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.
Lasers can be used for a multitude of treatments, but marketers must in the first instance ensure their device is safe. Marketers are responsible for the classification of their devices, whether for medical or beauty purposes, and ensure that it holds the appropriate CE Marking. Marketers who are unsure about the regulation or classification of a laser device should contact the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for medical/dental/some aesthetic lasers and the Care Quality Commission for non-surgical lasers in the first instance. Marketers should also ensure that they do not promote the use of lasers by unqualified technicians. See also CAP’s guidance on Medical Devices.
Whatever service they are offering, marketers must also hold evidence for the efficacy of the device (which will often include clinical trials). For more information about what kind of evidence will be required by the ASA, marketers should see CAP guidance on Substantiation for Health, Beauty and Slimming Claims.
Many marketers claim that lasers can improve the appearance of skin. In fact, medical lasers have been used for cosmetic purposes such as the removal of birthmarks, acne scarring, blemishes, thread veins and wrinkles. In 2018, the ASA investigated whether lasers could treat acne, rosacea and other skin conditions. Though the advertiser provided a number of clinical trials, the trials were either uncontrolled, had limited sample sizes, differing laser devices or the methodology was unclear. Furthermore, the company featured Before & After photographs which, in the absence of evidence, were considered not representative of what their customers could achieve (The Laser Treatment Clinic, 22 August 2018). See also Lasers: Acne, Stretch Marks and Beauty: Procedures using Lasers
Marketers offering laser teeth whitening should not exaggerate the results that can be achieved through their service through digital manipulation of imagery (or otherwise) and must hold evidence that lasers can genuinely whiten the teeth. See Teeth Whitening for more information.
Any advertiser wishing to market lasers as a way to treat pain, swelling or any other physical injury must ensure that they hold robust clinical evidence. In 2019, the ASA upheld a complaint about Quantum Laser Light Therapy, as the advertiser could not substantiate the claims that the lasers could “stimulate the body’s own healing” (GAC Group Ltd, 18 September 2019). See our guidance on Light Therapy for more information on this specific treatment.
Marketers must not exaggerate the effects that can be achieved through laser treatment through hair loss, including through implied claims through imagery. In 2012, the ASA upheld a complaint about a laser hair loss treatment because although there appeared to be some improvement in the clinical trials submitted as evidence, ultimately it was insufficient to support the results claimed within the time stated in the ad (Health Innovations Ltd, 11 January 2012). See also Hair Loss.
Marketers must hold robust scientific evidence to support claims made for weight loss through the use of lasers. The ASA upheld a complaint about i-Lipo, a non-invasive procedure using lasers because it had not seen suitable evidence which showed that the treatment could reduce fat and improve the appearance of cellulite, both of which were considered to be breakthrough claims (The Contour Clinic, 21 August 2013). See also, Weight control: Cellulite.
In 2003, the ASA investigated a complaint about an ad that claimed laser surgery could be used to permanently unblock nasal passages and cure persistent snoring. The ASA noted that nasal obstruction had various causes and the advertiser’s procedure could treat, but not cure, nasal blockages that had arisen from a swelling of the nasal lining. The ASA understood that, although it could help in some cases, the advertiser’s procedure was not a cure-all for snoring. (The Private Clinic Ltd t/a The Sleep Disorder Clinic, 19 November 2003).
It should be acceptable for marketers of relevant laser treatments to claim their procedure could help unblock noses and, in some clinical situations, help with persistent snoring problems. Marketers should qualify their claims to explain the causes of nasal obstruction for which their procedure is suitable. They should not go as far as implying laser treatment can cure either a blocked nose or all snoring.
Markers of LASIK should not imply that the procedure is permanent, suitable for all patients or all types of eye problems, or always successful. See Laser Eye Surgery for more detailed guidance.
Marketers should take care not to exaggerate the extent to which their laser product can remove tattoos, should not promise scar-free skin if this is unlikely to be achieved and should not state that the tattoo can be removed in one session if this is not the case. CAP understands that some lasers are more effective than others in removing colour from multi-coloured tattoos (especially green, orange or yellow hues). Marketers should be careful not to claim that coloured tattoos will be effectively and completely eliminated in all circumstances: the results will vary and factors include the type of laser used, the size of the pigment particles and the skill and technique of the tattooist. If marketers wish to claim that the lasers can and will remove a tattoo entirely, they should ensure that they hold the robust evidence to support this claim.