5 Bogus Cosmetic Claims


In This Article:

No matter where you shop for skincare or makeup products, you'll find one or more with claims that are misleading or exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Lots of cosmetics companies engage in too-good-to-be-true claims to get your attention, so you’re probably asking: What about advertising regulations? How do these brands get away with it? We'll draw on our 35 years of researching this fascinating, sometimes frustrating industry and explain!

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It’s a Jungle Out There!

No matter where you prefer to shop for beauty products, you’re bombarded with new products (plus the longstanding products) claiming to do all manner of great things for your skin. The constant flood of information and products is nothing short of dizzying—and that’s not counting fashion magazines, television commercials, home shopping, and countless beauty blogs and videos available around the clock!

It’s tempting to give up out of frustration when you can’t be sure who’s telling the truth, but hang in there! The truth behind the fantasy claims is that lots of brands offer brilliantly formulated products. We’ll help you cut through the hype and noise by revealing the facts behind five common yet bogus cosmetic claims—some of which you may have believed for years!

Armed with this research-based information, you will be better prepared to find products that REALLY work, no matter your skin type or concern!

5 Misleading Cosmetic Claims Debunked

"Hypoallergenic" is meant to imply that a product is unlikely or less likely to cause reactions and, therefore, is better for sensitive skin. It isn't true, and here’s why: There are no accepted testing methods, ingredient restrictions, regulations, guidelines, rules, or procedures of any kind, anywhere, for determining if a product qualifies as being hypoallergenic.

More proof: We’ve reviewed hundreds of products labeled "hypoallergenic" or "good for sensitive skin" that contain seriously problematic ingredients capable of causing a sensitized reaction.

Even the United States FDA says “There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term hypoallergenic. The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean.”

Instead of shopping for “hypoallergenic”, avoid products that contain frequent skin-sensitizing ingredients. This includes fragrance (both natural and synthetic), denatured alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate, and all forms of mint and citrus. These ingredients show up in lots of products. All of them are problematic for skin regardless of the claims on the product!

We know sensitizing ingredients are a major problem for all skin types, and that's why every Paula's Choice product is formulated to be non-irritating. We love it when we see other cosmetic companies doing the same thing, because it’s truly what’s best for your skin.

Note that if you have extremely sensitive skin, our CALM line may be the best option to calm redness and bring comforting relief.

Non-comedogenic or Won't Clog Pores
You really can't trust any product that makes claims of being non-comedogenic (or the less common "non-acnegenic") because there are no approved or regulated standards for these statements anywhere in the world.

With no guidelines or standards in place, even the thickest, greasiest moisturizer around can claim it "won't clog pores"! As a general rule, the thicker the product, the more likely it is to be pore-clogging.

And be wary of the claim "oil-free"! Lots of ingredients can make skin feel greasy but don’t contain or get listed as traditional oils. Shopping for oil-free products isn't a slam-dunk solution for oily or congested skin.

Instead, if you have oily or clog-prone skin, avoid products that have a thick, creamy consistency.  Look for products that have a liquid, gel, extremely light serum texture, or thin, water-based lotion consistency. Products with thinner textures are less likely to clog pores or worsen breakouts.

The word "cosmeceutical" (a combination of "cosmetic" and "pharmaceutical") was dreamed up to describe cosmetics products that are supposed to have some level (proven or not) of special benefit over and above regular "cosmetics."

The truth? It’s just another marketing term with no regulation or standards behind it. That means any brand (from a doctor’s office, salon, or medical spa) can label their products cosmeceutical, regardless of what it contains. There are no cosmeceutical-grade ingredients anywhere in the world.

What about different grades of ingredients? Those exist, but their usage isn’t restricted to only the most expensive brands or brands sold only by estheticians or dermatologists. Any cosmetic line has access to those very same ingredients and are used throughout the cosmetic industry. Falling for this one is a surefire way to waste money!

Dermatologist-approved or dermatologist-tested
This popular claim sounds official and professional but, surprise, it’s another that isn't supported by any agreed-on standards.

"Dermatologist-approved" could mean something or it could mean nothing at all. What you don't know is if the dermatologist is on the payroll of the cosmetics company (many are, so they're expected to "approve" of products—when was the last time you saw a "dermatologist-rejected" product?) or what standards he or she used to approve the product.

The same applies for “dermatologist-tested”. Unless you can learn how the test was done and what the results were, it could be good or bad or just plain meaningless--and it’s often the latter.

Specially formulated for mature skin
Although this claim is becoming less typical, it still shows up and it couldn’t be more irksome for many reasons. The main problem is that cosmetic companies always define mature skin as occurring at some arbitrary age, usually over the age of 50, where all of a sudden, skin becomes dry. But skin doesn’t abruptly change at the age of 50 and it absolutely doesn’t automatically become dry, either.

In reality, age is not a skin type. Women over age 50 have many different skin types. Concerns such as wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and loss of firmness are fairly consistent but that’s true for women in their 30s and 40s, too. In truth, women of all ages can struggle with oily skin and breakouts (just ask Paula; at the age of 63, she still has oily, combination skin).

There are no special formulary standards that make products labeled "for mature skin" any better than products formulated for other skin types or concerns; mature skin products are not more anti-aging, either. Most products sold for mature skin are just overly emollient moisturizers that may or may not contain the replenishing, restoring ingredients skin showing signs of aging needs. That’s why it can be a mistake to let this claim guide your purchasing decisions.

What you can do is follow a consistent skincare routine that addresses the needs of your skin type and your skin concerns, regardless of your age. Our article on How to Put Together a Skin-Care Routine is a great place to learn what your routine should include and why each step is crucial to getting the best skin of your life!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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