'Organic' skincare products can mean just about anything

January 1, 2010
Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. She is investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C., and a Dermatology Times Editorial Advisor and co-medical editor.

At present, organic skincare products can be anything the manufacturer wants them to be.

Key Points

Q: What are organic skincare products?

A: I do not know, and neither does anyone else, including the government. With the green revolution, many companies are claiming that their moisturizers and hair conditioners are organic.

The value of organic botanicals came into question several years ago, when the Food and Drug Administration was asked to approve oral green tea for use as an anti-inflammatory medication.

After much deliberation, it was determined that the green tea supplement contained concentrated tea leaves, but also concentrated insecticides that were sprayed on the tea leaves, making the product unsuitable for oral consumption. Indeed, concentrated botanicals could pose a threat when consumed. How this might translate into topical application has not yet been determined.

At present, organic skincare products can be anything the manufacturer wants them to be. This term has only marketing value and indicates nothing.

It is hard to believe that dimethicone, an ingredient found in most modern facial moisturizers, is organic. However, it does come from the earth, and perhaps everything we come into contact with is organic, under certain circumstances!

Q: What does the phrase "data on file" mean in cosmetic advertising copy?

A: The phrase "data on file" is commonly seen in many cosmetic advertisements that make strong claims, such as "our product reduces facial wrinkles by 35 percent in 24 hours."

These claims must be supported by data in order to prevent legal challenge by a competitor. One company may sue another company based on claims that may be considered untrue.

To prevent this problem, data must be generated that would withstand legal scrutiny. Because disclosure gives away proprietary information, and because space is limited on most advertising copy, it is easiest to let the consumer and competitors know that the study has been done and the "data is on file."

This allows the company to produce the data only when required, but fulfills the need to generate data to support claims, and prevents accusations of false advertising.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net
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