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.
Marketers of products such as shampoos, conditioners and serums should generally restrict their claims to those of a cosmetic nature. Claims that those products can “protect” against damage are likely to be acceptable if evidence is held. CAP has not yet seen evidence which demonstrates that a shampoo or a conditioner can “repair” damage and so robust scientific evidence needs to be held to support claims of this nature. Claims that shampoos can stimulate the blood supply or unblock follicles should be supported with evidence, which should show that the product and not the act of shampooing has those effects (Rules 12.1 and 12.23).
Products that contain synthetic materials, such as preservatives, should not be described as “100% natural” (Daniel Galvin Junior Hair Clinic, 19 February 2003). The ASA also upheld a complaint about an ad which stated, “no petrochemicals” because the advertiser was unable to demonstrate that the ingredients were not classed as, or did not derive from petrochemicals (Candy Harbour Ltd, 12 September 2012). Marketers looking to use the term “natural” are advised that the ingredients should have gone through minimal processing in order to justify the term.
Comparative claims about product benefits should be supported by comparative evidence. See our Comparisons: General guidance.
The ASA upheld a complaint about a claim which stated “best hair care system in the world” because even though the testing protocol replicated everyday consumer use, the products were not tested against products of all other competitors, and testing was only carried out on Caucasian hair (Procter & Gamble (Health & Beauty Care) Ltd, 30 October 2002). That investigation raised the question of hair ‘strength’ and, advertisers should take care not to imply that hair is stronger merely because it is more resistant to breakage.
Marketers who want to make comparative claims about sales or brand popularity such as “Voted best in the UK” or “The UK’s No.1 Shampoo for coloured hair” should ensure that they can substantiate the claims (L’Oreal Golden Ltd, 23 March 2005, and Alberto-Culver Company (UK) Ltd, 3 October 2007) See Types of claims: No.1 and Types of Claims: Best.
Marketers need to hold evidence for all objective claims, whether this is for a claim such as “frizz reduction”, or simply for the temperature that hair straighteners can reach. Marketers who are unsure of the level of evidence their claims will require should see this guidance: The Level of Substantiation in Health, Beauty and Slimming Claims.
In 2018, the ASA investigated the claim “…can actually help to reduce hair loss” for Alpecin shampoo. Though the advertiser submitted clinical studies, the ASA found that these were not sufficient - there was no control group, some studies were in vitro, and the tests were only carried out on men, specifically those with androgenetic alopecia. Because the ad implied the shampoo could reduce all types of hair loss in all genders, the complaint was upheld. (Dr Kurt Wolff GmbH & Co KG, 28 March 2018).
Similar claims were investigated in 2022, with the ASA assessing evidence for claims "Helps stimulate growth", "Helps reduce thinning" and "Thicker hair goals". The advertiser provided a file which contained in vitro and ex vivo tests along with clinical assessments for their main ingredient, Redensyl. However, the ASA found that the some of the subjects used were limited in both number and gender, and some of the evidence consisted of subjective survey results, which the ASA did not consider adequate in order to support objective claims. Generally, the evidence was found to be insufficient (Brand Evangelists for Beauty Ltd, 11 May 2022).
The ASA sought advice from an expert on hair and dermatology in relation to claims on a website for a hairdryer which stated, “73% Reduction in frizz...86% Increase in Body...19% Increase in Shine...33% Increase in Comb-ability...” The study was not of sufficient quality to prove the claims (see Glorious Brands Ltd, 26 March 2014).
Marketers using the claim, “as seen on TV” should hold evidence which demonstrates that the product featured on a recent TV programme (Lifes2good UK Ltd, 9 October 2013).
CAP understands that claims that a product can prevent or cure baldness, hair loss or male pattern baldness are likely to be medicinal claims because hair growth - or the lack of it - is a physiological function. Therefore marketers wishing to make claims along those lines should check with the MHRA in the first instance because they might require a marketing authorisation. However, claims that a product could slow down or reduce hair loss or promote or strengthen existing hair growth, are unlikely to be considered medicinal claims. Irrespective, marketers should hold robust evidence to prove their claims. See Hair Loss.
A health claim is defined as “any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health...” Marketers of vitamin and mineral supplements wanting to make claims about hair health should hold evidence to show that their products meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant authorised health claim as found on the EU register (rule 15.1.1). For example, claims like “feed your hair from the inside” and “nourishment from within” are likely to be considered health claims for the purposes of Section 15 of the Code.
In 2019, the ASA investigated multiple claims for a hair care company, some of which were for hair “vitamin supplements”. The ad, which stated “... grow long, healthy hair with less breakage ... encourage hair growth ... Grow longer and stronger hair ... Improve overall hair health. Increase hair strength. Improve hair elasticity. Reduce hair breakage ...” was found to breach the Code as these claims were not authorised on the EU register (Hairburst Ltd, 14 August 2019).
CAP understands that there is no UK standard for organic cosmetics, but that some independent certification bodies have created standards which require a high proportion of organic ingredients. Marketers should ensure that their products meet an independently defined organic standard, before they make an “organic” claim (Simply Organic, 28 July 2010). See also Organic: General.