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If you were to read through skin care ads, you'd be convinced that cosmetics companies spent far more time coming up with catchy slogans and new phrases than in actually developing products that worked.

Stem cells. Gene therapy. Immune protection. Growth hormone. The latest concepts in science are making their way into ad campaigns for beauty products.

Last month, for example, advertisements for the Olay Regenerist line of face treatments tout the company's "Aquacurrent Science" as a skin care technology "that helps reverse the look of lines and wrinkles." According to promotional material, the technology was inspired by the discovery of aquaporin water channels (pores that conduct water in and out of cells) for which Dr. Peter Agre won a Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Meanwhile, from L'Oréal comes Skin Genesis. The line includes a gel cleanser that offers "cellular level cleansing," according to magazine advertisements.

Are marketers trying to dupe us into buying products with claims we can't understand? According to representatives from L'Oreal and P & G Beauty, their products do work. Olay Aquacurrent Science includes products that use a form of vitamin B to increase water concentration in the outermost layer of the skin. In other words: it helps moisturize the skin. "Cellular level cleansing" in the  L'Oréal Skin Genesis line," refers to the "action of promoting cell turnover at the surface level". In other words: it helps exfoliate the skin.

"There is a tremendous increase in the number of products that use DNA, growth factor and stem cells in labels or marketing claims," said Taya Tomasello, a senior beauty analyst at Mintel International Group Ltd., a market research firm. This year, beauty companies introduced 311 face products that promise to work on skin at a "cellular level" compared with 116 face products that make more generic anti-aging claims, according to Mintel's new products database.

"You see 'cellular' and you think, 'this is really going to help with my anti-aging,' " Ms. Tomasello said.
Medical-sounding affixes like bio-, micro- and pro- also abound (think biologic, microscopic and probiotics). Some terms found last week at cosmetics retailers and in fashion magazines included: "biomolecular" eye cream; "microtechnology bio active" foundation; "pro-collagen" serum; "microsmoothing" face serum; and a "bio-stimulating" night cream with "microlift."

Industry analysts, scientists and consumers offer a variety of theories for the increased use of such jargon: it lends face creams the air of high technology; it helps distinguish one product from a myriad of others; it helps justify the price tag.

Laure Rittié, a research investigator in dermatology at the University of Michigan, said that simple skin physiology could account for the fancy microbiological-sounding claims on some beauty products. She explained that dead cells compose the very top layer of skin and that any product (even a washcloth or sandpaper) that exfoliates the dead cells, exposing underlying skin cells, might call itself regenerative, multicellular or biologically stimulating.

So what's the take away from this? A marketer's job is to sell us their product. And if they pepper their products with words we don't understand, hoping to convey youth, beauty, science, positivity and renewal, their ultimate goal is to to get us to buy. Be prepared. Understand the ingredients and the science behind the claims and you won't be fooled by slick ads with terminology you can't understand.  

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Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed] 

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