The marketing people and advertising agencies associated with cosmetics companies have a certain penchant for the scientific buzzword. You may have noticed particularly if you are keen to moisturize, exfoliate, cleanse, rejuvenate or daub your face with a range of textured and colored materials in the name of looking young and ostensibly making yourself more attractive. Of course, those among us who are heavy smokers, drinkers and sun worshippers and feel obliged to seek out these products to preclude wrinkle formation, often don't realize or are in denial about those exogenous factors to which we hey inflict our skin that are largely to blame for any deleterious premature aging.

Over the years we have seen various vitamins, E and A, antioxidants, and the like marketed in age-reversing creams that come in tiny dollops in fancy little pots in glamorous boxes with delightfully fashionable models and actors providing the silky smooth face of experience and the airbrush to advertise them. For instance, we have had liposomes marketed as carriers for all kinds of ingredients with fancy names lifted straight from the chemical literature, and concerns about exfoliating microbeads pollutiong our waterways and oceans don't seem to be worrying the consumers much (yet).

There was, bizarrely, even a moment when nanoparticles featured, but that term has gained something of a negative image through the usual media scaremongering, public scientific illiteracy and misconceptions about what nano actually means. They never did do genetically modified hand cream, as far as I know, but they might have done if not for the tabloids. And, in extremis, last night while undertaking a rare channel hop that inadvertently led to my eyeballs being exposed to some TV advertising, I heard and saw the word "micelles" used lamentably in the context of a hand or face cream or was it a "cleansing" lotion? I do not remember which exactly, which is to say I rarely take notice of the details of TV advertisements.

Of course, the bottom line is that none this pseudoscientific silliness has any genuine physiological effect on the condition of the skin. Indeed, the manufacturers are at pains to ensure that their products do not rise into the efficacious realms of medicine. If they did, the products would instantly become subject to the costly testing, validation, and regulation to which pharmaceutical and actual medicine products come; they are still subject to basic safety regulations, of course. Instead, the companies maintain their products a t very, very low level of activity akin to so-called health supplements. In other words, the same negligible, expensive but pointless level at which "health food" companies keep their snake oil products, contamination and fraud aside. All those vitamins, minerals, natural remedies and antioxidants, are usually all sufficiently provided in an everyday, balanced diet without supplementation; medical conditions such as scurvy, anemia and rickets aside.

With regard to those skin products though, almost any dermatologist outside the cosmetics industry, and probably most of them within it if pressed, would tell you that skin moisturizers, rejuvenating creams and other products that demand premium prices of those wishing to retain a healthy, youthful, wrinkle-free glow can all be replaced by simply dampening the skin (with water) and applying a layer of a hydrophobic substance to keep the moisture close to the skin. Washing your skin should, they would say, involve the most basic of soaps warm water and a fluffy towel. The addition of vitamins does little to affect the dead skin cells that are the upper layers of our skin and no number of nanoparticles, liposomes or micelles, is going to reverse the damaging effects of ingested toxins, including alcohol, sun exposure or cigarette smoke. But, don't let any of this put you off trying to keep young and beautiful...

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the bestselling science book "Deceived Wisdom".