Academics warned not to be ‘seduced’ by cosmetic industry claims, reviewing instead the ‘science bit’
Making sure it’s the one I want: professor from University of Bradford says the industry is “remarkably recession-proof” and an “enormous growing sector”
The appetite for the appliance of science in cosmetics might never have been healthier but your favourite miracle face cream might not be living up to its claims, according to an expert in skin science speaking yesterday at the British Science Festival.
Desmond Tobin, professor of cell biology and director of the centre for skin sciences at the University of Bradford, said universities and academics had an important role in developing new products, but they should not “be seduced by industry claims” and should instead offer “the science bit” behind wonder cosmetics up for rigorous peer review.
Prof Tobin, who is from Navan, Co Meath and attended university in Maynooth, offered consumer tips while discussing the growing demand for scientifically proven skincare products. Many of the industry’s claims, he said, were based on the idea that active ingredients could make it into the deep layers of our skin, so-called “trans-dermal delivery”.
“The skin is a natural barrier but still has up to 10 million potential points of entry, between sweat gland pores and hair follicles. There’s lots of science being done to understand how to get stuff in.
“A really important problem though is that the test site of many creams is the forearm,” where he said the hair density was much lower than on other body parts, such as the nose or forehead.
Particles needed to be just 40 nanometres in size or “40 millionths of a millimetre” to get “significant ingress into follicles and the skin”, he said. Many particles, which could “easily surpass 750 nanometres” would only ever stay on the surface of the skin.
This meant that the industry was pursuing the development of “nano-particles” in creams and gels, a size-shrinking effort Prof Tobin described as “nano-ising”. This was not a trivial issue, however. A concern now was what happened to the “depots of particles in skin” that did make it through to deeper layers. “We don’t know much about their fate,” he added.
The industry was “remarkably recession-proof” and an “enormous growing sector”, Prof Tobin said, with a projected worth of $300 billion in the United States by 2017. “Compare that with a prescription drugs market of $307 billion that keep people alive.”