Post by Minna Krejci
Ok, ok. So we’ve talked about art and science, we’ve talked about Chicago, we’ve talked about art and science in Chicago… but what have we missed?
Try googling “art and science and Chicago”. What do you get? A hair salon!
I guess it’s not terribly surprising, and I won’t deny that it’s clever marketing. There is a measure of comfort you get from knowing that there’s some science behind your cosmetic and health products or services. Science provides the impression of consistency, or a certain standard — somewhere along the line, a guy with glasses and a white coat marked his approval on a clipboard. (Or something like that… I’m certainly not one to try to perpetuate the white-coat scientific stereotype.) So combining science and art in the cosmetic world makes sense, since you most likely don’t want to be a walking art project, all the time. Unless of course you’re Lady Gaga:
In terms of cosmetics, we all want to buy stuff that will work, make us more attractive, etc. Because nothing will really work the way we want it to (as hard as we try, those wrinkles probably aren’t going anywhere any time soon), we rarely find that perfect solution that we stick with forever. Instead, we’re always looking for new products with convincing claims, and shelling out more money than we should for them. In doing this, we’re forcing cosmetics companies to keep developing new technologies and innovations, and we’re funding those efforts as long as we keep buying.
And how do we know that these products will work? Someone gives us proof! We’re all seen this before:
THIS PRODUCT IS PROVEN TO GIVE YOU X% MORE ___ (shine/volume/moisture/dryness/firmness/smoothness/workability/health/strength/curl/straightness/length)
AND TO REDUCE ___ (shine/volume/moisture/dryness/frizz/flatness/brittleness/stickiness/wrinkles/grease/cracking/wetness/redness)
All right, I’m convinced! I’ll buy it, and so will millions of others. Does it matter that we don’t know exactly what studies were done to “prove” to us that this product will work, or precisely what “more volume” for my hair actually means? Is each individual hair getting bigger? Or maybe the distance between the hairs:
We don’t seem to mind that the “science” of the cosmetics industry can seem a bit fuzzy at times, thanks to something called confirmation bias. We want to know that the product works and we’ll favor information that “proves” that it works, while often ignoring evidence that says the opposite.
Just out of curiosity, I looked up the FDA requirements for cosmetic products. I was kind of surprised to see that the FDA doesn’t have authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market, with the exception of color additives. FDA regulations just prohibit the marketing of adulterated products (that are somehow poisonous, injurious, decomposing, unsanitary, etc.) or misbranded products (that have improper packaging or labeling that is misleading or missing required information). Interestingly, no one is really double-checking cosmetic science “claims” about how their products work — or their safety, for that matter.
There does seem to be a wealth of information out there about the science of personal care products. For example, check out the websites for some of the prominent brands, like Pantene, which has a whole section devoted to science: “Our hair scientists shed light on the breakthroughs and debunk the myths surrounding your hair.” This is actually a great idea, as long as the science that is presented is held to the proper standards (e.g. peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled, double-blind, etc.) From my quick browsing through the Pantene site, it seemed that there may be a mix of both.
Now that I’ve gone completely off topic, let’s go back to Art+Science Salons and check out their website.
On the first page: “Our team of talented professionals blend art and science to create the ultimate look for you.” Ok, that’s a good start! Unfortunately, I didn’t find any additional direct references to science. Art+Science does appear to stress the importance of advanced education and training for their stylists, in addition to keeping their clients “well-informed of product choices, home maintenance, and overall hair, scalp and skin health”. Fair enough, but this doesn’t sound too much different than any other salon I’ve been to in a similar price range.
Art+Science Salons may not have an obvious science connection, but they bring me to another point: the term “salon” can refer to more than a hairdressers’ shop. According to Wikipedia: “A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.” Maybe we should hold our own “art and science salon” and show how it’s done! Who’s in?