Stretch marks

Nov 8th '16

Stretch marks, or striae, often appear on the abdomen, buttocks, thighs and breasts and marketers often claim that lasers and creams are effective at either preventing or treating stretch marks.


What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks, or striae, are usually caused by one, or more, of the following:


  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy. These are not necessarily a result of weight gain and stretching alone and can occur in women who have gained minimal weight.
  • Adolescent striae in early teenage years. These, again, may not always be associated with rapid weight gain.
  • Rapid weight gain.
  • Medical conditions, for example underlying hormone diseases such as Cushing’s disease.
  • The use of topical and oral medications such as corticosteroids.
Are moisturisers an effective treatment?

Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) understands that stretch marks are permanent, but may fade over time. While the application of moisturisers can help the skin feel smoother and more supple, we have not seen sufficient evidence that moisturisers are effective at preventing or removing stretch marks.



What about other topical products?

Marketers wanting to make any efficacy claims for the topical treatment of stretch marks must ensure they hold robust evidence consisting of clinical trials relating to their product specifically and must not exaggerate the likely capabilities of the product. Marketers should ensure they distinguish between the composition of a product and any effects brought about by the way in which it is applied, such as massage.


CAP understand that topical retinoid, such as Tretinoin – a prescription-only cream – may help to improve the appearances of stretch marks, as a result of improved production of collagen and elastin, but given that it is a prescription-only medicine, this should not be advertised to the public. See Healthcare: Prescription-only medicine.


Can laser treatments help?

CAP has yet to see a clinical trial which proves lasers can remove stretch marks. While several published papers state that lasers have had variable success for treating stretch marks, marketers must hold robust evidence relating to their product or service specifically, if they want to make any efficacy claims.


If marketers hold robust evidence relating to their product or service, it may be acceptable to claim that their lasers can improve the appearance of stretch marks, but marketers should steer clear of claiming or implying that lasers are effective at removing stretch marks. The claims “Remove Your Stretch Marks” and “eliminate the appearance of stretch marks”, for example, have been found to breach the Code (Lasercare Clinics (Harrogate) Ltd, 31 October 2012). See Lasers: General.


Can I use before and after images?

Before and after images are likely to be interpreted by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as implied efficacy claims and as such, must not give the impression that an effect beyond that which is supported by evidence can be achieved (The Harley Medical Group Ltd, 24 November 2010). See Before and after photos.


What about testimonials?

Marketers should ensure claims in testimonials do not go beyond the evidence held, by exaggerating the likely capabilities of the product. They should also ensure they meet the requirements of rules 3.45 to 3.48 of the CAP Code, in terms of the need for testimonials to be genuine, related to the advertised product and permitted for use in their marketing communication. See Testimonials and endorsements and Claims in testimonials and endorsements.


Source: CAP


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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