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.
In the past, marketers claiming or implying that lasers can cure acne have been found to breach the Code.
In 2005, the ASA investigated a complaint about an ad that stated “NLite is the breakthrough in the treatment of acne that the world has been waiting for … The NLite-V pulsed dye laser is the world’s leading laser for treating acne …”. The advertiser cited a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that had been published in the Lancet. The study investigated the effects of the NLite laser treatment on subjects with mild to moderate facial inflammatory acne vulgaris only. The ASA concluded that, although the results of the Lancet study were promising, more work was needed to confirm the clinical benefit for all sufferers. Furthermore, the ASA ruled that the advertiser had not proved that NLite was more effective than other types of treatments or represented a “breakthrough”.
Subject to the quality of their evidence, marketers may claim that pulsed-dye laser skin treatments could help improve certain types of acne (provided they hold evidence to this effect) but should not imply that laser treatment can provide permanent results or cure all types of acne. Comparative or “breakthrough” type claims should be avoided, unless rigorous evidence is held to support them (Rule 12.1). See also our guidance on Substantiation for Health Beauty and Slimming Claims.
Similarly, marketers should not exaggerate the effects likely to be achieved through laser treatments through the use of wording or images. In 2018, the ASA investigated whether The Laser Treatment Clinic misleadingly used Before and After images to sell their laser treatment, and found not only were the images unrepresentative, but they received no evidence to suggest they were genuine. During the same investigation, the ASA concluded that the clinical trials used to support all efficacy claims (that their service offered the "most advanced acne treatments" and could also treat rosacea and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) were insufficient (The Laser Treatment Clinic Ltd, 22 August 2018).
Marketers should ensure that they do not promote the use of lasers by unqualified technicians. CAP understands that the CQC only regulate cosmetic treatments that involve surgical procedures and not non-surgical lasers and intense light treatments (which is the role of the MHRA). Marketers who are unsure about the regulation or classification of a device should contact the MHRA, the CQC, their local Trading Standards office or the Department of Health and Social Care for more information.
For acne treatments aside from lasers, marketers may find Health: Acne and Spots of use.