Nutrition Myths at the Makeup Counter

I had a fun outing this weekend with a good girlfriend at the Spring Cosmetics Trend Show at Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue.  It was like a fashion show for makeup — complete with a runway, models, lights and music.

I expected to learn about the latest trends in makeup, which, by the way, include pink lips, cat eyes, mineral foundation and spray bronzer.  What I didn’t expect was to hear nutrition advice.

First, there was the Clarins High Definition Body Lift, which they saidclarins-high3 could help melt cellulite.  The enthusiastic  spokesperson  said you could lose 1 inch a month — who knew it could be that easy by just rubbing the $65 lotion on your thighs!  After the show I asked a few more questions at the cosmetic counter.  Well, it seems the special scientific formula includes caffeine that helps you “drain extra fat.”  Yeah, right.  The Blue Button flower in the lotion was described as a fat burner. Oh, come on. I just bit my tongue, smiled and moved on. 

Next, I stopped at the Perricone counter to learn more about the $200 weight management supplements that were showcased on stage.  So there I stood, getting a lesson on nutrition from a young girl with perfectly arched brows, smoky eyes and glossy lips who told me how taking 3 packets a day could help me lose weight — especially “internal weight” and belly fat.  All I had to do was take these pills for 1 month and then my hormones would be balanced, my blood sugar stablized and I would lose dangerous belly fat.   She told me how the ingredients were like “crazy little divas” and could help my muscles contract like my own personal trainer. She explained how the nutrients were so pure and the most bioavailable compared to any other supplement. Most other vitamin and mineral supplements, she said, you can’t even absorb (not true).  She went on to say how great the calcium was in the supplements and how you can’t even absorb the calcium in milk because it’s pasteurized (so not true). At that point I almost had to be restrained.perricone4

I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But at least, as a registered dietitian, I recognized this as  garbage.  What’s scary is all the nutrition advice that’s being given to unsuspecting customers who simply wanted a new shade of lipstick.

Beyond actual supplements, it seemed that many of the new cosmetics touted some type of nutrition-related ingredient  — including antioxidants, omega 3-6-9, vitamin C, amino acids, peptides and polyphenols.  The sales staff seemed to have been trained on trying to describe the science behind these potions, but I’m not sure they even understood what the terms really meant.

The lines are getting blurred between nutrition and cosmetics — it’s the growing trend of cosmeceuticals or nutriceuticals.  One of the latest examples of this is a beauty drink created by Nestle and L’Oreal  called Glowelle, which is sold online.

glowelleThis “beauty drink supplement”  claims to fight signs of aging from the inside out with skin-beautifying antioxidants.

Hansen Beverage Company just introduced Self Beauty Elixir, which they describe as a “low-calorie, functional, ready-to-drink beauty beverage infused with an essential blend of vitamins, minerals, natural fruit and botantical extracts with antioxidants that promote and support healthy skin and overall wellness.”


Beauty you can eat or drink is the next big claim, so expect to see a whole new generation of specially formulated foods and beverages that make promises about your appearance.  Mintel predicts that probiotics, peptides, acerola and other superfruits (including baobab and goji berry) will be hot ingredients in the cosmetic business.  Ingredients that started out in food are entering cosmetics and beauty ingredients are also moving into food.

I’m bracing myself for a lot more questionable nutrition advice being dispensed at the makeup counter.

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  • Jessica RD

    Nice post – good job not getting upset. As a RD, I’m upset for the consumer. A big part of me thinks this is just wrong and that there should be stronger regulations on supplements. A smaller voice in my head says – “buyer beware”, “no quick fixes”, etc.

  • Nicole Bullock, RD/LD

    Nice post. I think it has to raise the ever so well maintained eyebrows of consumers willing to purchase “healthy” beauty. The cosmetics industry and consumers now realize that healthy beauty starts from within a healthy, well-nourished body. I think this trend is an opportunity for dietitians to educate consumers about the ingredients in these products and real alternatives to help promote nutritious eating and healthy lifestyle – two things that are always beautiful.

  • Ellen Baxley, RD, LD/N

    Very interesting, thanks for the post. I have to say I would have asked the women at the counters some very difficult questions to stump them and I don’t think I could have bit my tongue like you did 😉 I would have been nice but I would have challenged them and called them out. I frustrates me to no end to hear those NOT QUALIFIED to give advise and for the public to actually by into it.

  • Shelley, RD, LD

    Thanks Janet – every time I deal with this I try so hard to bite my tongue but once they start saying things that are untrue especially with the calcium/supplement information I just have to tell them that they need to be careful who they are talking to and not everyone is as an uninformed consumer. They usually catch on pretty quick that I am a “nutritionist” and move on. They know there will be no sale with me. I also realize then that they know full well that what they are selling is line of “hope” more than anything else. I make sure they also know that it is “registered dietitian.”

  • Great information – and a very valid point. Most people in a sales position of any sort will assume everyone is an uninformed consumer and most will know less than them.

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  • Good article with good info. Sales people will try any trick to sell you their product. It doesn’t matter to them whether they believe in the product or not. So decide whether you really need the product or not.

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