Cosmetic firms are misleading women over the effectiveness of skincare creams with incomprehensible scientific jargon, it was claimed yesterday.
The consumer group Which? accused companies including L'Oreal and Garnier of baffling consumers into buying their products.
Television adverts are filled with references to pentapeptides, lipopeptides and hyaluronic acid and claim products will "refuel surface skin cells" resulting in a "dewy glow".
But after posing as a customer and contacting three companies for a better explanation, Which? said the "evidence" to back up the claims is confusing - even to a trained scientist.
It said: "Pentapeptides, hyaluronic acid and omega 3 might sound impressive, but scratch beneath the surface of the glossy cosmetic adverts and the claims of some companies don't make a whole lot of sense."
The consumer magazine said it approached customer services at Olay Regenerist, Garnier Nutritionist Omega Skin and L'Oreal Derma Genesis and asked how its ingredients actually worked on the skin.
They showed the results to Sense About Science, a charity that promotes understandable science, which claimed customers are being "fobbed off".
After reading Which?'s transcripts, the scientists said they were no wiser about how pentapeptides, lipopeptides or omega 3 managed to "help with the signs of ageing" or "improve the appearance of your skin".
Dr Aarathi Prasad, for the charity, said: "They are taking the real science out of context so it becomes bad science.
"The words sound cutting edge and are psychologically tantalising, but it's potentially more sci-fi than solid science.
"The words are not clear-cut, even to scientists.
"They imply an effect, but they don't really hold up to scrutiny."
A spokesman for L'Oreal said: "Each ingredient is developed specifically for a functional benefit and often represents many years of research.
"Some are established dermatological ingredients and some are developed by L'Oreal scientists and are given names which reflect their molecular origin.
"Hyaluronic acid is, in fact, widely recognised by dermatologists as a high-powered hydrating ingredient which is naturally present in the skin, and which helps lock moisture in the skin."