Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


Elizabeth Arden Spa Science

How Much Is Science And How Much Is Marketing?

I recently spent some time on the Elizabeth Arden website, as part of my regular research on cosmetics and cosmetic company claims. EA is one of the oldest and most respected skincare companies in the world, and, yes, I worked for them in the early days of my career.

Their website is full of great information, and like all companies, they make some great products, as well as some not so great.

There is a new section on the site called Spa Science, to which I was immediately drawn. I am always curious to see what advice is being dispensed, and if it is accurate.

The new Spa Science section answers fourteen of the most common questions consumers have about skincare, and I have to admit that EA got an impressive mark for accuracy. In all, they got almost 80% of the information correct! 

They did, however, get some information wrongso wrong, in fact, that it needs highlighting. Below I have BUSTED advice offered by Art Pellegrino (VP of Research and Development for EA) and Cornelia Zicu (Lead Aesthtician for Red Door Spas).

  • What's a toner and why do I need it?

Art: A toner is a light liquid or lotion that 1) helps to remove any traces of residue left after cleansing, 2) refines pores, and 3) preps your skin for your moisturizer.

Cornelia: Be sure to choose the correct toner for your skin type. If you have oily skin, astringents work well, as they help to control surface oils and tighten skin. If you have dry or normal skin, choose a hydrating toner. Spray or pat on before bedtime and refresh your skin for a good night's sleep.

INCORRECT: Toners are mostly water (about 90%) and can do nothing to change the physiology of skin. 


Let’s break down these claims:

1. “helps to remove any traces of residue left after cleansing”a well formulated cleanser, with the correct pH balance, should not leave any residue or disrupt the pH of the skin. This is like saying you should wash your skin after you have washed your skin. Why not just use a better formulated cleanser?

2. “refines pores”wrong again. Pores do not open and close, they are always open. Yes, you can clean them and keep them congestion-free, but the way to do this is through exfoliation, NOT application of a product that is mostly water. Think about it, if that were true, simple rinsing with water would unclog the pores.

3. “preps your skin for your moisturizer”I don’t even know what this means. If this is a vague reference to creating a hydrophilic reaction between the toner and the moisturizer to help with transdermal penetration, then, yes, it is true; however, you can achieve the exact same reaction with water. A toner does not make the moisturizer work better.

4. “astringents work well, as they help to control surface oils”categorically untrue. Cosmetics, by definition, cannot change the physiology of skin, and the implication that they can is misleading. Astringents certainly can evaporate surface oil, but they do with alcohol, which in turn causes cellular damage and an increase in oil production. Astringents should never be used on any skin type. Ever.

5. “pat on before bedtime and refresh your skin for a good night's sleep”this is just nonsense! How can a toner help you have a good night’s sleep?

Cucumbers on my eyes? Really?

Cornelia: Cucumbers are composed of 90% water, so, naturally, they have a hydrating effect. Relaxing with cold cucumbers on your eyes not only provides a cooling sensation, but can reduce the look of puffiness and redness around the eyes and soothe irritation.

Art: Cucumbers also contain minerals that promote healing and health, such as potassium and vitamin C, which help to reduce swelling and tighten skin around the eyes.

INCORRECT: Whole foods cannot work on the skin like cosmetic formulas, because they cannot penetrate the stratum corneum to provide any benefit to the epidermal tissue. While cucumbers around the eyes feels lovely, the act of using them will do absolutely nothing for the skin.


Let’s break down these claims:

1. “cucumbers are composed of 90% water, so naturally they have a hydrating effect”water on the surface of the skin cannot hydrate the tissue. The skin is waterproof and does not absorb water in this fashion. In order to hydrate the tissue, the hydrating agents must be in a carrier that can penetrate into the tissue and then be released.

2. “reduce swelling and tighten skin”wrong again. Any reduction from swelling is simply from the cooling sensation. Simply put, anything cold will achieve the same result and it is very temporary. As soon as the tissue warms up, the puffiness will return. As for tightening the skin, this is misleadingthe contraction is again from the temperature of the cucumbers, not from anything they contain. When the skin tissue is cold it contracts and “tightens,” and as soon as it is warm again, any such change is not visible.

Can I use face lotion around my eyes?

Cornelia: Your eyes are as different from the rest of your face, as your face is from the rest of your body. Facial moisturizers will NOT work in place of eye creams, because most face products may contain ingredients that are far too potent for the fragile eye area.

Art: Because the skin around the eyes is so thin, eye creams address puffiness, dark circles, fine lines, and crow's feet with specially formulated, extra-gentle ingredients. That's why it's also important to seek out ophthalmologist-tested eye products, because the eye area is so sensitive.

INCORRECT: There is no difference between the skin around the eye area and the rest of the face. The only time a separate eye care product is needed, is if the skin type (oily, dry etc.) is different in the eye area than the rest of the face. Moisturizers should be used based on skin type, NOT areas of the face. Eye creams are a total waste of money.


Let’s break down these claims:

1. “eyes are different from the rest of your face”while the skin is thinner, cosmetics only work in the epidermal layer. Additionally, most eye creams are richer than face lotions, thus penetrating deeper into the tissue. The idea that the skin is fragile in the eye area is simply untrue. Any well formulated, fragrance-free moisturizer will work in the eye area.

2. “eye creams address puffiness, dark circles, fine lines, and crow's feet with specially formulated, extra-gentle ingredients”—as for puffiness and dark circles, there is no research showing that any ingredient or combination of ingredients can reduce puffiness or dark circles around the eyes. As for extra gentle ingredients, all skin needs extra gentle ingredientseyes, face and body. Irritating ingredients aren’t good for any part of the body. As for crow’s feet, there is no cream that can remove a wrinkle once it had formed.

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