Beauty Product Efficacy Ratings: Where Do They Come From?

In the world of beauty, there are countless products. Many are natural beauty aids from leaves, flowers, mud and more that have proven to be effective after hundreds of years of use. But what about all those new man-made beauty products?

Beauty products that are created by a manufacturing company use natural ingredients, but there are also many other items in the ingredient list that don’t come from Mother Nature. How do you know if those products actually work or are just a waste of money?

Companies spend millions of dollars marketing their beauty products in an attempt to convince consumers that their product will work miracles. Many will point to efficacy ratings as proof that their product works. But where do these efficacy ratings come from and how much do they matter?

Beauty Product Efficacy Ratings: Where Do They Come From?

Where Beauty Product Efficacy Ratings Come From

When you see a beauty product that says users saw a 90% improvement or that the product improves skin by a certain amount, often times these claims come from third-party testing. Manufacturers will hire beauty consumer research firms to carry out a variety of tests that discover the strengths and weaknesses of a product.

One common method is to have beauty product testers within the target demographic use the product for a specific period of time. The researchers will instruct the testers on how to use the product correctly and then have the testers provide feedback throughout the process. The feedback is then used to create efficacy ratings.

An example of an efficacy rating from beauty product testers would be “95% of users saw an improvement in radiance and moisture.” Any efficacy rating that notes “women,” “men,” “users,” or “testers” has come from consumer testing and is based on the opinion of the people testing the product.

Beauty product manufacturers also sometimes enlist the help of laboratory researchers to test products. Cosmetic testing laboratories can do toxicology assessments, purity evaluations, and efficacy ratings. When a lab tests a product for efficacy the results aren’t from the opinion of testers. They are measured by the researchers based on a baseline measurement at the beginning of the test.

Often cosmetic testing in a laboratory will be accompanied by before and after pictures. The efficacy ratings also include terminology such as “shown” or “proven” in the claim. This type of testing is more time consuming and expensive so it’s less common than in-home consumer use testing.

Both types of testing add credibility to beauty product claims. The marketing or packaging may even note how the efficacy ratings were gathered, which adds even more credibility.

Do Beauty Products Have to Be Proven Effective?

Unfortunately, most beauty products do not have to be proven effective to get approval to be sold in stores. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with testing and approving thousands of products every year. Some of those products must go through rigorous efficacy tests before they can be sold, but beauty products don’t fall into that category.

The FDA cosmetic product testing is done to simply verify that the beauty product is safe to use as directed if safety is questionable. The only thing that has to be approved by the FDA is the use of color additives. Really, it’s the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure a product is safe to use. Once a product has been proven safe it can be sold regardless of how effective it is.

The only time the FDA has to approve a cosmetic product is if that product physically alters the skin. At that point, the product is classified as a drug and an approved New Drug Application is required before it can be marketed and sold.

Even if a product isn’t considered a drug doesn’t mean a cosmetic company can make false claims. They are still bound by law to make honest and truthful efficacy claims. If they don’t the FDA will issue a warning letter addressing the marketing claim. The manufacturer will need to correct the claims or further action can be taken.

At the end of the day, consumers should take efficacy ratings into consideration with the understanding that each person will get unique results.
(Contributed by Becky)

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