Instant Radiance

The ideology of beauty and gullible women

Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

A well-known commercial skin product promises instant radiance when used. Is this a good marketing ploy? After application, your skin will turn from drab, dry to shiny, reflective and eye catching. At least that is what my brain interprets this as.

We all know what a radiant smile looks like and it isn’t the quality of the skin that is being described but the change in the shape of the mouth and a sort of twinkle in the eyes. That is certainly a good look. But radiant skin? Glowing pink after physical exertion could be termed radiant and most of us prefer not to be photographed in the sweaty aftermath of pushing ourselves to our physical limit.

You could of course consider instant radiance to be like a light switching on in a dark corner. A bright spark. To me this seems more like a character description than a skin feature.

Luminescence is another term often applied to skin quality. A sort of gentle shine, rather than the greasy, sweaty variety we are more familiar with. That term may have been attached to specific products and manufacturers have to be careful not to plagiarize, running the all too real risk of being sued. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to come up with new terminology to describe the beneficial effects of a product on skin.

I don’t envy cosmetic companies when they try to find new and unique ways of describing their products. To be honest, we are probably more drawn to purchase them by the images rather than the words. Pretty women sell cosmetics, and of course the models have had the opportunity to have expert cosmetic attention before being photographed. Their skin undoubtedly will be imbued with exactly the right amount of luminescence, carefully back lit to show their best side. Have they been photoshopped, airbrushed or otherwise digitally manipulated? You bet they probably have.

So what can manufacturers say about their products?

If they are selling moisturizer, then it is absolutely ok to state that the skin will feel softer and smoother. What they cannot say is what proportion of the active ingredients are absorbed and what percentage of smoothness is produced. And don’t even consider saying that wrinkles will be reduced. The wrinkles may appear less noticeable, but they will still be there underneath. Words like harmonious, even, smooth, healthy, flawless, revitalizing, refining, all feature in the description of products.

A selling tactic might be to say that skin quality will be improved over a period of 4 to 6 weeks ( and very likely the tube/pot of cream will only last 2–3 weeks, ensuring another will need to be purchased). By stating this, the manufacturer must have evidence to support their claim. Preferably good quality clinical trials. If you check out the small print, you might see something like : 60% of 70 women report improvement. Would you be impressed by that? Only 70 women? And what were their ages? Were they paid to take part in this mini trial? How were they recruited ? Were they all happy users of the company’s product before being invited to participate in the trial?

Any product that claims to help skin diseases such as acne must be endorsed by medical regulators (who will vary from country to country). There is a fine line between herbal or natural products and those with medicinal qualities. Extensive testing is required to ensure safety of any pharmaceutical product. Even something as simple as a homemade lip balm cannot be sold without having been tested and all ingredients accurately stated on a label.

Then there is the thorny area of animal testing. Many cosmetic products in the past were tested on animals, in the same way that pharmaceuticals were (and may still be). This has become a very contentious area. People are generally less keen to buy products that may be tested on animals as they interpret that process as cruelty ( which may well be the case). The small print on the majority of cosmetics will probably now state that it was NOT tested on animals. So do they test on people instead? It is not always clear.

Products bought on-line coming from far flung nations may not be subject to any safety checks. Skin lighteners and Chinese herbal products may contain unacceptable levels of steroids which can seriously damage skin. These products are bought at your own risk. You may even be liable to prosecution for bringing dangerous products into the country. Buyer beware.

And so we see the pressure to look good equates to buying expensive beauty products (or at least that is what the beauty industry wants us to believe).

That flawless skin on the model in the image is nothing like her natural look.

I don’t deny the importance of protecting skin from harmful ultraviolet rays in order to prevent the development of skin cancer. Sunscreens work. But do you really need serums, face masks, moisturizers, foundation, blusher, night creams and all those other products ? Who is being gullible now?



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