Earlier this week the results of such a trial on No7 Protect and Perfect Beauty Serum from UK manufacturer Boots were published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
A double-blind placebo-controlled trial seems to be the holy grail of cosmetics efficacy testing – valuable but apparently not always attainable. It allows for the product to be tested against a placebo and neither those receiving treatment nor those dispensing it know which one is which, making it much easier to identify the effect of the product or ingredient in question.
The results of the Boots trial were positive, illustrating that the product can make a discernable difference to wrinkles when used over a long period of time.
Such a study is likely to be a jackpot for any manufacturer, and Boots has confidently predicted a boom in product sales on the back of it.
In fact, the first edition of the serum sold out in record time following a BBC Horizon documentary that called attention to its ability to fight against photo-aging.
Despite being thought of as the gold standard for product testing double-blind placebo-controlled trials are rare.
Rare, but as shown by Boots, not impossible. So why do companies not enter into such trials?
One reason could be a fear of negative results. Surely the only thing worse than not having reliable data to show your product works is having data that reliably shows it doesn’t.
By entering into an independent trial on its products, Boots was being either ‘confident or foolhardy, whichever way you look at it’, according to one of the study authors Professor Chris Griffiths, as quoted by the BBC.
Another reason for avoiding these trials could be the cost as this particular study design is expensive.
It needs a large number of real people and a long time to come up with statistically significant results, resulting in a process much more expensive than in-vitro testing.
However, it may turn out to be a gamble worth taking for manufacturers looking to set themselves apart from the competition.
Those unwilling or unable to publish data from these kinds of studies may find themselves with a dud hand when rivals raise the stakes in an increasingly competitive marketplace.