The Great Skin Care Conspiracy

Sometimes the odds of getting a good product are bad when it comes to skin care. The creams and lotions that claim to clear, lift, firm, tighten, and correct your complexion don’t always do what they say they’re going to. Less than 50% of the products you put on your face actually help you look younger. And even fewer than that are worth what you pay for them.

Why are skin care products so confusing? And why is there so little brand loyalty? Part of the problem is that the last 20 years have brought a tsunami of new skin care products, new ads, and new claims. The splashy advertising, the celebrities, and the offers combine to produce instant hype. Every new product promises a new “advance” or “technology” or “significant improvement.” Because this revolution is so new, everyone—retailers, consumers, dermatologists, editors—is struggling to figure it out.

Some cosmetics companies like it that way. They invent funny names for molecules. They retouch the living daylights out of those “unretouched” ads. They cleverly (yet legally) manipulate the copy. These deceptive practices are called “smoke and mirrors”—a metaphor for deceptive or fraudulent practices first used to describe the way in which magicians make objects appear or disappear. It’s clever, but also deceptive.

It works for magicians, and it works for the skin care industry.

Willing and unknowing customers plunk down big bucks because they want to believe the magic. It’s a national addiction because people everywhere want to fight aging and are looking for solutions.

If you’re going to spend money on skin care products, spend it wisely. Make sure that you’re not being conned and make informed decisions. Invest in products that really work. Discriminate. Know how the channel of distribution affects the quality of the merchandise, and the price that you pay. Understand how ads are delicately written and carefully crafted.