Deception in cosmetics advertising: Examining cosmetics advertising claims in fashion magazine ads



Jie G. Fowler, Timothy H. Reisenwitz and Les Carlson

a Department of Marketing and International Business, Langdale College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, USAbDepartment of Marketing and International Business, Langdale College of Business Administration, Cleveland State University, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, USAc Marketing Department, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA

Journal of Global Fashion Marketing

Volume 6, Issue 3, 2015, pages 194- 206
Published online: 12 Jun 2015

DOI: 10.1080/20932685.2015.1032319

Because it’s not worth it: deceptive claims in cosmetics advertising


If you’re sceptical about the claims made by cosmetics firms about the attributes of their lotions and potions, you’re not alone. A study by US academics just published in the Journal of Global Fashion Marketingshows how little truth there seems to be in those glossy magazine ads – as well as how unlikely we are to believe them anyway.


Jie G. Fowler, Timothy Reisenwitz and Les Carson examined 289 full-page cosmetics ads from the April 2013 issues of seven fashion titles such as VogueGlamour and Marie Claire. The ads studied covered a wide range of product categories, such as make-up, facial skincare, body products, fragrance, hair and nail products.


The researchers first divided the claims made in the glossy ads into categories, including ‘environmental claims’ (‘no testing on animals’), endorsement claims (‘recommended by dermatologists’) and ‘scientific claims’ (‘clinically proven’). A panel of three judges then classified the claims made into one of four categories of truthfulness: ‘outright lie’, ‘omission’, ‘vague’ and ‘acceptable’.


In the end, only 18% of all claims made by the cosmetics companies were deemed ‘acceptable’ by the panel. Just 14% of ‘scientific’ claims were deemed acceptable, as opposed to 50% of those made about a product’s environmental attributes. Even more troubling for women worried about their wrinkles, the panel judged only 25.1% of performance claims to be acceptable, with 23% deemed to be an ‘outright lie’.


In addition to how unlikely consumers seem to be persuaded by the claims made in glossy magazines, the research also draws attention to the quirks of the regulatory processes by which ‘grey-area’ products like cosmeceuticals are considered to be a drug or a cosmetic – which in turn influence how a product can be marketed. “Categorization as a drug subjects the product to extensive regulatory requirements for new drugs,” the authors write, “so, ironically, cosmeceutical marketers do not want to prove the efficacy of their product, since drug regulation would then apply. Consequently, cosmeceutical advertising needs to attract consumers, but not regulators.”


The authors also note that given their results and the clear disbelief expressed by the judges regarding the cosmetic claims put before them, consumers (at least as represented by the judges) are already sceptical of product claims and are likely to consider them lies, omitting important information, or too vague to be of use.  Their observations thus have implications for advertisers, who, it seems, need to promote their products to customers increasingly distrustful that miracles can really be found in a jar. 

More ad the full report here

Genn Shaughnessy

MUAH MakeUp And Hair , 1811 Western Ave , Albany, NY 12203

Genn Shaughnessy is a Commercial MakeUp Artist, Licensed Hair Stylist and Beauty Expert in Albany, NY who provides camera ready makeup and hair styling services for HD, TV, Photo and Film. 

Genn’s ability to produce various types of MakeUp Artistry and Hair Styling for HDTV, Photo and mixed media demonstrates her amazing eye for detail and her ability to think outside the lines of conventional thinking. Genn's vast knowledge of cosmetics & beauty tools shines in writing and producing beauty segments, blog posts and educational tutorials.

Genn Shaughnessy has numerous film, print and web  credits to her name that include FOX, People Magazine, Teen People Magazine American Idols Live and Trading Spaces. She combines tremendous talent and make-up savvy with a plethora of experience and the ability to deliver uncompromising quality of work to every professional work setting.

Genn has trained under various accredited Directors and Department Heads and can boast working with celebrity clients such as; Ron Perlman, Judy Greer, Michael Shannon, Thomas Lennon, Christina Hendricks, Michael Torpey, Carrie Underwood, Alessandro Nivola, Alicia "Lecy" Goranson, Julianne Nicholson, David Cassidy, NY Giants Brandon Jacobs, and even former New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer.

Genn is also available for public speaking engagements, corporate training & seminars and private or industry staff makeup lessons.