LIFESTYLE

Experts Reveal How These Indian Ads Make The Most Ridiculous Health Claims

Welcome to the world of TV commercial sorcery.

29/11/2016 2:50 PM IST | Updated 21/01/2017 10:34 AM IST
Amit Bhargava/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

In the world of Indian ads, it is possible to excel in studies by taking an energy drink, get flat abs by eating cornflakes, and counter air pollution with a face wash. Each of these ridiculous claims is often backed by even more illogical scientific hyperbole. We spoke to several doctors to bust certain popular advertising myths about miraculous 'active' ingredients, new formulae and 'revolutionary' technologies. Because where else in the world will you find people cal themselves, 'washing machine' scientists?

1. BoroPlus Anti Pollution Face Wash's 'nature shield complex'

The claim: The BoroPlus Anti Pollution Face Wash claims to be "pollution ka solution". Brand ambassador Bipasha Basu tells us that this magical product has a 'nature shield' complex, green tea and grapes that not only cleanses your skin, but also cures your pimples and makes you three shades fairer in just three days.

Face wash can't protect you from pollution.

The reality: The BoroPlus Anti Pollution Face Wash sounds suspiciously similar to the countless beauty products for fairness. Moreover, doctors say that the effects of air pollution on the skin still remain debatable. Dr. Satyanarayana Murthy of Ask Apollo, Hyderabad says most skin damage, ageing and wrinkling happens due to sun exposure. "The purpose of a face wash is just to remove excess oil and dirt which coats the upper lays of the skin. It can't protect you from pollution," Dr Murthy said. " A good sunscreen can provide most of the protection that the skin needs."

2. Fair & Lovely Pollution Clean Up FaceWash's 'charcoal formula'

The claim: Like its counterpart above, the Fair & Lovely Pollution Clean Up FaceWash claims to remove accumulated 'pollution' from your skin and make you instantly fairer with activated charcoal. It is one of the many new beauty products touting the health benefits of activated charcoal and carbon.

The reality: The only problem? While activated charcoal is used by doctors to remove poisons and treat drug overdoses, its cleansing benefits on the skin remain anecdotal rather than scientific.

3. Garnier White Complete fairness cream with 'active white, vitamin C and lemon extracts'

The claim: A group of women tell you how Garnier White Complete fairness cream changed their lives by giving them instant whitening, lasting fairness and sun protection. Its claim rests on the use of a mystery ingredient called "active white", along with vitamin C and lemon extracts.

Contrary to what fairness products will have you believe, the genetic skin colour that a person is born with cannot be changed.

The reality: Contrary to what fairness products will have you believe, the genetic skin colour that a person is born with cannot be changed. These products only change the constitutive colour of the skin, which can get altered due to tanning or chemicals in cosmetics. While vitamin C is used as an ingredient in skin lightening creams, it is only recommended for medical conditions such as hyper-pigmentation or melasma. "All such creams and topical applications take a few weeks to take effect, and gives only a temporary and superficial glow," Dr Murthy explained. "It cannot give you any permanent change in skin colour." And why should you want to change the colour of your skin, anyway?

4. Garnier Fructis Long and Strong Shampoo's 'active fruit concentrates'

The claim: Garnier's popular Long and Strong Shampoo claims to have 'active fruit concentrates' to help your hair grow longer and stronger.

No shampoo goes inside the hair root to make the hair longer.

The reality: While you should definitely eat fruits to get the right nutrients for healthy tresses, a fruity shampoo can't make your hair grow longer. "Shampoos strengthen the hair outside the scalp. No shampoo goes inside the hair root to make the hair longer," Dr Murthy explained. "These shampoos can only make the cuticle stronger. Hair growth depends on a variety of factors, and can only be aided by taking a protein rich diet and preventing stress stress."

5. Pantene Pro-Vitamin shampoo's 'keratin damage blockers technology'

Claim: Anushka Sharma would have you believe that not only does she use Pantene Pro-Vitamin shampoo herself, she recommends it to her friends as well. The shampoo claims to have 'pro-vitamins' and a 'keratin damage blockers technology' that nourishes your hair and reduces hair fall by 98% through daily use in just 14 days.

Shampoos can't make your hair grow miraculously longer, they can't stop hair loss as well.

The reality: Just like shampoos can't make your hair grow miraculously longer, they can't stop hair loss as well. "Hair fall is due to many factors, such as prolonged stress and genetic baldness in men, which cannot be corrected with shampoos," Dr. Murthy said. "A shampoo can prevent breakage and split ends, but not hair loss. Keratin is external and all these products, they strengthen the hair outside the scalp, like cement on a wall."

6. Sunsilk Long and Healthy Growth with biotin

The claim: Want to get long hair in a jiffy? This ad promises you'll get waist-length hair in three months, simply by a using a Sunsilk shampoo that has the magical 'biotin', a vitamin it says is derived from nature.

The reality: Biotin is used as an over-the-counter vitamin supplement for hair, skin and nails, but its benefits remain unsubstantiated. Moreover, shampoos can only strengthen hair, they cannot make them longer.

7. L'Oreal Paris Fall Repair with arginine

The claim: Sonam Kapoor tells us that L'Oreal Paris Fall Repair uses the power of arginine to nourish roots, leading to a 90% reduction hair fall from the first hair wash.

The ad was even been hauled up by the independent regulator Advertising Standards Council of India in 2015 for making misleading claims.

The reality: Arginine is an amino acid which is taken as a natural dietary supplement and is said to have heart benefits. However, Dr Murthy says its effect as an external application remains unproven. Moreover, no shampoo can really nourish roots and reduce hair fall. At best, it can prevent hair breakage and split ends. The ad was even been hauled up by the independent regulator Advertising Standards Council of India in 2015 for making misleading claims.

8. Lifebuoy Total 10 soap with 'active silver formula'

The claim: A heartbroken Kajol sobs about her favourite Lifebuoy soap is no longer available in the market, only to have Ajay Devgn tell her that she can spare the drama. A new Lifebuoy soap is at hand, with an "activ silver formula" for "100% better germ protection".

The reality: Nano-silver is used in antiseptic creams used by doctors for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is also occasionally prescribed to patients with pustular infections for a short time. However, there is no need for normal persons to use such as a soap in the long run. "People think using a Lifebuoy hand wash will cure them of all kinds of skin infections and allergies, which is simply not true," Dr Murthy explained.

9. Dove Regenerative Repair with 'red algae complex'

The claim: A new Dove advanced hair says it is infused with 'red algae complex', which nourishes and renews extremely damaged hair.

The reality: There is no scientific study on whether the benefits of red algae in hair repair. Instead, Dr Murthy advises people to focus on good nutrition, and a vitamin-rich diet for healthy hair.

10. Colgate Total Charcoal Deep Clean with 'micro charcoal'

The claim: In this ad, Lara Dutta argues that charcoal has miraculous cleaning properties that can even filter muddy water. The logic extends to the new Colgate Charcoal Deep Clean toothpaste, which has micro charcoal particles and a 'clinically proven anti germ technology' to fights germs and protect 100% of your mouth.

The reality: When activated charcoal is used as a filter, it only remove certain impurities and odours. It does not remove some toxic organic compounds, metals, pathogens and bacteria. In other words, it's primary purpose in a toothpaste is for whitening and not germ protection.

While charcoal acts like a micro-abrasive agent, nothing can guarantee 100% germ protection as promised in the ad

Dr Urmila, a dentist at Apollo White Dental Spa in Hyderabad, explains that every toothpaste has an abrasive agent to clean debris. While charcoal acts like a micro-abrasive agent, nothing can guarantee 100% germ protection as promised in the ad. "Moreover, its use needs to be monitored as excessive abrasion can lead to the loss of tooth enamel," Dr. Urmila said.

11. Colgate 'Active Salt'

The claim: The toothpaste claims to use active salt to reduce hidden bacteria and contribute to healthier gums.

The reality: Like charcoal, salt is an abrasive material. Dr. Urmila explained that while salt is good for preventing bacteria and keeping gums healthy, it is not recommended for for the elderly and those who have a weak or worn-out tooth enamel.

12. Complan with 'Memory Chargers'

The claim: Gone are the days when Complan ads would feature happy young kids frolicking around. This ad for Complan's Memory drink presents a rather morbid picture of a miserable kid who is having trouble remembering his school lessons. Complan thinks that the problem lies with a lack of nutrition rather than rote learning, so enter their new energy drink, enriched with "memory chargers" that can dramatically make the kid a better student.

An investigation by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India revealed that Complan Memory's claim of improving a kid's performance in studies through "memory chargers" was deceptive

The reality: An investigation by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India revealed that Complan Memory's claim of improving a kid's performance in studies through "memory chargers" was deceptive. "Any campaign which tries to create a correlation between an ingredient and a disease condition is bound to flawed," nutritionist Dr Shikha Sharm explains. "The human body is not a box where you can add and subtract. If you make a direct correlation between a health food and a condition, it is bound to be medically flawed."

13. Kellogg's SpecialK '2 Week Challenge'

The claim: Wondering how you'll ever get in shape for your friend's wedding? Deepika Padukone tells us that eating Kellogg's cornflakes for breakfast and dinner will do the trick. Not only will you lose weight, you will also get Padukone's envious flat abs.

In July 2015, Kellogg's SpecialK ads were banned in the UK for claiming that they are nutritious.

The reality: Sadly, it takes a lot more to lose weight than a bowl of cornflakes. Nutritionist Dr Shikha Sharma points out that Kellogg's is high is carbohydrates and simpler sugars but low in fibre, with a lot of nutrients being lost during the process of refining. For weight loss, you need to have a low sugar diet. "So while it might be healthier than other cornflakes, it isn't healthier than a dalia," Dr Sharma said. "So these ads are an act of omission. They just tell you a part of the story." In July 2015, Kellogg's SpecialK ads were banned in the UK for claiming that they are nutritious.

More On This Topic