September 12, 2012 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent a warning letter to Lancôme, saying claims for its anti-wrinkle products go too far because they suggest the cosmetics work like drugs. Lancôme claims the anti-aging creams can change the structure or function of the human body. Therefore, they must be regulated as drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. New drugs must receive approval from the FDA before they can be sold — without approval, the FDA can take enforcement action including forcibly seizing the products or issuing fines.
The FDA specifically cited claims that the Youth Activating Cream “boosts the activity of genes and stimulates the production of youth proteins.” Another line of “regenerating” creams was advertised claiming it “has been shown to improve the condition around the stem cells and stimulate cell regeneration to reconstruct skin to a denser quality.” People who use the products could expect to “see significant deep wrinkle reduction in UV damaged skin, clinically proven.”
Lancôme also advertised an “eye-lifter” cream by claiming “unique R.A.R.E. oligopeptide helps to re-bundle collagen,” causing “immediate lifting, lasting repositioning. Inspired by eye-lifting surgical techniques … helps recreate a younger, lifted look in the delicate eye area.”
The FDA warned that these creams are “not generally recognized among qualified experts as safe and effective for the above referenced uses.”
Although the FDA frequently sends warning letters to drug and supplement companies due to unlawful marketing practices, it is rare for the FDA to take action against a major cosmetics company. Although cosmetics are unlikely to cause physical harm, the industry for expensive anti-aging creams has boomed as the Baby Boomers age.
Lancôme USA is a subsidiary company of L’Oréal, which is tied with Proctor & Gamble for leadership in the market for anti-aging cosmetics. The industry grew from $2.7 billion in 2010 to $2.9 billion in 2011.
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