Navigating Marketing Regulations in the Beauty Industry

- 5 minute read
Senior Digital Content Specialist​

John is Foundation's Senior Digital Content Specialist. Passionate about all things content and AI, John enjoys getting deep into the data to create interesting stories that audiences love. John plays a key role in orchestrating the content strategy for our beauty and wellness clients, and loves learning about trending skincare techniques and products.

The beauty and cosmetics industry is heavily regulated. From the language used to promote products to the actual ingredients themselves, there is a layer of scrutiny that brands are placed under in order to ensure the safety of consumers. This means that brands will often need to carefully manipulate their ways around what they can and can’t say about their products.

The consequences for not adhering to these rules? Heavy. Brands such as L’Oréal and Estée Lauder have been caught out in the past, facing fines as high as £14k, without mentioning any brand implications. Therefore, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be aware of these stipulations, as well as how to manoeuvre around them.

These rules are implanted into every stage of our copywriting process, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. Keep reading to learn more about the regulations that are in place, as well as how to deal with them.

Who Regulates Cosmetics in the UK?

No matter where you are in the world, you must adhere to the rules of the advertising regulator within your region. In the UK, that happens to be the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), while in the EU,  this is handled by the European Parliament, specifically under regulation number 1223/2009.

In the US, cosmetics are regulated by the FDA.

What Cosmetic Advertising Guidelines Are There?

All of these regulators have published guidance around what is and isn’t acceptable when promoting cosmetics, which is where a lot of beauty brands find themselves. The rules are generally straightforward, with a regulator’s priorities falling under the following criteria:

  • Preventing misleading claims
  • Promoting customer safety
  • Reducing offensive material

For the sake of argument, we’re going to focus mainly on the UKs regulatory framework, but the rules tend to be quite similar throughout the globe.

Established by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) in the Advertising Guidance on Cosmetic Interventions document, the regulations can be split into three categories:

Evidence-Based

Referenced at various points, evidence appears to be a recurring theme throughout both general advertising regulations, as well as those that deal with cosmetics and beauty. Simply holding a before and after photo of a treatment isn’t sufficient; brands should be prepared with scientific, quantitative evidence that shows the real efficacy of their products before making any claims.

This also applies to reviews and testimonials, with sufficient backing needed to verify the authenticity of ratings referenced in marketing material. Scientific evidence can take shape in the form of a Summary of Product Characteristics document, or a test result from clinical trials.

Language-Bound

The CAP sometimes refers to words that they have seen used to describe products to provide marketers with a quick list of phrases that are and aren’t acceptable. Words that seek to exaggerate the effectiveness of a product (puffery) are partially allowed, as long as they do not totally mislead the customer.

Examples of generally acceptable language include phrases such as “a new you” or “feel fantastic”, whereas “revolutionary” or “turns back time” is seen as being subjective, and therefore may be rejected.

Accuracy

Whether it’s through the benefits of the product, or its pricing, marketers must ensure that all material they produce is accurate and in-line with customer expectations. This aspect is a little more difficult to quantify, so cases are usually dealt with on an individual basis.

However, provided that your pricing is correct, and any descriptive copy is written accurately, you should be okay.

How to Stay in Line With Beauty Marketing Regulations

While we can’t give specific advice for your situation, there are some tips we can share around how you can best ensure your marketing material is fully compliant with beauty regulations:

Content Review Process

By far the most effective way of ensuring your marketing material is worth posting is by having a content review process. After a draft is made, it should be reviewed by another member of your marketing team, before then being sent for approval further up the business. Remember, while multiple checks can be helpful, there is a tendency for there to be “too many cooks in the kitchen” – at which point, your original material receives so many adjustments that it is unrecognisable from the first draft.

At the very least, we recommend a 3-stage approval process. Once by the author, another by a fellow team member, and then one pass via a legal representative/more executive team member.

Alternative Marketing Activity

For some beauty brands, the risk may be too big to consider pursuing traditional advertising trends. Rather than being paralysed by this, you may wish to take an out-of-the-box approach to your marketing material.

If you can’t run paid advertisements, perhaps a long-term SEO strategy is more effective for you. This could take shape in the form of optimised page copy, blog writing, or technical adjustments to your webpages. All of which has the capability of drawing in more customers, without the risks of other more blatant advertising tactics.

Brand Guidelines Documentation

Let’s face it, not everyone has the time to process mountains of regulatory advice. Not only does this take up precious content creation time, but there can be room for error or misjudgements, particularly by non-legal professionals.

Rather than instructing your marketing team to just review the regulations, a more digestible approach may be to highlight the guidance that is most relevant to your brand throughout your brand guidelines/tone-of-voice documentation. This gives you ample room to explain how your brand communicates, while also leaning on advice given directly from regulatory bodies.

Consult Your Legal Team

This final point is perhaps one of the most obvious pieces of guidance we can give, but there’s no better way to check your marketing material than by running it past your brand’s legal department. Whether in-house, or dealt with on an ad-hoc basis, a legal team can help you make the right adjustments to your marketing material, and potentially help you deal with any repercussions that may unfold.

Struggling to Keep up with Regulations?

We don’t blame you. Amidst your other promotional activity, it can be tricky to find the time to sit down with your content team and drill down which side of the regulations you sit on. Thankfully, we can help.

Foundation has been working with beauty brands both large and small, helping them produce marketing materials that are targeted correctly, well-written, and strategically-driven.

If you need help with launching a new campaign, refreshing existing material, or diagnosing issues with your beauty website, Foundation can help. Contact us and speak to our expert consultants, today.

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Access

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Access

To download the white paper, please enter your email address:

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.