Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Nooooo!!! I do NOT want to shed 5 layers of skin!!!

Have you ever walked through a shopping centre and been stopped by a sales assistant in one of those pop up skincare booths in the middle of the centre. I think they are Dead Sea Minerals, maybe, though to be honest I think I have been cornered by about 4 or 5 different companies (I have a bad habit of making eye contact and smiling at strangers). They all have the same sales routine - firstly, they will ask your age, when you reply they act surprised - 'wow, I thought you were at least [insert age 5 years older than what you just told them]. You look GREAT for your age' they claim. They then grab your hand and really get into their spiel. 'This exfoliant is unlike any you have tried before' they exclaim, 'it can remove 5 layers of your skin - see for yourself' whereby they then start massaging their product into your hand. Pretty soon the product starts to ball up. The sales assistant starts getting really excited, 'Look! Can you see all the layers of your skin that are being removed. Your skin is going to look amazing!'. At this point my brain is screaming out for attention. 'Sarah, don't listen to what they are saying, it is all false. You have done a PhD on the skin, for goodness sake. Put them in their place!'. But, alas, my parents have instilled such a strong sense of manners into me that I cannot bear to appear rude to anyone - not even to strangers who are telling me fibs.

So, why are these claims untrue? In my blog, Understanding the Skin, I described the different layers of the skin. Briefly, there are 7 layers in total: the epidermis is made up of 5 layers (which you can see in more detail in the image below), then there is the dermis, then the subcutaneous tissue. So, if a product were to remove 5 layers of skin, it is going to take off the entire epidermis. A second degree burn is when the entire epidermis has been burnt off leaving the dermis exposed. This type of burn always results in scarring. So, these claims to remove 5 layers of the skin are the equivalent of getting a second degree burn...and you really don't want that from a beauty product.
Image courtesy of P&G Beauty & Grooming
The only layer you ever want to exfoliate off is the very uppermost layer of the epidermis - the stratum corneum - as this is the layer of dead skin cells. But even then, you do not want to completely remove it. This layer is designed to offer protection to your skin, and it naturally sheds off anyway. Exfoliating once or twice a week will assist in removing cells that are ready to be shed anyway, but you really don't want to remove any more skin layers than that.

So, what is the stuff on your hand that the sales assistant claims are layers of skin? It is most likely silicones in the exfoliant. Silicones have a habit of balling up when rubbed, so it is just the product forming balls. It most likely will pick up some debris and dirt on your skin, so would make an okay cleanser. But it is not going to exfoliate to the extent that they claim (not that you want it to!). The sales assistant usually picks up your other hand to compare the two - the hand that had the product applied always looks better than the other hand. Why? Well, your other hand was most likely hanging by your side whilst this demonstration was going on and so blood has pooled in it, giving it a purplish hue. Also, the act of massaging you hand gets blood flowing, instantly making it look better, which is why the hand that had product applied to it always looks better. Do an experiment - massage some water onto the back of one hand then compare both hands - the massaged hand will look much better than the one that didn't get the massage. This is the same effect that you are seeing with the product demonstration.

Now, I am not saying that the products sold in these pop up stands are no good. From the brief (though numerous!) demonstrations I have had, the products do seem quite nice. However, I do want you to be informed that a lot of the claims that they are making are simply untrue. Since I have a pathological fear of seeming rude, I will forever be stuck listening to these false claims. Therefore, I want those of you with more balls than me to do me a favour. The next time you get stopped in a shopping centre and fed the spiel on shedding 5 layers of skin I want you to do this for me: firstly, burst into tears - the more tears the better. Then start screaming ' are going to cause my skin to scar' then run to the sink and start madly rinsing off the product. The sales assistant will then rush after you and ask what is wrong. You can then explain that by removing 5 layers of skin the entire epidermis will be removed and this will result in severe scaring - the equivalent of a second degree burn. Hopefully, this will result in the sales assistant never doing that spiel again. However, if you are lacking in balls like I am, here's my little tip. When they reach the end of their sales pitch they then usually ask 'So, how much do you think that products like this will cost?' I always answer with a completely innocent looking face '$20?'. You then see their face drop slightly before they reply 'Well usually they are $150, but because the manager is out I can do it for you for $100...' and there is your cue to politely decline and get away...until the next time!

All opinions stated in this blog are my own. I have no affiliation with any company discussed in this blog and received no remuneration for my comments.