Attention All Cottage-Cheese Butts!

What Women Really Think
June 26 2009 5:48 PM

Attention All Cottage-Cheese Butts!

Yesterday morning I nearly spit out my Corn Flakes as I read the latest New York Times "Skin Deep" feature, "Treating Cellulite, It’s Still There ." And not because, "the ass pictured is almost cellulite-free, while the story is about the terrible problem of cellulite," as Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan put it.

Ladies, it shouldn’t be news that anti-cellulite treatments don’t work. Or that cellulite is incurable. Also what shouldn’t be news-but, maddeningly, is-is that most anti-cellulite products and anti-aging creams are illegal and flourishing under the unconscionably laissez-faire FDA. It’s ironic that the "Skin Deep" column takes its title from the great muckraking book of 1934 by Mary Catherine Phillips-one of several books that led to the creation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which is supposed to protect consumers from bogus cosmetics and drugs.


The act states in no uncertain terms that cosmetics cannot claim to "affect the structure or any function of the body of man." In other words, cosmetics companies must stick to matters of appearance, not therapy. Cosmetic companies cannot market products that claim to change any aspect of your skin or your skin’s structure or function: Collagen-plumping serums? Illegal. Free radical-preserving goop? Illegal. Cellulite-busting unguents? Illegal.

If a product does makes such a claim it is, by definition, a drug, and needs to go through rigorous testing at the Office of Drug Evaluation and Research to prove not only that it is safe but that it also works . So if a cellulite reduction cream claims to melt cellulite or tighten skin then legally, the claim needs to be tested and cleared by the FDA. This is a basic consumer protection provided by the Act. We should stop tolerating less!

In the 1960s and then again in the 1980s journalists frequently reported on misbranded anti-wrinkle and anti-cellulite products, and the FDA challenged these companies in court. On April 10, 1988, when the FDA was in the midst of its last crackdown, The New York Times published the following in an op-ed : "All the FDA is asking is that fantasy and reality be kept separate. The cosmetic companies need only retreat back to fantasy"-meaning abandon the therapeutic claims for traditional "this will make you gorgeous" puffery-"and their customers will live as happily as before."

As baby boomers advance into old age we’ve all had to adapt to the anti-aging-centric marketplace and have come to accept and even embrace the proliferation of cosmetics that are actually misbranded drugs. I'm sure the democratization of plastic surgery has a lot to do with this: why opt for a regular bottle of Oil of Olay body cream when you can benefit from the anti-cellulite version? But is it too much to ask the New York Times and other journalists to separate fantasy from reality? And, most crucially, if the FDA did its job we would have known that cellulite was incurable because the $47 million anti-cellulite product market wouldn’t exist and fool us into thinking-or misunderstanding, or blundering, or wondering, or hoping-otherwise.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 7:30 AM Ring Around the Rainbow
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.