Summary of Council decision:
Four issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A TikTok post from House of Beauty, seen in May 2023, featured a video of the inside of a tanning booth, with superimposed text. The heading “Benefits of Sunbeds” was followed by the text “- They give you a natural tan - They provide your body with vitamin D - They help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis - They enable you to have some time to yourself - They make you look and feel better in general!!”. Small text at the bottom stated “Who doesnt [sic] love a sunbed anyway”.
The ASA challenged whether the:
1. claims that sunbeds provided the body with vitamin D, helped eczema and helped people “feel better in general” were misleading;
2. ad discouraged essential treatment for a condition for which medical supervision should be sought, namely psoriasis; and
3. ad was irresponsible because it linked claims for health benefits with the use of sunbeds and suggested they were a good way to “have some time to yourself”.
4. The ASA also challenged whether the ad was appropriately targeted.
1., 2., 3. & 4. Person(s) unknown t/a houseofbeautykent did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
TikTok said the post had been deleted by the advertiser and therefore no longer appeared on the platform. The ad was covered by TikTok’s Community Guidelines relating to organic content, which prohibited "inaccurate, misleading, or false content that may cause significant harm to individuals or society, regardless of intent". TikTok also stated that at the time the content was posted, users were able to target their organic posts to age groups over 18 years by engaging the 'Audience Controls' toggle.
We were concerned by Person(s) unknown t/a houseofbeautykent’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We were also concerned by their failure to provide their full name and geographical business address, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7.1 (Compliance). We reminded them of their responsibilities to provide this information to the ASA or CAP without delay if requested and to respond promptly to our enquiries, and told them to do so in future.
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the ad to mean that there were health benefits to be gained from using sunbeds, which included increasing vitamin D, helping with skin conditions such as eczema, and enhancing mood.
For health-related claims, we expected houseofbeautykent to hold a high level of evidence, consisting of studies and trials which showed these benefits were obtained by humans from sunbeds. However, houseofbeautykent did not provide us with such evidence.
We also took into account that NHS advice on the use of sunbeds was cautious. The advice warned that the ultraviolet (UV) rays given out by sunbeds increased the risk of developing skin cancer and that many sunbeds gave out greater doses of UV rays than midday tropical sun. Given the absence of convincing evidence from houseofbeautykent, and the caution urged by the advice from the NHS, we considered the claims that sunbeds provided health benefits were not substantiated. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The CAP Code stated that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.
The ad referred to psoriasis, which was a condition for which medical supervision should be sought, and therefore advice, diagnosis or treatment must be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional. We had not seen evidence to show that houseofbeautykent’s tanning services were provided under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. We considered that in the absence of such a professional, the ad therefore discouraged essential medical treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. The ad therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
As explained above, NHS advice was cautious about the use of sunbeds. There were potentially serious consequences for people who used them because they believed there would be health benefits. In that context, we concluded that as well as not being substantiated, the claims that sunbeds provided health benefits, and that using sunbeds was a good way to “have some time to yourself”, were irresponsible.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising).
The CAP Code required that marketing communications for cosmetic interventions must not be directed at those under 18 years of age through the selection of media or context in which they appear. ‘Cosmetic interventions’ meant any intervention, procedure or treatment carried out with the primary objective of changing an aspect of a consumer’s physical appearance. That included surgical and non-surgical interventions, both invasive and non-invasive.
The ad was posted organically by houseofbeautykent. We noted that organic posts on TikTok could be targeted away from under-18s by utilising the ‘Audience controls’ toggle, but had not received any evidence that the advertiser had done so. They also did not provide any data regarding the demographics of individuals who had seen the ads or a demographic breakdown of their followers on TikTok.
We also took into account the mechanics of TikTok and how content was shared with its users. We understood that TikTok’s “For You” page was the first one users saw after opening the app and the main way in which its users engaged with content. We further understood that this page was algorithmically driven, and therefore users would see content from accounts they did not follow but was likely to be of interest to them. Because of the way organic content was disseminated on TikTok via the “For You” page, ads for cosmetic interventions, such as tanning beds, should have been appropriately restricted from viewing by under-18s. However, houseofbeautykent had not provided evidence that they had used the targeting tools available to them to do so. As such, we considered that insufficient care had been taken to ensure that the ad was not directed at people under 18, and therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.25 (Cosmetic interventions).
The ad must not appear again in the form investigated. We told Person(s) unknown t/a houseofbeautykent to ensure their ads did not misleadingly and irresponsibly claim or imply that health benefits were obtained from sunbeds unless they held adequate evidence. We also told them to ensure they did not discourage essential treatment for which medical supervision should be sought and that their ads were appropriately targeted. We referred the matter to CAP’s Compliance team.