01.Lack of evidence for anti-ageing claims
L’Oréal USA has settled charges for deceptive anti-ageing claims made by its Lancôme Génifique and L’Oréal Paris Youth Code skincare ranges in the US.
The US consumer protection body, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), complained that L’Oréal’s claims – that anti-ageing benefits were achieved by targeting users’ genes – were false and unsubstantiated.
The Génifique products, which were sold in the US for as much as $132 a bottle, claimed they were “clinically proven” to “boost genes’ activity and stimulate the production of youth proteins” that would cause “visibly younger skin in just 7 days”.
Meanwhile L’Oréal claimed the Youth Code products, which cost up to $25 in the US, were the “new era of skincare: gene science,” and that consumers could “crack the code to younger acting skin.”
“It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But L’Oréal couldn’t support these claims.”
The science used by L’Oréal for its Youth Code products was based on a study that “did not involve a L’Oréal Paris Youth Code product, or the ingredients in any such product,” said the FTC in its complaint.
Meanwhile, L’Oréal backed up the claims on its Génifique products with a clinical study of 34 women who applied the product for eight weeks. The evidence supplied by L’Oréal said Génifique produces “perfectly luminous” skin in 85% of women, “astonishingly even” skin in 82% of women, and “cushiony soft” skin in 91% of women, in seven days.
However, the data collation was dubious. In addition to the small sample size, participants were asked questions which were heavily skewed in favour of positive responses. While 85.3% of women gave a positive response to the question asking if their skin appeared more radiant/luminous after seven days, only 35.5% of subjects actually indicated that they “agree[d] completely”. It was a similar story with the other claims - only 29.4% of women agreed completely that their skin tone appeared more even, and only 58.8% agreed completely that their skin felt softer.
The administrative settlement reached with the FTC prohibits L’Oréal from claiming that any Lancôme or L’Oréal Paris branded facial skincare products can target or boost gene activity to make skin look or act younger, or, respond five times faster to aggressors like stress, fatigue and ageing. That is, unless L’Oréal can provide competent and reliable scientific evidence for the claims - which, currently, it can't.