Podcast 210: Science Washing: Decoding Scientism in the Beauty Industry

Science washing in beauty

In this episode of Green Beauty Conversations, we delve into the “science washing” that is rife in the beauty industry. This term, akin to its near neighbour “greenwashing”, refers to the use of scientific jargon to mask pseudoscientific ideas.

Last week, we explored the nuances of so-called “medical-grade skincare” with Ana Green, our Education Manager at Formula Botanica. We uncovered its role as a marketing term, and how its hype often misleads consumers about the quality and real efficacy of skincare products.

In this opinion episode, podcast host Lorraine Dallmeier, CEO of Formula Botanica, takes us through the broader implications of scientism or “science washing” in the beauty industry.

Listen here

Inspiring quote:

“In the beauty industry, we often see a facade of scientism – using scientific terminology to make products sound credible. It’s about making something sound scientific when it’s not.” – Lorraine Dallmeier

Key Takeaways include:

  • The essence of ‘science washing’: This term highlights the use of complex scientific language and concepts to lend an unjustified credibility to beauty products. Lorraine elaborates on how this practice often masks the lack of genuine scientific backing, misleading consumers into believing that products are more effective or safer due to their ‘scientific’ presentation.
  • The 6 signs of scientism: Building upon the framework of Susan Haack’s six signs of scientism, the episode sheds light on how these signs manifest in the cosmetic world. Lorraine discusses how each sign, from unnecessary complexity to an overemphasis of scientific jargon, is commonly used by brands to create a false sense of trust and authority, leading consumers to make uninformed choices.
  • Marketing strategies and science: The role of marketing in science washing is critical. Marketing teams in the beauty industry expertly utilise scientific terminologies and imagery to create a narrative that appeals to today’s scientifically-inclined audience. Lorraine delves into the psychology behind why such strategies are effective and how they shape consumer perceptions and buying behaviours.
  • Breaking down misconceptions: Lorraine emphasises the importance of questioning and critically evaluating scientific claims made by beauty brands. She urges listeners to recognise the difference between authentic scientific research and marketing tactics disguised as science. This segment serves as an educational tool, empowering listeners to become more discerning and informed consumers.
  • Empowerment through education: The final takeaway is centred around consumer empowerment. Lorraine wants listeners to remember that the scientific method itself is a process of observing, asking questions, and seeking answers through tests and experiments and everyone can take that part in that.

There’s a wealth of information in our old episodes and we encourage you to go back and listen to them. If you want to hear more about some of the topics we covered in this episode, please do delve back into the podcast archives. Go and listen to:

Episode 205: Medical-grade skincare – marketing hype vs scientific reality
Episode 8: Why 100% natural claims could get you into trouble
Episode 160: The beauty industry’s most ridiculous claims

Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Formula Botanica Green Beauty Conversations podcast. If you enjoyed listening, please share, subscribe and review this episode on iTunes, Spotify or Youtube so that more people can enjoy the show. Don’t forget to follow and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Lorraine Dallmeier

Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Chartered Environmentalist and the CEO of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.

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