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The Truth About Clinical Testing

Skin care clinical testing is unscientific.


In the early days of commercial skin care, the skin care product was sold largely in part to the pretty packaging, the elegant store it was sold in, and through ad campaigns with big logos and beautiful models showing off the product.


Today’s commercial skin care is sold much in the same way: pretty packaging, elegant shop displays, and ad campaigns. The only difference is that the ad campaign has traded big logos for the words “clinical data” and the beautiful model is now “proven results.”


And whenever you see a company use the word “proven” it is indicative of a lie. 


Clinical testing has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with marketing. Because science does not prove things. Science has never proven anything. Science is merely a methodical process of confirming or refuting existing hypotheses and theorems of our natural world through observation and experimentation and making predictions based on those findings. It is an infinite path, not a closed corridor. 


When something is “proven” then that means the chapter on that problem is closed, we do not change that fact and we base all other facts upon that which was proven. Despite anything to the contrary. In a court of law, when you are proven not guilty, we do not go back and find you guilty at a later date, even if new evidence emerged. Because it was proven that you did not do it based on all of the evidence that was discovered at that time. In mathematics, it has been proven that 1+1=2. Mathematical proofs, like proofs in courts of law are inferential arguments that demonstrate that the assumption proposed logically guarantees the conclusion. It is immutable and it does not change. 


Science is not immutable, it is constantly changing. Science is based on our findings and our understanding of the natural world. And it is always changing because our understanding of the natural world changes as we obtain new knowledge. If science proved things, then we would still believe there are 4 elements in the universe, that the earth is flat, and that lobotomy is a proper cure for mental illness.


The reason why companies boast “clinical data” is not because they care about results and making an effective product, it is because they know that today’s customers are savvy, they are informed and they are no longer sold on pretty packaging alone. These companies know they make a terrible product, but how do they sell it now that flashy gimmicks aren’t enough? Today’s skin care company who sells bad skin care needs to be clever, and they need to appeal to your need for a scientific authority's approval to make your purchase. 


So they pay a lab to get the result that they want and market that result to you. 


Here is how it works: A skin care company wants to show that their vitamin C serum increases collagen production in skin after 3 months of use. So they tell the lab that is the result that they want. The lab creates an experiment designed around the result that they want and that experiment will show that collagen increases when using this serum.


They manipulate the experiment such as using a young sample group, whose collagen in their skin would be increasing anyways, regardless of whether the serum was used or not. They may use a vitamin C deficient group, whose collagen would increase with any vitamin C supplement (sort of like how a severely dehydrated person can drink soda and become hydrated), they may cherry pick their sample group to people who just started taking a collagen supplement. And not mention it in the experimental methods. And if they cannot get the result they want, they do the experiment again, alter the data and cherry pick the favorable outcomes to get the conclusion that supports their premises.


They do not do follow up studies that would show that collagen may increase after 3 months due to a stress response, and then decreases after that, and leaves skin thinner than the control group. They do not show you any negative effects of the experimental group, like who got acne from this serum. 


They even pay research participants to make claims that support the conclusion.


Here is how it doesn’t work: A company makes a general observation of what the effects of a skin care product may be on the skin. And takes years of randomized, double-blind testing involving thousands of people that accurately represent the human population. And they will tell you if their product doesn’t work.


So what you get is a narrative created by a skin care company, dressed up in scientific terms to show you that their products work. And this “data” proves it.


As a biologist and someone who is well versed and experienced in scientific research I will conclusively say, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. And creating an “experiment” around the result you want isn’t scientific. It is marketing and a scientific scam. 


There are issues of methodology and issues of scale. The so-called “clinical testing” that major brands do is often done on laughably small populations. Let’s say a brand wants to commission a study on vitamin C serums.  If you found out that the sample size was 5 people, would you still consider that clinical trial meaningful? Would you take a cancer drug if only 5 people were tested?  


You can’t extrapolate how things work on the entire human population if the test is based on 5 people. You can’t even extrapolate how things work if tested on 5,000,000 people if all of those people shared one thing in common that no one else in the world shared. That is like trying to understand how a healthy pancreas works, but only using diabetics as your experimental test subjects.  


It’s not just in the world of skincare that most clinical data is meaningless. Even in the broader scientific community, over half of experiments cannot be replicated. And that's because scientists do the same thing that skin care companies do: they design an experiment based on conclusions that they already have drawn. And when you already draw a conclusion, you become blinded to, disregard or hide any evidence that contradicts your conclusion. It is like saying that more red cars drive by your house than any other car. You are going to notice the red cars more often and disregard all of the blue, black and green cars that drive by. 


The most important point here to understand is that skin care clinical testing is used as a marketing ploy because you believe that scientists are an absolute authority, and everything that scientists produce is the work of sound science, logic and reason. 


And that's the bigger problem. Scientists have the same faults of character as everyone else: Scientists lie. They devise bad experiments. They’re greedy. They make up data. 


People tend to view scientists as if science were a monolithic entity, thinking that if one scientist believes something, we all believe it. There are countless headlines that state such and such has been found based on "science" but that just means someone carried out an experiment. It doesnt mean the findings are true.


Scientists are viewed as “noble nerds,” these meek creatures who sit in a lab all day, doing experiments for the greater good, devoted with purity to making this world a better place. 


This could not be further from the truth. Science does a lot of good but remember science has also been used to justify genocide, sexism, and racism. Scientists are human and they are motivated by money, power and greed just like everyone else.   


Scientists are also wrong all the time, devise bad studies, do not know how to follow a protocol, err during experiments and misinterpret data. Even the best scientists make at least one mistake in an experiment. And those flawed results get published. Why do you think it takes so long for any progress to be made in the medical fields? Because people screw up experiments constantly. 


The other problem is the audience for these studies. Scientific studies weren't written for the general public to fact check news sources. Scientific studies are written for other scientists so that they can base their research on those studies. Yet they are readily available for most to read, so you have the issue of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, kind of thing going on. 


The other reason I don’t blame consumers for being confused is that they are being fed this manipulated data about beauty products by journalists who know nothing about science. These bloggers and writers can read the summary of a clinical research paper but they can't look at the methods to determine whether an experiment was done properly. They cannot understand the methods because they have no experience in that type of research. If you have no experience in biological research, or even the very types of experiments that are performed, how can you determine if the experiment was done properly? And therefore how do you know the conclusions are true?


And yet, without understanding the methods used in a clinical test, they will write an article saying, “we read the clinical study and vitamin c serum is good for you.” Nonsense. It’s not just silly, it’s misleading and potentially dangerous. 


If these journalists and bloggers actual understood what they claim they read then they wouldn't be writing such positive things about vitamin C serums or hyaluronic acid clinical data. 


They also are blithely unaware that the summary (abstract) of a scientific paper isn’t so the reader can have a Cliff’s Notes version of the study, just for your journalist/blogger on-the-go. The summary is there for researchers to determine if this kind of experiment is relevant to their work.  So they can read through it to base their research on. When you read a scientific paper, you can’t deduce anything from the summary about the legitimacy of the research. You get that from the methods, the results, and the bibliography. None of these journalists and bloggers read that, so you know they do not know what they are talking about. And they are certainly not a credible source. 


The problem of scientific illiteracy is compounded by bloggers and anyone who has access to Google Scholar; bloggers with huge followings on social media and no scientific education, background or experience will go on Google Scholar and search for a result they want. For example, if they want to believe vitamin C Serum promotes collagen synthesis or that hyaluronic acid moisturizes the skin, they just search for results that support that conclusion, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. The problem is the blogger didn't read the methods, never conducted an experiment similar to the ones they are citing, and can't determine if the methods are sound.  So they are promoting false narratives and yet they are viewed as authoritative voices by their millions of followers.


This is why people believe that vaccines cause autism. Because morons with a big platform and a loud mouth read two sentences of bogus research, preached it to their mentally dull, and obnoxiously loud audience who then catapulted that dangerous bullshit into the mainstream consciousness. And who ends up getting hurt in the end? The children who die an agonizing, yet preventable death because their mother believed the word of an adult film star over millions of scientists and thousands of sound scientific articles. 


I didn’t spend 10 years learning how to read scientific research for fun. And yet we take the word of a actress on a talk show, or a blogger who writes about how much you should get into the lip gloss over a real scientist with actual experience.


It is ironic though: we believe the words of scientists when it is something we want to believe, like how a vitamin C serum could promote collagen, but then we believe the word of an actress when it justifies our desire to discard modern medicine for holistic stupidity. 


It just shows you believe what you want to believe. And sometimes you'll use "science" to justify it, and other times you'll use a hot face with a big platform.  


The bloggers and fraud scientists are modern-day false prophets in the skin care world, and your vitamin C serums, hyaluronic acid, and essential oils are the idols they tell you to worship. And as a result of this religious turn skin care has taken, that idolatry of a product means the shutting out of evidence that suggests they're "beliefs" are wrong. And if you speak out to the contrary, you get shut down with fake science, the reporting of charlatan bloggers and cherry picked consumer reviews. But at the end of the day your skin is worse for wear because of this type of idol worship. Ever try out a skin care product because the company proudly boasted that their “clinical data” “proved” that 100% of women saw an increase in collagen after using this serum. And all it left you with was a sticky, burnt face, acne and thinner skin. 






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