daily fail for the day/week/month

Or at least until their next one. Might be mere minutes.

The bee’s knees! The beauty world’s buzzing about a new anti-ageing honey that works wonders for your skin (Alice Smellie, Daily Mail. Last updated at 8:40 AM on 26th September 2011).

What this stuff is (pulled out and rearranged, though not reorganized, from the original article):

  • Chilean Rainforest Honey, smeared all over face as a mask
  • When eaten, it contains digestive enzymes, vitamins and anti-oxidants which nourish the skin from inside and out.
  • But this type of honey is particularly special […] from the nectar of the Quillay, Tineo and Ulmo trees, native to the Valdivian rainforest of southern Chile.
  • Unlike normal honey, which is pasteurised, it is packed with vitamins and nutrients and naturally contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, which aids the skin in the healing process, fighting three types of bacteria that commonly infect wounds including the notorious MRSA ‘superbug’.
    [this comes right after the previous sentence: looks like there’s two sorts of honey: special Chilean honey and all other honey; this confusion is continued throughout the article]
  • SWEET DREAMS Humans began hunting for honey 10,000 years ago; when it was used to embalm the dead
    [hilarious non sequitur!!!]
  • When applied to the face or body, it can break down scar tissue and make skin more elastic — smoothing out fine lines and reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Local Chilean tribes have used it to treat wounds and common skin ailments for centuries.
  • comes in different strengths — from 10+ to 40+. This number refers to the antibacterial activity, with 40+ being the strongest.
  • [hyptheses, from assorted experts: it becomes clear that they’re talking about honey in general, not this one in particular]
    Expert 1: the popularity of the product is also due to the fact that it gets results, naturally. ‘There is a reaction against all the chemicals you find in so many face creams. Honey has no preservatives and no controversial ingredients such as parabens.’ [pfff, there speaks a real scientist, if ever I heard one…]
    Expert 2: ‘We used honey in France years ago to help with wound-healing and scars. It’s finally coming into its own in the beauty world.’
    Expert 3:  sugar in the honey will draw water out of the skin, producing a tightening effect. ‘It’s rich in antioxidants, which are excellent for skin condition, and the richness of the honey will still provide moisture to the skin surface.’
    [that “richness” stuff sounds super-convincing]
  • U.S. beauty expert Paula Begoun is dismissive and puts it down to just another beauty gimmick.
    ‘Of course the ingredient has to be from somewhere exotic — honey from Suffolk just wouldn’t have the same mystery and allure,’ she says.
    [Did she? Did she actually say “Suffolk”???]

Here’s why YOU should use this: spot the epic reasoning fails, rhetoric, marketeering, etc.:

  • newly launched
  • has devotees
  • new
  • wonder honey
  • can reverse the ageing process by up to ten years, smoothing fine lines and tightening the skin.
  • When it was launched at a natural products exhibition in Los Angeles back in April, thousands of jars were sold within days.
  • the buzz has spread
  • costing from £8.95 a jar
  • [text then interrupted with cool if clunky not-very-subliminal tactic: inserted references to other DM articles in mid-flow…]

Our reporter is no fool, positively hard-boiled: rational, sceptical, cynical. So of course she can be trusted:

  • Of course, honey is not a new beauty discovery.
  • Armed with these facts, I decide to try it out. I smear my skin with the sticky substance.
  • There’s no point trying to work, so I sit with my head tilted backwards as I feel a tightening sensation across my entire face.
  • I am surprised by the results. My skin looks taut and smooth and my face much fresher. There’s undoubtedly instant improvement. So, is this just a placebo effect and is this just another superfood fad? Incredibly, the experts are less cynical than I’d expect.
  • [there’s also an amazingly barfingly awful concluding paragraph; go read it in the original article if you must, it’s not going in here–funnily enough, one of the few bits of original content in this copy-paste-looking ad-copy piece]

I’m not alone in how readily I buy into this stuff.

I mean, UMF ring a bell peeps? Antibacterial properties of honey and their application (mainly in serious necessary stuff like wound-care) researched very properly and seriously for at least the last couple of decades or so?

Selected comments on the original article:

Just out of curiosity the following food items have ratings too. Apple 4+, Spinach 20+,Broccoli 10+, Bl@ckcurrants32+, Blueberries19+
– Lisa, London, 26/9/2011 15:30

Any raw honey would work too. Plus, there’s no need to slather it on like that. Simply apply a thin layer, it won’t be dripping off of you if you do, AND it will be plenty to do whatever it’s meant to do. I can see the benefits of using honey like this. […read original for her nifty classic recipes…]
– Carolina, USA (Expat), 25/9/2011 18:39

As Carolina said, ANY raw (that is, unpasteurized) honey has those same properties. One of your own, a British bee expert named Gloria Havenhand, has written a fabulous book about the healing properties of honey. Go to your local farmers’ market to find a local beekeeper’s booth, and chances are he/she will have raw honey. I also am distressed to see the picture of honey being wasted like that. I realize it’s only a photo, but a bee works her entire short life to produce just a tiny amount of honey; it should not be wasted.
– Lorena B, California, USA, 25/9/2011 19:51

There’s something fishy about this article and another one posted on the Daily Mail in Sept. The articles implies that it’s the newest “buzz” in the U.S. and now the “buzz” has hit the UK. I’m in the beauty industry, and I haven’t seen this buzz in the U.S. In addition, when you search “chilean rainforest honey” the search results relate to the two Daily Mail articles and to the British companies who market the product. It seems to me these articles are trying to start a buzz than report a buzz. And to say that Chilean Rainforest honey is different because “Unlike normal honey, which is pasteurised it is packed with vitamins and nutrients and naturally contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, which aids the skin…,” is not quite accurate. There’s no such thing as “normal honey.” Honey is either sold pasteurized or raw; CRH is raw. And since hydrogen peroxide is an oxidant (free radicals)…you may not want it on your face; you want antioxidants on your face.
– Ann, U.S., 26/9/2011 14:06

But I think there’s a simpler explanation: some kind of reparation / counterbalance for our poor reporter’s last assignment; in her shoes, I’d have demanded at least a week’s intense luxuriating therapy treatment somewhere exotic and beautiful. Ooh, like, say, actually sending me to a spa in Chile. Being given a jar of honey is a compromise; having to smear it all over yourself and then do all the cleaning up afterwards strikes me as a bum deal. Alice, dear, unless you’re an active-and-out masochist: your employers are shits. Hope at least the pay makes it worth it? Could you not be doing something more worthwhile and rewarding with your time, energies, and talents? You do get the odd decent sentence out; but I sense you’re being ground down, verbal beauties beaten out of of you. Yes, the development of scepticism, cynicism, and a good touch of the sardonic are some compensations; but then there’s that last sentence…

Alice: dear Alice:
(a) get a blog before your brain attains a similar state to, errm, that of a hunter from 10,000 years ago:
(b) time for some honey on toast.


  1. alice smellie

    As I wrote the feature I was most interested to read your deconstruction. I assume that you have never actually worked for a national publication and therefore have no real understanding of the process?

    • gingerama

      Delighted it was of some–any–interest to you. No, I’m not a journalist. Sorry. I’m a mere member of the general public. This being the democratic open web and all that, I simply write here what I feel like writing. This is, as stated in “The Blog” in the horizontal menu above, a purely and completely independent, free, amateur, non-commercial, leisure-time blog.

      I should add that, while I have never worked for a national publication of your sort, I have had the joy of reading them for over three decades; my academic training is in fields involving reading, research, writing, and criticism; and my professional work is in that area (plus longer-term work in translation and editing, including working with publishers, but of a different variety from your own one).

      But this being a leisure-time hobby blog and nothing to do with my work, I tend neither to emphasize nor usually even to refer to the day-job at all.

      If you’d like to go through my remarks in detail, you would of course be most welcome to do so–free fair open comment–I’m quite open to discussion, point by point, on the facts of the matter and on the arguments. This piece, like others here, looks at the actual content at hand; its presentation and representations; and eventually its implications, imputations, repercussions, consequences. A reading, an analysis, an interpretation, and comment.

      I’m not a journalist: I’d be fascinated to hear more about the work that went into that article, and to see how that resembles and differs from the work that goes into this blog and my actual day-job.

      What would interest me even more, of course, would be to know how the journalistic process relates to my comments. Should I be reading newspaper articles differently from aother kinds of writing? Should I be applying different standards of truth, proof, evidence, soundness of argument, and writing style? If so, what? And why?

      (Do bear in mind, though, that this blog is subtitled “Praise of Folly” and might occasionally have some of my bumbling bungling heavy-handed attempts at satire. If this is one such epic fail, I am of course ready to receive custard pie in face with open arms, and I’ll keep my specs on for extra comic effect. Pies in faces go both ways, they’re very equal opportunity: if there’s an oportuntiy for a pie, it should not be missed. That would be a crime against humanity.)

      But otherwise: lovely to hear from you, and keep up the good work and the good fight!

    • gingerama

      Also, on a more serious note: your last two pieces were much appreciated and à propos (the desk derrière and sleep). Topics that have been much discussed in my workplace! That’s the sort of thing where you, and the Daily Mail, are doing a fantastic job of bringing basic science to the people, and of improving general health and well-being.

      For the record: my own work does involve a fair amount of sitting around, which is on a ball chair; I also do as much writing work, including on computers, at a standing desk; but the rest of my work day has plenty of standing and walking. And sometimes I mess up on sleep, but usually I’m an 8- to 9-hours-a-night gal: boy does it feel like a bad hangover crossed with jet=lag if I don’t! As for the state of my posterior… that’s probably beyond the bounds (sorry) of this blog.

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