Ivy inquires… You know, I’ve been wondering about Pantene Restoratives and its effectiveness. I even went so far as to write to the Pantene P&G company and ask them on what grounds do they issue a guarantee promising 90 % less breakage in one month? I didn’t get an answer.
The Right Brain responds:
Don’t worry, WE’LL give you an answer! Here’s the exact claim that Pantene makes for this product:
90% less breakage in one month.*
* Shampoo and conditioner vs. non-conditioning shampoo.
It’s easy to skip over reading the asterisk and the fine print, but actually they’re quite important. That’s how the advertiser defines how the claim is supported. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves….
Hair Breakage Claims
First, let’s make it clear that U.S. law only states that companies can not falsely advertise and that they must have substantiation for any clams that they make. However, the law does NOT specify HOW the claims must be supported. Therefore, every company is free to make up its own proprietary methods of testing.
For a hair breakage claim, like in the case of Pantene Restoratives, the support is usually based on measuring hair breakage caused by physical abrasion testing. The test could look something like this:
Take two bundles of hair fibers. Treat one bundle with the products you want to test, in this case the Pantene Restoratives shampoo and the conditioner. The other bundle is the “control” tress. It doesn’t get treated with anything – it’s just washed with a regular shampoo. Then, both tresses are exposed to some sort of physical abrasion, for example, the hair is combed repeatedly.
After this physical assault, the researches count the number of broken hairs on each tress. By comparing the numbers of hairs broken from each tress, the scientists can calculate the difference in breakage. The claim’s reference to “one month” simply means that they conducted the test over a period of 4 weeks (or an equivalent number of treatments in a shorter period of time) and added up how much breakage occurred after that many treatments.
So, is it possible to get a reduction in breakage as high as 90%? Yep, we’ve seen that happen.
How is that possible? Because what this test really measures is how well the conditioner lubricates the hair and reduces the friction of combing. Any hair tress treated with conditioner (any good conditioner) will have MUCH less breakage than a tress just washed with a non-conditioning shampoo.
So is this claim supportable? Yes, it is.
But does the test REALLY reflect the difference in breakage you’ll see in your normal hair routine? Probably not.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad test. The kind of test we just described will support this claim even if you don’t necessarily see that much difference in your own personal usage of the product.
The Beauty Brain’s bottom line
Any time you see a numerical cosmetic claim, you should take it with the proverbial grain of salt. If it’s a reputable company, you can bet that they have SOME kind of test that will support the number you see. But that doesn’t mean that’s a measure of how much benefit you will experience from the product.
So IF seeing those numbers gets you to buy the product and IF you like the product, then everybody wins.
But IF you try the product because it offers “90% less breakage” and you don’t notice less breakage yourself and so you don’t like the product – then you probably won’t buy the product again. And if you don’t buy the product again, no matter what their test data says, then the company hasn’t done a very good job of supporting their claims. Have they?