Odds are you pick up at least a few of the items on this list every month. But you’re better off saving your money, because none of these products do what they claim on the tin:
1. Pore strips
Even if you’re not the kind of person who obsesses over your skin, these products are considered a “must buy.” But while it feels satisfying to peel one of these strips off your nose, it’s not actually doing much for your skin.
The black “gunk” on the strip is called sebaceous filaments, and while they look nasty they’re mostly harmless. Plus, they’ll be back just a few hours after you use the strip. You might as well flush these strips down the toilet, because it would have the same effect on your pores.
2. Anything that promises to “repair” split ends
Fixing the damaged ends of your hair is the Holy Grail of shampoo and hair product ads, but it’s just a marketing ploy. The only thing that can really get rid of split ends is a trip to the hairdresser. Products that supposedly fix your hair can actually make it worse by damaging the ends even more.
3. Ionic foot baths
I bet you’ve seen ads for these products on late night TV and wondered “do they really work?” Nope. They claim to pull toxins out of your feet, and say that you know it’s working because the water in the basin turns murky.
But a chemistry professor from Rice University told the LA Times that this dirty water “didn’t show any traces of heavy metals or industrial chemicals other than a few chunks of rust that may have flaked off the electrodes.”
The makers of these foot massagers are “saying things that sound good, but they have absolutely no validity on this planet,” he warns.
4. (Most kinds of) suntan lotion
The Environmental Working Group did a massive study of over 900 different sunscreen products, and uncovered some shocking results. The group found that 3/4 of sunscreens don’t protect you as well as they claim on the bottle.
Separate research by Consumer Reports found that almost 40% of suntan lotions are half as strong as they claim to be. You can check if your brand is lying to you here, and look for brands that say they meet clinical guidelines for their SPF.
5. Cellulite creams
Cellulite happens in 85-98% of women, and research shows that factors like diet, exercise, hormones and genetic factors play a big part in the condition. Basically, cellulite is a “you have it or you don’t” type of skin condition. But there are still lots of products that claim to treat it!
Get the Glitter
Doctors still say the best “treatment” for cellulite is diet and exercise, but it’s also true that in your case it could be impossible to remove, so don’t waste money on any expensive creams.
There are other skincare products to watch out for as well…
6. Acne treatments
This is mostly a product for teenagers, but some adults deal with tough acne cases too. Almost all acne treatments use the same key ingredient: sodium lauryl sulphate. It doesn’t do much, just foams up and wipes oil off your skin.
The problem is the mechanisms that cause acne happen under your skin. Drying the upper layer with a cleansing treatment will only make things worse. If you have a serious case of acne, try visiting a dermatologist instead of filling your shopping bag with cleansers.
7. Anti-aging creams
That’s right: these wrinkle erasers are the adult version of acne treatments. Not only do they not erase wrinkles, they can seriously damage your skin. Most wrinkle creams contain some kind of acid – either citric acid, malic, glycolic or lactic.
Best Beauty Pro
This wipes off the old, outer layer of your skin, leaving a shiny and new layer. But this newer skin is also sensitive to UV damage. If you really want to fight wrinkles, keep your skin moisturized and wear sunscreen.
8. Immunity boosters and cold cures
You’ve probably bought one of these products before taking a long flight. They promise to give your immune system a boost and keep you from getting sick, or to help you snap back from a cold by helping your body fight the virus. In reality, you’re just paying for an expensive vitamin supplement.
In fact Airborne, one of the most well-known brands of these immunity boosters, had to pay a $23 million settlement for a class-action lawsuit in 2008. Customers were upset that the product didn’t live up to Airborne’s hefty marketing campaign.
Today, these products usually say they “help support your immune system,” but with a disclaimer that “these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
9. Foot cream
Cooking in Plain Greek
Foot creams claim to keep your feet moisturized throughout the day, and in fact they do. So what’s the problem? Companies will usually market separate hand creams, foot creams and body creams. In fact, these all do the same thing (moisturize your skin) so most foot creams are a ripoff compared to a cheaper body cream by the same company.
10. Stretch mark treatments
Most products that claim to erase your stretch marks feature two key ingredients: shea and cocoa butter. But both of these products have been proven to have no effect on your stretch marks, either as oils or lotions. The one method that did work in a study involved laser therapy and a strong topical cream, and you can’t buy those at the corner store.
So why are these products so popular? Stretch marks fade with time. If you’re spreading lotion on them every day it will just be more noticeable when they finally start to disappear.
11. Chap stick and lip balm
Some of these products relive chapped lips, but most do exactly the opposite. Any product that lists “hyaluronic acid” or “glycerin” in the ingredients will just dry out your lips. Instead, look for ingredients that form a protective seal around your lips, including beeswax and certain oils.
12. Dandruff shampoo
Cure for Baldness
Unless you have a prescription for your doctor for a heavy duty scalp treatment, your shampoo won’t relieve dandruff. Most of these shampoos will just dry your scalp even more. For relief that won’t cost you a dime, just try to brush your hair more often. This moves your scalp’s natural oils around, preventing dandruff.
13. Color enhancing shampoo
These might work, but odds are your hair isn’t the right color for this kind of treatment. It can make blonde highlights or light-colored hair seem bolder, because it adds a subtle blue base to your hair. But for most other hair colors you’ll end up with exactly the kind of “brassy” look to your hair that you were trying to avoid.
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