Cherry Healey investigates the cosmetics industry to determine how much of what products promise is based on scientific evidence and how much is simply marketing manipulation.
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I'm Cherry Healey.
I'm a journalist and a self-confessed beauty addict.
Like many of us, I spend a lot of time and money on my appearance.
If a product or a beauty treatment tells me it's going to help me to
look closer to how I ideally want to look,
then I am going to try it.
MUSIC: The Look by Roxette
And I'm not alone.
In the UK, we spend over £9 billion a year on cosmetics that promise to
improve and transform us.
But how much of what beauty products promise is simply marketing
manipulation, and how much is based on science and evidence?
So I've teamed up with independent scientists to test our everyday
beauty products like never before.
I felt it blip.
We carry out a ground-breaking study to uncover why there might be little
point in wearing moisturiser every day.
I'm really surprised that there's
no anti-ageing properties in the cream.
We reveal the only over-the-counter product scientists would use on
their own wrinkles.
You can see the improvement round here.
It is quite striking.
Right, if I could just ask you to spin over on your front and I'm
going to go into the right leg.
We test cellulite treatments for ourselves to find an easy fix that
And I learn some shocking home truths about how I should have been
looking after my own skin.
-It is worse than one would expect from your age.
-It is bad!
I'm going to put the claims on cosmetics to the test.
I want to find out the truth about looking good.
Beauty products can make some pretty bold claims.
Talk me through the bee venom and sheep's placenta,
24-carat gold. LAUGHTER
So it's lifting, firming, hydrating.
We seem to buy the sales pitch.
We spend over £2 billion a year on our skin alone.
How much is this?
That is, I believe, just around 700.
£700 for this pot?
And there's one skin care product we use more than any other.
Three quarters of women and half of all men moisturise.
This is, like, routine.
It's like having food every day. So moisturiser is my best friend.
I just find it stops the... my skin drying out.
I've been using it for many, many years.
I always make sure I have my moisturiser with me.
I feel that, now I've hit my 30s, you do have to look after your skin.
The majority of us use moisturiser every day because we think it will
keep our skin hydrated, healthy and young.
But what do they really do for us?
Scientific research on moisturisers tends to focus on people with
clinical skin conditions, not on people with healthy skin,
and not on high street products.
So we're running an experiment that, to our knowledge,
has never been done before.
I've come to the University of Sheffield,
where we're going to scientifically put moisturisers to the test,
with the help of 25 volunteers,
to see whether people with healthy skin need to use moisturiser,
and whether how much money you spend on it has any impact on your skin.
-Doctor Simon Danby is running the experiment.
So, Simon, what are we testing?
We've got three different creams here
from three different price brackets,
each the bestselling in that range.
We've taken the top-selling basic moisturisers from the UK's biggest
health and beauty retailer.
Under £5 per 100ml, it's Nivea Soft.
In the £5-£25 per 100ml bracket
is Clinique Dramatically Different.
And bestselling over £25 per 100ml
is Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre.
-So, what are you testing for?
-We've got our equipment here.
The first thing we're going to look for is skin hydration,
so for that we've got the corneometer probe here.
So that's going to see how much water there is in my skin and how
well hydrated it is. Ooh, I felt it blip.
What else are you testing for?
We're going to be testing skin health as well.
How well the skin functions as a barrier.
So this is actually measuring the water that's lost from your skin,
and the more water you're losing,
the less well your skin's working as a barrier.
If the skin's barrier is less effective,
then we become susceptible to irritation and dryness.
And you're testing this with all of the volunteers before and after.
That's you all finished. Thank you very much.
For the next three weeks, every volunteer has to apply moisturiser
to just one side of their face, twice a day,
leaving the other side bare.
And Simon will assess whether the moisturiser makes any difference
to the skin's appearance.
No-one is told which cream they've been given.
The brand has been disguised as A, B or C.
Getting into the swing of having to do moisturising
is very, very strange.
It's quite gloopy and it does take quite a long time
to absorb into my skin.
I got this spot in the right part of my face, as you can see.
After three weeks, our volunteers are back at the
University of Sheffield for their final tests.
So, the million-dollar question -
do people with healthy skin need to moisturise?
Thank you all for taking part in our experiment.
Half of your faces look great. LAUGHTER
I'm joking, obviously.
Time to reveal to the groups which cream they've been using.
With the low-priced Nivea Soft was Group C.
-Which is you.
Using the mid-priced Clinique were Group A.
Which leaves the premium product, Embryolisse, with Group B.
-I'm slightly disappointed that I gave the tub back now.
So, what were the results of the lab tests, starting with hydration?
After using the moisturisers,
we did see an increase in the level of water in their skin.
You would expect them all to have done that,
but we only found that with two of them,
and you might be surprised to find out that the two that hydrated the
skin was the low-priced Nivea Soft
and the Clinique product.
-So not the most expensive one.
-I can't believe this.
-That is crazy.
Surprisingly, the most expensive cream turned out to be the least
hydrating by far.
The cheaper creams, Nivea and Clinique, performed best,
adding moisture to the skin and improving the way it felt.
So, is there an ingredient in the cheap and the mid-range that we
should be looking for, that was important for moisturising,
that maybe wasn't there in the more expensive one?
Those two products contain high levels of humectants in them,
so humectants are the chemicals that actually hold
on to water in our skin.
One of the most common humectants in cosmetic moisturisers is glycerin,
and the higher it is on the ingredients list suggests the more
of it there is in the product.
So you can bypass the price tag and look at the ingredients list?
-So, how did the creams do on the second test - skin health?
Did they make the skin a stronger protective barrier,
preventing dryness and irritation?
What we found at the end of the study after three weeks was that
there was no difference at all.
Skin health hadn't increased.
So none of the creams improved the health of the skin at all!
In the final test, an expert panel
judged the appearance of the volunteers' faces at the end
of the experiment.
They didn't see any improvement to appearance from using any of the
creams in our study.
So a crucial question for me is whether they improve the
skin's appearance in the long term.
So if there are two people, and one uses moisturiser their whole life
and the other does not, when they're both 80,
will they look the same or will the person who's moisturised look a
-Yeah, that's an interesting question,
and I think we've got to remember we focused on moisturisers here, and
these products that we've looked at only claim to be moisturisers.
And as far as I'm aware, there's no evidence that using a moisturiser is
going to have that long-term anti-ageing effect.
We saw no change in the health or appearance of the skin over our
and any benefit we saw to hydration was temporary.
We haven't found any scientific evidence that using a basic
moisturiser on healthy skin will improve it in the long term.
I'm really surprised that there's no anti-ageing properties in the cream.
It's one of the main reasons I use moisturiser,
so for me that's quite disappointing.
-I'll probably still continue using it, but...
-It just feels nice.
It makes me feel better.
It seems like there is a short-term gain,
but it is useful to know that if you miss a couple of days,
it's not going to affect you long-term.
I approached Embryolisse, Nivea and Clinique
with the results of our experiment.
Embryolisse point out that our study was conducted on a small number of
people over three weeks.
They claim that Embryolisse has performed well in many independent
tests where there were statistically significant improvements
in skin hydration.
They say Embryolisse contains film-forming active ingredients,
such as Shea butter, beeswax and oil,
which will achieve a balanced level of hydration without the need for a
humectant like glycerin.
Nivea say they are pleased that the BBC study found a positive
moisturising effect of their cream, and that they always recommend
moisturising as a preventative measure against dryness.
Clinique say they support all their product performance claims with the
use of clinical and consumer testing.
Despite what the companies said, I still don't think that
moisturising is the secret to keeping my skin looking good.
-Hi, there. Can I get a cappuccino, please?
So I want to know if any products will help my skin in the future.
Because, er, I'm not getting any younger.
So I'm 36, and I'm definitely starting to see the signs of ageing.
And whilst I'd love to say that I'm very accepting of it and it's a
natural part of getting older, which of course it is...
if there WAS something that could help me not get more lines or
crow's feet, that would be great.
I want to know, how can I keep those lines at bay?
First, I'm meeting someone who's lived a bit longer in their skin
than I have.
Jill Lillis is a coach driver in Manchester.
-Room for one more?
-Oh, I think so. Come on up.
She feels that her skin could possibly be ageing better,
and she wants to know why.
-I've been driving a coach for 40 years this September.
-That is a long old time.
How do you feel about getting older
and your face changing and more lines?
Well, I don't think anybody wants to grow old, but I'd like to grow old
gracefully, and I'd like to think to myself, well, if there is something
out there to help my skin, you know,
I'd...I'd have a go.
If there's something out there that's going to help it slow down...
Jill and I have come to Salford Royal Hospital to see
top dermatologist Professor Chris Griffiths.
He's going to show us just how well we're really ageing.
So this is the Vicia machine. It's a sophisticated camera, really,
which is going to give us a lot of information about the state of your
-skin, on your face.
-It's Jill's turn first.
So, this is the left side of the face.
These green lines are the wrinkles.
You can see that mainly they're just under the eye.
They don't extend out beyond the eye, so hold that in your mind,
and we'll now look at the other side,
the right side of the face.
-A lot more there.
So you can see...
-..they've spread a little bit out beyond the side of
-the eye, into the crow's foot area.
..and the main culprit for that, by a long way, is sunlight.
Sun exposure is the key cause of wrinkles.
What I don't understand is that Jill doesn't work outside.
Why is there more damage on the right side of Jill's face?
So, that's a very good question, but Jill is a coach driver, so, yes,
she's working indoors,
but the main component of sunlight that causes the wrinkles is longer
wavelength ultraviolet light, ultraviolet A.
Ultraviolet A penetrates glass.
Would you ever have known that
you could get sun damage at work in your coach?
No, because you...
..you know, because you're behind the screen,
-you're thinking that's protecting you as well.
But obviously not.
The Sun's UVB rays cause burning,
but it's the UVA rays that cause most skin ageing,
and they've taken their toll.
For 40 years, the right side of Jill's face has been exposed to
these UVA rays streaming through her driver's window.
How much is sun responsible for ageing?
Sun exposure is responsible for most of the clinical features,
the features that we can see, in skin ageing.
What's the percentage of how much it's responsible for?
I should think it would be in the order of about 75%.
-It's a lot.
I'm shocked that a huge three quarters of lines and wrinkles are
caused by sun damage.
Apparently, the rest is due to other outside factors like pollution and
smoking, with just a small amount due to simply getting older.
So if somebody of, say, around 60 years old had never been in the sun,
what kind of difference would you see?
-The skin would look great.
-And it may take many, many years,
maybe to the age of 80 before you actually start to see changes in the
skin which you can say, that's due to the passage of time.
Now it's my turn for this rather unflattering selfie.
I really hope you're not going to put these on Instagram.
So, tell me, how bad is it?
Well, let's have a look.
And you can see you do have a few crow's foot wrinkles.
Is that too many sunny holidays?
Most likely. It is worse than one would expect for your age.
It is bad! I knew that sun played a role in skin ageing,
but I definitely didn't appreciate the extent of the damage that my
sunbathing and Jill's driving had caused.
To understand exactly how the sun has caused my wrinkles,
I'm meeting Chris's colleague, Professor Rachel Watson.
What are we looking at? That's an interesting screensaver.
This is actually an image of skin.
So what you can see here is, we have our outer layer of skin,
the epidermis, which is the pink-stained region,
and then below that we have our dermis,
which is really the workhorse of the skin.
This is the bit which gives it its strength and its elasticity.
And the black picked out here is an elastic fibre protein called
fibrillin. Fibrillin is very special.
If you can imagine you need to support the outside of your skin,
then fibrillin in this region here,
very close to the epidermis, does that.
So fibrillin is absolutely key...
-..in terms of keeping our skin nice and tight.
Indeed. It's analogous to, sort of, tent pegs.
So if your tent pegs that are holding and stretching your skin
-tight have gone...
..then your tent's going to be flapping about in the wind?
Exactly. Then you're going to get wrinkles.
That's the consequence of having long-term exposure to sunlight.
You don't have to have had much sun damage to lose that fibrillin.
This image shows the fibres of fibrillin acting as anchor points in
a sample of skin that hasn't been exposed to sunlight.
But this sample of skin has had a lot of sun exposure,
and the supporting fibres of fibrillin have been destroyed,
which makes the skin sag and wrinkle.
So I clearly have sun-damaged skin.
How do I stop that from happening,
or at least prevent it from getting too much worse?
So what's really important is that you use sun protection and that you
use sun protection daily, even when it's the middle of winter in the UK.
But look. There's a huge range.
Can you break it down? What do I need to know about sun cream?
So what you want to do is make sure that your sunscreen,
whichever type that you buy,
has a high enough SPF to counteract
the UVB, and also a 5-star rating to
-protect against UVA.
-You need to have the best of both, really?
In an ideal world, that's exactly what you should go for.
We do need a small amount of sun exposure for our bodies to make
enough vitamin D, but if you want to protect your skin,
wear a sun cream most of the time.
A high sun protection factor,
or SPF, to protect from UVB rays and burning,
and at least a four-star UVA rating to protect from ageing.
It's never nice to see your flaws that close up and have someone tell
you that you are above averagely wrinkled for your age group,
but I was very surprised to learn that the sun is such a big cause of
that damage, and I find that actually really empowering,
because there is something I can do about it.
I love fake tan, I don't mind wearing a hat,
and I'm happy to put sun cream on, so it's not going to get rid of
them, but I do feel like it's quite an easy way
to make sure they don't get too much worse.
So I now know what to do to prevent more wrinkles,
but what if I want to get rid of the wrinkles I've already got?
Do any anti-wrinkle creams out there actually work?
I've come to the upmarket Cadogan Clinic in Chelsea to meet a
consultant dermatologist Doctor Anjali Mahto.
The rich and famous pay a lot of money for her to treat their ageing
skin with anti-wrinkle treatments like Botox.
-Nervous? Happy? Ready?
-Happy and ready.
-Happy and ready.
-Not nervous at all?
Alex, what I want you to do is just frown as hard as you can.
Keep frowning, keep frowning, keep frowning. And relax.
Is it wrong that I'm so tempted?
I'm hoping that Anjali can prescribe me something that actually
works but that doesn't involve needles.
-And that's it.
-I would love to live in a world where it doesn't matter,
but, you know, when it comes to the crunch and I look in the mirror and
I see those lines and wrinkles, I do mind and I do want them to be gone.
If I'm not quite ready for injectables,
is there anything else that works, that's a little less extreme?
Yeah, so if you actually go away and you look at the scientific evidence,
there are only a handful of things that will help things like fine
lines, wrinkles, pigmentation -
the sorts of things that you think about with skin ageing.
The most important one, probably, is a prescription-strength product like
tretinoin. And this can improve fine lines,
it can improve wrinkles,
and it can improve age spots and pigmentation as well.
What's the catch?
There are a couple of downsides. It is a strong product,
and it can cause redness and it can cause irritation and it can cause
some stinging and burning the first few times that you use it.
Well, that doesn't sound good.
These potentially nasty side-effects are one of the reasons that this
anti-wrinkle ingredient is only available on private prescription
from a skin care clinic.
So is there anything that I can buy over the counter that works?
which are slightly weaker than this prescription-strength product,
So if we have a look at this study
by the Amway Corporation and the
University of Michigan, what they used here was 0.1% retinol,
and if you look at these two pictures side-by-side,
at the end of the four weeks of treatment,
I think you can appreciate there is an improvement in fine lines and
wrinkles, and some pigmentation to a degree as well.
There is some evidence for other over-the-counter anti-wrinkle
ingredients, such as peptides,
but the strongest body of proof by far is for retinols,
a weaker form of prescription-strength tretinoin.
-It is quite striking.
Only after a month, you can see the improvement around here.
Yeah, and that improvement would be sustained over months
with continued use.
-So if I'm going to spend my money on a product, over-the-counter...
..what am I going for?
So I would say, look for a product that has got a minimum
of 0.1% retinol in it. Gradually build up its use,
and if it's not causing too many problems with irritation,
after a few months of use, upgrade to maybe a 0.3 or a 0.5%.
Let your skin get used to that and then build up to a 1% retinol.
Products containing retinol range in price from £6 to over £60,
but the price doesn't always reflect the concentration,
so look for the percentage of retinol on the package.
And since they can still cause irritation,
you do need to approach with some caution.
I think if you really want something that works,
that tackles wrinkles and ageing, it's sun cream and retinol.
For the next part of my investigation
into the cosmetic industry,
I've set up my very own pop-up beauty shop.
Here I can carry out tests
they wouldn't let me do in high street stores,
and I'm starting with make-up.
We're spending more on it than ever before - £1.6 billion a year -
but do we really need to break the bank to get the look we want?
This is my own make-up bag.
So I've just totted up how much all of this costs,
and it's over £450!
I had no idea I'd spent that much on make-up.
Is there a smarter way to shop?
Are some things really worth spending money on?
Can I get away with some budget basics?
I've invited beauty journalist and author Sally Hughes to my beauty lab
for some insider top tips on all things war paint that could help us
spend our make-up money more wisely.
We're spending more than ever before.
-The sort of Instagram generation,
the selfie generation, in particular,
is really driving beauty sales.
People want things that will make them look better in a picture,
instantly better in a picture, without filters and retouching.
So, to test whether we'd notice the difference between expensive and
cheaper make-up, we've invited make-up mad sisters Katie and Ellie,
and their mum Sue, to the beauty lab.
How much, do you think, in the past year,
do you think you've spent on make-up?
Probably about 200.
I think 500-600.
-At a guess. I'm just being honest.
-A lot less than that.
-How much do you think?
-That's all you need.
-And I feel bad about that.
Meanwhile in the shop, Sally is setting up a challenge.
She's hidden the branding on products and wants to know whether
we prefer the cheap or expensive ones.
So what I want you to do is take the lids off, roll your sleeves up,
have a play, and choose the one that appeals to you most and pop it in
-I'm just hoping one of these is a really expensive
-foundation. Let's do it.
This is a fun game.
First up is foundation.
Our mystery make-up is cheaper Rimmel,
costing £7.99, and pricier Mac, costing £29.99.
I really like the first one.
The texture of the second one feels different.
-It feels thicker.
-I feel like one is a bit more moisturising, less cakey.
We've made our selections, so what's the verdict?
Every single one of you chose Rimmel over Mac.
Now, this is of particular interest to me, because until about two years
ago, I don't think I had ever once recommended a high-street
foundation, and then something changed and I began to notice the
cheaper foundations had really, really raised their game.
Our next make-up bag staple is eye shadow.
Will we go for the Illamasqua at £17.50,
or this palette of eight by MUA at just £4?
This, to me, is the most obvious round.
I mean, I just feel like one of my eyes is magical.
I had to put a load more of that one on.
All of you chose the expensive Illamasqua.
Typically, you will see more pigment in an expensive eye shadow,
and I did notice when you were putting on the other one, it was
kind of flying off your lids, and so this stuck more to the lids.
Next up is lip gloss.
This time Sally is pitching Collection at £2.99
against Christian Dior at £24.
They look exactly the same.
I can't tell the difference.
One was really dry and then the other one, my lips were sticking
-together on that side.
-Any of you lip gloss wearers?
-No, but I'm quite enjoying it.
I never wear lip gloss, but that...that is quite fun.
Lip gloss, every single one of you
-chose the cheap Collection lip gloss.
-They were quite similar.
Even I struggle to identify an expensive lip gloss
over a cheap one. They are much of a muchness.
If something is £2 versus £20, I would say go for the two quid.
And finally, it's mascara.
We're testing L'Oreal, costing £9,
and Lancome, costing £24.50.
Give it a good wiggle, so you get it from root to tip.
-Oh, that looks so good!
-Right, whatever this mascara is, I want it now.
The second one looks better on you.
They both look better than whatever mascara you wear normally, though.
LAUGHTER The honesty of family.
Breaks my heart.
So have we worked out which one was worth an extra £15?
Every single one of you chose the
-expensive Lancome mascara...
..over the more affordable L'Oreal Voluminous mascara.
-Which, interestingly, are both made by the same company, L'Oreal.
Our test has shown that what we save on foundation and lip gloss
we can use to invest on our lids and lashes.
So if you do have a very set make-up budget,
you can be a bit savvy with where you put that.
Yes. If you want a big bang for your buck,
then I do think with things like eye shadow and lipstick,
you're going to fare better with more expensive things,
but if you want quite a sheer colour like lip gloss or a blusher
or a bronzer, you're perfectly fine to get something cheaper
because you're just looking for a hint of colour,
you're not looking for impact.
There really are cheap and effective products out there
if you shop wisely.
When it comes to looking good,
our faces aren't the only part of our bodies
that women rank as a top concern.
Some people call it orange peel.
Some people call it cottage cheese thighs.
Whatever you like to name it, 90% of women have cellulite.
So what is it and can we get rid of it?
I'm joining some cellulite sufferers from Sunderland
to find out what methods they have tried and tested.
Who has cellulite?
-Mine is there.
-Round this area.
-All around here.
Have you tried anything to get rid of it?
I've tried creams, I've tried scrubs, I've tried...
You name it, I've done it.
Thermogenic pills that are meant to literally
melt the fat when you take them.
Didn't give good results.
-Everybody wants the quick fix. I want the quick fix.
If they say that it gets rid of cellulite,
you just drop this bit of cream on and there you go, it's an easy sell.
So would you be up for a bit of an experiment?
-I mean, what's to lose?
Other than a bit of cellulite!
There are plenty of treatments available
on the high street and online that promise to banish
our lumps and bumps.
They make great claims, but do any of them actually work?
With the help of our ladies and the University of Sunderland...
Nine medial lateral.
..we're running an experiment to put some of the leading treatments
to the test.
Spin over on your front.
First, the scientists are carrying out
a thorough assessment of everyone's thighs and buttocks.
It might be a little bit cold just to start with.
And they're using ultrasound to look at the structure
-of the fat under the skin.
So what is cellulite anyway?
Skin has three layers, epidermis, dermis and fat,
which is held in compartments of connective tissue called septa.
In cellulite, this fat pushes up out of the compartment,
giving the skin that bumpy mattress effect.
It's thought that the reason men don't get cellulite
is because their fat compartments are in a crisscross shape,
which holds the fat in place under the skin.
Crucially, the scientists are also taking clinical photographs of our
ladies' thighs and bums to enable them
to grade their cellulite and compare
its appearance before and after.
We're putting three of the most popular cellulite solutions
to the test.
So for the next five weeks, our volunteers
will use one of them daily.
Squeeze a small amount on my hand.
The first group are using a caffeine cream that
promises to burn fat cells.
I would like to think that it is working.
I feel as though my skin has a little bit of a smoother appearance.
The second group are trying dry brushing...
-Lightly at first.
..which is meant to increase circulation
and remove excess fluid and toxins.
I can honestly say so far I have noticed no change
whatsoever to my cellulite.
And the third group have been given a daily set
of toning exercises for their thighs and buttocks.
Five weeks later and cosmetic scientist Dr Kalli Dodou
and clinical dermatologist Dr Raj Natarajan
are meeting us with some answers to our cellulite questions.
Is there a way to cure yourself of cellulite?
We don't aim for cure because there's no disease
or condition to cure.
So we don't need to cure it because it's not a disease.
-It's not a disease.
-It's a normal part of being woman.
Nine out of ten women have cellulite,
but lots of us still want to get rid of it.
So if we want to reduce its appearance,
do any of these popular cellulite solutions actually work?
Kalli and Raj have the results of our experiment,
starting with the group in third place, exercise.
The exercise group saw an improvement in cellulite of 11%.
So the effort that you put in in terms of cellulite
-is a bit disappointing.
But what about the results that were nothing to do with cellulite,
-like feeling firmer?
Feeling good about myself more to the point of where
I didn't care about looking at it.
Just ahead of the exercise group in second place,
it's the fat melting cream group.
The cream group saw an average improvement of 15%.
I was completely convinced that was going to have no effect whatsoever.
It just feels too easy.
The claim of the cream is that it's going to destroy fat cells.
However, from the ultrasound measurements,
we didn't notice any change in the fat content.
So what we think happened is that the cream had a hydrating effect,
a moisturising effect.
The cream may have hydrated dry skin on the leg,
giving it a smoother appearance.
Which means that in first place, it's the dry brushes.
The dry brush group saw an average improvement of 26%.
It's all about the brush!
I didn't think it was going to be that.
We were very surprised as well with the findings.
So something works!
Oh, my God! It's such a great day.
In our small study,
dry brushing was by far the most effective treatment for cellulite,
and one of our volunteers saw an
astonishing improvement of 35%.
And your cellulite
was the most affected.
So, Raj, what do you think about the result?
I'm a bit surprised as well, but it's a definite change,
so I think it's probably redistributing the fat
and pushing the fat around.
I mean, it's not an elegant thing, is it?
Basically, you just push the fat back in,
away from the surface of the skin.
-I'm never going to stop.
-Never going to stop!
I'm just going to constantly brush.
-We want the brush.
-We want the brush!
So far, we've tested some of our favourite cosmetics,
and with the help of experts,
we found that some work and many don't,
no matter how seductive the promises they make.
So back at the beauty lab, I want to investigate how much
we can actually trust the claims used by cosmetic companies
in their marketing and on their labels.
"Reduces the appearance of wrinkles."
I am such a sucker for those kind of claims, and the longer the list,
the more I think I'm getting for my money.
But how do we really know what those claims mean,
and how much evidence do these companies have to have
before they go on the product?
To find out, I've invited Colin Sanders to my beauty lab.
He's a cosmetic chemist and something of an industry insider.
So who is checking these claims?
Well, they can't make any claims that are untrue.
The general consumer protection regulations
don't allow you to make blatant lies.
But most of the time,
if nobody complains about what you're doing,
there's very little in the way of enforcement
from the authorities to make sure you're doing it correctly.
If a product's claims are investigated,
then a company must provide a certain level of proof.
But how much?
I want to look at what evidence is required
to make some of the most common claims on cosmetics.
First on my list of confusing cosmetic jargon
is "clinically proven".
My assumption is if it says clinically proven,
I think a scientist has proven that it is effective and it works.
Does that mean that when I take it home and I use it
in my everyday life, it's going to do what I hope it does?
So, for example, if it did reduce wrinkles by 10% in size,
that would definitely be a clinically proven claim.
However, it's probably not going to be noticeable
without a magnifying glass.
So if I want my wrinkles to go and this says
that it is clinically proven to lessen wrinkles,
it may not be something I can even see at home.
That would be a fairly common experience
of many consumers, I think.
So what about our next claim, "active ingredients".
So what would I need to do to be able to say
that I had active ingredients in a product?
What tests, what proof?
The level of testing that is often done
is simply to run it through what's called in vitro testing,
where you test it in equipment in a laboratory
and doesn't go anywhere near a human being.
There aren't set regulations for the level of testing required
to call something an "active ingredient",
and the same applies to our next common claim.
We have "dermatologically tested".
What does it mean?
All dermatologically tested means is it's been tested on the skin.
So if I was bringing a product to market,
how many people would I have had to test it on to make this claim?
Well, in theory, one.
One? One person?
They could have tested it on their mate Sue
and then put that on the bottle.
Yes, and it would still be an accurate claim
because Sue has got skin
and dermatologically tested means tested on skin,
so that is a reasonable claim.
Since there are currently no rules and regulations
for how something should be dermatologically tested on skin,
it doesn't tell you whether a product is safe
for your skin or not.
And finally, some of the most seductive claims
would be difficult to prove scientifically
even if a company tried.
I'm a real sucker for these -
"Leaves skin looking rested and radiant."
Rested and radiant - I don't think either of those are adjectives
that really apply to skin in normal, everyday life.
If it was literally radiant, it would be emitting light.
Even though companies are not allowed to lie in their claims,
they don't necessarily mean what we as consumers think they do.
So do you think the power of suggestion
is probably the most effective thing when it comes to products,
rather than the science?
The founder of Revlon famously said,
"We are not selling lipstick, we're selling dreams."
I think that's what a lot of purchasing decisions
in the cosmetic area are driven by.
I approached the representatives for the industry,
the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumery Association,
with details from my interview with Colin.
They said that a report by the European Commission found that
"90% of cosmetic claims were compliant with the current criteria.
"The stringent laws regulating the manufacturer and supply
"of cosmetic products ensure that they are safe
"and will perform as claimed.
"Successful products are bought again and again
"because people are happy with their purchases."
But the marketing and branding of these products clearly also play
a powerful role in why we buy them.
So to find out more about how these factors
influence our shopping decisions,
I've invited consumer psychologist
Dr Omar Yousaf from the University of Bath.
So often there's a discrepancy between
why we think we buy a product and why we actually buy it.
There are other forces at play.
Because there are other factors at play,
does that leave us, as the consumers,
very vulnerable to manipulation?
Yeah. Our vulnerabilities as consumers
are not always evident to ourselves.
So the question is what's driving your decision-making process?
To look at what factors affect our shopping decisions,
we're setting up a little experiment.
We're going to sell our very own face cleanser called Face
in two very different ways.
We want to see how packaging and the sales assistant's appearance
affect what our beauty lab customers buy.
First up, we've put the cleanser in a no-frills packaging
and sales assistant Joe is in casual clothes
to welcome our first group of customers through the door.
-Would you like to take a look at our new cleansing product?
-If a customer says they would buy the product,
it goes in the basket.
-It smells nice.
-Would you buy this product?
I'm very about packaging.
It doesn't really fill me with confidence.
Would you buy this product?
I kind of probably wouldn't.
After two hours and 18 customers through the door,
just three said they would buy it.
Time for stage two of the experiment.
The product has been given a makeover...
..and so has sales assistant Jo.
Both have been made to look more scientific and more glamorous.
So what will our next group of customers think?
-Would you like to take a look at our new cleansing product?
It smells minty.
-I like the smell.
-Yes, maybe, no?
-Looking at it, yeah, I would.
It smells lovely.
I'd probably try it.
After the last customers have visited the counter...
It makes you want to find out more about it.
..Omar has the results.
So how much effect did the different look
of the identical product really have?
Right, so with the first product we had three people
who were actually willing to buy that straightaway.
Whereas, the other one we had eight.
-..just a different bottle.
When the face cleanser looked more luxurious and scientific,
our customers were more than twice as likely to buy it.
What we tried to do was to make this product a status product,
giving it this sense of quality.
The other element was we had the seller wear a lab coat,
so it just gives it this aura of credibility, confidence.
The effect of packaging and science on sales is interesting,
but it wasn't actually the main thing that Omar was testing.
Would you be willing to do a survey about this product?
Our beauty lab customers were also asked to complete a questionnaire.
That would be really helpful. Thank you.
They thought this was simply market research.
But Omar was really looking at how the product affected
the way they feel about themselves.
He measured each customer's self-esteem
at the point of making their purchasing decision.
What we found was that self-esteem was higher
for the cheap product, or the more basic one,
compared to the higher one.
So what happens is that when you observe the luxury products,
it is likely to drop your self-esteem, and as a result,
you're more likely to then compensate
for that by buying the product, to elevate the self-esteem.
Omar found that our customers actually felt worse
about themselves when shopping for the luxury-looking products
compared to the ones that looked more basic.
And this makes us more likely to buy them.
A very interesting theory we have in psychology
is self-discrepancy theory.
It proposes that we have an actual self
and we have an ideal self.
Sometimes there's gap between the two
and what happens then is we feel a drive to reduce that gap.
It creates an ideal, something to be aspiring towards.
Because, look, here are these gorgeous people
-and here is an aspirational product.
So it creates the insecurity and then it takes it away.
-It takes it away.
-In my mind.
-In your mind.
So it seems like the luxury-looking products and the sales tactics
can give us lower self-esteem,
which is exactly why they can be so tempting to buy.
So the psychology of the way we feel about ourselves can play a big role
in why we choose certain products.
And our self-esteem obviously has a lot to do with why we want to change
our appearance in the first place.
I used to feel really insecure about how I looked,
and I've wasted a lot of time worrying about
how attractive people thought I was.
Thankfully, I've learnt to worry a lot less about that now.
But I do still wonder how good are we
at judging our own attractiveness?
I've come to Cambridge to meet Professor Viren Swami,
a social psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University.
His research focuses on human appearance and body image.
And today, he's running an experiment.
So, Viren, what is the plan today?
What are we trying to find out?
So we've invited a group of people to come into a lab.
Now, they've never met each other before,
so they don't know each other.
We're going to get them to take part in an experiment
where they rate their own attractiveness
and they rate other people's attractiveness as well.
So we're going to see if we find ourselves more or less attractive
than other people do.
First, the strangers meet face-to-face
and are given a chance to get to know each other.
THEY CHAT OVER EACH OTHER
Meanwhile, Viren has set up a gallery
which will measure how attractive the volunteers find each other.
OK, so what is going on in these pictures?
So here we have seven photographs of the same individual.
This is the original image, the un-altered face.
This is the actual face of what they look like.
And the other images have been digitally manipulated
to seem less attractive or more attractive.
So this is the lesser attractive face,
and this is the most attractive face.
-But attractiveness is subjective.
-There is a degree of subjectivity to it,
but as a culture, we have certain things that most people
will find attractive.
With male faces, they tend to have a larger jawline,
a more angular jawline, a longer nose,
and the larger brow ridge, which makes them more masculine.
And I feel like they've got a bit of a tan.
Indeed, so they have a skin tan.
In our culture, it's associated with both health and wealth.
What about the women?
They've been made to look more feminine to be more attractive,
so they've got a smaller nose, a smaller brow ridge,
but also larger lips.
I mean, the change is very subtle, but then when you actually
put the first and the last next to each other,
you can really the difference.
So in the less attractive face,
there's a less defined bone structure,
less high cheekbones, the colour is noticeable.
The lips are fuller and more red in this one.
So I can see the difference, absolutely.
Viren mixes up the order of attractiveness
in each set of photos to disguise which is the original image
and which has been transformed.
Then each volunteer is invited into the studio.
Out of the seven images of themselves,
each person has to select the one that they think best represents
how they really look.
I would like to think that that's what I look like.
I feel like I look best in this picture,
but that's maybe not quite how I normally look.
They then have to find the images of everyone else
they have just met.
-With big, engaging eyes.
So those were the key characteristics
-you noticed when you met her?
-Yeah, big, open eyes.
So why did you choose this one?
Why does that look like the person you just met?
It's just sort of seems a little bit brighter.
Yeah, she's quite a talkative, open person.
Her face is smiling more in that one.
So did people select more or less attractive images?
I bet you are wondering what on earth is going on.
Why have we made you look at your hairless, necklace faces this much?
Well, Viren is going to explain all.
So today we asked you to come in and we had to go around and select the
faces of your new friends that most accurately represented
the face that you thought they looked like.
We also had to do the same for yourself.
So what did we find?
Well, our main finding was that most of you selected a face for yourself
that was actually less attractive than what everyone else
selected for you.
More than 70% of the time,
people chose images of other people that had been enhanced
to look more attractive.
But when it came to choosing for themselves,
some people chose images that had been made to look more unattractive.
You selected an image of yourself that was less attractive
than the original image, the one on the left.
Whereas, everyone else selected the image on the right
as being the more accurate representation of her.
Is that quite nice to know?
Yes, thank you!
So, Viren, what is going on?
Why do we think, I suppose, more harshly of ourselves
than other people?
There is pressure on us to enhance our appearance
all the time and so we end up focusing on the flaws in our faces,
so we focus on all the things we don't like about ourselves,
we focus on the things we dislike,
the things we really hate about ourselves.
So what does influence the way we perceive someone's attractiveness?
Do you think meeting each other first
helped when choosing the picture?
-Very much so.
Because you bring the person's personality into their picture -
so because everyone sees each other as being a person
rather than just a face.
You're working out whether that person has a sense of humour,
you're working out whether that person has shared values with you,
and in psychology we call these halo effects.
A halo effect is simply where one quality
has an effect on our perception of a different quality.
So if we perceive someone as being warm and friendly
and kind and loyal, we can also perceive them
as being more physically attractive in the long-term.
So Viren believes that the group chose more attractive images
of each other because they met first...
We'll have you, if you want?
..and so were influenced by personality.
Viren, I really want to live in a world where it matters
how you behave with people and how much you invest in people
and how kind you are and how thoughtful you are.
It feels like it does matter.
So, of course it does. We know this from what we've done today and we've
shown that even just a brief interaction with someone
can have a huge impact on how they're perceived.
Which is such great news!
And it makes me so happy that we've done an experiment
that proves something really, really fabulous.
So, just as much as the creams and the make-up,
it's our outlook and the way we act with people
that affects how attractive we are.
I've spent so much of my life feeling really insecure
about how I look.
It's really comforting to know that actually personality does count
and part of your attractiveness is about how comfortable
you are in your own skin.
I've come to the end of my investigation
into the science behind the beauty industry.
I've learned that moisturiser doesn't have the long-term effects
on our skin that we might think it does...
..but that sun cream and retinol will keep our skin looking younger.
I'll also be more savvy to some of those marketing tricks
of the trade and I'll be saving some money on my make-up bag.
It turns out that whether a product works or not
isn't down to the claims on the label or the money we spend,
it's more about the ingredients list and reliable evidence.
I've definitely changed the way that I shop for beauty products
and the products that I use every.
What I've learned about the beauty industry
is that there are some things that really work,
but you've got to look past the promises and the price.
# Na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na
# Na-na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na-na-na
# She's got the look
-# She goes
# Na-na-na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
# She's got the look
# She's got the look She goes
# Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na-na-na
# She's got the look
# She's got the look. #
In the UK over £9 billion a year are spent on beauty products that promise to improve and transform us. But how much of what these products promise is based in scientific evidence, and how much is simply marketing manipulation?
Cherry Healey teams up with independent scientists to put everyday cosmetics to the test like never before. In a groundbreaking study carried out by the University of Sheffield, and with the help of 25 volunteers, she discovers that moisturisers might not have the benefits people think they do.
She meets dermatologists in Manchester to find out how well her skin is really aging and sees the shocking effects of sun damage, and she discovers the only over-the-counter product scientists would use on their own wrinkles.
Beauty journalist and author Sali Hughes shows Cherry how to save some money on her make-up bag, and with the help of the University of Sunderland she puts common cellulite solutions to the test - and finds an easy fix that actually works.
With the expert knowledge of an industry insider, she finds out the truth behind the common claims on cosmetics. She also looks at the psychology behind why we buy certain products - and whether we are actually more attractive than we think we are.