Navigating Cosmetic Claims in the Digital Age


Cosmetic products are rising in efficacy thanks in part to consumer demand for more from their personal care. However, companies must limit the temptation to make drug-like claims for their products' effects unless they have the evidence and truthfulness to support them.

Theresa Callaghan, Ph.D., Callaghan Consulting International, spoke on this issue from a European front in her session “Cosmetic Claims” at in-cosmetics Global 2018.

When it comes down to it, claims exist to make money, explained Callaghan. By asserting a product’s benefits, companies play into a consumer’s emotional and technical decision-making processes; since today’s consumers are reading more closely into cosmetic labels than those past, it is critical to not mislead by only making claims that reflect the product’s true performance.

“When [consumers] walk into a store to buy a product, they are bringing baggage with them from past experiences,” said Callaghan.


According to Callaghan, there are nine general types of cosmetic claims:

  1. Ingredient—Describes the properties of individual ingredients (i.e., “aloe vera and allantoin for a soothing effect”);
  2. Performance—Measures a product’s effects (i.e., “reduces fine lines”);
  3. Lifestyle—Plays upon consumer lives and preferences, and needs to be qualified (i.e., “natural goodness,” or “skin fitness for men”);
  4. Sensory/Aesthetic—Claims that consumers can feel or sense (i.e., “minty fresh”);
  5. Endorsement—Professional, positive opinions on a product’s effects, however, be wary of blogger, celebrity, etc., endorsements;
  6. “Fluffy”/Empty—Platitudes to appeal to consumer emotions (i.e., “pure bliss,” or “because you’re worth it”);
  7. Negative—Includes free-from claims (i.e., “does not contain silicones” or “chemical-free”);
  8. Medical, Drug and Borderline—Claims to treat or prevent “skin diseases” and are not permitted (i.e., “anti-inflammatory” or “heals dermatitis, eczema”); and
  9. Photographic—These say everything without saying anything (i.e., a “natural” product showcased in a botanical photograph).

Digital Claims

Cosmetic claims are unavoidable; they exist not only on cosmetic packaging, but also on TV, in public transportation, in magazines and on the internet.

“You just cannot get away from them—[cosmetic claims] are everywhere,” noted Callaghan.

Callaghan asserted that their presence online does not promote the product transparency that many consumers believe—as “the internet is the most unpoliced selling place of cosmetics,” it is the one place where claims can be made that would otherwise be disallowed.

The “Cosmetic Claims” session took place on April 18, 2017, in Amsterdam.

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