‘Fruitless Nonsense’ at SCC Annual Meeting


Opening keynote presenter Timothy Caulfield, Ph.D., entertained attendees of the 73rd Annual Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ Scientific Meeting and Technology Showcase with real-life examples of the weight with which consumers take the advice of celebrities and pop culture influencers in their misinformed—and sometimes dangerous—healthy and beauty routines. From energizing, crystal-embedded shoes and inoculation by used facial tissues, to “bum sunning,” colon cleansing, cryotherapy, cupping treatments, anti-vaccinating and more.

How did we get here? “The world is confused,” said Caulfield, professor of Health Law and Science Policy of the University of Canada. “It’s full of fruitless, detracting nonsense and we need to push back.” Caulfield’s favorite celebrity endorser of misinformation, especially in the beauty sector, is actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

See related: Cosmetic Clash, Celebrity Culture vs. Scientific Fact at SCC Annual Meeting

Paltrow created the beauty brand Goop, which she highlights as being clean and non-toxic. As author of the book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, Caulfield dug into this and other narratives with large consumer followings to explore why society is inclined to trust and believe these non-experts and nonsense practices.

“Distrust makes room for the noise,” said Caulfield. “And as humans, we’re drawn to anecdotal evidence but this blurs our ability to see the science.” He added that social media creates a culture of mistruth and polarizing discourse. So how can the industry find ways to break this echo chamber?

“I think it’s important to realize this misinformation is a real harm,” said Caulfield, who gave the example of anti-vaxers and some 142,000 children worldwide who have died from measles. “Providing the facts can have a positive effect. We need to reinforce the benefits of treatments and use narratives to fight narratives.”

Cosmetics & Toiletries was, once again, proud to sponsor the ever-popular Frontiers of Science presentation. 

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