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Microbubbles Denounced

By David Holmstrom / June 2, 1989



YOU can find some of the best humor being written in America today in women's magazines, but not in the articles. Skip over the editorial content and read all the full-page ads for skin care products. Read the ads slowly to yourself. Read them out loud in a group. Remember that there is so little scientific evidence to support their advertising claims that the ads become astrology for the skin. Or a kind of cruel satire on the women who buy and believe. Remember, too, that all the ads led to $2.7 billion in sales last year for the manufacturers of the products. Muffled laughter all the way to the bank.

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Is dry or oily skin your problem? The latest buzzwords in the ads promote goop that has been concocted to invade the skin in various ingenious but scientifically impossible ways.

One product ``is not a lotion or cream, but a system of microscopic multilayered spheres that penetrate the skin with micro-carriers.'' I see a woman's face covered with angry, tiny white balls carrying small spears.

Another product is a ``loose powder with revolutionary microbubbles.'' I see a woman trying to powder her nose but can't because the tiny flecks of angry powder drift and bounce uncontrollably in her pores.

My favorite in the lotion category is ``...through the discovery of hydrospheres, 100 times smaller than liposomes,'' this product will ``replace lost radiance'' in ``dry, stressed-looking skin.'' OK, I see the hydrospheres, little but brave, marching across a parched forehead with sprigs of found radiance.

Many of the products contain amazing ingredients exotically promoted as ``plant or natural extracts,'' which are more often than not described as ``calming'' to the skin. I see unhappy freckles shouting jealously at the nearest ears or dimples. Along comes a plant extract and suddenly there is peace.

One product, packaged in various forms, actually had the following ingredients: rosemary, horse chestnut, hazelnut, soya, avocado, ginseng, wheat germ, marjoram, calendula, moinga, and licorice. Most of these ingredients were there, said the ads, ``to help restructure the epidermis,'' or ``to rebuild skin defenses.'' I see very small licorice ropes braided to form a shield across the upper lip.

Most products key their use to one or another of every conceivable point of time known to mankind - day, night, all night, morning, a.m., prebath, postbath, no bath, shower, noon, seated on a plane, summer, after hours, here and there.

Another product contained ``white birch extracts for oily skin.'' Another contained ``germ of graminae for young, dry skin.'' Graminae, incidentally, is defined as ``of or pertaining to grass.'' The benefit of washing one's face with distilled grass is beyond me or the nearest lawn mower.

Dermatologists don't mince words in concluding that this expensive obsession with cleaning skin is quite foolish. All a face really needs, they say, is a mild soap, a little water, and a gentle swipe or two from a washcloth.

I see a countertrend developing; women will join Lotions Anonymous and have bumper stickers proclaiming, ``Honk if you love mild soap.''