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The Ingredients of Skin Care Research
By Kimberly J. Heathman
Posted: July 19, 2007
page 4 of 5
Variables. In testing, certain variables or factors must stay the same for results to be valid. For example, when comparing two samples of skin care product ABC, containing ingredient XYZ, you would test the same percentage of ingredient concentration per subject. In addition, if you compared, for example, the results on an animal subject versus human subject, the test results wouldn’t be meaningful.
The validity of initial research studies
Making sure research is accurate and valid requires more than one spin around the lab. The following are important factors in ensuring acceptable research results.
Replication. In April 2007, four out of five authors of a paper, called, upon initial publication in Science, a “breakthrough of the year,” retracted their findings on the grounds that the data it was based on could not be replicated.2
Credible researchers publish the details of their research in industry journals. They encourage other trustworthy researchers to replicate or repeat the study using the same method. When multiple labs receive similar results using the same conditions and variables, the findings are considered confirmed or valid to the scientific community. If the study results cannot be repeated, the study is considered unsubstantiated and preliminary.
Peer review. Before a research study can be published in a professional journal, a panel of other experts, typically industry peers who conduct similar research, must review the study.
Validity of claims. Scientific terms, as well as careful language, are often used inappropriately to make products and ingredients appear credible or non-credible. Once you understand how to read or evaluate research published by others, you’ll be better able to detect the language flags that enable you to question claims and testimonials that just don’t ring true.
In terms of safety issues, make sure that any health-related allegations about cosmetic ingredients are based on human studies and not the results of high-dose laboratory testing in animals. Any cosmetic toxicity study or safety evaluation should only be done on human subjects, which aids in dispelling any questions regarding cosmetic safety in general.
Unlike drugs, the FDA does not require pre-market approval for cosmetics. However, an FDA regulation requires each ingredient used in a cosmetic and each finished cosmetic product to be substantiated for safety before it is marketed, or it must carry a warning on its front label stating: “WARNING—The safety of this product has not been determined.” The FDA and the California Department of Health Services, which enforce the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and California’s Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law, respectively, have abundant legal authority to take action against any cosmetic, even one displaying a warning, they believe to be hazardous.3