Are you worried when you hear about the adulteration in foods, the harmful effects of plastics and general hype about chemicals used in cosmetics, shampoos and soaps? I know that I have started becoming really wary of the marketing hype surrounding new product launches and miracle cures.
Last Sunday, when I was giving a fantastic performance of imitating a couch potato I was woken out of my reverie when I saw the Garnier ad promoting a fairness cream followed up by Ponds ad also offering similar benefits. It wasn’t the ads that woke me up, but the dissimilar tag lines Garnier offered a cure from age spots in 1 month whereas Ponds just 7 days.
Every summer my sister and I suffer the freckles that spot our faces and we often debate what to do about them. One summer Aloe Vera was tried, another summer Multani Mitti pack, a more recent addition has been a Lakme sun screen which has had no effect. Just a few days back my sister went out to get herself a Ponds, while I have been using the Garnier.
But having paid no attention to TV for a while I have probably missed the communication behind these products. When I did pay attention, this sunday, I was assailed with doubts. Which were further strengthened when I realised that the product labels on the jars don’t seem to say anything at all.
I have 2 fundamental concerns:
Who do we ask?
If an ad promises 7 days vs another promising a clear skin in 30 days. Is the first cream stronger than the other? Can it then harm my skin? Who do we ask? Should one ask the company or is there anyone else who can give a balanced scientific view?
Why is there no information?
At first glance there seemed to be no information on the jars or on the websites of both companies.
When I mentioned this to my sister, she remembered seeing the ingredients on the cardboard boxes the jars came in. So, I promptly brought a jar of each. And yes, they both have ingredients on the outside covers. But, is it just me who throws the boxes away and keeps the jars? I asked a few friends and none of them ever keep the boxes! So,there…..
Now that, I stand corrected. So change the above heading to.
Why is there no clarity of information?
- If the product is being advertised so heavily, while stating that it has natural ingredients (Garnier Skin Naturals), how much of Vitamin C and Lemon Extracts, does it have? Is it then a ‘Natural’/ ‘Herbal’ product?
- Also why does the product not exist on the corporate website with detailed description. As of writing, The Garnier page on the L’Oreal India website does not mention any products. The Garnier International site does not mention India as a country it operates in! While I am ready to acknowledge that L’Oreal does have a complete section on the research behind the products. In the absence of clarity on a specific product, questions remain unanswered.
- The Ponds India site specifies the India products but falls short of detailing out ingredients on the website, other than basic information about Advanced CLA4 Complex. Though I honestly don’t know what that means, it also raises a doubt, ‘What on earth is CLA4?’.
In addition to all the confusion above, the tuesday morning article in Times of India on ‘Site to tell you what labels don’t has worried me no end. The web is awash with information on the harmful effects of chemicals in cosmetics. Take a look at ‘Skin Deep’ and ‘Good Guide’. Even worse is a statement made by Environmental Working Group that states that the US FDA does not mandate safety checks on cosmetics.
So my question to you is ‘What is the price of beauty? Are we impacting our health for short term looks?
So, let’s take a detailed look at some of the issues.
- What are the international and domestic labeling norms. Is compliance to domestic labeling standards enough? Or is the Indian consumer wanting more? Should labels exist on product packs and on inside jars/ tubes etc.? Could the labels be a bit more user friendly?
- What role does the web play in information dissemination? And does it clarify or confuse? What is the role of corporate/ product sites? Should product rating sites be trusted?
Natural versus Chemical
- Everyone is proclaiming themselves to be green. How can we believe anyone?
- Should we buy products that proclaim that they are Ayurvedic or 100% natural, or others that clearly state that they use chemical compounds which have been tested for safety?
- My bottle of Forest Essentials shampoo states that some people might be allergic to some ingredients. Does it mean that ‘natural’ may not necessarily mean safe, just as ‘chemical’ may not necessarily mean unsafe?
- Do we need a regulatory body that transparently evaluates formulations and makes this information known publicly?
My subsequent posts, will cover each of the topics listed above.