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.

Head lice are fairly common in children and can be particularly stubborn to treat. From time to time, the ASA receives complaints about ads for head lice products which make general efficacy claims for treatment or claims about the number of treatments necessary to remove the lice.

Always hold robust evidence for efficacy claims

Any objective claims to treat head lice should be supported by robust evidence, mostly likely in the form of clinical trials (12.1)

In 2011 the ASA investigated a complaint about a badge that featured a photograph of a Unicorn and was designed to be pinned on to a child’s clothing. The ad made claims including “It is designed to be completely safe to the wearer. Its effect on head lice is to repel them”. The advertisers were unable to provide adequately robust evidence to support their claims and the ASA subsequently concluded that they were misleading (The Maperton Trust, 27 April 2011).

If you hold evidence, don’t exaggerate the findings.

Claims to remove or reduce head lice should be carefully matched to the evidence held and not exaggerate the findings (12.1).

The ASA examined claims in a magazine ad which included a statement that the product would “….get rid of head lice with just one treatment... ". The ASA understood the evidence showed that the product had a good effectiveness rate but that it did not equal total eradication for first time use across all participants.  It subsequently ruled that the ad exaggerated the efficacy of the product and was therefore misleading. (Pohl Boskamp, 4 August 2010).

The ASA also investigated a complaint about claims that a head lice shampoo treatment was “100% effective” and “guaranteed to remove 100% of head lice”. An in-vivo trial was submitted along with a clinical trial which showed 95% effectiveness after two treatments. The ASA considered this evidence was not sufficiently robust to substantiate the 100% success rate stated in the ad and concluded that the ad was misleading (Omega Pharma Ltd, 9 April, 2014).

see also ‘Medicines: General’.

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