There is inadequate evidence that slimming gels or creams work, a consumer watchdog warned yesterday.
Peptides, caffeine and materials extracted from hot peppers are common ingredients in such products, the Consumer Council said yesterday, after checking more than 20 items. The three are not proven to slim faces and body parts, de-wrinkle or reduce cellulite, local experts and overseas researchers have found.
'If you are pinning your hopes on slimming products, your chances of success will indeed be very slim,' the vice-chairman of the Consumer Council's publicity and community relations committee, Ron Hui Shu-yuen, said.
Peptides are amino acids that are assumed to trigger production of proteins for skin repair. They are a common ingredient in anti-ageing products used to reduce wrinkles.
But the effect of cosmetic products containing peptides is insignificant, according to research published in the American journal Dermatologic Surgery in 2006.
Whether products can deliver their claims depends on the concentration of peptides, and this information is missing from labels, Hui said.
Association of Specialists in Dermatology president, Dr Henry Chan Hin-lee, agreed. No medical literature proves such products will meet expectations, he said.
A few studies have shown that caffeine could help reduce cellulite, or dimpling of the skin, but the effect was not strong or sustainable, Chan told the council.
Capsaicin, which is extracted from red peppers, can be used as a painkiller, but its slimming effects are unconfirmed, according to dermatologist Kingsley Chan Hau-ngai.
Side effects are possible if the products contain preservatives or flavouring, he said. Consumers should avoid using products with red pepper extracts near wounds and eyes.
These ingredients could also cause swelling, reddening or itching, William Chui Chun-ming, of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, said.
Consumers should stop using such products should any of these symptoms develop, Chan said.
The council noted that there are no short cuts to slimming, but most people can lose weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
It also warned consumers against buying products that claim to make them taller. The council's Consumer Legal Action Fund has obtained redress for a complainant who was talked into buying a product to increase her height this year.
The case was brought to the Small Claims Tribunal, but the company that sold the product offered to settle out of court, with a full refund to the complainant. She had seen a magazine advertisement for a product that claimed it could stimulate soft tissues to increase height by up to 10cm.
She developed leg pain after having the treatment. The company then persuaded her to buy a lotion that it claimed would soften the tendons, but this and additional products she was sold did not ease her pain.
She ended up HK$30,000 out of pocket after the treatments.
Doctors consulted by the council said surgery is the only option to add height, and it would be extremely difficult to achieve an extra 10cm.