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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • Why Do We Keep Buying the Beauty Products We Know Aren’t Good for Us?

Why Do We Keep Buying the Beauty Products We Know Aren’t Good for Us?

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Main image – Katarinaradovic/Stocksy

Trying out a new product or practice can be one of the most fun things about being a beauty lover. Sure, not everything yields the exact results we hope for, but when experimenting with beauty products and treatments, we all assume that what we’re trying out, is, at the very least, what we’re actually meant to be using.

But what about when we’re buying products that experts really don’t recommend we use? Because, let’s face it, bad beauty myths continue to be perpetuated – one of them being that scalp brushes are good for you. 

As Glenn Lyons, who is the Clinical Director of the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in London, points out in a TikTok, this popular haircare trend can actually cause more harm than good.

“Recent research suggests that massaging our scalp helps to improve blood supply and get nutrients to the hair follicle,” he explains. “However, the amount that this does and the benefit is minimal. Now, too aggressive massage can actually cause fairly severe breakage.” He points out that the majority of scalp brushes on the market are far too hard and rough, and are likely to damage hair, rather than helping it.

@philip_kingsley

??Should you be using scalp massage brushes? ? Trichologist Glenn gives us the low down on whether scalp massage brushes are good or bad for your scalp. #ScalpMassageBrushes #ScalpMassage #ScalpMassager #PhilipKingsley #Trichologist

? Lo-fi hip hop – NAO-K

But if even dermatologists and trichologists are saying particular products are bad for you, then why are companies still making them? And why are we still buying them?

And does the fact that there are companies who will create products that we shouldn’t be using contribute to giving consumers the false impression that they’re good for us to use?

And, in turn, is that one of the issues that means we keep perpetuating beauty myths?

We’ve spoken to a dermatologist and a beauty brand founder to talk about exactly why there are so many beauty products on sale that just aren’t expert-recommended, and why we keep buying them.

 


The scalp brush controversy

On the subject of scalp brushes, in particular, Dr Annabelle Garcia, a board-certified dermatologist, explains that they ‘can be a double-edged sword’, “aggressive brushing can irritate the scalp, cause breakage, and even worsen conditions like dandruff or scalp psoriasis.”

Laura Pucker, the founder of Pucker Up Beauty, agrees. She adds, “Dermatologists warn of these risks of trauma, as well as concerns of transferring bacteria during use. Yet they continue to be sold. While gentler use or alternative materials may reduce some risks, education on how to safely use them is clearly lacking.”

 


Beyond the scalp brush

And the issue expands way beyond just the scalp brush. Dr Garcia agrees that “there are many beauty ‘tips’ floating around that can be more trouble than they’re worth, and some can even be dangerous.”

“Beyond scalp brushes, we see everything from social media trends like at-home chemical peels without understanding the delicacy of working with harsh acids on skin, to tanning beds still being sold and marketed as safe – despite proven skin cancer risks we’ve read about for years now,” Pucker adds.

 

Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy

 

The fact that many brands seem happy to sell the products we know aren’t good for us is not a great advert for some parts of the beauty industry, which we must remember is a business, first and foremost.

Pucker elaborates on this, saying, “Companies making these types of products are likely aware of potential experts warnings against using them. However, the human temptation for an appealing, low-cost quick fix often overshadows digging deeper. Profit motives often take precedence over consumer safety.”

There are also issues with a lack of regulation in the beauty industry. Pucker points out that, “The government doesn’t currently require rigorous testing for safety or effectiveness from many of these products before they land on store shelves for us to purchase. And without sufficient regulation demanding companies prove out health and safety first, they are empowered to keep selling without appropriate consumer cautions regarding use.”

 


The balance between fun and facts

One problem facing the beauty industry is finding this balance between fun, creative experimentation, and actual scientific facts. Dr Garcia expounds that, “While most reputable companies strive for safety, the beauty industry is vast, and there might be some cases where profit overshadows potential risks.”

She goes on, “Brands perpetuate beauty myths for a few reasons. Sometimes, there’s a lack of scientific evidence to debunk them. Catchy slogans and marketing campaigns can be effective, even if they’re not entirely truthful. Additionally, some myths prey on insecurities, making them hard to dispel.”

Pucker confirms that the beauty industry has a difficult balancing act to maintain, adding, “We have compelling profit motives putting quick fixes to feel beautiful ahead of vetting for consumer health impacts first.”

 

Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy

 

Both Dr Garcia and Pucker also point to the proliferation of social media as a major accelerant to the spread of beauty misinformation. Dr Garcia claims that “Misinformation spreads easily online, especially with celebrity endorsements and influencers. It’s important to be critical of what you see and consult a professional for reliable advice.” 

Pucker backs up this concern, adding, “Social media in particular fuels viral sharing of unvalidated tips from non-experts that can ultimately harm us.”

 


Media messaging

However, the problem of unsafe beauty products and practices spreading can’t be blamed solely on social media. Beauty companies and brands, too, have a major role to play in the spread of potentially harmful misinformation. 

“Media messaging, compelling before and after photos of desired results, the ease of online shopping, and limited regulation do create an illusion that anything being sold must inherently be safe for us. But sadly no – we have seen this proven repeatedly when it comes to negative health impacts being uncovered post-market,” Pucker points out. “If claims drive sales and profits, it’s predictable to see how myths can be perpetuated.”

In fact, Pucker believes that it’s the combination of brand irresponsibility combined with the potential instant virality of social media beauty trends that creates this perfect storm of misinformation. 

“Brands may convince themselves that benefits outweigh risks or that careful-use recommendations discharge liabilities. But consumers believing purchases to be safe as-is sets up harm. Once that messaging gets integrated into the social conversation as trusted advice, viral sharing accelerates the spreading of unvalidated tips – furthering collective belief in myths. This absolutely fuels a snowball effect of consumer vulnerability to claims that may or may not withstand scrutiny.”

 


Consumer responsibility

But the question as to who should shoulder the burden of preventing us from taking part in dubious beauty habits remains. There’s no denying that being a responsible consumer can help us to avoid misinformation on a personal level. 

Pucker confirms that, “We as consumers have an obligation to be cautious, critical thinkers when it comes to claims of amazing beauty fixes – we can’t take marketing promises solely on face value without questioning them first. This means taking a bit of time to research and dig deeper into products rather than impulse shopping based on convincing photos. The ‘buyer beware’ burden unfairly falls primarily on consumers who assume safety that isn’t guaranteed.”

However, it seems as though some brands could (and therefore, probably should) be doing more. Pucker agrees, adding, “The burden of safety cannot be on already overloaded consumers alone. We clearly need improved regulation demanding companies demonstrate health and safety first before products end up on our shelves and in our homes.”

She concludes, “The hopeful news is we can advocate for positive change. Demanding companies transparently demonstrate safety data before selling, calling for independent testing by objective groups, and pushing the government to pass laws that better protect consumers are all steps in the right direction. We have more influence than we realise when it comes to the power of our voices and our spending dollars—combined, they make change happen over time.”

 

Meet the experts

Dr. Annabelle Garcia is a Board-Certified Dermatologist at Sonterra Dermatology.

 

Laura Pucker is the founder of Pucker Up Beauty.

 

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Freelance Beauty Writer

Annie Walton Doyle is a journalist based in Manchester, UK. For over ten years, she's worked within the beauty industry, writing for publications like Bustle and Hello Giggles about skincare, makeup, fragrance, and more. When not writing, she enjoys knitting, weird books, nature, and mysteries.

Expertise: Makeup, nails
Education: Goldsmiths, University of London
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