Writeup – Brigitte West & Rob Hollis – SHAMpoo & CONditioner: The Science Behind the Cosmetics Industry

A very slick double-hander investigating the science behind the cosmetic industry (just like it says in the brochure). Due to time constraints these two recent Graduates of Newcastle University chose to focus on the anti-ageing side of the business, and a huge, rich, secretive industry it is. Brigitte West and Rob Hollis have found the secrecy daunting. For obvious reasons (money invested in new products) the cosmetic industry does not share.

There is evidence, however, that the cosmetic industry is becoming more science led, but you wouldn’t think so from some of their advertising. It is full of buzz-words – ‘anti-cellular’ & ‘gene therapy’, for example – and lots of scientific sounding abbreviations and big numbers. There are references to ‘pearl extracts’, ‘dragon’s blood’ and ‘micro-crystals’. There are words like ‘perpetual’ and ‘everlasting’, but to retain the effect you have to keep buying!

The ageing process, say Hollis and West, is complicated, and, in the absence of hard evidence it is easy to be sceptical. They add a caveat; it is hard to find data to prove the cosmetic industries claims, but just as difficult to find the data to disprove it.

Collagen based products claim to effect repairs to ageing skin. These are mainly topical creams. Skin is waterproof. Water molecules are smaller than collagen molecules, so how, one might ask, does the collagen get into the dermis to make it work?

What’s to be done? Data – and proper double blind placebo controlled research. Published and peer reviewed.