Sorry, But These 8 Body Care Products Are A Big Scam

All linked products are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase any of these products, we may earn a commission.
Photo by Pexels.
If you have a keen interest in skincare, it makes sense that you might want to extend the same attention to the rest of your body. After all, ingredients like glycolic acid and retinol are just as effective on ingrown hairs and cracked feet as they are on clogged pores and hyperpigmentation
Body care certainly has its merits, but it’s no secret that the industry often sells us countless products that we don’t necessarily need. Further still, a handful of them tap into our insecurities and maintain unrealistic beauty standards. Take cellulite lotions and “tightening” body creams, for instance (but more on those later). 
To weed out the wastes of time from the essentials, we asked a handful of experts for their thoughts on eight popular body care products and gadgets — and what they have to say might surprise you. 

Cellulite Cream

You don’t need us to tell you that “cellulite” — a made up word commonly used to describe subcutaneous fat and fibrous tissue underneath the skin — is both entirely normal and very common, but in recent years an influx of “cellulite smoothing” serums, lotions and creams with ingredients like caffeine and collagen have flooded the skincare industry. As you might’ve guessed, there is a lack of data to show that they work. “In my experience there are no topical creams that have been proven to provide a significant benefit for cellulite,” says Dr. Ana Mansouri, an expert in aesthetic medicine and cosmetic dermatology. 
Aesthetician Alicia Lartey believes that cellulite creams are problematic and misleading: “I think the emphasis on this ‘concern’ is a reminder that, sometimes, the beauty industry can be quite ugly and prey on people’s insecurities,” says Lartey. In particular, cellulite creams containing topical collagen — a protein that gives skin its strength and structure — simply hydrate and moisturize the surface of the skin, says Lartey. It’s unlikely that a collagen cream will boost collagen levels deep inside the skin to minimize the appearance of cellulite. If you want to maximize collagen specifically, products containing vitamin C or retinoids (like retinol) may stimulate collagen in the top layer of the skin.

Sonic Body Cleansing Brushes

Sonic cleansing gadgets are nothing new and are often touted as effective tools to help remove makeup and sunscreen. When it comes to body care, Lartey says that sonic tools are one of the more expensive — and ridiculous — things she has seen. “All you need is an exfoliating wash cloth that you can put in the washing machine once a week and change often,” says Lartey. Dr. Mansouri agrees: “Costly cleansing brushes are unnecessary. Your fingers and hands are perfect tools to gently and effectively cleanse your skin.” 

“Tightening” Body Serums

Body products that claim to “tighten” skin or “tone” legs and arms are not based on science, says Dr. Mansouri. Lartey echoes this: “You can’t really change muscle tone or skin elasticity with most topical products,” she says. Both experts agree that retinoids — such as retinol or the more potent retinal — may make the surface of the skin appear smoother over time as they are known to stimulate collagen production in the top layers. R29 rates Naturium Retinol Body Lotion, Paula’s Choice Retinol Body Treatment, and Versed Press Restart Retinol Body Lotion, all of which moisturize deeply and kickstart skin cell turnover. In short, though, “tightening” products are most likely a fad. 

Neck Cream

The trend for neck creams undoubtedly plays on our inherent fear of aging skin. While moisturizing regularly is beneficial for boosting hydration and improving skin texture, investing in a dedicated neck cream isn’t necessary. “The same skincare products that are applied to the face are also suitable for the neck area,” says Dr. Mansouri. “Your moisturizer is truly fine,” adds Lartey. “I always advise bringing your face care routine down to your chest; you do not need a separate neck product.” There is one caveat, though: “The skin on the neck is known to be delicate, so I recommend avoiding [exfoliating] acids and using more gentle versions of retinoids for the neck in comparison to the face,” says Dr. Mansouri.

Stretch Mark Lotion

Stretch marks — faint or deep lines across the skin — are naturally occurring scars, often a result of quick growth. They are normal and common but no skincare can get rid of them entirely, explains Dr. Mansouri. She says that plenty of lotions she has come across lack evidence behind them. “Aside from stretch marks being natural, you can’t moisturize [them] away,” adds Lartey.
If they bother you personally, both experts say that there is some data to suggest that creams containing retinoids may help improve appearance of stretch marks over time. A retinol body lotion such as Pacifica Wake Up Beautiful Retinoid Body Serum, or Kopari Ultra Renewal Retinol Body Cream, could also help fade hyperpigmentation and prevent ingrown hairs thanks to the ingredient’s ability to speed up cell turnover. It’s important to note that retinol makes skin sensitive to sunlight, so be sure to wear a high-factor, broad-spectrum sunscreen if you’re exposing your body to the sun.  

Body Brushes

“Dry [body] brushing is thought to promote lymphatic drainage,” says Dr. Mansouri. This is essentially a massage technique that is believed to remove lymph — a fluid containing white blood cells, fats and proteins — from the body. The method is also said to relieve puffiness in limbs, while some believe it helps reduce the appearance of cellulite. There is no scientific evidence to suggest the latter is true. “In my experience, there are minimal significant benefits to [body brushing],” says Dr. Mansouri, who would suggest skipping it unless you find it enjoyable. Body brushing is certainly invigorating but the only proven advantage is exfoliation. That said, lotions containing exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid or lactic acid are just as effective, and provide additional moisture and hydration. 

Metal Foot Files

If your feet have been tucked away inside chunky winter boots for the past six months, you might consider bringing out the heavyweights. During a professional pedicure, that’ll often be an electronic foot file — a tool used to chip away at hard skin — but metal foot files are a popular choice at home. London-based podiatrist Dina Gohil would advise against the latter thanks to the potential risks a harsh tool like this poses to the skin and overall foot health. 
“Metal foot files, especially those with coarse surfaces, can be overly abrasive and harsh on the skin, leading to irritation, cuts or abrasions, particularly on sensitive areas of the feet,” says Gohil. She adds that they are particularly difficult to sanitize thoroughly, increasing the risk of bacterial or fungal infections. Instead of a metal foot file, Gohil recommends opting for gentler alternatives such as pumice stones or ceramic foot files, which are designed to exfoliate the skin effectively without causing damage or irritation. “These alternatives offer a safer and more hygienic approach to foot care, promoting smoother, healthier feet with reduced risk of injury or infection,” says Gohil.

Corn Plasters

Corns and calluses are thick layers of skin caused by sustained rubbing or friction against socks and shoes. They’re entirely normal but ahead of sandal weather, you might be looking to lessen their appearance using corn plasters, pads or caps. Gohil suggests thinking twice: “Corn plasters contain acids or other chemicals that work by gradually breaking down the thickened skin,” explains Gohil, “but these substances can also damage healthy surrounding skin if not applied correctly, leading to irritation, pain and potential complications.” If the hard skin on your feet is very thick and bothers you, consider visiting a podiatrist. If you’d rather treat your feet at home, choose a gentle exfoliating lotion which you can use daily, like CeraVe SA Renewing Foot Cream, O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Exfoliating Moisturizing Foot Cream, or Exuviance Exfoliating & Conditioning Foot Balm.

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series