This post was inspired by the science of genes

DNA helix

Gene science: coming soon to a face cream near you

I really miss that L’Oreal slogan ‘here comes the science bit…’ – especially when they followed it up with ‘concentrate!’. My biochemist boyfriend was especially enraged by those shampoo adverts promising to ‘add key aminos’ to your hair. ‘IT ALREADY HAS ALL THE AMINOS IT NEEDS – IT’S MADE OF PROTEIN!!’ he would howl at the TV.

But these days they’re skipping the science bit altogether – sad times. So I’ve been left wondering what the advert for L’Oreal’s ‘Youth Code‘ skin cream is all about. The first time I saw it I waited eagerly to hear what craziness would come after the promising beginning saying that this new product is ‘inspired by the science of genes’. But I was disappointed. There was nothing else.

I think this is a shame. I miss the science bit – it was always surprising, a bit stupid and funny. But now all we get is the intro. Is that because we didn’t concentrate enough?

Luckily the website is here to rescue us. Ok, it’s a bit tragic that this domain name is dedicated to a face cream, and not to all the more important (and cool) gene science out there (like decoding the potato genome, for example).

According to the website, the science of genes (in relation to anti-wrinkle cream) is all about gene expression – figuring out the difference between the way genes are expressed in younger vs. older skin. Scientists at L’Oreal have apparently found out that older skin takes longer to respond to environmental stress than younger skin.

No sh*t, Sherlock, you might say. But wait… This research ‘has ushered in a new era in our understanding of skin behaviour and how it is affected by age’, allowing L’Oreal to ‘develop new care ingredients that help improve the efficiency of the skin’s epidermal recovery process’. How’s that for a science bit?

There are certainly a lot of words here, but they’re not saying very much. Who knows what this cream is actually doing? It’s got ‘patented Pro-Gen technology’ but I have no idea what that actually is.

I think we can safely say that all it’s doing is temporarily making your wrinkles look a little bit better. If it was doing anything really serious it would have to be some sort of prescription medicine.

These ‘science bits’ used to be a staple of L’Oreal adverts, but here the ‘evidence’ has been relegated to a confusing website (which I doubt very many buyers would bother to visit). On the face of it this seems to make it even harder to judge whether we’re being fed a load of rubbish (and less fun as well).

Could this be because the Advertising Standards Authority has finally got to them? It’s been cracking down on adverts that are ‘misleading’ (some might say ‘dishonest’) – L’Oreal have previously been stung when one of their mascara adverts had to be changed because Penelope Cruz turned out to be wearing false eyelashes – I’ve noticed they’ve started adding ‘styled with lash inserts’ to their mascara ads since then.

And four people have even complained about the ‘gene science’ that may or may not have inspired Youth Code. They were (understandably) a bit confused about what this actually meant. But this time L’Oreal had learnt their lesson – their claims were more believable and the ASA were convinced that they had in fact been inspired by gene science. Whether or not this actually makes the cream any better is still up for grabs…

I like to think I’m a rational person so I suppose I should be happy about this (small) triumph of reason. But actually I’m feeling a slight sense of loss – I miss the totally crazy claims adverts for beauty products used to come out with.

It’s a good thing that the companies behind these ads are being made to show us the evidence – we need more people asking these questions, not just about adverts but about all the other crazy health and beauty claims we’re bombarded with every day.

The lovely Sense About Science have just started a campaign encouraging everyone to ask for evidence. As they point out, ‘you set the standard of what will persuade you to try something, agree with a proposal or buy a product’. So if the evidence doesn’t look good enough, ask for more. And if you’re not inspired by the evidence of L’Oreal, take your money elsewhere!

In the meantime I’m going to take a small moment to appreciate the hilariously bad science (and bad writing) of beauty ads I have known and laughed at…

One Response to “This post was inspired by the science of genes”

  1. Sleepwalker Says:

    I was amused by “gene science” too, good post.

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