SkinnyTan told to stop faking it

SkinnyTan, the self-tanning brand that became a global obsession after winning over investors on the Dragon’s Den TV series, has been banned from making misleading claims in its advertising.

Launched by UK mums Louise Ferguson and Kate Cotton and bought by Innovaderma  in 2015, SkinnyTan, which has largely built its sales on claims that it can make users bodies look thinner and smoother, is now sold all over Australia and the UK, and is planning to expand into the US.

SkinnyTan however came under fire from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last week after PZ Cussons, the owner of the St Tropez tanning brand, challenged four claims that appeared on SkinnyTan’s Facebook page and website:

  • that it was the number one brand in the UK
  • that it did not contain DHA and therefore smelt better than other tanning lotions
  • that it was ‘natural’
  • that it ‘had smoothing and firming effects on the skin, would make consumers look thinner and reduce the appearance of cellulite’.

A Facebook post by SkinnyTan in September last year stated:  “UK Mum of two invents a new way to Tan, tone and look thinner AND this summer it became the UKs No 1! No orange no streaking and no nasty smell!

“Skinny Tan is the first tanner to combine 100% certified natural tanning with organic smoothing oils and firming guarana berries.

“In independent trials 84% reported that Skinny Tan gave them smoother skin and less visible cellulite. 86% reported a streak-free even result that didn’t dry their skin like other tanners. And over 90% said it smelt delicious!”

Similarly in January this year the ‘Tanning Tips’ page on the brand’s website stated: “No matter what time of year it is ‘Tanning’ is a fantastic way to help your body look instantly toned.

“It can hide cellulite and give you an all over healthier glow … Look for the natural alternatives.

“No-one should be putting chemical DHAs on their skin anymore as there are now tanners available that use a tanning agent that works naturally with your skin to create a far more natural looking colour.

“A great advantage is that these natural agents don’t smell so strongly of that awful fake tan smell…”

Skinny Tan argued that its claim to be the UK’s “No 1” selling tanning brand was based on the fact that it was the No 1 brand in Superdrug pharmacies; that its product only contained DHA from natural sources; that its product was made from 100 percent natural ingredients; and that its claims that the product would make consumers look thinner and reduce the appearance of cellulite referred “to the cosmetic effect of the tan, rather than any physiological effects”.

However the ASA concluded that:

  • the claim to be “the UKs [sic] No 1” was misleading as it wasn’t based on sales across the whole market;
  • the ads gave the misleading impression that the product did not contain any DHAs;
  • the claim that product was “natural” was misleading, because the brand had not provided enough information about its manufacturing process and had not received appropriate certification;
  • the claims that the product “had smoothing and firming effects on the skin, would make consumers look thinner and reduce the appearance of cellulite” were not properly substantiated as the brand’s trial was carried out by volunteers and evidence was gathered based on their observations of their own physical appearance.

The ASA ruled the Skinny Tans ads must not appear again in their current form.

Speaking to Professional Beauty after the ruling, Innovaderma CEO Haris Chaudhry said it was unlikely to affect the brand’s marketing in Australia.

“We do not believe this will affect our advertising and or promotions in Australia as just like UK, we stopped making references to the claims highlighted by ASA in January this year”.

He added that the brand had been taken to the ASA because it is threatening the long-established tanning brands.

“Skinny Tan is one of the fastest growing brands globally in sunless tanning and is threatening the long-established brands in this space due to its great reputation of quality products combined with an excellent ethos of being cruelty free, vegan friendly and socially responsible,” he said.

“It [Skinny Tan] has displaced St Tropez as the leading brand both in Superdrug and in social media following and online sales therefore we believe that the world’s largest tanning brand owned by P Z Cussons feels very threatened by the incredible rise of Skinny Tan and is obviously looking at every possible angle to limit its rise.”

He said Skinny Tan conducted third-party consumer trials in September 2014 through Ayton Global Research.

The key findings from detailed feedback from 50 volunteers over a seven-day who received the Skinny Tan product in unbranded packaging were:  92 percent said it ‘smells’ better than other fake tans, 84 percent said it “helped disguise their cellulite” and 74 percent said it “evens out their skin tone”.

“We used this piece of very convincing data as the basis of our claims,” said Chaudhry.

“… However, the ASA required more in-depth validation of claims to be provided.

“Subsequently, InnovaDerma is now conducting more ‘in-depth’ clinical trials of scientific nature, which we believe will validate our key claims around Skinny Tan’s skin toning, firming and smoothing effect.

“At the crux of it, it is highly important to note that the company submitted a lot of high quality data to ASA to substantiate the claims however ASA deemed the data to not meet their ‘standards’. The company does not believe it has been intentionally misleading in any of the claims it made through social media posts.”

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