Regular readers will no doubt remember my pioneering discovery of Garnier's Law of Mascara Names, which dictates that the product names given to fancy eyelash gunk will double in hyperbolicity every two years, irrespective of any corresponding technical development in the product itself.
I had long suspected that this same law must also apply to other areas of the beauty industry, but lacked the time and wherewithal to investigate further. But a fortuitous combination of circumstances yesterday led to a major discovery which I feel I must document here for the benefit of future generations.
Those circumstances were a) the good fortune of my being on maternity leave, and therefore having more time at my disposal to explore evolving semantics in the cosmetics industry, and b) the chance arrival of an email from Homes and Gardens magazine, inviting me to enter a competition to win a supply of L'Occitane anti-ageing products.
Now the anti-ageing business is not something I profess to know a lot about, being of the opinion that it's all a scam to sell expensive goo to ladies rendered suitably insecure by half a lifetime's exposure to idiot-rags like Grazia and Closer.
However, having time on my hands I duly clicked the link in the email, only to discover - to the delight of my scientific and enquiring mind - that unlike, say, Moore's Law, Garnier's Law of Anti-Ageing Cream Names appears already to have reached the limits of its potential.
Naturally, as Ben Goldacre will tell you, you can't make an assertion like this without first conducting an exhaustive survey across the whole field of enquiry. Before publishing my astonishing findings to the world, I first had to investigate the names given to anti-ageing creams from other companies. Not knowing any off the top of my head, I turned to Twitter for advice. Sadly this elicited little of use, unless you count 'jizz', suggested by @Lfbarfe, or 'Tesco Value French Mustard', suggested by @Nibus.
So, like all serious scientists, I turned instead to Google.
Here I discovered that, by comparison with mascara names, prevailing naming conventions for anti-ageing creams are actually quite modest. L'Oréal, for example, offers us 'Revitalift' and 'Renoviste', hardly the stuff of fervid dreams of long-lost youth. Garnier, meanwhile, prefers 'Vital Restore', which sounds more like a business continuity procedure in a midsize accountancy firm's data centre than a face cream. Elizabeth Arden has come up with the mysterious 'Prevage', which makes me think of André Previn, who makes me think of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, which we can't exactly chalk up as a metaphoric triumph.
This surprising reticence could be indicative of a number of things. Perhaps in a rare moment of marketing sobriety and self-awareness, these companies acknowledged that none of their products *actually* has the capacity to halt the ageing process, and are therefore a bit circumspect about making hyperbolic claims for them. Or perhaps, unlike their impetuous colleagues on the mascara watch, their branding executives are aware of how much time lies ahead, and how they must not gratuitously squander the precious finite resources of the English, French and Franglais lexicons.
But among all the reticence and linguistic frugality, one company stands alone, on a lavender-scented hilltop, throwing circumspection, restraint and Garnier's Law to the marin and the tramontane. Ladies and gentlemen, that company is L'Occitane, who have seen fit to name their anti-ageing range 'Immortelle'.
Immortelle. You don't have to have GCSE French to figure out what they're getting at there. "Buy this face cream," whisper L'Occitane seductively, "and you will become immortal."
It's a bold claim, and not one that I fancy would stand up under the brutal spotlight of scientific scrutiny. It's also not one that I find particularly comforting. Linguistically, 'immortal' is synonymous with 'undead', which conjures up images of hordes of desiccated liches stalking the earth, draped in grand clothing yet showing all too well the weight of years; decay and corruption their constant companion.
On balance I think I'll take my chances with soap, water and death.
3 days ago