Several major cosmetics firms are introducing products that they say represent breakthroughs in the treatment of wrinkles. They're backing their claims with scientific documentation. But will increasingly skeptical consumers accept this on faith?
Probably not. They're demanding proof in the form of diminished wrinkles and a younger look. In other words, they want a product that delivers. It looks like this might be the year they get it.
No cosmetic will make wrinkles disappear. But skin-care scientists promise that their newest offerings will significantly decrease the length and depth of facial lines. Firms are using their clinical test results to convince the public that the products perform.
Women have listened to the scientific approach since the 1960s, when Dr. Erno Laszlo first mass-marketed his skin-care line and Revlon launched its scientific-
sounding Eterna 27 campaign. In 1968, Clinique introduced its computerized program, developed by dermatologists and complete with lab coats for its sales force and antiseptic-looking ads. Other companies followed. Earlier this year, famed heart-transplant surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard surprised some health professionals by endorsing the Glycel skin-care line in another effort to persuade skeptics.
Jack Mausner, a chemist and vice president of research and development at Chanel, admits that getting a new product's message across can be difficult. "People who write cosmetics ads have used every imaginable word to say that a product makes the skin look younger, softer, less wrinkled," he says. "The public doesn't believe the words anymore. They've heard the claims before, but the products haven't always performed."
True. Many consumers were disappointed a few years ago by products whose ads implied that the collagen they contained would penetrate the deepest epidermal layers, somehow augmenting the skin's natural collagen.
The word collagen worked as a marketing tool. The creams sold. However, consumers soon learned that the collagen molecules in the products were too large to penetrate the skin. The surface of the skin benefited, but the creams didn't eradicate or even diminish wrinkles, as ads had implied.
When these creams turned out merely to be expensive moisturizers, consumers became more savvy and more skeptical than ever. "They want proof," says Mausner, whose company is introducing new Lift Serum Anti-Wrinkle Complex.
Ads for the serum claim "up to 45% wrinkle reduction. Clinically proven . . . results after only one month." The Federal Trade Commission requires that documentation support such claims.
Products such as Biotherm's Special Rides Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Prescriptives Line Preventor, Stendahl's Self-Firming Program and Clarins Biological Skin Tightener Intensive Treatment make very specific claims about reducing wrinkle size or firming skin. Unlike previous claims, most of these ads tell consumers exactly what to expect instead of implying certain results. Mausner, for instance, asserts that Chanel "only says what we're sure the product can do."
Mausner trains Chanel representatives to explain how minuscule molecules of proteins and carbohydrates can penetrate skin, absorb moisture, expand, and exert an upward pressure that smoothes existing wrinkles. "We know it works, but we want the consumer to know how it works," Mausner says.
The firms have done their homework. Research indicates a measurable reduction in wrinkle size in test after test. When the products prove themselves to the public's satisfaction, cosmetics companies and consumers alike can celebrate a real breakthrough.