Beauty Product Claims Under the Microscope

Over the last several days, both the Lancôme and Origins brands have received appeals to modify certain advertising claims on a number of skin-care products.

Several consumer watchdog agencies are putting some of the industry’s most dramatic beauty claims under the microscope.

Over the last several days, both the Lancôme and Origins brands have received appeals to modify certain advertising claims on a number of their skin-care products.

In a letter to L’Oréal USA dated Sept. 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requested that the company stop marketing an assortment of Lancôme skin-care products with druglike claims. Meanwhile, on Tuesday the National Advertising Division, an investigative arm administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said that it has recommended that Origins, a brand owned by the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., discontinue claims that imply that certain of its Plantscription products mimic prescription antiaging treatments.

The FDA’s letter to L’Oréal followed a review of Lancôme’s Web site conducted in August. The agency said it found eight products that appeared to be promoted with claims that indicated the formulas were able to “affect the structure or any function of the human body, rendering them drugs” under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. For example, the product description for Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate includes the phrase “boosts the activity of genes and stimulates the production of youth proteins,” stated the FDA. Similarly, Genifique Repair Youth Activating Night Cream is said to “boost the activity of genes.”

The FDA also warned about druglike claims used to describe certain products from Lancôme’s Renergie and Absolue line. The FDA letter states, “We request that you take prompt action to correct all violations associated with your products, including the violations identified in this letter. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action without further notice.” The agency asked that L’Oréal respond in writing within 15 working days with the specific actions it has taken to correct the violations.

On Tuesday afternoon L’Oréal told WWD, “We are aware of FDA’s letter to Lancôme and will respond to their regulatory concerns in a timely manner. Lancôme is committed to complying fully with all laws and regulatory standards.”

Origins, for its part, said it will appeal the National Advertising Division’s findings to the National Advertising Review Board, according to NAD. The NAD took issue with a number of print advertising claims, including “Nature’s Plantscription rivals an antiwrinkle prescription,” and “88% of the visible wrinkle-reducing power of a prescription — 0% irritation.” It recommended that the claims be modified or discontinued.