Anti-Science

“Medically” proven?

I get an email every month about new beauty products from a spa I used to visit. I haven’t unsubscribed because it’s always a fun read and sometimes gives me fodder for Skepchick articles. However, today’s email is out of my league. Can someone please enlighten me about what this might mean?

The good news is that there is really effective, medically (not just the clinical trials most product houses go on about) proven products that WILL improve your contours and dramatically improve unisghtly cellulite.

Ignoring the poor grammar, what sort of  ‘medically proven’ do they mean? The product is http://shop.karinherzog.co.uk/prodtype.asp?CAT_ID=119 which makes some claim about the active ingredient having

European certification as a bactericidal, fungicidal and veridical, also effective at destroying MRSA, C-Diff, E-Coli, PVL and many other common and potentially hazardous pathogens.

The certificate is here. But that certification is a result of testing, and my understanding is that products have to undergo testing before proceeding to clinical trial anyway. So how is this one more”medically” proven than any other? The certificate, to my layman’s eyes, just seems to prove that it’s anti-bacterial. The active ingredient appears to be hydrogen peroxide, which I believe is not a standard ingredient for anti-cellulite creams. Most of them contain aminophylline, vitamin A derivatives or caffeine. I’m pretty sure none of them actually work, but I’m also sure that any of those active ingredients have been ‘medically proven’ with shiny certificates to prove it.

Tracy King

Tracy King

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20 Comments

  1. June 3, 2009 at 10:14 am —

    I certainly don’t know the science behind this. But when looking into windows of dozens of pharmacies in Paris, I determined that the number one health concern of Parisians appears to be cellulite.

  2. June 3, 2009 at 10:28 am —

    I think the key to decoding this is, “medically proven products that WILL improve your contours and dramatically improve unsightly cellulite”. They’re not saying that it’s medically proven products to improve your contours and dramatically improve unsightly cellulite. Instead, they’re saying that the cream is medically proven to do something, then claiming it improves cellulite, and hoping you jump to the wrong conclusion. Very nice wording. Just this side of outright fraud.

  3. June 3, 2009 at 10:37 am —

    “European certification as a bactericidal, fungicidal and veridical”

    “Veridical”? They’re saying it’s truthful? The only times I’ve seen that word used as a noun, it’s meant a truth serum. That could be interesting.

    (I would guess they meant “viricidal”, though I’m not entirely certain.)

  4. June 3, 2009 at 10:42 am —

    Your link is to a pretty standard certificate of analysis (COA) of the sort produced by food and cosmetics companies.

    COA’s are written with non-scientists in mind, usually marketing people. Usually, what started out life as a valid scientific report gets sent back down from Marketing with orders to simplify again and again until a COA is born. Hence the level of the science reported is sub A-level.

    Although, in this COA, graphs are included (albeit terrible graphs) which is very rare as they are “confusing”. As per standard, the conculsions take the form of a simple table with the word “valid” inserted (most often it’s “good”). No averages, sample size, confidence intervals have been used, a typical COA like this would be graded U as a students write up.

    You actually couldn’t draw any scientific conclusions from this (or any) COA. It’s just a cosmetic excersise. I know, I’ve written enough of them!

    I have a sneeky feeling they’ve used the word “medically” because it’s the sort of slippery term that can’t be pinned down by lawyers while sounding authorititive, unlike “scientific” which may have a legal definition.

  5. June 3, 2009 at 10:44 am —

    @Steve:

    I don’t see the difference. In this instance to and will serve the same purpose and usage in both tense and in function. Could you expand on your statement?

    Or are you being ironic? Irony is so hard to pick up on in short print without context.

  6. June 3, 2009 at 10:53 am —

    And re-reading it three things jump out

    1) Use of Logs. Whenever you see Logs splashed about willy-nilly its a good sign that something fishy is going on.

    2) They don’t say whether the results are statistically significant. They are just giving numbers without any interpretation.

    3) It’s not clear whether the number of CFU after antibiotic exposure has fallen by log -6.3 or fallen to log -6.3 or fallen from ~log 8 to ~log 6

  7. June 3, 2009 at 11:05 am —

    @russellsugden:

    Not to mention the typos and occasional Frenglish:

    The produit Antiseptic ad mod. Dr. Paul Herzog est antiseptic. It conforms to the bactericidal,
    fungicidal and levuricidal requirements… [emphasis mine]

    “Levuricidal” had me stumped for a bit, since that document is the lone hit for that word on Google. But then I discovered that “levur” means “yeast” in French.

  8. June 3, 2009 at 11:16 am —

    I’m not surprised it kills bacteria, hydrogen peroxide is a pretty good oxidizer. 80% and up H2O2 is used as fuel in monopropellant rockets. I’m aware of safety demonstrations performed where it is poured on a pine cone. The result are enormous shooting flames.

    What in the world this has to do with cellulite has me stumped, however….

  9. June 3, 2009 at 11:40 am —

    I’ve heard silly claims that cellulite is caused by bacterial or yeast infection, or some stuff like that. If you truly believe that, it might make sense that an antiseptic could “cure” cellulite. But first you would have to accept the unsupported claim that cellulite is caused by bacteria or yeast, and you’d have to accept that a topical cream would be effective at penetrating your cellulite layer.

  10. June 3, 2009 at 11:49 am —

    I find it hilarious that they are badmouthing “the clinical trials most product houses go on about”.

    Clinical trials by “product houses” are, in fact, usually bullshit, but actual clinical trials are not.

    “medically proven” makes it sound like they removed cellulite in hospitals and clinics, which I suppose is what they want you to think. Really though in this case it seems to mean nothing at all.

  11. June 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm —

    @SicPreFix: Nope, I just wrote it badly. That’s what I get for doing a copy-and-paste.

    What I should have wrote was “…products medically proven to improve…”

    Basically, what I was getting at is that they’re dancing around the issue of what the product is medically proven to do. They don’t overtly state what it is and hope that the reader assumes it’s the cosmetic improvements mentioned immediately afterward, rather than the disinfectant properties stated in the attached document.

    You could pull the same trick with an herbal remedy that contains, say, aspirin and grape seed extract. Aspirin is a known and verified analgesic and grape seed extract has been used (but not proven) to reduce age spots. You could say, then, that your remedy is “a medically proven product that will improve age spots” but not “a product medically proven to improve age spots”. At least one of the ingredients is medically proven to do something but it’s got nothing to do with age spots.

    It’s playing with semantics, very weaselly but probably technically legal.

  12. June 3, 2009 at 12:03 pm —

    @wackyvorlon: Could pouring it on cellulite produce similar enormous shooting flames?

  13. June 3, 2009 at 2:00 pm —

    If what they’re saying it true about the product’s antibacterial nature, that’s actually a terrible selling point. It’s disturbing to me that people are able to buy a product that supposedly kills MRSA — something that is already resistant (MRSA = Methicillin-RESISTANT Staphylococcus aureus) — and C. Diff (the Diff meaning Difficile or, in English, hard/resistant). I hope their claims are just bullshit marketing.

    As for it being “more medically proven” I think that is definitely bullshit marketing. It’s a phrase that sounds impressive without meaning anything.

  14. June 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm —

    @Reera: I think they mean “veridicocidal.”

    That spa should totally get into the male bovine excrement facial. Total Bullshit is all the rage with the new agers.

  15. June 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm —

    @SkepLit: That would get rid of “unsightly cellulite”, but I don’t know that I would necessarily call it a “dramatic improvement”….

  16. June 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm —

    As we say at the Fat Uncles–THE SALESMAN IS LYING TO YOU.

    If you like, we will address this next week on our podcast. This is right up our street.

  17. June 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm —

    Further comment– Human skin is not water permeable; and even if it were, you do NOT apply creams to your lymphatic ducts by smearing it on the outside of your body.

    To quote Morbo, Physiology does not work that way.

    What the hell is “oxygen water” supposed to mean? By definition, water is nothing but oxygen bound to hydrogen.

    Cellulite is simply fat. For some, alas, it lies close to the skin and makes unsightly dimples and ripples. But it is not something that can be “removed” or “spot reduced.” Cellulite is the part of the same subcutaneus fat layer that runs under the skin of all humans.

  18. June 3, 2009 at 9:30 pm —

    Urgh. It late. Me tired. Me am fatigued beyond the capacity for forming of rational arguments.

    I’ll have to try ranting properly about this tomorrow.

  19. June 4, 2009 at 1:46 am —

    @mandydax: COTW!
    This is my first comment, so hi everyone. :)

  20. June 4, 2009 at 11:12 am —

    Could I make a snake oil substance made out of 100% mineral oil, have it tested by a certified lab and scientifically and medically proven to be mineral oil, then market it as a SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN MIRACLE DRUG!!111! that helps promote overall health!

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