Facepalme D'Or: Lancôme's Génifique

So, it's been a long week, and once again, I've seen something mind-numbingly stupid come out of the cosmetics industry. Of course, I've seen plenty of stupid things lately, but this one wins the prize for the dumbest thing that someone expected me to believe this week: Lancôme's Génifique "Youth Activating Concentrate". From their website:

Youth is in your genes. Reactivate it.1

Discover the skin you were born to have.
Lancôme invents our first skincare that boosts the activity of genes.2
At the very origin of your skin's youth: your genes.

Genes produce specific proteins. With age, their
presence diminishes.

Today, for every woman, Lancôme creates our 1st Youth Activator - GÉNIFIQUE. Now, boost genes' activity2 and stimulate the production of youth proteins.3

See visibly younger skin in just 7 days.

1 Activate skin's youthful look.
2 In-vitro test on genes.
3 Clinical study on skin proteins, associated with young skin - France.

This ad copy plays off the scientific concept of gene activation. And while it is possible to control gene activation with some experimental methods, there is nothing you can put on your face that will switch on "youth protein" genes, even if "youth protein genes" meant anything. Notice, too, that the copy admits the "effects" of its product on genes was in vitro.

The video embedded in their product page starts off by exploiting the terms genomics and proteomics and gets worse from there."Certain genes produce 'youth proteins' responsible for youthful-looking skin", they claim, and promise to deliver skin that looks "lit from within" and is returned to "ideal youthful quality" in seven days. All for the low, low price of just $78 per fluid ounce.

Codswallop. Except for the $78--that's real enough.

What's actually in it? Lancôme's website does not list the ingredients, but here is a list from a customer who reviewed the product:
Aqua/Water/Eau, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Dimethicone, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Salicyloyl Phytosphingosine, Amonium Polyacryldimethyltauramide/Amonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Limonene, Xathan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Octyldodcanol, Citric Acid, Citronellol, Parfum/Fragrance.

So aside from thickeners, "slip"-producers, and basic humectants, Génifique is water, yogurt or other bacterial ferment product, denatured alcohol, glycerine, HEPES buffer for pH, dimethicone (which can help reduce water loss from the skin and is available in many drugstore skin products), and "Salicyloyl Phytosphingosine", which is salicylic acid combined with an alcohol from ceramides (why?). Sodium Hyaluronate does hold moisture in the surface of the skin and so it's a good humectant, but it's not new or expensive. Heck, you could just get some yourself and add it to your moisturizer. Products with salicylic acid and ceramides are also pretty easy to find at drugstore prices. Finally, if you want to put a bifida ferment on your face, try plain yogurt--it will also provide the exfoliating properties of lactic acid.

Please feel free to share your own Facepalme D'Or nominees. Your nominee needn't be pseudoscience--there's a whole universe of stupid out there, folks!

Former winners: "Structured Water"

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