Dork Rant: Misleading beauty advertising

EmmaI’ll be the first to put my hand up and confess to being a bit of a pushover when it comes to the persuasive powers of advertising. Any advert that suggests a product is ‘brand new’ ‘revolutionary’ or ‘the next big thing’ is sure to catch my attention.

Heard of those hair removal mitts that claim to be a pain- and soap-free way of removing hair? I bought one. Two hours later, my legs were indeed hair free. Unfortunately they were also covered in an itchy red rash that lasted 3 more days. With a little more research, I discovered that this was a common reaction.

Except the brand hadn’t exactly mentioned that on the product packaging.

This isn’t the first time a beauty brand has omitted vital information, or mentioned it in such a fleeting manner that most people miss it.

Sit down for a couple of hours of Saturday night TV and you’ll be ambushed with adverts for volumising shampoo and mega lengthening mascaras. Tempting products until you notice the tiny note that flashes up, informing the viewer that the model is using fake eyelashes or hair extensions. Blink, and you’ll miss it. Which I’m sure is the general idea.

The cosmetics market seems to take advantage of the weak returns policy by making claims they can’t back up. Most make up counters won’t allow you to return products if you’ve used them, so once the product is sold they can wash their hands of responsibility.

The USA has a much better returns policy, so why can’t the UK follow suit? Perhaps they have something to hide.

Emma Cossey

Emma is our resident fashion and social media specialist, having worked as a blogger, editor and writer on a number of fashion and beauty websites. She writes regularly for The Bag Lady, and has previously written for The Times Online, Shoewawa and Jorg & Olif among others.

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  1. says

    Hi Emma, like your post on cosmetics. I know I can be gullible when it comes to the promise of looking good. The cosmetic industry taps into this vulnerability. Yes we are suckers when it comes to wanting the same glossy hair as Cheryl or Danni. Personally I want their white teeth ;o) Still it is so frustrating how much they can get away with.

    I find the current use of the label ‘natural’ frustrating. So many products are being labeled natural by cosmetic companies when they are full of chemicals, some of them potential skin irritants!

    • Emma Cossey says

      Hi Ali, I agree with you, the term ‘natural’ is thrown around far too much now! It’s a shame as it makes me feel suspicious of any brand that describes their product with this term.

  2. Ben Rose says

    This can always be a good debate, with many angles.

    I actually studied Pharmacy and worked in an independent chemist shop for the best part of 7yrs before I jumped ship and went into IT. In my time there I saw, and sold, most of the miracle products of the time and got to hear feedback on the results.

    Some women swore by the new (then) Organics shampoo and claimed the fruit acids helped make their hair stronger and thicker. Others said it made their hair greasy and made them want to wash it more often. Hair dyes was another area with strong opinion.

    Mascara, however, was probably the most returned product of the lot. This wasn’t because it didn’t deliver the results that people claimed it would on the advert though, it was purely because customers complained that the bottle was still half full and the brush was all clogged up with dried on crud.

    Being a small independent that made two thirds of it’s money from prescriptions, not the retail side, we usually just refunded – even without a receipt. We put it to one side and waited for the rep from Rimmel, Max Factor etc. to show up and swap the stock out with some he always had in his car.

    You may not feel we have the returns policy that the US have but, in reality, it’s just a cultural divide. Brits are great at complaining – but to each other, not the source of the problem. Those who are prepared to take it back to a trusted retailer usually succeed. I wouldn’t expect a place like Boots or Tesco, that lost the personal service years ago, to care too much about your rubbish mascara but a trusted local store or a make up counter in a store like John Lewis I’d expect to at least give you a credit against your next purchase.

    I really miss the days of replacing those snapped lipsticks, broken hinges on powder blusher cases and replacing lost brushes that “weren’t there when they opened the pack”.

  3. says

    The eyelash extensions I hate. The hair ones I tolerate because they’re usually natural hair extensions and thus react the same as the rest of the hair. That said, using hair extensions to advertise volumising products is wrong – if the fine hair is perked up by 200 individually added extensions, what hope does the normal girl have of getting a similar result from just the product? The other problem is normal people don’t have studio lighting, twelve different types of serum and taming spray, a professional photographer, an award-wnning hair stylist with a backcombing obsession and a photoshop whiz at hand.

  4. says

    I love it when they say “appears”. Hair “appears” healthier, reduces the “appearance” of wrinkles, etc etc. It’s such a great get out of jail free card.

    Also, when they flash up a bit at the bottom that says “64% agreed in a poll of 80”.

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