There are literally thousands of products promising to turn back the hands of time. Using anti-aging products is one of the most common beauty hacks for looking younger, but it’s far from a silver bullet.
Some anti-aging products really do soften fine lines, improve skin clarity, and build up collagen. Others are nothing but a waste of money. Yet all anti-aging products claim to solve our skin woes. So how do manufacturers come up with all their claims and how do you know if they’re legitimate?
Unfortunately, topical beauty product claims aren’t usually regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Manufacturers primarily rely on four tactics to prove the efficacy of anti-aging products.
Third-Party Testing of Beauty Products
One of the most common ways to obtain efficacy statistics for products is through third-party testing. Companies like The Benchmarking Company that specialize in beauty product testing base results in quantitative and qualitative consumer research.
Third-party testers use a variety of measures to gauge whether a product actually delivers results. Some are performed in-home, meaning that the consumer who’s acting as a tester uses the product at home as other consumers would. The product research company then tracks their independent thoughts on how the product worked throughout the testing period.
The tests produce verified consumer claims that are then used for marketing purposes. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to discover benefits they didn’t even consider before the third party consumer testing.
Testing Beauty Products in a Laboratory Setting
Some beauty product manufacturers go the extra mile to definitively show results in terms of actual improvement to the skin, not just consumer opinion. These tests are performed in a laboratory setting under the direction of researchers.
When you see claims like “80% improvement in moisture retention” or “75% reduction in fine lines” those are typically obtained through laboratory testing. The researchers will take baseline measurements before product use and then observe the changes at intervals during the testing period.
Consumers should pay attention to who does the laboratory testing. It’s best for testing to be done at an outside facility rather than at the manufacturer’s testing facilities.
Expert Reviews on Anti-Aging Products
Today, there are a lot of influencers providing their seal of approval for beauty products, which their followers see as proof positive of efficacy. It’s not uncommon to see anti-aging products that prominently display awards received from expert reviewers like a beauty magazine or well-known skin specialist. The opinion of these high-profile reviewers is regularly used in marketing on product packaging, ads, and websites.
The Allure Best of Beauty Awards is a perfect example of how expert reviews can help substantiate efficacy claims. Their beauty editors test out dozens upon dozens of products to determine which ones live up to the hype. Only those that really wow their panel end up receiving an award.
FTC Advertising and Marketing Regulations
Since the FDA classifies most topical anti-aging products as cosmetics (unless they change the physical structure of the skin and are then considered a drug), the products need to be proven safe to use, but they don’t need FDA approval to verify they work as claimed. However, there are Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advertising and marketing regulations for cosmetics, and under FDA law marketing claims should not be misleading.
If the FDA finds that a manufacturer is making drug claims for a cosmetic they can take action. For example, if a manufacturer claims that an anti-aging cosmetic boosts collagen production that’s a drug claim because it would be altering the structure of the skin. If the product is a cosmetic that hasn’t gotten FDA approval to make a drug claim a warning letter will be issued. Dozens of companies have received warning letters in regard to topical skin care products, including heavyweights like L’Oreal and Peter Thomas Roth.
With so many options available and loose FDA regulations finding anti-agers that actual work can be a daunting process. Your best bet is to look for products that have been independently tested and use ingredients that are proven to be effective.
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