Opinion: Cosmetic fairytales

POSTED: 05/9/14 10:35 AM

We’d be the last ones to deny the ladies their crèmes and other necessities to stay forever young and attractive, but sometimes it pays – literally – to absorb some information from an unsuspected source that tells you what’s what in beauty land. This is what happened when Ianthe Sahadat went shopping for the Volkskrant.

“Did I know the night crème? The sales assistance asked. Night crème is what the skin needs, because it contains completely different ingredients than the day crème, she said. And you are not using an eye crème either?”

We thought it and Sahadat wrote it: under these circumstances you quickly feel like an abuser of your own skin.

Jetske Ultee, a research-doctor in cosmetic dermatology, calls the story of the sales assistant “complete nonsense” and “unfortunately a very successful public relations myth.”

A couple of years ago, Ultee did a survey among 500 women. A large majority thought it is necessary to use a day crème and a night crème, plus another product for under the eyes.

In the old days Sahadat observes, you had a simple face crème. Your mother applied that a couple of times per day on her face. It smelled good and it looked very adult. These days, women have to wade through a chaotic forest of skin-indulgence.

Ultee debunks the marketing tricks in a few words. “Eye crème? The same stuff in a smaller tube. And that mysteriously sounding serum? If you compare it with soup, a serum is a clear mushroom soup and a crème a creamy mushroom-cream variant. Only the basis is different. A serum is made on a base of oil or silicone, a crème is a mixture of oil, water and an emulsifier to mix the two ingredients. Apart from that the ingredients are identical.”

In other words, Sahadat concludes, we let ourselves massively be fooled by the cosmetics industry. We knew that already of course, due to all those claims of eyelashes that are three times as long with 3D-effect or the magical disappearance of pimples after a few refreshing washings with a light-blue product. But the fable of the day and night crème is persistent, says Ultee.

The good doctor says that she is unable to see whether something is a day crème or a night crème when she looks at the ingredients. “During the night the skin’s needs are not different from its needs during the day. You may as well apply the same product on you face and under your eyes as well. That will save you a lot of money,’ Ultee says.

The only difference is the addition of a UV-filter, the doctor says. And that is a completely different story. Those who want proper protection against the sun are better off with a separate sunscreen than with the UV-filter in a day crème.

“To obtain a protective effect you need 2 milligram per square centimeter. That is quite a layer,” Ultee says. “When the layer is thinner, the protection factor goes down. Furthermore, for proper protection you have to apply the product every two hours. Nobody does that with a day crème. It is not necessarily bad to use a day crème with UV-filter, but is offers only fake protection.”

Ultee gets really upset about something that ought to get the attention of sun lovers in St. Maarten: sun screens that claim to offer protection for the whole day. “They put those claims especially on products for children. But this is not possible at all. They are selling an enormous amount of nonsense.”

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