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DispatchesHealth Lottery title

The Truth About Beauty Creams

Broadcast: Monday 12 May 2008 08:00 PM

Dispatches tests some of the high streets' most popular anti-ageing creams and comes up with surprising results.

The Truth About Beauty Creams

Dispatches tests some of the high streets' most popular anti-ageing creams and comes up with surprising results.

In the UK we now spend an estimated half a billion pounds every year on face creams that claim to make women - and men - look younger. The marketing for these creams often features scientific, hi-tech sounding ingredients - yet unlike drug companies the beauty industry does not have to publish clinical trials showing whether these creams are effective.

Dispatches investigates the promises made by some of the best-selling anti-ageing creams - putting the claims made on packaging, adverts and at beauty counters to the test.

Six products - a simple moisturiser and five creams that claim to make a difference to the appearance of skin in just four weeks - are tested by 30 women under the direction of two experts - a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon.

At the start of the trials each woman has her skin scanned using two different pieces of state-of-the-art equipment which analyse their skin and measure how wrinkled they are.

Neither they nor the experts know which creams they then use for the next four weeks, or what it's claimed the creams do.

At the end of the test period the women are scanned again. The results surprise the experts - and will surprise the millions of women and men who buy these creams.

Reporter Tazeen Ahmad investigates who regulates what the cosmetics giants can and can't say about their skin creams. She discovers that the Advertising Standards Authority allows any cream containing sunblock to be advertised as anti-ageing - even if other ingredients are at the forefront of the marketing. At the London School of Pharmacy she is shown how simple and cheap it is to make a cream that would be classified as anti-ageing.

Tazeen also films undercover at beauty counters in department stories - because that's where most of us have to get our information, since beauty companies don't have to publish scientific trials.

She films a barrage of pseudo science from the sales staff who try to persuade her that exotic ingredients will make her skin look more youthful and slow the ageing process. Leading scientists interviewed by Dispatches cast doubt on these claims.

Tazeen discovers that some leading products which claim powerful effects contain ingredients which when used react within the skin to produce vitamin A. When vitamin A is used in medicines they are accompanied by health warnings - to pregnant women for example.

A leading scientist tells Dispatches that products which claim to have such powerful effects should be subjected to the same testing for safety and efficacy that medicines undergo. Tazeen investigates why they are only treated as cosmetics. She visits a research lab for one of the world's largest beauty companies to see what tests are really done.

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