Liar, Liar: Most Cosmetic Product Claims Deemed False

The cosmetics industry's pants are on fire. Find out which advertising claims have been labeled everything from "ambiguous" to "outright lie."

Liar, Liar: Most Cosmetic Product Claims Deemed False Photo (cc) by Akira Ohgaki

The cosmetics industry’s pants are on fire.

A new study deems only 18 percent of product claims in magazine ads as acceptable. The vast majority of claims fell into one of the following categories:

  • False/outright lie
  • Vague/ambiguous
  • Omission (meaning they omitted important information necessary to evaluate the claims)

Examples of these types of unacceptable claims include “this product brings miracles to your skin,” “inspired by science” and “this product is clinically tested.”

Titled “Deception in cosmetics advertising: Examining cosmetics advertising claims in fashion magazine ads,” the study was written by researchers from the marketing departments of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Valdosta State University in Georgia and published in the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing.

The evaluated ads were pulled from the April 2013 issues of seven fashion magazines, such as InStyle, Glamour and Marie Claire. Most of the ads were for makeup, skin care or hair products.

Researchers also divided the ads into categories. Lies were most common in the superiority claim category (example: “our award-winning product”) and the subjective claim category (example: “all you need for all-day confidence”).

Study author Jie Fowler, who teaches marketing at Valdosta State, tells CBS News:

“For the past 30 years a fundamental belief that advertisers hold is that women are more emotional, so whatever we write should be sensitive and emotional. But consumers today are more cynical so this type of plan may not work as well.”

Still, the study points out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate cosmetic product claims, and the researchers suggest that advertisers and the FDA address policy changes:

Deception not only undermines the credibility of advertising as a whole by making consumers defensive, but also produces damaging effects for the advertisers who are directly responsible for making the claims.

Are you surprised to learn how many beauty product claims are false, vague or missing necessary information? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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