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What's In This Stuff, Anyway?

December 12, 1991

The department store counters are lined with them, rows and rows of facial moisturizers, creams, softeners, beautifiers, lotions and potions. Behind them are the saleswomen--hired, you suspect, more for their flawless complexions than anything else--who ask you what you'd like.

You have skin, you say, and you'd like a face cream.

After that, you're not so sure.

"They say they have collagen in them, or elastin, or proteins, or all these other things that are supposed to be good for your skin, but you don't really know what you're getting for your money," says Lee Bruckner, 70, of Oxnard. "I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I bought a new cream and saw no difference at all."

Dominique Manasson, a 36-year-old chiropractor in Oxnard, also concedes that, when it comes to face creams, she's not what you'd call an educated consumer.

"Basically, if someone is enthusiastic about a product, I'll try it. But I really don't know very much except for what I read in magazines," she says. "My approach is to try a product and then watch the results to see how my skin tolerates it."

Neither approach, cosmetic industry insiders say, is unusual.

"The fact is, most women don't know what they put on their faces. That's because they don't know what the ingredients are," says Charles Eason, sales manager of Cosmetic Labs of America in Chatsworth.

So what's really in all those face creams? We asked a few sales representatives at cosmetic counters throughout the county to explain what their products do and why.

"This is like a drink of water for the skin. It helps to refresh it.

"What's in it? Hmmm. (Looks under counter.) Well, mostly water, and then a whole bunch of things that are unpronounceable. We don't know what's in it. All of the (facial cream) lines have things with strange names in them.

"But this is gentle and effective. I'm qualified to tell you that. All the lines have different philosophies."

--a Lancome representative

"This has silica beads that mimic the skin's natural hydrating process. You squash the beads in your hand and then spread them on your face. After three weeks, your skin should be three times more moisturized. And it's applicable for all skin types.

"Why? Because it has no special type of skin it's right for.

"What's in it? I can't tell you what's in it. I just know there are silica beads that are micro-reservoirs. They are little reservoirs of, well, they work like the natural hydrating process of the skin."

--a Revlon representative

"This is for normal to combination skin. It monitors the hydration of your skin. It has smart monitors that release moisture as your skin needs it.

"How? I don't know, but women who use it love it. You can see a real noticeable difference.

"What's in it? It has very gentle moisturizers that provide the moisture barrier your skin needs. And the difference is, this is good for dry and combination skin. If you're dry here and oily here (points to her face), it's fine for both."

--an Ultima representative

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