Is snake oil good for your skin?

Maggie hisses this question: My teacher says that beauty products are really just snake oil. Does that mean they’re poisonous?

The Left Brain slithers a response:

Actually, Maggie, the term “snake oil” is usually used to imply that a product is fake or ineffective. Real snake oil, according to Wikipedia, comes from China, where “it is used as a remedy for inflammation and pain in rheumatoid arthritis and other similar conditions. Snake oil is still used as a pain reliever in China. Fats and oils from snakes are higher in eicosapentaenoic acid than other sources, so snake oil was actually a plausible remedy for joint pain as these are thought to have inflammation-reducing properties.”

After Chinese rail-road workers introduced snake oil to Westerners in the 1800’s, “The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a traveling “doctor” with dubious credentials, selling some medicine (such as snake oil) with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence, typically bogus.”

Given the history of the ingredient, it’s not surprising that Haiying Cosmetics in China markets Seabion Whitening and Moisturizing Lotion with, you guessed it, Snake Oil extract.

There’s no mention of joint pain, but the product supposedly replenishes moisture and nutrients, promotes skin metabolism and prevents damage from cold weather. But let’s face it, almost any decent skin lotion will do all those things.

Despite the “natural” angle, I’m guessing Snake Oil products wouldn’t sell very well here in the States.

And tell your teacher that he or she should visit the Beauty Brains!