Posted 10 February 2016
Homemark has advertised on television and on their website, that Aragan Secret Eyelash Growth Enhancer, can among other, “Increase[s] the length of your lashes and gives you noticeably thicker lashes within only 4-8 weeks of use”. [Our emphasis]
Homemark’s independent expert, Ms Janine Wilson of Botanichem CC, claimed that these claims were true and therefore the claims made for the product, to be valid. The study she evaluated claimed eyelash growth was roughly 1,1 mm for Homemark’s product and 0,9 mm for the competing product after one month. No proof was supplied that the ‘competing product’ can result in eyelash growth. Importantly, eyelashes normally grow approximately 4,5 mm per a month! As the ASA noted: “From this perspective, it is worth pointing out that the respondent’s product appears to have added 0,2mm of growth after a month’s worth of use. The Directorate is not convinced that an additional 0,2mm of growth constitutes “…noticeably thicker lashes …” or justifies a claim of “…visibly increasing lash length …”, because it is doubtful that consumers would be able to notice a difference of 0,2mm with the naked eye”.
HOMEMARK / ARAGAN SECRET EYELASH GROWTH ENHANCER / H STEINMAN / 2015-1908F
Ruling of the: ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
DR HARRIS A STEINMAN Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
HOMEMARK (PTY) LTD Respondent
08 February 2016
In a ruling dated 16 October 2015, the Directorate considered advertising promoting the respondent’s “Aragan Secret Eyelash Growth Enhancer” product. The Directorate held that the following claims were not substantiated and had to be removed:
“Increases the length of your lashes and gives you noticeably thicker lashes within only 4-8 weeks of use”,
“Not only increases eyelash density but also promotes eyelashes to regroup and is also effective when used on eyebrows”,
“It nourishes the lashes and accelerates their growth, visibly increasing lash length and density”.
SUBSEQUENT TO THIS RULING
In submissions received towards the end of October 2015, the respondent argued that the claims were now adequately substantiated. It relied on verification from Ms Janine Wilson of Botanichem CC and studies done by FarcoDerm.
The respondent submitted the research material, a verification letter from Ms Wilson, as well as the letter from “Dr M Burnstein LTD” confirming that the study “… done by UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI PAVIA is based on this product and is authentic and reliable”.
The verification letter from Ms Wilson concludes that “In my opinion, based on my experience, knowledge and review of the documentation referred to above, the product claims listed above are adequately and reasonably substantiated”. Ms Wilson added that “The objective of the study was to assess whether the Product is able to act positively on the eyelash lengthening”.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the new substantiation, Clause 4.1 of Section II (Substantiation) was considered relevant.
In accordance with established procedure, the complainant was asked to comment on the new substantiation.
In essence, the complainant argued that the substantiation is inadequate. He explained that a study of 15 individuals of a specific population group being extrapolated to the average population is not scientifically sound and in normal circumstances would not be acceptable substantiation.
The advertising made claims about longer, thicker lashes, while the study and the expert only acknowledge the length aspect of the advertising. The complainant added that the submissions do not indicate the number of users that actually benefited.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
Over the years, the issue of substantiation as called for in Clause 4.1 of Section II has been the subject of many ASA rulings, resulting in some definitive criteria being established. In simple terms, the Directorate requires the following in order to be satisfied that the substantiation submitted adequately verifies the claims:
The substantiation must emanate from, or be evaluated by an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate.
The substantiation and testing done must relate to the product as sold to consumers, and not to bits and pieces of ingredients.
The expert relied on to verify the claims, must unequivocally verify that the claims as made in the advertising are true.
The supporting documentation relied on by the expert has to appear to support his findings (in other words, if the supporting documentation finds that a claimed effect is not likely, and the expert claims that it is, such discrepancy would likely result in the Directorate rejecting the claim).
The confirmatory letter from “Dr M Burnstein LTD” appears to confirm that the product tested is the same as the one sold to consumers. This takes care of point two above.
In addition, Ms Janine Wilson (the expert relied on to verify the claims) has an MSc in Chemistry, has served as Technical Manager for the Cosmetics Toiletries and Fragrance Association (CTFA) and has acted as Raw Material Scientist and Laboratory Manager for other cosmetic companies and the University of the Witwatersrand respectively. The Directorate has perused her CV, and in the absence of anything to the contrary, has no reason to not to accept her as an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. This appears to address the first point above.
The material question is whether or not the expert evidence submitted unequivocally supports and verifies the claims previously ruled against.
In her letter of verification, Ms Wilson notes, inter alia, that:
“As far as I can ascertain, the following Product efficacy claims are made:
3.1 The product can result in an increase in eyelash length and density if used twice a day for at least 4 weeks.
3.2 The product nourishes the eyelashes”.
After explaining that “… the mean increase of the eyelash length was about 1.1 mm, compared to 0.9 mm for the ‘bench-marketed’ product”, and “The list of ingredients includes … which allows for the nourishment of eyelashes … will promote lengthening … and reinforce thickness or density of the eyelashes when used for the period referred to above” she concludes that the claims “listed above” are adequately and reasonably substantiated.
These comments appear to suggest that the product increases eyelash length and density, and that it allows for the nourishment of eyelashes.
However, the Directorate has the following concerns:
The claim that the product “…promotes eyelashes to regroup and is also effective when used on eyebrows” has not been addressed, and therefore remains unsubstantiated. Similarly, there is no mention of the claim that the product “accelerates” eyelash growth, meaning that such a claim does not appear to have been substantiated.
The growth illustrated in the study appears to be roughly 0,9mm for the competing product and 1,1mm for the respondent’s product after one month. It is not patently clear from the new substantiation how fast eyelashes grow without any intervention (the complainant’s reply suggests a growth of roughly 4,5mm over a month – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3036812/). Given the substantiation at hand, the Directorate assumes that the 0,9mm growth seen in the competing product can be used as a benchmark for purposes of comparing.
From this perspective, it is worth pointing out that the respondent’s product appears to have added 0,2mm of growth after a month’s worth of use. The Directorate is not convinced that an additional 0,2mm of growth constitutes “…noticeably thicker lashes …” or justifies a claim of “…visibly increasing lash length …”, because it is doubtful that consumers would be able to notice a difference of 0,2mm with the naked eye.
Practically speaking, this means that the claims at issue, and as specifically referred to in the original ruling remain somewhat problematic. In the following example, the CAPITALISED and underlined text indicates portions of the claims that do not appear to have been pronounced on by Ms Wilson’s opinion:
“Increases the length of your lashes and gives you NOTICEABLY thicker lashes within only 4-8 weeks of use”,
“Not only increases eyelash density but also PROMOTES EYELASHES TO REGROUP AND IS ALSO EFFECTIVE WHEN USED ON EYEBROWS”,
“It nourishes the lashes and ACCELERATES their growth, VISIBLY increasing lash length and density”.
Unfortunately, the respondent’s new substantiation does not go far enough in terms of unequivocally verifying the claims as cited in the original ruling, and as they appear in the advertising. The Directorate is unable to accept only portions of the above claims, because removing the unverified sections may alter the interpretation or overall communication.
The respondent’s claims are not limited to eyelash growth and nourishment like the expert opinion, but extend to factors such as “… promot[ing] eyelashes regroup …”, being “… effective when used on eyebrows …”, “… accelerat[ing] their growth …” and delivering “… noticeably …” or “… visibly …” thicker and longer eyelashes, when the increased length is arguably marginal at best.
As such, and in the absence of clear, unequivocal verification of the exact claims ruled on, the Directorate cannot accept this substantiation as adequate for the purposes of the Code.
Accordingly, the respondent’s claims as originally ruled against remain unsubstantiated, as they appear to extend beyond the verification submitted.
The original ruling therefore remains binding and in force.