Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

CAP has seen a number of anti-ageing claims made in advertisements for laser and Intense-Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments for skin.

Several manufacturers have received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to refer to laser resurfacing, which it describes as a very controlled burning procedure during which a laser vaporizes shallow layers of facial skin, removing not only superficial wrinkles and lines caused by sun damage and smoking but also acne scars. The laser procedure creates a fresh surface over which new skin can grow. CAP does not accept that lasers can rejuvenate or reproduce the effects of surgical face-lifting, but does accept that skin can be resurfaced. Marketers of laser treatments may claim that lasers “temporarily rejuvenate the skin’s appearance”.

Although neither the ASA nor CAP has seen evidence for it, the claim that lasers can reduce the superficial appearance of wrinkles is generally accepted. However, claims that the treatment can remove wrinkles, the signs of ageing, or that the treatment is safe or painless, are not generally acceptable (The London Aculight Clinic, 3 August 2005). The ASA previously investigated a complaint about the efficacy of lasers and concluded that, although the evidence submitted by the advertiser showed carbon dioxide laser resurfacing could improve the appearance of static facial lines, the studies showed those lines could return within a year, especially if the lines were caused by the movement of underlying muscles (West of England Laser Centre, 4 August 2004). CAP advises that marketers avoid implying that the lasers can remove fine facial lines and wrinkles permanently.

Moreover, in one ad, a marketer claimed that a laser skin device called Phillips ReAura could stimulate the “skin's natural cell renewal process...with visible results you can really see...over the 8-week course of treatment...stimulates the production of collagen to reduce fine lines around the eyes and mouth and on the cheeks. A more even skin tone is achieved and age spots and sunspot are visibly diminished”. However, the complaint was upheld because the evidence held was not sufficiently robust (John Lewis Partnership plc, 18 December 2013)

Intense-Pulsed Light devices are often used to deliver a treatment that is sometimes called Photo-rejuvenation. Because unqualified claims such as “rejuvenation” are not generally accepted, marketers could be asked to disclaim or delete the name if they use “Photo-rejuvenation” to describe their procedure.

CAP believes that some lasers can offer a limited improvement to, or lighten the skin under the eyes. We understand that effect is unpredictable and at worse, could make the condition worse. The effect depends on the cause of the discoloration and the type of laser used. Because they have many factors to consider, marketers should make only qualified or conditional claims, for example “lasers could lighten dark circles under the eyes caused by sun-damage”. If the cause of the dark circles is genetic or dermatitis-related, we understand that lasers are unlikely to have a discernible effect. Ads should make clear that the effect will be temporary (for example “could temporarily lighten”) and marketers should be able to show that they the lasers they use are proven to be effective for the specific condition described.

Marketers should ensure that they do not promote the use of lasers by unqualified therapists.

CAP understands that the CQC only regulate cosmetic treatments that involve surgical procedures and not non-surgical lasers and intense light treatments (such as hair removal). Marketers who are unsure about the regulation of a device, should contact their local Trading Standards Office or The Department of Health for more information.

See also Lasers: general, Beauty and Cosmetics: General and Beauty and Cosmetics: Electrical devices for lines and wrinkles

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