Popular Misleading Cosmetic Claims To Avoid

Most of us have bought cosmetic products partly on the basis of claims on the packaging or adverts, only to find out after a couple of uses that they don’t work. Well, that’s simply because cosmetic companies make all kinds of exaggerated, and even false, claims to attract our attention and sell us their products.

Some are so ridiculously unrealistic, therefore easy to spot; others are more subtle – bending and twisting the truth to make consumers believe that a product has some special benefit that makes it better than the other options on the market.

Here are some of the common misleading claims:

Reduces The Appearance of Wrinkles

Cosmetics companies want you to believe that they have the answer to fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin and stretch marks. “Just put this cream on and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles will be visibly reduced!” Technically- that statement is true. However, the message that consumers get from this claim is different than the words that are written and marketers know this. If you moisturize your skin, the fine lines and wrinkles will plump up and they will appear to fill in.

Also, thanks to brightening pigments or silicones that smooth out the surface of the skin so that it reflects light better, these products can really reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Appearance is the key word here. The claim simply means that the product makes wrinkles look less obvious, not that it gets rid of them. It also means if you use this product (and continue to use it) your wrinkles will look better. Unfortunately there is no lotion, serum, cream, or oil that can reverse the effects of age and gravity on our bodies.

“Free From” Claim

I have seen products that have a “free from” section with ingredients that would never be included in that type of product. For example, a facial moisturizer claiming to be free from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). I will like to believe that no formulator in his or her right mind would put a detergent in a lotion. I think it is far more important to be aware of what is in the product that what is not.

You can totally buy a preservative free product but in another month, you’ll most likely get the added ingredients called “bacteria” and “mold”. I am not very sure you would want to apply that on your skin. There are some companies that say you can put a preservative free product in the fridge, but remember that bacteria and moulds can actually grow in the fridge! That’s why some foods go bad even in the fridge.

Chemical Free/All Natural/Organic

First of all, there is no specific definition of what is required to label a product as “all natural”. Some companies argue that if an ingredient comes from a natural source then it’s natural. They conveniently overlook the fact that they chemically modify it to make it work the way they want it. Any company can use this term on any product. It is a marketing tool – plain and simple. Unlike organic food, there is no legislation requiring an organic beauty product to be certified, this means a product could contain as little as 1 percent organic/natural ingredients and still be labeled ‘organic’ or ‘natural’.

There are no “chemical-free” products, as EVERYTHING is chemical, even water (H2O). There’s an inherent belief that if something is natural, it’s good for us; although it’s not true, there’s definitely an increase in consumers interested in buying natural and organic, and marketers play on that. Companies that use these claims want you to believe that their products are somehow better/safer for you than its “non-natural” counterpart, which is not true. Natural doesn’t necessarily mean good for your skin. Arsenic is natural but it is poisonous

Dermatologist/Allergy Tested/Hypoallergenic

When you see a product labeled as “hypoallergenic” you would think that this means that the product is less likely to cause allergic reactions than similar products without this designation. Unfortunately, that’s not true. According to FDA there are no federal standards or regulations that apply to the term “hypoallergenic”. Since everyone has different allergies and sensitivities these claims are pointless. If it is allergy tested, what allergies is it tested for? Non-irritating, who to? One product can be non-irritating to one person, and cause redness on the next. Dermatologist tested… for what? They sound good on the label, but end up not providing much valuable information for the consumer. If you know you have sensitive skin, get a sample, do a patch test or check the ingredient listing for things you know you are allergic to.

Makes Hair Stronger

Most hair care products claim to make your hair stronger, but what these “hair strength” claims really mean is that the products make your hair better resistant to breakage and splitting when its being combed. Usually, it is the silicones in the products that smooth out the surface of the hair so that the comb will glide through your hair more easily. And that’s something that any product that has conditioning properties does.

No shampoo or conditioning system actually makes hair stronger. If you interpret this claim to mean that it can make your weak and damaged hair strong and healthy again, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. Once hair is damaged, it is damaged, and nothing can really fix it. You’ll just have to cut it off and wait for it to grow out again.

Non-Comedogenic or “Won’t Clog Pores”

There are no approved or regulated standards for this claim anywhere in the world. This means that no matter what a product contains, a company can claim that it wont make you break out even if it contains other ingredients that are known to trigger breakouts. Non-comedogenic does not guarantee that the product will not cause acne. It means that the product does not contain ingredients that are “known” to clog up pores, which increases the chances of acne formation.

With no guidelines or standards in place, even the thickest, greasiest moisturizer around can claim it “won’t clog pores.” And forget the claim “oil-free”, there are lots of ingredients that can make the skin feel greasy that aren’t listed as oils. Instead, avoid products that have a thick, creamy consistency. For the most part, ingredients with a creamy or balm-like texture are usually the ones that clog pores and make skin feel greasy.


Well formulated cosmetics can make a big difference and they are totally worth using, but keeping your expectations realistic and being able to separate fact from fiction is essential to avoid wasting money on products that don’t come close to working as claimed.

Photo Credit: Ecomundo, Tummy Mummy Club

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