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Is Dove trying to trick you?

Do you think this Dove commercial is deliberately trying to trick you?

Click the link below to watch it before reading my analysis. Go ahead, watch it now. I’ll wait…

Ok, so what did you think? Did they prove that Dove is more gentle than other soap bars? I say no for two reasons:

1. Most people aren’t aware of the technical definition of “soap.”

The commercial compares Dove to soap bars. Isn’t Dove a soap, you ask? No, it’s not. Soap, in case you didn’t know, is specifically defined as fatty acids that are neutralized by an alkali such as lye. But Dove is not soap – it’s what is known as a Syndet bar (which stands for synthetic detergent.) And it’s true that these synthetic detergents are less drying and less damaging to skin proteins.

But here’s the first reason the commercial is misleading: when they show Dove is better than “baby soap” or “face soap” or “family soap” they don’t tell you that’s only true for true soaps. There are plenty of other “soap” brands besides Dove which use synthetic detergents. The commercial relies on the inherent confusion in knowing that a “soap bar” may not really be soap.

2. The demonstration is one-sided

I couldn’t believe this: The damage is only shown for soap bars NOT for the Dove bar. That’s right! The first time I watched the commercial I thought it was strange that the degree of destruction of skin (as implied by the test paper) was so extreme for the soap bars and so minimal for the Dove bar. In fact, it didn’t appear that Dove damaged the paper AT ALL.

Upon a second viewing I realized that they’re only showing test results for the “regular” soap bars – they don’t show the how test paper behaves on the Dove bar at all! Watch it again – you’ll see that they show how the test paper dissolves with regular soap. They show a quick series of time lapse images of the dissolution of the test paper on face soap, baby soap, and family soap. Then they cut to a picture of the test paper on the Dove bar. But it’s not the same series of images showing how the paper changes over time. It’s just a static shot of the test paper on a Dove bar.  The sequence clearly implies that soap is harsher than Dove but they don’t actually show how Dove affects the test paper.  Does it dissolve just a little bit? Or about as much as regular soap?  There’s no way to tell! That’s not a fair demonstration because it’s slanted to make you believe that Dove is better.

So what do you think, is this commercial misleading to consumers? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community. 

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Jenni December 23, 2013, 11:15 am

    This was an interesting read. I am extremely allergic to Dove. Every time I’ve used it, my face develops horrible red rash. I never understood why, but I wonder if it has to do with it being a “Syndet bar.” I only use pure castile soap now and haven’t had a problem since.

  • Mokhe December 23, 2013, 1:35 pm

    This is anecdotal, but personally I find true soap (that is superfatted and still has the naturally occurring glycerin in tact) to be more gentle and less drying than syndet bars. I know a few people with dry skin or eczema who find some relief in real soap!

    • Randy Schueller December 23, 2013, 7:03 pm

      That’s surprising, Mokhe, since properly formulated syndet bars are known to be milder than soap.

      • Mokhe December 24, 2013, 12:52 am

        Must just be a difference in skin preference!

  • Andrea December 23, 2013, 11:58 pm

    Marketing trickery makes me think product trickery. I’m not a faithful Dove user but you can be sure I’ll avoid it now, if only for the smarmy ad.

  • Wade December 24, 2013, 7:33 am

    You know what is also funny, Dove contains Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate… WHICH ARE BOTH SOAPS. ;D

    • Randy Schueller December 24, 2013, 8:49 am

      @Wade:You raise a good point. Many syndet bars also contain a small amount of true soap.

  • Peb April 10, 2015, 4:30 pm

    It’s not totally static…you can see the bubbles moving around. Hard to say if it’s an equal comparison, tho.

  • Ethel May 8, 2015, 6:28 pm

    1. Well, that explains my experience with Dove. Firstly, I only used it for showering twice because it felt like it left a film on my skin – my daughter experienced the same thing.

    2. If anyone has ever had the experience of tomato things, especially pasta sauce, having a very annoying way of gravitating towards white clothes in particular, then this is for you. About three years ago, when I had tried a couple of other things to remove one of these stains, my eyes lighted on the bar of Dove that was sitting on the bathroom basin. I grabbed it – and – voila! One spotless, white garment.

    No wonder! It must be because it is a Syndet bar.

    Thank you Perry, for posting this.

  • thepinch November 9, 2015, 10:36 pm

    The purpose of a syndet formula is a clean finish. Soap formulas bond with minerals in water, and can leave a residue on the skin, particularly in hard water areas. It’s harmless, but it feels and looks a bit rough and dull. That is why most soaps make lousy shampoos.

    Syndet formulations are essentially solid shampoos. Like shampoos, they are designed not to bond with minerals and leave a residue – or at least much of one. This is why they are particularly helpful treating conditions such as acne, where the skin must be very clean, with little residue blocking pores.

    Syndet bases are not produced from inexpensive ingredients, as soap is. Often the syndet base must be imported from a subcontractor, and this is an expensive process. This is why a small amount of regular soap is sometimes mixed in to keep expenses down. One way or another, syndet formulas are generally more expensive to produce, and that is passed on to you in the form of higher prices.

    The culprit with Dove may be an exceptionally high fragrance level. It’s nice in a drawer, but it’s very strong on the skin. Even the unfragranced version contains ingredients to mask the odor of the tallow base notes from the soap portion, which in this case is quite cheap and nasty.

    An exceptionally good facial quality syndet bar with minimal fragrance is the Avene Cold Cream type. Yes, you will pay more, but it is a lovely quality cleanser with microfine bubbles and a wonderful feel.

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