Sunday, 14 October 2012

The science of nonsense

Science is brilliant. I mean, it's given us so much. Pasteurisation. Electricity. Immunisation. The ability for anyone to send celebrities on the other side of the world abusive messages over the internet. And, finally, mankind's progress has peaked. Never will anything better be invented. We should shut down CERN, sell off NASA and convert laboratories worldwide into branches of Greggs and SportsDirect. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you: L'oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Renew.

Now, it's fairly clear to most people that all other anti-ageing creams are almost always no better for skin than smearing your face in industrial slurry; but this is a different kettle of chips, apparently. Here's my blow by blow deconstruction of some poor marketing intern's piss poor attempt at science.

1. 'Imagine if you could laser renew your skin'

The advert starts brilliantly, asking the viewer to imagine what life might be like if you could harness the power of photons emitted from excited atoms to effectively time-travel your skin back a decade or so. Of course, lasers can only really revitalise skin by slicing off the saggy bits. Just ask Bond if, when strapped to a metal table with a high powered laser powerful enough to slice through gold bars, the first thought to cross his mind was 'Oh well, at least the skin around my gentlemen's area will be renewed'. So, firstly, the concept of lasers doing skin any good is a fairly hard one to grasp.

2. 'Hyaluronic Acid' and 'Pro-Xylane'

I thought at first 'Hyaluronic Acid' was one of those pretend substances that screenwriters like to chuck into movies to 'fill the gaps' in real science, like turbidium, kryptonite and the laughably named 'Unobtanium'. But, a cursory search on that well respected scientific knowledge repository (wikipedia), revealed that 'Hyaluronan' actually exists. Apparently, it's pumped under the skin to smooth out wrinkles, a little like an internal Polyfilla. So maybe it does work. Pro-Xylane, is also, apparently, the latest 'big thing' in 'anti-ageing "science"'. But these chemicals aren't included in this advert due to any alleged youth inducing properties they may have. It;s because they look sciencey. How can you doubt something with THREE PERCENT Pro-Xylane. It could cause your face to melt into a dermatologically youthful puddle; but who cares BECAUSE THERE'S MORE OF IT THAN EVER. It sounds complicated, so it must work!

3. Vague Claims

Insert vague claims about skin appearing 'firmer' and wrinkles 'reduced'. They could have referenced some clinical studies that could provide evidence for the biblical qualities of Hyaluronic Acid, Pro-Xylane, whatever they have in it, to really back up their claims. Heck, even the standard '80% of women tested could tell the difference' statement based on a survey of a dozen participants would have added more gravitas. But they don't have this either. What they do have instead though is...

4. The Daily Mail.

"IT REALLY WORKS" - The Daily Mail. Evidence from the most respected scientific organ (albeit it, the appendix) is the proof they are going to sell this product on. The validity of any scientific claims made by the paper which is obsessed with classifying every object known to man into either a cause of or a cure for cancer are, arguably, questionable. One can be forgiven that if the Daily Mail states that something 'REALLY WORKS', you may want to seek a second opinion from a more reputable scientific journal. Like Nuts.

5. 'Trust Science'

The ironic end to an advert that uses science as nothing more than a glossy veneer of respectability to sell yet another identikit anti-ageing cream. I've seen programmes featuring Derek Acorah which promote a greater trust in science.

Today a man broke the sound barrier protected by nothing more than a big coat and a helmet. That's what science is really about. Unfortunately, it seems to be invoked more to sell overpriced cosmetics to people worried about their appearance, than to explore the world around us.


  1. That. Was. HILARIOUS :D I found it because I googled pro-xylane as I figured it must be an oxygenated alkane with three carbons - it didn't seem to be IUPAC named. Very glad to have stumbled on this!

  2. Where's the actual science behind the cynicism?

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