Beware Snake Oil

By Miriam Silverberg
Miriam Silverberg
Miriam Silverberg
September 7, 2014 Updated: September 7, 2014

One of the many advantages of owning a publicity firm is I get to work with a lot of experts in many fields. Some of these experts have been dermatologists who have told me a lot about skin care and how not to get “taken in” by brands that promise the elixir of youth for the right price.

Do you know the major difference between a very expensive skin cream selling for $147 an ounce and a $7 drugstore brand? The packaging and the price! Both products probably have the same ingredients. And if the more expensive product has an ingredient that can be hyped as a selling point, that ingredient is absolutely useless in most cases.

A case in point: There is a very expensive skin care line that supposedly contains 24-karat gold. After all, everyone knows how good gold is supposed to be for the skin.

You never heard that? Neither has any doctor or scientist.

A very similar product is made with diamonds. I know diamonds are a girl’s best friend, as Anita Loos famously wrote, but on your face? No.

So many skin care products are advertised as working beneath the skin. If a product actually does work beneath the skin, it’s a drug and has to be marketed that way and must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Whatever you buy over-the-counter is not a drug and cannot work under the skin. The Administration is constantly going after companies that market various potions and lotions as drugs. No sooner is one taken off the market, that another pops up to take its place. And even doctors aren’t immune. One famous doctor was recently chastised by the Administration for selling a product that was useless.

A good moisturizer is something no woman should be without. If you have the money and want to spend it on something expensive, fine. But realize that you’re buying “hope in a bottle.” I, myself, will stick with the cheaper drugstore brand.

Actually, according to many doctors, the best moisturizer on the market is also one of the cheapest—plain old Vaseline. I use it and love it. I always have a big jar in the house and it’s not filled with hope!

Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan. She may be reached at