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Clinically tested :: The truth behind the buzzword

What products should I use and what will this product do for ME?

These are the most common questions I hear from patients. Simply recommending a skin care regimen to a patient is never enough. Any recommendation should come with an explanation of how the product works, the expected benefits, and finally, any clinically supported scientific evidence.

A lot of products are advertised as "clinically-tested."

Is this just the latest buzzword to sell products, or does it actually mean something?

The definition of “clinically-tested” can range from a product simply being applied once on a patient’s skin in a clinician’s office to a scientifically sound clinical study.  What is a “scientifically sound” clinical study? It generally includes various objective and subjective assessments or measurements that are designed to demonstrate whether or not a product works and if it may cause skin irritation. These studies will support benefit claims and help identify safety issues (i.e. applying the product twice a day resulted in visible improvements). Here are a few examples of different types of study designs:

  • Investigator-blinded (The person evaluating or conducting the assessments do not know which treatment the patient is receiving. This helps to keep the assessments as objective as possible)
  • Double-blinded (When both the patient and the investigator have no idea which treatment they are using. This helps to minimize patient bias.)
In addition to minimizing patient and investigator bias, the following measures must also be taken:
  • Control the patient population that is allowed to participate in the study (i.e. patients with known allergies to ingredients in the test product are not allowed to enroll)
  • Control the study treatment and limit use to study products (i.e. if we are studying a cream, we do not want study participants to be using other creams at the same time.)
Many companies may support their products with before and after photographs. However, it is important for these pictures to be taken in a standardized manner (i.e. consistent positioning, lighting, and camera angle to name a few factors/ variables).

When I see an advertisement showing a photograph of a frowning woman with no make-up, showing all the blemishes on the “Before” picture, and then, in the “After” picture, I see an almost un-recognizable face with full make-up, hairdo, big happy smile, and flashy jewelry, I feel a wee bit…doubtful, wouldn’t you?

When I recommend products to my patients, such as SkinMedica, I try to educate them on how the ingredients in the products actually work, what clinical studies were performed that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the product, and finally, the benefits from usage. Because ultimately if the product makes your skin look and feel better, this is the only end result we are all looking for.