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Brains on Vacation

SETI Logo A monthly segment on the SETI Institute's "Are We Alone" radio show, dealing with synaptic lapses in scientific thinking.

Brains on Vacation Archive


Current Episode: October 2, 2005

Every Breath You Take


her skin is so soft,
so smooth, so, uh, oxygenated? I'm always amazed at the dumb advertising cosmetic products will use to convince you their stuff is better than someone else's. I remember years ago one skin lotion had a big sticker on it said that it contained uric acid. Hey, why buy that product? I can make that myself at home!

There is no lower limit to the depths advertisers will burrow, though. Case in point: Neaclear, makers of "liquid oxygen skin care products". Yes, you read that correctly. They make many claims about this stuff. The following are actual quotations from their website.

  1. [it's] specially formulated to include OXYGEN (the source of life!)
  2. the human body can live weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without oxygen!
  3. oxygen helps keep our blood flowing, our bodies functioning properly and aids in helping to fight infections and rid the body of toxins.
  4. 300 million years ago, the air contained 50% oxygen. today's breathable air contains only 18% oxygen.

Wow! How did we survive before we had this stuff?

Actually, it was easy, since these are all ridiculous claims. In order, here is why:

  1. Sure, we need oxygen to live, but we need to breath it. Rubbing it on our skin won't help that.
  2. While this is true, it has nothing to do with rubbing oxygen on our skins. Rubbing water on our skin won't cure dehydration, and smearing ourselves with jello might be fun, and in some cases even profitable, but won't do you much good as far as calories go.
  3. Again, this is all true, but only for oxygen in our blood. It gets in our blood through the natural (and, I might add, free of charge) process of breathing. Rubbing Neaclear on your skin won't help this at all.
  4. Uh, so? It sounds to me like they're implying that we're starving for oxygen in today's modern world. Oh, to have enough oxygen in the air to have the same luxurious skin as... a dinosaur?
They go on to make this claim as well:
neaclear and neaclearPlus skin care products all have oxygen in them. the oxygenation procedure is a special 4 step process that enables us to place oxygen into a stable liquid form. liquid oxygen normally exists only at the extremely low temperature of -183 degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure. liquid oxygen in its purest form is highly combustible and basically "rocket fuel". NO, we do not have rocket fuel (pure liquid oxygen) in our products. please realize the oxygen concentration in our skin care products is not a large amount, definitely less than 5%. again, we always recommend not placing these products close to any sources of fire or anything flammable (a good piece of advice with any skin care products).
Wow, they must really care for their customers, not wanting them to catch on fire and all. But this claim of having oxygen in their products makes them sound scientific and all, without really telling you anything. They say that oxygen is critical for life (true), and their products have oxygen in them (presumably also true), but they never say that these two things are connected. They let the reader make that assumption, and one assumes they are not going broke doing so.

Oxygen is pretty important. Our entire life cycle is based on it. But that doesn't mean anything with oxygen is good for you. Clorox liquid contains oxygen. So does sulfuric acid, vinegar, heroin, and even Sarin, a deadly nerve gas. I wouldn't suggest rubbing any of those on your skin.

So, do Neaclear products work? Maybe, maybe not. With cosmetics, it can be very hard to tell. And while their advertising is misleading at best, I'm pretty sure it works at least as well as the product it's being used to sell. There's an oxygen sucker born every minute.


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