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The logical fallacies of Cosmetic Science.

March 29, 2021

Deep, investigative thinking of the type we generally call ‘research’ is not easy. We must wrestle the invisible minefield of our thoughts and navigate the difficult-to-map place that is our mind. This is a journey full of hidden obstacles and side-shows, many of which are bespoke – created by us and offering the type comfort that resonates deeply and instinctively. In many ways the minefield, our minefield is us or at least the essence of us and while we may not wish to lose ourselves completely in the pursuit of better research outcomes, we can gently and temporarily (if we decide we’d prefer that) carve out new pathways around them if we give ourselves enough time and the right tools.

Insight is a powerful tool to take on this journey.

A good way of gaining insight into how our minds work is to start with an exercise in understanding it’s operating system and in particular, where it’s lazy shortcuts are as it is often these than undo us! Before I go on, I wish to make it clear that I’m not professing to be a mind specialist or someone formally trained in this field. Instead, what I am doing is writing as a scientist, researcher and neuro-diverse person who is made aware of how different my typical process pattern is to the ‘norm’ on a daily basis. As such, I’ve felt compelled to study ‘humans’ and in particular how thoughts are ‘typically’ processed so that I might understand who people do and say what they do and say. As a consequence of that, logical fallacies are of great interest to me and while I can’t profess to being free of falling for them myself from time to time, I can at least recognise that I’ve done so more often than not.

So here’s what I’m talking about…

I describe Logical Fallacies as patterns of thinking that lead us to draw conclusions in a way that is somewhat faulty either by being incomplete, unbalanced or mis-directed. I hope you don’t think by me saying this that there is only one ‘truth’ or ‘correct’ answer one can reach through avoiding these traps though as that would be incorrect. I’m talking about applying these principals to cosmetic science and as that combines scientific truth and logic with aspects such as desire, aspiration and aesthetics there is always room for a myriad of conclusions. I just personally prefer the science to be logical or at least to have it represented in a way that is fully realised and appreciated. What you choose to do with that in terms of brand development is then up to you.

Without further ado I’ll share with you some examples I’ve already put together that illustrate 10 common logical fallacies and how they play out in the cosmetic realm. Again, remember the examples I’ve given are given not with the view to showcase how wrong the thinking illustrated is, rather how it is often incomplete.

I do hope you find this interesting.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2021 1:09 am

    Hi Amanda, I just commented on one of your other articles and I am now binge reading the rest, very interesting. You seem a great person to have an educational discussion with, I would fall short though since English is not my first language. I will try anyway, what do you think of large groups of anecdotal evidence? If a new product or medicine is developed it would go through testing right? Would all the evidence given have to be measurable? For example some products might be labeled 80% of user felt their skin become this or that, that must be based on opinions given by users right? I would think that is anecdotal evidence, but would it become something else if the group is large enough?

    Thank you and great work on the blog!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 26, 2021 5:48 pm

      Hi there, glad you are enjoying the show!
      Don’t worry about English not being your first language, it is mine and I’m shocking at it so who am I to judge.
      OK so anecdotal evidence on a grand scale – does grandness of scale make it valid…

      Evidence does not all have to be measurable in any hard-evidence, figures way, no. This is true even for medicines – for example you might flavour a medicine and ask a panel if if they liked it and then to describe it in three – five words. If people hate the taste of a medicine and describe it as tasting like vomit, yucky and bile it won’t work very well as nobody would want to take it but that wouldn’t necessarily mean the medicine didn’t work.

      With cosmetic science/ cosmetic products, the situation is far more like the above although there are some things that can and should be measured to add a layer of certainty and set the goal posts for customers. You can sell an anti-ageing cream saying ‘this cream improves the appearance of wrinkles’ and leave it at that. You could possibly sell more or have a more compelling argument if you could say ‘this cream reduced the depth of wrinkles around the eyes by 50% compared to X product over Y days’. People would have more clarity around the product and its capacity to change their appearance.

      If it’s the public that are making claims about something that goes beyond what the brand owner has tested for that’s a little different. So you might have lots of people sharing on social media how a coffee scrub cured them of eczema for example. When lots of people start saying the same it feels like it must be true. However, people on the whole are pack-animals and they don’t like to miss out. So sometimes under the alluring environment that is Instagram or other social media platform, people will fall under a bias effect that actually makes them think something is working for them when it isn’t or makes them discount or down-play any evidence they find that refutes the views of the masses. Another example of this is with the bicarb-based deodorants. Some of these are good, some are terrible and I’ve had more than a dozen people over the years tell me of how their bicarb deodorant ripped off their skin. But they won’t share this view on social media as on there, it appears that everyone else loves it. Instead they feel shameful, like they did something wrong OR that they have such a big problem that this simple, natural thing couldn’t cope with them. Anyway, it’s complicated.

      So in short, anecdotal evidence can work, especially for the basics around aesthetic appeal, agreeability and such like but in other ways it can be quite misleading. Brand owners need to be mindful of the group-think that develops online, some of which they exploit or even generate to get more likes. This type of anecdotal evidence is not good but other stuff may be just perfect.

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