Home   »  Media  »  News Coverage  »  2005 News Coverage

Get Updates
Cosmetics not regulated

by Karen D. Collins, staff writerAsbury Park Press
September 28th, 2005

Who knew?

The fountain of youth is really located in the aisle of your local grocery store.

If you believe the advertisements, the age-defying results of products and procedures once the exclusive realm of dermatologists and plastic surgeons can now be attained for a fraction of the cost.

Got dark circles under the eyes? Try Hylexin. Want a makeup that will reduce wrinkles? Try Revlon's new line of Botafirm makeup products, or perhaps you should spend a little more and try StriVectin-SD. Sick of those lines around your mouth? You could just stop smiling or talking, of course. Or, you could try Estee Lauder's new Perfectionist Correcting Concentrate for Lip Lines.

"There are so many new products coming out; you can't keep track of them all," says Amy Keller, beauty director for Shop Etc. magazine. "I think there was something like 50 new products put on the market last year. Every cosmetics line at every price point has an anti-aging product out there.

"We're so focused on youth and looking younger, and people want to do it in the least-invasive and least-expensive way possible."

Indeed, industry experts say anti-aging products now represent the biggest growth area in the beauty and cosmetics industry. They are sold everywhere, from drug stores to department store cosmetic counters and on cable shopping channels.

But, experts caution, all that glitters is not gold.

Some new products contain ingredients once available only by prescription; some are even endorsed by physicians. But questions still abound.

"We get questions all the time about these products. The truth is some of them may help with some things but they're not going to solve all the problems in the world," says Dr. Avery S. Kuflik, a dermatologist who practices in Sea Girt and at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

Actually, Kuflik and others agree, the grocery store can be your source for the fountain of youth. Many people are proponents of using vegetables, dairy products and other common grocery items to create skin masks and treatments. A wide-brim hat, body hydration, sunscreens and sun blocks and products with UV ray protection will go a long way toward protecting the skin from signs of aging.

Of course, diets rich in certain vitamins and minerals also can help skin's appearance. Lifestyle choices such as smoking play a role; so does genetics.

The new wave of anti-aging cosmetics includes ingredients previously exclusive to prescription medicines such as glycolic and retinoic acids, coenzymes, anti-oxidants and peptides.

But even if these elements are actually in a product, Kuflik says there are dozens of other variables that can impact a product's effectiveness, including the amount and strength of its ingredients, how the ingredients are combined and the way a product is packaged, since exposure to sunlight can reduce the strength of some ingredients.

"Some of the over-the-counter products are the real thing and they're strong; sometimes you can find a similar product with a higher concentration of ingredients at your doctor's office," he says. "I don't tell my patients not to use any of the creams. But there is no one-size-fits-all product that I know of.

"It depends on the person and the product and what the person wants to use the products for."

Kuflik and others say patients also need to consider other aspects of the marketing game when it comes to anti-aging products. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate cosmetic products or how they are advertised; companies do not have to prove claims of scientific testing.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics ran an advertisement in the New York edition of Tuesday's USA Today urging the FDA to regulate cosmetics and pushing cosmetics firms to agree to more stringent and regulated testing of its products.

"Most of the chemical ingredients in cosmetics have never been assessed for safety. Despite industry claims that the products are fully tested, that's just not the case," says Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for the campaign. According to the campaign, 89 percent of the 10,500 ingredients the FDA has determined is used in personal-care products "have never been evaluated for safety by the FDA, the industry-funded Cosmetics Industry Review panel or any other publicly accountable institution."

The campaign is insisting cosmetics companies sign a pledge ensuring they will not use harmful chemicals in products.

"We're calling on the companies to step up to the plate and agree to really look at the ingredients, to get rid of the known hazardous chemicals and to come up with a plan that ensures they're only using safe and tested ingredients," Malkan says.

According to the campaign's Web site, most of the companies that have signed so far have been natural product lines such as The Body Shop and Burt's Bees. Major cosmetics companies such as Avon, Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Revlon, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever are not on the list.

A representative from Estee Lauder, reached Tuesday, says the company knew about the pledge campaign but had a policy against signing such initiatives. The Estee Lauder companies include such brands as Estee Lauder, Clinique, Prescriptives, Origins, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Aveda, Bumble and Bumble, and the American Beauty, Flirt and Good Skin lines carried exclusively by Kohl's.

"Safety is a top priority for our company completely. We support the concept of this (pledge campaign) wholeheartedly. But it is our company policy not to sign outside pledges," says Janet Bartucci, vice president of corporate global communications for Estee Lauder. "We hold ourselves to incredibly high standards. We feel we have consistently produced safe products and do not have products with toxic ingredients as they call them.

"It's not that we don't support the spirit of the (campaign). We support the spirit of this 150 percent, but we just cannot sign an outside (campaign)."

A spokeswoman for Kiehl's, whose parent company is L'Oreal, says she knew nothing about the pledge campaign.

Keller says even with products containing proven ingredients, the average consumer may not be purchasing what they need or want.

"For example, if you're looking for an at-home microdermabrasion product, you want a specific type of crystal aluminum oxide but you also need a certain level of concentration. The average person isn't going to know all of that," Keller says. "Even with ingredients that have been proven to do certain things, there is still the issue of how much you really need to use.

"Peptides have been shown to stimulate collagen. But are they really getting down to the deep enough level where the muscles contract? And how long is that really going to last?"

And, she and other experts add, commonly used marketing terms such as "natural," "revolutionary," "dermatologist tested," "clinically tested" and "hypo-allergenic" are all suspect.

"I've had personal experiences at makeup counters where I've heard all kinds of things. If you don't know better, these people really sound like they know what they're talking about," Kuflik says. "I was with my girlfriend at a mall and this makeup person held up a magnifying glass to her skin. I listened in just for kicks. The makeup lady starts pointing out all these scales. She says, "Look! Do you see how your skin looks like the desert? You need this and this and this.'

"Well, yes. You're going to see things if you look at your skin in a magnifying glass. It's amazing what people will try to tell you."

Kuflik says it may be a good idea to consult a dermatologist, even if you ultimately choose a product from a department store.

"We have people who come in just for a consultation on what to use and that's fine. We don't push people to have plastic surgery or to have Botox," he says. "If you can find what you want at the cosmetic counter, then fine.

"But a lot of women are spending hundreds of dollars on products and not getting the results they want to achieve. It may be that their goals are unrealistic. It may be the products they're using. Seek out a physician or specialist and they can tell you what a good regimen is for you to use."