82 Percent of Cosmetic Advertising Claims Are Bogus

A new study sheds light on an alarmingly high amount of false advertising for makeup and beauty products in the media


If you've ever wondered exactly how good that "miracle" serum is at reducing wrinkles or how it's possible that a cream is "clinically proven" to mend split ends after seeing a well-styled ad for it, well, you're not alone. Some of the claims seem practically outrageous-after all, can something in a bottle actually make you look ten years younger? Your skeptical gut is probably right. According to new research published in the Journal of Global Fashion and Marketing, only 18 percent of all claims made in commercials for cosmetics prove to be trustworthy. (10 Invisalign Truths to Know Before You Try.)

Researchers completed a content analysis of advertising claims, looking at the following types: superiority, such as "award-winning product;" scientific, like "clinically proven;" stand-alone performance ("your skin feels softer"); endorsement, such as "dermatologists recommend this;" and subjective, like "all you need for a day of confidence." Similarly, they classified each ad's claim as vague/ambiguous ("inspired by science"), an omission, a false/outright lie, or as acceptable. Every category of beauty products was looked at, including makeup, skincare, body and bath, fragrance, hair, and nail.

Despite the variation of categories and claims, only 18 percent of the 757 claims reviewed actually stood up to their advertised features. Makeup ads made most of the claims in the beauty industry-294 of them, in fact. And as for the other classifications, researchers found that almost half of the brands reviewed actually make false scientific or subjective claims.

All of this suggests that even though the FDA monitors the industry, they can only guarantee that the beauty products are safe. It's really up to you to know whether the ingredients in that bottle will solve your skincare woes, which means you need to do your own research. Be wary of any miracle products that don't have a scientific study or unaffiliated doctor specifically backing up its claims. Most magazines will specifically call out if they or their sources have tried the products out themselves (like Shape's 2014 Beauty Awards, for which we tested hundreds of products). If you want to guarantee that a beauty hack will make you prettier, skip the makeup entirely and slap a smile on your face-a study last year proved that women with nicer personalities are perceived as more physically attractive than their mean counterparts. Beauty from the inside-now that's the perfect place to start.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles