 billion industry, it has been revealed that many spend just as much, if not more on advertising and promotion as they do on R&D. The cosmetic industry is notoriously ranked as one of the highest advertising and marketing spenders, with perfume and cosmetic companies spending on average 19.2% of their net sales on advertising. To contrast this, compared to other global industries they are the lowest spenders on R&D. Maybe cosmetic houses should start spending less on trying to sell us a time bomb wrapped in pretty packaging and more on developing innovative, safer products rid of harmful chemicals ensuring the safety and longevity of consumers.

The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in order to safeguard the wellbeing of consumers allegedly making South African consumers amongst the most protected in the world. The 8 Fundamental Consumer Rights were drawn up in accordance with the United Nations guideline for consumer protection (1985). Among these 8 fundamental consumer rights is the Right to Good Quality and Safety. This translates to the right to be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or death.

Section 58 (1) deals with Warning concerning fact and nature of risks. What this means is that now the supplier of any activity or facility with which certain types of risk are associated must specifically draw the fact, nature and potential effect of that risk to the attention of consumers. It will only be beneficial to us to exercise this right as consumers as it was intended for our own public good.

A foreword of advice: -start paying less attention to the superficial marketed benefits of a product and start paying more time to what’s inside a product. We all want brands that care for our well-being both inside and out; support the brands who take the time and effort to actually give a damn.

Food for thought; – “Airbrushing in a jar: A new wonder balm claims to ‘blur out’ any wrinkles or spots, turning the clock back several years in 40seconds” ??

11 Oct

This article was found in feminine section of the UK Daily Mail  and proposes that there is a new anti-wrinkle cream out on the market that claims to use nanotechnology to “‘blur out’ any wrinkles or spots, ‘turning the clock back several years in just 40 seconds.'” Inflated claim? -A new way to hook consumers? true or false? I would love to know your opinions on this matter…

“For all the hype about make-up and skincare, what women actually want from a cosmetic product is very simple. We want it to make us look better than we normally look. Preferably right away, please!

It doesn’t have to turn us into Lara Stone or Jennifer Aniston, just cover up our wrinkles, minimise uneven pigmentation and generally wipe away a few years. Instant air-brushing, in other words.

The latest wonder-working wrinkle-buster claims to do this and more, turning the clock back several years in 40 seconds flat.

Anti-ageing miracle cure: Makers of the Nanoblur balm claim it can make you look younger in 40 seconds Anti-ageing miracle cure: Makers of the Nanoblur balm claim it can make you look younger in 40 seconds

We’ve all become so immune to the extravagant claims of beauty brands that our reaction to them tends to be short and pithy. But Nanoblur, as the newcomer is called, is confounding sceptics around the globe and shot to the top of the sales charts in 22 countries before arriving in the UK last week.

‘People want instant gratification in all areas of their lives; that includes cosmetics,’ says Brandon Truaxe, CEO of Indeed Labs, the Canadian company behind Nanoblur.

‘The reality of this industry is there has been scam after scam, so people’s patience runs out. But this really does deliver results.’

Nanoblur is a cream full of minute high‑tech particles that scatter light, making skin look miraculously better — clearer, fresher and younger — in seconds, by blurring wrinkles and pigmentation.

Hidden gem: The cream is full of minute high-tech particles that scatter light, making skin look betterHidden gem: The cream is full of minute high-tech particles that scatter light, making skin look better

The idea of using optical diffusing elements to confuse the eye and minimise the appearance of wrinkles is hardly new, and has, for years, been employed by cosmetics companies in face-flattering products (see Other Light-Diffusing Miracle-Workers at the end of this article).

But Nanoblur has taken the technology behind this idea to a new level of sophistication.

‘Our particle sizes are hundreds of times smaller than older formulas,’ says Mr Truaxe. ‘That means they can find their way into the smallest imperfections and use tricks of light to iron them out.’

These particles are on the nano-scale — at 700 nanometres — but too big to slip into the skin (only particles less than 400nm in diameter can do that), so they stay on the outside of the skin, to reflect light.

SKIN DEEPWomen spend, on average, £24,000 on wrinkle-reducing treatments over their lifetime

‘If you give a photograph to a digital artist for improvements they will usually start by blurring out imperfections,’ adds Mr Truaxe.

‘That is what this product does. It refracts light in so many different directions it has the effect of looking through frosted glass. Most other products that try to do this are primers, which you use on the skin before applying make-up. Ours is a “finisher” — it is the final step.’

The product evolved over three years after Dia Foley, sales director of Indeed Labs, noticed how cruel high-definition television could be faces and worked with a cosmetic chemist to create something to help.

On their website, there are images of women (without make-up) wearing the product on half their face to show the difference it can make. Their skin isn’t just smoother, but clearer, too, as pigmentation marks have softened into near-invisibility.

Can it produce those effects in real life? Astonishingly, it can. When I smoothed the water-based product on my bare face it dried quickly and — hey presto! — my skin looked better. It seemed smoother and more even in tone. The dark circles under my eyes were less obvious and my oily T-zone was matt.

It’s an ideal cheat for looking fresh-faced and I can see why it has been a hit with men who would not contemplate wearing make-up.

I haven’t got the knack of applying it over make-up, the other way to wear it. You are meant to apply it on top of foundation and blusher, but I find it smudges foundation.”
Read more:

Product fit for Purpose; -What does this mean?

8 Oct estee-lauder-other-50ml-1-7oz-future-perfect-anti-wrinkle-radiance-cream-spf-15-dry-skin-women

A product “fit for purpose” means just that in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. In example, if a manufacturer advertises a sunscreen product it means that if one uses the product whilst standing in sun, the product must protect you against the harmful UV rays, -subject of course to you using the product with the correct protection rating. If you did so correctly but still suffer effects of sunburn it simply means that you have been using an advertised product which does not conform to its supposedly advertised benefits. If you suffer any harmful results you may take legal redress for the resultant consequences, i.e. skin damage / cancer.

In terms of the CPA, when a cosmetic product is not “fit for its purpose” and can be legally substantiated, the act provides the consumer with “simplified redress mechanisms as no-fault liability is introduced.”

According to the CPA, the packaging and circumstances surrounding the marketing of a product must be truthful in “plain and understandable language” and clarify what the product’s intended purpose is. Words such as “healthy” or “reduces scarring” etc. on packaging may be interpreted as representations of medicinal use. Claims of “reducing wrinkles,” “revitalises skin,” “lightens skin” or “reduces cellulite,” could be indicators of purpose. So if products are found to be unfit for their purpose they can be returned within 6 months for a full refund at the seller’s risk. If a product is unsuitable, i.e. wrong pigmentation, allergic reaction etc the consumer has the right to return the product, even if opened, for a full refund within 10 days!

L’Oreal’s Banned Adverts

4 Oct

They were hired for their beauty. But it seems that Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington weren’t quite beautiful enough for L’Oreal. 

Pictures of them were digitally altered to make their skin appear even more flawless in advertisements for the beauty firm.

Both ads have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after complaints that they were misleading.

The Julia Roberts Lancome advert that was banned by the ASA
How Julia Roberts really looks

Too perfect: The Advertising Standards Agency banned this Lancome advert of actress Julia Roberts after complaints it was misleading


The complaints were brought by Lib-Dem MP Jo Swinson, who argued that airbrushing creates a false impression of beauty.

She claims the results put pressure on women and young girls who compare themselves unfavourably to the unrealistic images.

  The Julia Roberts ad showed the actress in a two-page magazine spread for Teint Miracle foundation by Lancôme, one of L’Oreal’s make-up brands. 

The ad claimed the foundation ‘recreates the aura of perfect skin’.

The brand claimed the product was the result of 10 years of research and suggested the science was the subject of seven patent applications.

The actress was reportedly paid around £15million to be the face of the Lancome brand. However, she is, perhaps, an unlikely ambassador for the company.

Last year, the 43-year-old star and mother of three condemned the obsession with beauty and youth as ‘shallow’.

L’Oreal admitted that certain ‘post production’ techniques had been used on the image of the actress. But it insisted the picture was an accurate representation of her ‘naturally healthy and glowing skin’.

L’Oreal was also in the dock over its image of Christy Turlington in a magazine ad for The Eraser foundation, from its Maybelline brand.

Christy Turlington's Maybelline advert for 'The Eraser' was also banned
Christy Turlington as she normally looks without airbrushing

Too good to be true: This Maybelline advert starring Christy Turlington was one of the adverts banned over its use of the airbrush

 Parts of her face had been apparently been covered with the foundation while other areas were left natural to show the effects of the product. 

The text claimed the product: ‘Conceals instantly, visibly, precisely … Covers dark circles and fine lines to help conceal crow’s feet – as if erased!’ 

Complaints: Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson contacted the Advertising watchdog because she believes airbrushed adverts give a false impression of beautyComplaints: Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson contacted the Advertising watchdog because she believes airbrushed adverts give a false impression of beauty

Additional text described the product as ‘The New Anti-Aging Foundation’. Small print along the bottom admitted the image was an ‘Illustrated effect’.

L’Oreal said the image had been digitally re-touched to ‘lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows’.

However, again, it insisted that the image was an accurate reflection of the benefits of the product. 

The ASA was not convinced, ruling the images could not be used again in their current form.

On the Julia Roberts picture, it said: ‘On the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques.’

It said the airbrushing on the Maybelline advertisement was also likely to mislead.

This is not the first time a beauty company has come under fire over faking images. An advertisement for an Olay anti-aging product featuring Twiggy was banned in 2009.

Jo Swinson and the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone have set up the Campaign for Body Confidence and have called on advertisers to be honest about their use of airbrushing.

She welcomed the ban, saying: ‘This ruling demonstrates that the advertising regulator is acknowledging the dishonest and misleading nature of excessive retouching. 

‘Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don’t reflect reality. 

‘With one in four people feeling depressed about their body, it’s time to consider how these idealised images are distorting our idea of beauty.

Read more: Turlington-L-Oreal-adverts-banned-airbrushing.html#ixzz1ZptVrXQS

Beauty is in the Eye of the Advertiser

25 Sep million_lashes_4

The cosmetic industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world which is said to have grossed £1.8 Billion in 2008 (Keynote Publications, 2009). The rapid expansion and explosion of the industry can be mainly attributed to the use of advertising to convince the consumer to purchase products. It has been found that over a third of cosmetic sales revenue is spent on advertising.

According to advertising executive, Jerry Goodis, “advertising doesn’t mirror how people are acting but how they are dreaming and reflecting beliefs, values and ideologies.” Cosmetic advertising is thus not merely about creating awareness to sell a product, “it is about selling hopes and dreams packaged as representations of the self that have an impact on the consumer’s self perception” (Oakley, 2009:6); and this ultimately impacts on construction of identity and self-image.

According to the Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 0f 2008) the term, “advertisement” can be defined as:

“any direct or indirect visual or oral communication transmitted by any medium, or any representation or reference written, inscribed, recorded, encoded upon or embedded within any medium, by means of which a person seeks to-

(a)  Bring attention of all or part of the public-

(i)           The existence of identity of a supplier; or

(ii)          The existence, nature, availability, properties, advantages or uses of any goods or services that are available for supply, or the conditions on, or prices at, which any goods or services are available for supply;

(b) Promote the supply of any goods or service; or

(c)  Promote any cause;” (Government Gazette, 2009:15).

 As the cosmetic industry has grown over the last century, advertising techniques have also evolved to become more morally questionable. A study by Oakley (2009) examines the different techniques that advertisers use in cosmetic advertising. The techniques are as follows: aspiration advertising, celebrity endorsement, socially responsible advertising, unique selling points, scientific evidence, fear, and advert composition. Oakley states that advertising can be damaging and destructive on self-esteem , distorting perceptions of beauty, and that socially aspirational cosmetic advertising, “promotes a false vision of life as a method of social control.”  She makes mention of Ambeker’s aspirational appeals such as “sex appeal,” “social appeal,” and “masculine-feminine appeal” and states that, “cosmetic adverts create the impression of a perfect person” and that, “the product will infuse the perfection of stated qualities in you.”   

Charles Revson, founder of multibillion dollar cosmetic brand, Revlon, was said to have claimed that “in the factory we make cosmetics, but in the store we sell hope.” This “hope” -that one can achieve perfection through consumption, still influences cosmetic advertising today.  This “perfection,” according to Oakley (2009), is based on “false and empty hope, which is designed to maximise sales by encouraging the self-hating, ever failing, hungry, and sexually insecure state of being aspiring beauties.”

 The ideal of happiness which is channelled through the ideal of beauty in cosmetic advertisements, has thus become very problematic in society since fashion began to idealize the human body making it a “malleable, influenceable, and extremely vulnerable substance” (Ricardo, n.d.).

 The Consumer Protection Act envisions closing loopholes that had been the domain of unscrupulous cosmetics advertisers and manufacturers.

Section 29 of the Act deals with General Standards for Marketing Goods and Services; it prohibits the producer, importer, distributor, retailer or service provider to market any goods or services in a manner that is reasonably likely to imply false or misleading representations concerning the “nature, properties, advantages or uses” as well as “any other material aspect” of a product or service. This includes the efficacy and liability claims supplied by contract manufacturers and suppliers, all claims need to be proven, substantiated with the appropriate laboratory results in order for a brand to make use of the on packaging.

Section 41 deals with false, misleading or deceptive representations when marketing or promoting goods or services. This section prohibits the (direct or indirect) making of false misrepresentations about the standards, quality or characteristics of goods or services. It prohibits the use of “exaggeration, innuendo, or ambiguity as to a material fact or fail to disclose a material fact if that failure amounts to deception” and forces suppliers to disclose all relevant facts that relate to the above mentioned features.

Whilst section 29 and 41 protects the consumer, it simultaneously places a huge responsibility on advertisers and manufacturers to toe-the-line and thus prevent themselves from deviating from the intentions of the act to protect the consumer against results of dubious and misleading advertising.

Hello world!

22 May

Welcome to my blog! At fLAWless you will be informed and can participate in discsussions revolving around the implications of the Consumer Protection Act for the Cosmetics Industry.

Im sure we’ve all, at some stage of our lives, paged though magazine adverts and fallen for the claims cosmetic brands make at giving us “flawless” skin, “flawless” tans and “flawless” hair, not to mention 9 metre long eye lashes!? However since the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, which took effect as of the 1st April this year, there has been much speculation on how this piece of legislation will be the “law” behind the beauty industry.

This law monitors the way companies relate to their consumers as well how they market and sell their products and services. The Act thus encompasses many aspects of supply relationships, including warranties, pricing, standards of service and quality, advertising, labelling, marketing and others. The Act also places a heavy emphasis on clear and understandable language to ensure that suppliers and marketers do not mislead their consumers.

The Consumer Protection Act empowers the consumer as it introduces a system of product liability on suppliers for damage caused by the supply of defective goods, i.e skin rashes, irritations and allergic reactions.

Even though the Advertsing Standards Authority ( ASA ) plays  a huge part in covering many of these areas, the CPA enables consumers to have the power as the consumer may hold any person or persons in the supply chain liable for damages.

Thus,  communication agencies (whether advertising, packaging design, PR or digital) from management to strategists, will have to review brand claims and promises so that they do not mislead consumers; and very importantly creatives will have to make sure that ad campaigns do not get their clients in trouble.

As this is such a fresh area to explore, and has a strong influence on branding and marketing, it has become the research topic for my honours thesis. To all fellow make-up lovers and branding folk out there, this is an open invitation to join in any discussion, comment and give valuable feedback. I look forward to hearing about your views and experiences! :)



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