With the rise of social media has come a proliferation of fad “health” product advertisements on Instagram and Facebook, often promoted by celebrities who are paid for their endorsements. They range from pills that claim to thicken hair to drinks that cause weight loss. Of course, the word of a celebrity is hardly enough to validate a product’s claims, as we’ve reported in the past. Here are three celeb-endorsed products that in particular should give you pause.
Search for #teatoxing on social media and pictures of skinny celebrities such as the Kardashians, Scott Disick, Sarah Hyland, Hilary Duff, and Demi Lovato holding diet tea bags will pop up. Teatoxes and “skinny teas” claim to contain mixtures of herbs that result in “healthy and natural” weight loss. Skinny Teatox, an Australian company, sells a variety of products, from a 28-day tea program to a special tea diet for men. It claims that its tea helps users lose weight, burn calories, boost metabolism, suppress appetite, and “cleanse” (itself a bogus concept). The main ingredient in these products is senna leaf, more commonly used as a laxative. There is no evidence that senna consumption can cause permanent weight loss: What drinkers experience is loss of water weight, as well as emptying of the bowels through diarrhea. Once users stop drinking the tea, the weight lost almost inevitably is gained back. What’s more, senna can have harmful effects including muscle weakness and bowel irregularities. And ingesting it consistently can lead the body to become reliant on it, which disturbs normal bowel movements and causes cramping, among other side effects.
These constricting, corset-like products became popular after several celebrities—including Jessica Alba, Nicki Minaj, Lindsay Lohan, and the Kardashians (again!)—attributed their hourglass figures to wearing them. Typically priced at around $60, the cloth contraptions are wrapped around the waist and buttoned, giving users a skinnier appearance. Users have claimed that wearing a trainer during exercise or for several hours helped them to permanently shrink their waists. But there is no legitimate, science-backed research to validate waist trainers—and plenty of health concerns about them. People who wear waist trainers may experience shortness of breath, bruising, and rib pain; wearing one while exercising may also cause heartburn, acid reflux, and potentially more serious problems. Additionally, a steady reliance on waist trainers can reduce inner-core strength (possibly by providing support and stabilization that are normally provided by the core muscles, resulting in those muscles’ having to work less). Some people may find it comforting to wear a loosened waist trainer for a short period to hide stomach fat, but in general it’s best to steer away from these products.
For more on the risks of constricting garments, see The Dangers of Too-Tight Clothes.
Charcoal teeth whitening
Charcoal teeth whitening has been hailed as an easy way to brighten teeth without having to spend hundreds of dollars on professional whitening by a dentist. Celebrities who’ve touted it include Lindsay Lohan (again!) and Bella Thorne. One company, Carbon Coco, claims that its products—which include charcoal toothpaste and an organic “coconut shell charcoal” — will “brighten your smile, but also improve your overall mouth health,” without damaging enamel and gums. According to charcoal teeth whitening websites, charcoal is highly absorbent, so particles bind to teeth and extract oils and “yellowness,” creating a whiter smile. However, the American Dental Association has not tested or endorsed activated charcoal powder for whitening teeth. And frequently using abrasive toothpaste or other abrasive products for whitening can lead to erosion of tooth enamel, an important layer of protection from decay and sensitivity. Dentists recommend that people use toothpaste with less than 100 RDA (Relative Dentin Abrasivity); but this information may be hard to come by, since toothpaste companies aren’t required to disclose their RDA on labels. Carbon Coco does not state its products’ RDA level. As a general rule, “whitening” products are more abrasive; those containing baking soda, least abrasive.
Bottom line: In general, don’t fall for “health” products promoted by celebrities, who are often getting paid to advertise them. There has been nearly no research showing that these fad products are safe or effective. Instead of investing hundreds of dollars in products that aren’t reliable, healthy, or backed by science, focus your time and money on healthy eating, frequent exercise, and good habits to improve your quality of life.