Monday, April 4, 2016


When I happened across this item from CBS news last week I had several thoughts about the points made.  The story, in brief, is about Americans spending $60 billion per year on cosmetics, creams and anti-aging products.

In the course of the article it covered a number of different, almost unrelated, subjects.  One was about ingredients.  “A Senate Committee is expected to consider new regulations on what goes into cosmetics.”  A second point was about the wide variation of prices.  Their expert dermatologist commented on two moisturizers – “one that costs about $10 and other that costs $170” saying “there was no difference that accounted for the price gap, so much so in fact, that she would go for the cheaper moisturizer.”  A final point was about the sales tactics.  “Anti-aging is a marketing term. Science has never yet found an ingredient that slows or reverses the aging process."  They wrapped up by reinforcing the importance of sunscreen, the closest thing to an anti-aging product you can buy.

The first point about ingredients took me back to June of last year when I wrote about the food police warning not to buy “products with more than five ingredients or any ingredients you can’t easily pronounce.”  How few people realize that substances can also be absorbed through the skin?  If they are foolish enough to take that simplistic advice about food, they should not even get near a jar of night cream!  Even the most generic creams have many ingredients, some difficult to pronounce.

I thought the second point about vast price discrepancies for little or no benefit was old news.  Consumer testing organizations have for years been telling us that the common brand is usually a much wiser buy than the luxury brand, whether it’s cosmetics or shampoo.  With so much of the population in debt, don’t we have better things to do with a large portion of that $60 billion than throw it away on supposed miracle remedies from exclusive brands?

On the marketing side, I happened to pick up a recently published book called My Adventures With Your Money.  It is about an accomplished conman who lived early in the last century and made most of his money selling worthless mining stock.  At one point it said:  “Anyone who lost money would have a hard time finding…any place where he actually misrepresented…He freely indulged in opinions, promises and exaggerations.  These are the tools with which he ensnares his victims.”  This sounds familiar not only in the get-rich-quick schemes of today, but also in a fair share of legitimate advertising, especially in the health and beauty market.  Much of it is about hype, opinions, celebrity endorsements, or reliance on a reputation or brand associated with exclusivity and luxury goods.

Finally, comes the importance of sunscreen.  It’s true.  But how many people continue to go to the beach (and tanning salons) unprotected?

It’s not like we don’t know most of this stuff already, yet they keep presenting it as “news,” and many continue to ignore it.  Americans want to make themselves beautiful.  But instead of staying in shape and sticking to a diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding the sun, we turn to the miracle in a jar and money is no object.

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