Skin Deep

Read the fine print: Watch out for ‘in-vitro’ testing


Special to The Miami Herald

These days, it’s impossible to open a magazine without seeing advertisements for skincare products that boast some pretty incredible claims. But instead of being swayed by hype, it’s important to read the fine print — literally.

If you look closely, in many cases you’ll see an asterisk, and something along the lines of “based on in-vitro testing.” So what does this mean for you, and what does this mean in terms of a product’s effectiveness?

“In vitro” is Latin for “in glass,” so when you see this referring to some sort of clinical testing, it means the results are based on lab testing — as opposed to testing on actual human skin. “In-vitro” skincare ingredient testing involves skin cells in a petri dish, which means that the ingredients’ ability to penetrate to the deeper levels of the skin cannot be assessed. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in most instances, these “in-vitro” results don’t translate to human skin — or treating the beauty concern or skin condition that the product is claiming.

Think of it this way: No matter how great an ingredient works on skin cells in a glass dish, it’s useless if it cannot penetrate the upper stratum corneum layer of the skin and get to the deeper cells.

One example of an ingredient with great “in-vitro” results that does not translate to skin benefits is the family of peptides. In the lab, peptides have been shown to boost collagen production, reverse skin damage, lighten discoloration and do much more.

But while many skincare companies tout these “in-vitro” results, they fail to disclose that most peptide molecules are too large to penetrate the skin — which means they can’t possibly deliver their in-lab results in real life.

My advice: When you see “in vitro” in an advertisement for some groundbreaking, revolutionary product with never-before-seen results, buyer beware. If they were able to achieve those results in women like you, don’t you think they’d include that in the ad?

“In vivo” testing is another method for assessing the efficacy of skincare ingredients. This means something is tested on live animals or humans, and these results are always more convincing. Of course, animal testing is frowned upon, so look for “in vivo” testing on live human subjects.

Read more Skin Deep stories from the Miami Herald

  • Skin Deep

    How to correct five common beauty mistakes

    Nobody’s perfect, and we’re all guilty of making beauty blunders on occasion. So long as they aren’t permanent (like silicone injections), here are a few easy fixes that will help you undo the boo-boos and get back on track.

  • Skin Deep

    The proper way to care for newborn skin

    When it comes to newborns and babies, there are so many dos and don’ts that it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Many products claim to be designed for delicate baby skin, but I’m here to tell you that less is definitely more when it comes to the wee ones and their skin.

  • Skin Deep

    How to care for your nose this flu season

    When you come down with the flu or a bad cold, the coughing, congestion, aches and pains are usually the main symptoms, but our noses can are often left red and chapped as well. To help your nose survive the near-constant blowing and wiping, here are a few tips that help minimize irritation and soothe delicate skin.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category