One plaintiff challenged whether London-based Minerva Research Labs could legitimately make claims its Gold Collagen range could give users "younger-looking skin", “healthier hair” and “stronger nails”.
The ASA upheld all three points in its ruling published this week.
Beauty claims do not necessarily fall within the scope of the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR), which requires the demonstration of a beneficial physiological not cosmetic effect.
Instead these so-called beauty-from-within or nutricosmetic products normally come under cosmetic law and are evaluated on a case-by-case basis by member states and their advertising authorities.
However companies must still register products with the relevant national agencies and have the science there to back up any claims to avoid being accused of misleading advertising.
In this case the ASA considered that the younger-looking skin promise on Minerva Research Labs’ product was one such cosmetic claim. However it questioned the strength of evidence backing it.
After considering a consumer perception trial and three papers submitted by the company, the ASA said the claim had not been substantiated, both with regard to objective changes in skin quality and subjective perceptions of skin age.
However, the ASA said the ‘healthier hair’ claim did fall within the scope of the NHCR in its reference to overall “good health or health-related well-being”.
The company had backed this with relevant authorised health claims for co-ingredients vitamin C, zinc and biotin.
Yet the ASA said these footnoted ingredients and claims were not the focus, meaning they would likely be “overlooked by consumers”.
“Moreover, the parts of the footnote outlining the specific authorised health claims were preceded by information relating to clinical trials. We considered that this obscured the intention of the footnote (to clarify the nature of the headline claim) and blurred the basis on which the claim ‘Healthier hair’ had been made,” the ASA wrote.
It added: “[W]e considered that ‘healthier hair’ implied to consumers that using the product would improve the health of their hair. We noted that the specific authorised health claims related to the maintenance of normal hair, and considered that the implications of ‘healthier hair’ exaggerated those claims.
“As such, the specific health claims used were not sufficiently relevant to appropriately accompany the headline general health claim.”
The ASA considered the ‘stronger nails’ claim also related to a “defined effect on a particular part of the body, as it implied an improvement in the strength of nails and, therefore, their physical structure, and would consequently be understood as a specific health claim”.
Again it noted the inclusion of zinc and biotin and the relevant authorised health claims for them, but said these ingredients were not the ones in the spotlight.
It also added that the company had gone beyond the wording of these authorised claims.
“We also considered that ‘stronger nails’ implied to consumers that using the product would make their nails stronger than they had been before, and that the implications of ‘stronger nails’ therefore exaggerated the authorised claims relating to ‘normal nails'.”
Standing by their science
Responding to the ruling, the company told us in a statement: ''We at Minerva Research Labs pride ourselves on the scientific research behind our range of products and will continue to conduct such research. We stand behind our existing studies conducted on Gold Collagen products.”
Nonetheless it added: “We have accepted the ruling of the ASA and altered our tube advertising in light of the decision.''