ASA cracks down on beauty salons illegally advertising botox on social media
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is cracking down on health and beauty businesses who are illegally promoting botulinum toxin injections on social media.
Working with the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), alongside the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the watchdog has issued an Enforcement Notice to the beauty and cosmetics industry on the rules around advertising botox. CAP has already sent the warning to more than 130,000 firms in the beauty industry.
Coming into force from January 31, the ASA will use “monitoring technology” to find these problematic ads, flagging them to Facebook and Instagram for removal. The watchdog will be cracking down on paid-for ads, non-paid-for posts and influencer marketing, as well as promotional advertising such as “botox parties” or treatments as a competition prize.
It is illegal to advertise prescription-only medicines, such as botox, to the public. This applies even if the prescription-only medicine is administered by a registered medical professional.
CAP and the ASA will refer non-compliant sellers to the MHRA, which has investigatory and enforcement powers.
“We’re taking action to tackle botox ads on social media using brand new monitoring technology. This tool helps us to be more efficient and effective in identifying and removing problem ads,” said ASA chief executive Guy Parker.
CAP will also be rolling out a targeted ad campaign across Facebook to raise awareness of the issue. Read the full enforcement notice on advertising botox and other botulinum toxin injections on social media.
Last year, the ASA also warned against the use of celebrities in treatment marketing.
What are the new rules?
CAP is advising businesses to remove the following in their advertising:
- Remove any direct reference to botox or other botulinum toxins, including names such as “beautytox” or “beautox”. This includes in images and hashtags.
- Don’t use alternatives such as “wrinkle-relaxing injections” as this still counts as promotion of a prescription-only medicine.
- Don’t refer to treating medical conditions in a way that suggests you are promoting a prescription-only medicine, for example, “injections for excessive sweating”.
- You can promote the service you provide and the consultation, such as “a consultation for the treatment of lines and wrinkles”, but you must be careful not to directly or indirectly advertise a prescription-only medicine.
This is the furthest-reaching enforcement notice ever issued by CAP. Director Shahriar Coupal said: “This is an example of how CAP are exploring new, proactive ways of ensuring ads stick to the rules and rising to the challenges presented by the online environment.”
Caroline Larissey, director of quality and standards at the National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF), commented: “We welcome the crackdown on advertising, especially on social media which can unduly influence young people or vulnerable adults to have treatments that may not be needed. For this reason, we would also support a ban on injectables being provided for under 18s.”
The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) has also welcomed the news, having worked with CAP and ASA for some time to strengthen advertising standards and codes in the aesthetic sector.
In a statement, it said: “We support… the MHRA and CAP and its endeavours to protect the public from potentially misleading and harmful advertising. We will continue to work alongside CAP and ASA in identifying poor promotion within non-surgical cosmetics and encourage the discussion of POMs responsibly within the confines of the codes set out within CAPs.”
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