Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pet Peeve of the Week: Cosmetic product marketing and the fact that I buy into it

Aging happens. And if you are like me and you can't even stand seeing a needle much less getting pricked by one - then you probably wouldn't consider voluntarily going under the knife for any sort of cosmetic enhancement in the future. Yet you may still want to do whatever you can to counteract the effects of time on your skin.

Enter the cosmetic industry and its product marketing geniuses, who know all too well that there is a huge market out there of both men and women who will pay good money for any sort of topical solution that claims to slow down the ticking of the clock, or even out skin tone, or "firm and tighten," or "plump" - you name it. There is an outright slew of ads and infomercials running right now that speak to this "I want to look good but don't want to have surgery in order to do so" segment. I am a card-carrying member of that segment, and have the product receipts to prove it.

But the frustrating and slightly humorous part about this is that deep down I KNOW this crap isn't really going to work - or at least it's not going to work so well that anyone else besides me notices. How do I know this? Because I consulted to a major dermatologist firm about 6 years ago for 1.5 years, and learned more than anyone (who is not actually a doctor) would ever want to know about this topic.

Alas, that knowledge still hasn't stopped me from getting sucked in by the hype. I have tried out many of the most advertised cosmetic "solutions" out there, so I feel compelled to give you my opinion, because a few are OK.

Freeze!  You will be wasting your money if you buy this!Freeze 24/7 (for wrinkles) - $115.

I had seen this product hailed in nearly every magazine that I read, and everyone was saying that it was a miracle worker. People had done tests with it where they put some of it on one palm and none on the other... and the palm with the cream on it actually smoothed out all of the person's palm lines?!?! I thought, "Wow, that is hard-core!"

There was a tester jar of it in a store I was at recently, so I put some on. I definitely felt a tingling sensation, so I thought, "This must be working." About an hour later, I was in Ulta, and thought I would be all clever and use my 20% off coupon to buy Freeze there. Alas, that product was one of the few that couldn't have any discounts applied, which I found out after I bought it. D'ah! I have since put it on a few times, and even put it on one half of my forehead and asked my husband to guess which side it was on. He guess the WRONG side, and I will be taking the jar back today (which I just realized recently you can do with ALL cosmetics - return them if you don't like them!). Anyway, I will say that Freeze definitely does something, but I don't like the feel of it. It kind of lightens your skin, mattifies it (if that's a word) and makes it feel extremely EXTREMELY tight, like you have a mud mask on or something. But there was no real noticeable effect on any wrinkles (which they touted would be immediate), and I think if I would have tried to put makeup on over it, it would've been tough - it's kind of paste-like when it dries. So thumbs down on this one.

No, I am sad to say that it's not going to be better than Botox.StriVectin (for wrinkles) - Around $100.

If you have not seen the "Better than Botox?" ads, then you must not read ANYTHING. They are all over the place. You must admit, this was and still is a brilliant marketing campaign. Unfortunately, this stuff doesn't really do anything, and as my dermatologist calmly repeats every single time I go see him: "You are already using the best stuff there is for wrinkles. The only topical solution that has proven to work in clinical studies over the course of time is tretinoin" (better known as Retin-A or one of its offshoots).

But I had bought StriVection when it first came out and before I knew about the whole "you can take back cosmetics" thing, so I still use it every morning for some unknown reason (and Retin-A at night). The huge bottle has lasted two years so far!?!

Prescriptives Super Line Preventor (for wrinkles) - not sure of real cost - like $55 maybe?

No verdict yet...I was given a pretty large-sized tester of this free not too long ago (it is going to last me FOREVER), and have put it on my forehead a few times, but I think it may be causing me to have a slight allergic reaction. So as of right now, I do not have enough information to be able to comment. Does anyone else like it out there?

Frownies (for wrinkles) - I don't remember cost, but it's not a lot.

Fun with stickers!Have you heard of these things? The supposed "secret of movie stars" like Meryl Streep and Rene Russo? They are these crazy sticker pads that you moisten and put on wrinkles and leave on overnight. Over a matter of weeks, they are supposed to "re-train" your wrinkles/muscles and smooth them out. Quite frankly, I've just never had the patience to keep putting them on night after night. You need to smooth out the area you want to put them on with one hand, apply the sticker thing with another, hold it there for 3 minutes... it's actually kind of stressful. Maybe one day I will become motivated enough to keep them going for weeks on end, but not just yet. The other thing is that my face is always puffy when I wake up, so I have big indent marks around where the sticker is, and sometimes they haven't gone away even after I take a shower! So I can't chance going into the office and getting strange looks (or stranger looks than I already get on a normal day).

Retin-A (for wrinkles) - Prescription.

This stuff DOES work. How do I know? Because I did one of the scariest things of all time - the UV Light Test. Back in grad school, the health care unit did this big fair on campus and they had one of these sophisticated machines, which I had read all about in health and beauty magazines. The kind that basically show you what you are going to look like when you are old by putting you under this special kind of UV light that shows underlying age spots and wrinkles and whatnot. You can pay good money to get one of these tests because not too many places have the machine - and here I was with the chance to do it for free.

Help me Retin-A, you're my only hope!But the reason why I was so scared to do it is because I had spent about 9 years of my life on and off in tanning booths. Yes, I realize this is idiotic, but YOU go back in time and tell that to my teenage self. Everyone has their vice, and mine was tanning. On top of that, skin cancer runs in my family. After my consulting gig with the pharmaceutical firm, I pretty much quit intentionally being out in the sun cold turkey. But now it was time to face the facts by looking into a mirror while under the UV booth thingamajig.

Aaahhh, my skin!Why Retina-A works was extremely obvious when I was under the light. I only use it on my forehead, nowhere else. In the UV Booth, my forehead was almost COMPLETELY FREE of age spots and/or other scary marks, whereas the rest of my face looked like I was going to become the old hag woman that the Queen from Snow White turned into when she head out with the poison apple. It was all freckly and age spot-y and mottled. I was in disbelief. If you ever want to become completely depressed, trust me - take that test.

I have since tried to use Retin-A elsewhere on my face, but the rest of my skin outside of my forehead can only handle it about every 4th day. Do I still have wrinkles on my forehead? Yes, of course I do. There's no way to NOT have wrinkles without surgery once you're in your 30s. But should they have and could they be much worse, considering my sordid tanning past? Definitely.

Hylexin (dark undereye circles) - Around $100

Umm - if you really have THAT dark of circles, then you've got problems. Coming to you from the same "Better than Botox?" marketing gurus is Hylexin for undereye circles. As I was also blessed with this problem (thanks for the genes, mom!), I of course had to run out and buy this after reading an article in Lucky magazine where they had put it on one eye and not the other for a few weeks and noticed an actual difference. There are also other sites that have (possibly fake) before and after pictures.

I WAS able to scam at Ulta with this product and get 20% odd with a coupon, so I was very happy about that. So happy that I bought it twice. But what I forgot to do was the same "only one eye" test on myself, so now I'm too scared to ever stop using this cream because I forgot what I looked like before and I don't know if it was significantly different. I do feel like it works a little bit, so I think I will keep using it, and maybe eventually I'll get brave enough to just do one eye for a while and see if I really can justify the expense on an ongoing basis. So the jury's still out on this one. Regardless, I still have to use undereye concealer (all hail Laura Mercier!), so it is not like Hylexin performs miracles.

L'Oreal Sublime Slim (firming body gel) - Around $8.

Doesn't work!!!I am not a fan of this product. It is sticky even after it dries and I just didn't feel it did anything, despite all of its "#1 product in Europe!" claims and supposed test results. You get what you pay for sometimes...

Estee Lauder Slim Shape (firming body gel) - $50.

All Hail This Bottle!This stuff WORKS and it rocks the house, if I do say so myself. Will it completely firm up your "problem areas" - no. Nothing will. We all have to deal with that. But it did, in my opinion, result in a significant, visible-to-the-naked-eye improvement. It is $50 a pop (you go through it fast, too) and works best if you use it twice a day - and the kicker is you pretty much have to wait a few weeks to start really seeing results, and you then cannot stop using it or the effects go away. It's like crack for your skin. But to me, it is worth it - it is my main indulgence I allow myself to get. The problem is, it is getting harder and harder to find!

ESTEE LAUDER PEEPS - what are you doing?!?!?! You need to market the hell out of this thing?!?!?! Everyone I know who has used this loves it. Two thumbs up from e.

So there you have it, my opinions on what I have tried. Despite the fact that I'm complaining about myself actually buying into the product hype... I still just have to end on this note: if there are any other products any of you reading this out there have tried and love - it is your duty to report them in the comments!!!

- e


Proud Papa said...

It seems easier not to smile!!!!! Friday was fun! We are looking forward to the big premiere.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing all the research. I LOL when I saw the Snow White photo. :-) As a former sun-worshipper myself (went to U of Arizona mainly for the year-round sun), I would hate to see how my skin would look under the thingamagigy. Anyway, I have found that microdermabrasion combined with Biomedic treatments ($100 total per visit at my doc) works wonders and in much less time than products do. The main reason I went was for old acne scars, but found it works great on age spots and wrinkles. Gotta love the 3 for 1 treatment! You go about every 6-8 weeks and it's totally painless except for some initial stinging from the Biomedic part. I don't know about everyone else, but I'd rather spend the $100 on this than a bunch of products that may or may not work. I use regular, less-expensive moisturizers and exfoliaters in between visits and for my skin, that seems to work fine.

Erika (aka "e") said...

Julie - Thanks for the info - I may have to try it one day! I'm glad I'm not alone in my quest.

Anonymous said...

re: Retin A -- just dilute it with moisturizer and you can use it every night. (I buy mine from a Mexican pharmacy, ten bucks a tube for the strongest, .1 per cent, put a tiny dab in my palm and smoosh with a splurt of moisturizer. It's the best. and as your skin gets used to it, you just dilute it less and less.

fyi, not sure if I'm getting the name right or not but there's a site a believe is called "consumer union" where tons of users of cosmetics and cosmetic devices (like at home lasers) post about what doesn't work for them. has saved me plenty. I'm sure I recall the "better than botox" one getting dissed there.

Anonymous said...

Retin A used since invented. Removed all fine lines and tan spots emerging. the trick is that it must be used sparingly, very. It works, my skin looks 30 years younger than my in Mexico if you can, no prescrition, I also use vaseline jelly Cream which is absorbed and keeps skin from far, so good.

ED said...

I want to buy retin A from Mexico - where do I go an how do I do it?? Have lines and wrinkles and age spots. Ugh!!!