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Time to tone down those marketing claims says FDA

By Andrew MCDOUGALL , 22-Oct-2012

Following a string of challenges over marketing claims made by cosmetics companies, the US Food and Drug Administration is warning manufacturers to tone down their adverts or risk further punishment.

Avon and L’Oréal have been the most high profile cases recently; with both questioned over the claims made for their respective anti-aging products.

The FDA took umbrage with Avon over its Anew skin care line, which was making marketing claims which would render them as drugs under the Cosmetics Act.

Similarly, L’Oréal’s Lancome brand received a similar warning for 11 of its skin care products , stating that claims were made in such a way that they should be promoted as drugs under section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, because the products purport to affecting the structure or function of the human body, in this particular case, the skin.

Increased scrutiny

With the increased scrutiny over cosmetics claims in the US, dermatologist Dr Tina Alster has expressed her surprise at this not being looked at sooner, suggesting that companies got away with exaggerated claims in the past.

Speaking to American media company CBS News, the skin care expert said that it was good to see the claims finally clamped down on by the FDA, and that this could change the way these products are marketed in the future.

"Once they start encroaching on changing the structure or function of the skin, that's where they go over the line into being considered a drug," said Alster.

The latest collection of marketing mishaps highlights further that advertising decisions also have a considerable impact on the entire production and regulation placed on a cosmetic product.

Both Avon and Lancome have said they will work with the FDA to resolve the issue, and Alster says the companies will probably give in and tone down their ads because the alternative would mean losing millions and millions of dollars while the FDA decides if these anti-aging products are cosmetics or drugs.

Intended use

The key factor in all this comes down to the ‘intended use’ of the product in question, and this is determined by advertising claims and consumer perception. If the products claim to provide specific health benefits then they cease to be classed as cosmetic products but rather as a drug, as they are claiming a ‘cure’.

The problem arises as the classification of the product affects the regulatory process and approval procedure for the product.

Cosmetics do not require any FDA approval before going to market, whereas drugs are either approved by the FDA prior to hitting the market or must conform to preset rules for a particular drug category. 

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