Skincare products are not drugs, FDA warns

Skincare products are big business, and are an important part of most women’s beauty regimes.

These pages try to give a balanced view on what does and does not work in skincare, but with so many young women (and men) striving to achieve the perceived ideal of what the perfect man or woman should look like, the target audience for skincare products is perhaps more susceptible than most to claims made about the effectiveness of various products.

With this is in mind, it is telling that the US Food and Drug Administration has stepped in to warn one of the biggest manufacturers of skincare products, L’Oreal SA, about its use of language in marketing its wares.

The administration’s specific concern was that the type of language being used in marketing campaigns was making them sound like drugs, rather than simple beauty products.

Claims from Lancome USA, a subsidiary of L’Oreal, that its creams could boost gene activity or stimulate cell regeneration to reduce signs of ageing were what prompted FDA action. Under its guidelines, anything which claims to “affect the structure or function of the human body” is classified as a drug, which is then required to have its efficacy verified by the FDA.

As Reuters reports, one of the concerns centers around the Genifique Repair cream, which Lancome claims “boosts the activity of genes”. L’Oreal has said it will respond to the FDA’s concern. “We are aware of FDA’s letter to Lancome and will respond to their regulatory concerns in a timely manner,” a spokesman told the news agency. Failure to change the advertising of these products could lead to the creams themselves being seized.

Some of the big claims made by leading skincare product manufacturers are not even necessary, according to one expert. Dr Susan Austin, a leading cosmetic physician, recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that much of the brand-name stuff performs no better than simple aqueous cream combined with the odd boutique products.

With winter on its way, hydration is the key for taking care of the skin, Dr Austin claims. She explained: “In summer when we’re producing more oil it’s all fine and dandy to just use a couple of products but the cold weather gives us a bit more motivation to invest in our own beauty. Dry skin is dull and sallow skin. Our eyes look darker because there’s less moisture in the skin and dark circles become more prominent.”

As for anti-ageing products, the expert insists that the best ingredients, such as retinoids, glycolics and Vitamin B3 are best prescribed by a trained dermatologist who can manage any potential reaction or side-effects. She concluded: “The main thing is hydration. A good quality moisturiser doesn’t have to be expensive.”

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