Can government regulations be employed as a sales pitch? Can beauty and health ever stroll hand in hand through the market place?

These and other oddly related questions are springing to the fore in two burgeoning drug fields. Neutricosmetics are those nutritional supplements that build typically healthy skin. Similarly, neutraceuticals refers to foods or food products that carry some secondary benefit, which may range from better digestion to cancer prevention. The problem with all these marvelous multi-curative substances is that they might be more exaggeration than cure.

To help sort out truth, legal boundaries, and viable claims, the BioScience Collaborative hosted “Dietary Supplement Marketing: Substantiating Claims in Light of Recent FTC Actions” on Wednesday, November 16, at the Center for Dermal Research at Rutgers University’s Busch Campus in Piscataway. Panelists include Donna Barasch, founder of Brand Lab Partners; Stuart Lee Friedel, partner with Davis & Gilbert LLP, and associate Jennifer Soussa; and attorney Mark Levine of the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division Council. Cost: $125. Visit

When creating and marketing a new product, Barasch has been sought after by all the beauty biggies. She grew up in New York City, learning the financial side of life from her CPA father.

Upon graduating from Syracuse University with her bachelor’s in English literature in 1968, she joined Avon Products Inc. From a brief stint as secretary, Barasch soon rose to group products manager, guiding sales and marketing teams.

She then spent six years each in Lancome Cosmetics and Revlon Inc. In 2004, after serving as Revlon’s senior vice president in charge of global product development, Barasch stepped down to form Donna Barasch & Associates. Two years ago, she has expanded on her beauty/pharmaceutical consulting operations with the founding of Brand Lab Partners, with a launch team that includes an ingredients specialist and a chemist.

“It may sound amazing that a person can take a pill that will prevent her skin from aging and help prevent cancer at the same time,” says Barasch. “What’s even more amazing is that all such supplements have really had no government oversight until recently.”

#b#Health and beauty#/b#. Several new beauty therapies now exist that, either by design or happy coincidence, additionally afford certain health benefits. More for the sake of product separation than function, they fall into three, overlapping categories.

Nutricosmetics consist of certain pills and foods that when ingested provide this dual health and beauty benefit. Examples include the various brands of protein-laden gelatins that ladies ingested to strengthen their long nails in the 1960s, while offering the side benefit of healthier hair follicles and skin cells.

Cosmeceuticals, like nutricosmetics, afford both health and beauty benefits, but they are applied as topical creams. Many anti-aging wrinkle creams in the process of banishing crows’ feet also promise to repair connective tissue. Tests have continually shown that collagen, in addition to repairing skin cells, substantially improves immunity in both surface and inner body cells.

Thirdly come nutraceuticals, or functional foods, which not only feed the skin to make it lovely and lustrous, but prevent and perhaps dampen symptoms of various diseases. Vitamin C, however gotten into the body, wards off a host of undesirable invaders.

All of these dietary supplements, smeared or swallowed for whatever reason, may rightly claim some additional benefits. Question is, how much healing can they rightfully claim?

Back in the bad old days of unregulated medicines the government overlooked (literally) all medicines.

The showy snake oil salesman could pull into town with his magic elixir saying it cured neuralgia rheumatism, yellow fever, lumbago, and tooth decay, with no authority to say nay. Today such supplements in the above categories remain almost equally ungoverned.

A strong army of industry researchers, such as American Academy of Dermatology fellow Pat Farris, are stating that nutricosmetics are all woefully over-hyped.

“To make these products believable, we are calling for government regulation within the U.S.,” says Barasch. “If a topical anti-aging skin cream also distributes cancer-inhibiting antioxidants, we need the public to believe it as a fact, not just a manufacturer’s claim.”

Recently the Personal Care Products Council lauded President Obama’s sending to Congress free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama, with regulatory clauses for nutricosmetics.

Additionally, Barasch feels that potential consumers must be shown specifically how a drug performs its benefits before they will consider buying. Particularly in America, which bombards its citizens daily with an average of 2,000 persuasive messages, drug claim skepticism runs high.

#b#Beauty abroad#/b#. Europe and Japan far outrank the U.S. in market share of the nutricosmetic industry, which is estimated to reach $4.5 billion globally within two years. Much of the reason is cultural. Historically, Japan and Europe have favored perfect skin, particularly among females.

The miss (and now, the mister) who held the privilege of escaping the weather’s beatings were the fortunate ones, people bestowed with the blessings of an indoor life. Thus those cultures’ endless rhapsodizing about light skinned, fair beauties.

Meanwhile, back in the pioneer-loving U.S., that deep tan, which indicates that a person who’s done interesting things, strikes the eye. “But it’s more than cultural,” says Barasch. “Japan and most of the eastern nations do not show any signs of regulating the personal care product industry.”

Meanwhile the men are buzzing relentlessly around the health and beauty hive. According to international market researcher Euromonitor, for the last decade nutricosmetics have seen a double-digit growth rate in the male market share.

Soon, they predict, men will outnumber women in spending on such products. After all, who wouldn’t want to be healthier, feel stronger, and look like they did when they graduated from college?

In the end, beauty and health are linked through the biology that enslaves our opinions more than we care to admit.

Men are attracted to females with a smooth, flawless, lustrous complexion because biologically it bodes well for bearing healthy children. Younger women are seen as more desirable for the same reason. (The Playboy centerfolds are all of prime child bearing years).

Likewise, ladies enjoy the well muscled male frame, along with the stalwart personality in the hope that this specimen might be better able to provide and protect that offspring after birth.

So while true beauty lies within, if I can get a few more antioxidants floating around with that beauty, I think I’ll swallow it, claims and all.

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