There are three main causes of hair loss:
- Alopecia Areata, patchy hair loss that results in distinct bald patches and can develop on any area of the scalp. It can affect the eyebrows and eyelashes or more rarely, the entire body.
- Hair shedding (Chronic Telogen Effluvium), is a change in the proportion of growing (anagen) to resting (telogen) hair. It is common in women after childbirth. If the problem persists, hair volume reduces but it is largely reversible without intervention. To date, neither the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) nor Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have seen evidence that any product can treat or help with hair shedding. Marketers that claim to treat hair shedding should make clear they are not claiming to treat other causes of hair loss (Irish Response, 6 June 2007).
- Androgenetic Alopecia (also known as male-pattern baldness) is a diffuse loss of hair between the crown and the frontal hairline. Women progressively lose hair from just behind the front hairline and hair density reduces but the hair may remain relatively normal in appearance.
Marketers offering treatments for any of those conditions should ensure that they hold relevant substantiation (HDC Hair Design Clinic, 21 September 2011) or, if they hold a Marketing Authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), that their claims do not go beyond those allowed by the authorisation.
CAP understands that claims that a product can prevent or cure baldness, hair loss or male pattern baldness are likely to be medicinal claims because hair growth or the lack of it, is a physiological function. Therefore marketers wishing to make claims along those lines should check with the MHRA in the first instance because they might require a marketing authorisation. However, claims that a product could slow down or reduce hair loss or promote or strengthen existing hair growth, are unlikely to be considered medicinal claims. Irrespective, marketers should hold robust evidence to prove their claims.
The only two authorised treatments for Androgenetic Alopecia are Finasteride, an anti-androgen therapy, and Minoxidil. Minoxidil is available in two forms: as an external treatment (between 2% and 5% solution), available in chemists or as a stronger prescription-only medicine. Clinical trials have demonstrated both those products to be effective in improving hair growth. We understand that the best effect is obtained if they are used at the earliest possible stage of hair loss, because their effect depends on the stimulation of existing hair follicles. Later in the disease, hair follicles are completely lost from the affected areas of the scalp and at that stage hair transplantation is likely to be the only treatment effective in reinstating hair growth.
Prescription-strength Finasteride and Minoxidil should not be advertised to the public because they are prescription-only medicines – rule 12.12 (Belgravia Trichological Centre, 22 November 2006, and Ashley and Martin, 29 March 2006).
Marketers who offer treatments that include but are not limited to non-prescription Minoxidil should not imply the efficacy of the whole treatment is proven if it is not (The Belgravia Centre Ltd, 1 August 2012, Pentoc Ltd, 14 July 2004, and Hair Loss Centre, 5 May 2004).
Celebrities should not be used to advertise medicines and that includes Minoxidil (Advanced Hair Studio, 30 May 2007).
Marketers creating ads that feature several treatments should take care to ensure that there is no confusion about which product is being linked to which claims or which endorsement (The Belgravia Centre Ltd, 1 August 2012, Advanced Hair Studio, 30 May 2007; Advanced Hair Studio, 17 May 2006).
Marketers offering hairpieces, wigs or other products that offer cosmetic or temporary results should not describe them in a way that confuses readers into thinking they are offering a treatment for hair loss (Hair Techniques, 2 February 2005, and Pentoc Ltd, 26 June 2002). In 2011the ASA upheld a complaint about an ad headlined “Who else wants to solve their thinning hair problem…” because the product offered was for fibres that electro-statically attached to the user’s own hair (Bravelane Ltd, 23 November 2011).
The ASA has upheld several complaints about ads for laser therapy products that claimed to treat hair loss, because of a lack of substantiation (Pentoc Ltd, 14 July 2004; Hair Loss Centre, 5 May 2004, and Hair Loss Centre, 13 August 2003). See Lasers: General
CAP has reviewed evidence for one laser product, the Hairmax Laser comb and considers that claims it temporarily thickens the appearance of existing visible hair may be acceptable. However, the product has been shown to work only on certain hair and skin types and only over a six month period. Claims for the Hairmax Laser comb have also been the subject of ASA investigations and evidence assessment. The ASA ruled against claims that using the Lasercomb would result in “A healthy thick head of hair”, “shinier and thicker looking hair” and consumers noticing “…hair gradually becoming fuller, stronger, denser looking” because they were not substantiated. The ASA accepted that the data showed that the product had been clinically proven to promote hair growth in men and women because the trials showed that most users had experienced an improvement in hair growth, and that some users had experienced an improvement not found in the placebo group. However, the ASA ruled that this supporting data was not sufficient to show that the effects of the product on hair growth were statistically significant or that the results were visibly noticeable to most users (Health Innovations Ltd, 11 January 2012). In practice, in light of the ruling that the evidence did not suggest that the improvement was significant to the users, the scope for making the “clinically proven” claim is limited (The Belgravia Centre Ltd, 1 August 2012).
Advertisers should be aware that this product has been “cleared”, but not “approved”, by the FDA. Claims that the product has been “approved” are likely to be considered misleading (Advanced Hair Studio 25 November 2009).
Marketers who use “before” and “after” photographs should ensure that they accurately reflect the results of the product used (Bravelane Ltd, 23 November 2011 and Healthtec UK Ltd, 6 August 2003 (complaint 4). See also “Before and after photos”.
Marketers using the claim, “as seen on TV” should hold evidence which demonstrates that the product featured on a recent TV programme (Lifes2good UK Ltd, 9 October 2013).
A health claim is defined as “any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health…” Marketers advertising food supplements wanting to make claims about hair health should hold evidence to show that their products meet the conditions of use associated with the relevant authorised health claim, as found on the EU register.
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 ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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