A walk through any supermarket or drug store hair care aisle can be an overwhelming experience. Products claiming a multitude of benefits for healthy hair or scalp bombard the consumer, who has no standard by which to gauge the effectiveness of these products. As good business practice, regulations and voluntary organizations all ensure that claims are reasonably supported, yet consumers understand that the claims are being made by self-interested manufacturers. Third party support is therefore a common strategy to improve credibility; for example, certification programs have been developed for eco-friendly products to help consumers evaluate otherwise unknown issues related to the product supply chain. Besides consumers, hair experts, especially dermatologists caring for patients challenged by hair conditions, also lack an efficient means to critically evaluate claims.
Currently, one of the most persuasive and effective certification programs is the professional review the American Dental Association provides for anti-cavity claims. While beauty claims generally are not associated with outcomes as clear cut as cavity reduction, there is still a strong desire to ensure that claims are honest, reasonable and correct. After all, since claims data is generally not released outside of a company—unless the claim falls in a specific category requiring prior review by the FDA; or the claim is challenged—the only people who review the actual data, ingredients and methods behind most claims are working for the manufacturer.
In consideration of hair product claims, the North American Hair Research Society (NAHRS)—a non-profit organization composed of dermatologists, scientists and industry partners dedicated to research and education in the field of hair biology, and to the identification of therapies for hair disorders—developed the NAHRS Seal of Recognition Program. The purpose of this seal is to identify, both to experts and consumers, products whose quality and effectiveness are beneficial for promoting healthy hair or scalp, in diagnosing or treating hair or scalp disease, in diagnosing or treating hair loss, or in stimulating or inhibiting hair growth. In order to receive the seal, a product’s ingredients, claims language and, if necessary, test results from independent laboratories are evaluated by an independent and anonymous panel of NAHRS experts comprised of medical doctors and researchers.
Within this program, products are reviewed for overall performance versus an untreated control. Not all claims are supportable; for instance, competitive claims will generally not be considered. In addition, claims generally recognized as puffery will not likely receive NAHRS certification. The expert assessment of results involves a detailed statistical review of the product performance. Acceptable results are measureable, statistically significant changes between the untreated control and the treated sample. Overall the seal represents the fact that certified products and their claims have received a level of external review that is rarely found in the personal care industry.