Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A website, www.dermacoll.com, for Dermacoll, a collagen skincare supplement brand, seen on 28 March 2018, promoted a collagen drink. The page featured a slide of different images and text about the product. Text on the first slide stated “Promote younger looking skin. Reduce wrinkles with this anti-ageing drink”. The second slide featured the following three claims presented separately: “Plump and fill out fine lines”; “strengthen your skin from the outside in”; and “Drench and hydrate your skin”. Next to the text was an image of skin cells, which showed the claimed effects of the product. Text on the final slide stated “Through supplementing our diet with extra collagen, we can help to combat skin ageing”. Further text stated “Marked improvement after supplementation with Dermacoll collagen. After using Dermacoll Verisol collagen for 8 weeks there was a 60% improvement in pro collagen levels” next to another image of skin cells.
The complainant, a dermatology consultant, challenged whether the following claims breached the Code:
1. “Through supplementing our diet with extra collagen, we can help to combat skin ageing”;
2. “Plump and fill out fine lines”, “strengthen your skin from the outside in” and “Drench and hydrate your skin”; and
3. “Reduce wrinkles with this anti-ageing drink”.
HealthArena Ltd t/a Dermacoll said that Verisol hydrolysed collagen peptides which reduced the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They provided various papers that related to the use of hydrolysed collagen peptides to treat anti-ageing, wrinkles and other skin-health related issues. They also confirmed that they were willing to remove the claims from their website.
1., 2. & 3. Upheld
According to Regulation (EC) 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods (the Regulation), which was reflected in the CAP Code, only health claims listed as authorised on the EU Register of nutrition and health claims (the EU Register) could be made in ads promoting foods. Health claims were defined as those that stated, suggested or implied a relationship between a food, or ingredient, and health.
The ASA understood that the function of skin was to provide a permeable barrier against the external environment. We considered that claims which stated or implied a beneficial physiological effect on or change to the structure of the skin to aid in its function of providing a barrier were health claims for the purposes of the Regulation. In contrast, claims which related to temporary improvements in appearance or maintenance of normal appearance of the skin did not refer to a beneficial physiological effect on a specific function of skin and therefore were cosmetic claims, rather than health claims. The Regulation therefore did not apply to cosmetic claims. We considered that assessing whether claims were health claims or cosmetic claims required an assessment of the specific claims made and the overall context of the ad.
We first assessed the status of each claim:
1. “Through supplementing our diet with extra collagen, we can help to combat skin ageing” was presented alongside a ‘before’ and ‘after’ image of different layers of skin which showed an indentation in the ‘before’ skin and less of an indentation in the ‘after’ skin. The claim was a generalised claim that the product could reduce the effects of ageing on the skin, and the images illustrated the product’s purported ‘plumping’ effect. We considered it was not clear whether the claimed effect of combating “skin ageing” referred to a cosmetic effect only or to a general health benefit to the skin. We considered that a significant number of consumers might interpret the claim as cosmetic while others would interpret the claim to be a general health claim. The CAP Code stated that general health claims could be made in relation to food only if they were accompanied by a specific authorised health claim. However, the claim was not accompanied by a specific authorised health claim and therefore, in those circumstances in which it was understood as a general health claim, the claim breached the Code. In the circumstances the claim was understood as cosmetic claim, we would expect to see evidence that substantiated that the product had an effect on reducing the cosmetic effects associated with skin ageing.
2. The claims “Plump and fill out fine lines”, “strengthen your skin from the outside in” and “Drench and hydrate your skin” were presented separately alongside an image of different layers of skin. We considered that the claim “Drench and hydrate your skin” was likely to be understood by consumers as a reference to the benefits of the product in providing hydration to the skin. We considered that the claim implied that the product could hydrate skin and thereby protect it against dehydration, which was reinforced by the image of the skin layers and caption “strengthen and regenerate the underlayers of the skin”. In that context, we considered that the claim implied that the product had a specific physiological action which would have a beneficial health effect on the function of the skin. However, we had not seen evidence that the specific health claim, “Drench and hydrate your skin” was authorised on the EU Register for the product or any of its ingredients.
We noted the claim “strengthen your skin from the outside in” included the word “strengthen” which suggested that the product was able to provide a heightened level of protection to the skin against damage. In that context, we considered that consumers were likely to understand the claim to be a health claim rather than a claim about the cosmetic effects of the product, because of the implication that the product had a beneficial effect on the skin’s ability to act as a barrier. However, we had not seen evidence that such a claim was authorised on the EU Register.
The claim, “Plump and fill out fine lines” did not reference a specific effect on the function of the skin. In that context, we considered that consumers were likely to understand this to be a cosmetic claim about the product’s beneficial effect on the appearance of skin, specifically in smoothing the skin and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. We therefore expected to see evidence which demonstrated the product’s efficacy.
3. Finally, in relation to the claim “Reduce wrinkles with this anti-ageing drink”, we noted that the claim appeared alongside an image of the product in conjunction with another anti-ageing claim. In that context, we also considered that the claim was likely to be understood by consumers as a claim about the cosmetic effects of the product on the appearance of skin rather than its function or physiological effects.
Having come to a view on the status of each of the claims we then assessed the evidence in support of those which we considered to be cosmetic claims; specifically: “Through supplementing our diet with extra collagen, we can help to combat skin ageing”; “Plump and fill out fine lines”; and “Reduce wrinkles with this anti-ageing drink”. Dermacoll provided a double blinded trial which investigated the efficacy of specific bioactive collagen peptides (BCP), on the cellulite treatment of 105 normal and overweight women. However, we were concerned that the study’s aim did not sufficiently relate to the anti-ageing and reduction of wrinkles claims in the ad and considered that it was insufficient to support the claim.
The second study assessed the efficacy of a specific BCP with regard to the volume of eye wrinkles after eight weeks of daily intake on 114 women aged between 45 and 65 years. We acknowledged that the study was placebo controlled, double blinded and randomised. However, no information was provided about how the randomisation was carried out. We were also concerned that the study specifically related to eye wrinkles on the left eye whereas the ad included general references to anti-ageing and did not specifically reference wrinkles around the eye.
Further clinical trials included an evaluation of collagen tripeptide on UVB skin wrinkle formation on five mice. In the absence of similar studies on humans, we considered that results of the trial were not adequate to support the ad claims. Another prospective study investigated the effect of daily collagen peptide supplement on skin properties on 32 participants. Notwithstanding the small sample size, we noted that participants and examiners were not blinded during the trial, which we considered limited the findings of the study.
Dermacoll also submitted a document titled “Verisol white paper 2014”. The document discussed a number of preclinical studies which showed how collagen peptides were absorbed as well as a review of clinical studies which assessed the efficacy of Verisol on wrinkles. While some of the study results was said to show a reduction in wrinkle volume following intake of Verisol, we considered that without the full studies, we were unable to properly assess the methodology and results.
The final clinical studies assessed the effect of collagen peptides on skin damage induced by UVB and osteoarthritis. However, we considered that the study aims did not sufficiently relate to the anti-ageing and hydration claims in the ad.
Dermacoll also provided a literature review which examined available data on the use of hydrolysed collagen as a nutraceutical in skin ageing. While the paper concluded that several trials had proved the efficacy and benefits of collagen peptides on skin properties, such as hydration, elasticity and reduction of wrinkles, we considered the supplied literature, which summarised other studies, did not provide sufficient detail regarding the subjects and methodology. Also, the abstracts supplied did not provide the requisite level of detail needed for us to assess the robustness of the studies referred to.
Lastly, Dermacoll submitted a factsheet about BCP, one of the ingredients in the product, and a presentation on BCP and a copy of a presentation which discussed the skin ageing process and how Verisol resulted in a reduction in wrinkle depth of users. However, we noted that information was anecdotal and in light of the limitations noted above, considered that the documents were insufficient to substantiate the anti-ageing and wrinkle reduction claims in the ad.
We acknowledged that Dermacoll had removed all the claims from the ad. However, we concluded that because we had not seen sufficient evidence to support the cosmetic claims and because the ad included unauthorised specific health claims and general health claims unaccompanied by authorised specific health claims, it was in breach of the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health related products and beauty products),
Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims must be supported by documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim, as specified in the EU Register. Claims must be presented clearly and without exaggeration.
Only nutrition claims listed in the updated Annex of the EU Regulation (as reproduced in the EU Register) may be used in marketing communications.
Only health claims listed as authorised in the EU Register, or claims that would have the same meaning to the consumer may be used in marketing communications.
http://www.ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/claims/community_register/authorised_health_claims_en.htm. and 15.7 15.7 Nutrition and health claims for food supplements must be permitted or authorised as provided for at rule 15.1 15.1 Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims must be supported by documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim, as specified in the EU Register. Claims must be presented clearly and without exaggeration. 1 above. Marketing communications that contain nutrition or health claims must be supported by documentary evidence to show they meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant claim as specified in the EU Register. (Foods, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told HealthArena Ltd t/a Dermacoll to ensure that future ads did not make efficacy claims about the cosmetic effects of Dermacoll in relation to anti-ageing and reducing wrinkles unless they held adequate documentary evidence to substantiate them. We also told them to ensure that claims about the general benefits of their product for overall good skin health were accompanied by an authorised specific health claim, and that any specific health claims in the ads were authorised on the EU Register and appropriately worded.