Monday, July 20, 2009

My First Wrinkle

I vividly remember my first wrinkle. I was in Austria getting ready to go out to dinner after a day of filming Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger. I was kind of excited about some time away from the grind of a film set and really looking forward to getting to know our Austrian producer/Olympic athlete who was taking me to a local restaurant.

I was putting on some mascara when I noticed what I thought was a smudge under my eye. I casually flicked it away – it didn’t move. I flicked again and again and peered closer. Why was it being so stubborn? It took a few seconds and then the shocking realization: I had a wrinkle and it wasn’t going anywhere but deeper.

It somewhat took the edge off the evening because now, of course, I was an old woman and invisible to men. (I’ve grown up a bit since then.)

The worst part of the appearance of this creature was that there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing except anticipate the appearance of more of the same. Today, I would have run for a cosmeceutical – that wonderful hybrid of cosmetic and drug – that would have promised an increase in collagen and elastin production and vanished my wrinkle. But, cosmeceuticals didn’t exist then.

Aren’t we fortunate to live in an age when science has made it possible to have skincare products that are actually effective? What isn’t so fortunate are the restrictions on what manufacturers can say about them. Even though the products work, they aren’t allowed to say so for fear of upsetting the FDA by making drug claims. To understand what the FDA defines as a cosmetic, this is taken from its Web site.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics by their intended use, as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance"

In other words, it can look pretty but can’t claim to effect physiological change.

This is the FDA definition of a drug:

The FD&C Act defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as "articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" and "articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals"

In other words, if you claim that the product creates physiological change then it’s a drug. So if you say, “our product prevents wrinkles,” you are making a drug claim. If you say, “our product prevents the appearance of wrinkles,” you are making a cosmetic claim. A cosmetic manufacturer does not want to be marketing a drug, even though some of us have to endure the strictures if we produce sunscreens. So we try to say what the product does without really saying it. This is why we hedge our statements with words such as “appears,” “seems” “illusion” and “looks” and leave the consumer to try to figure it out.

I hope there will come a day when companies who have done their research, gone through their testing phases and documented the results are allowed to let the consumer know what the product can really do. Anything else is not only a disservice to the consumer but also to the well-intentioned scientists, chemists and formulators who are trying to give us what we want.