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L’Oréal USA settles with FTC over deceptive skin care ads

June 30, 2014, 9:11 PM UTC

The U.S. subsidiary of French cosmetics giant L’Oréal has reached an agreement to settle the Federal Trade Commission’s charges that some of its skin care advertisements featured deceptive claims.

The FTC accused L’Oréal USA with making “false and unsubstantiated claims” regarding the ability of its Génifique and Youth Code products to target customers’ genes and make their skin look younger. The company is also prohibited from misrepresenting any test or study results, as well as from claiming that any of its Lancome brand or L’Oréal Paris brand products affect genes without any reliable supporting scientific evidence.

“It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time,” Jessica Rich, the FTC’s consumer protection director, said in a statement. “But L’Oréal couldn’t support these claims.”

Under the settlement announced Monday, L’Oréal USA is barred from making any future claims about the products’ relationship to gene activity or anti-aging benefits “unless the company has competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating such claims,” the FTC said.

L’Oréal’s advertisements claimed that Génifique products, which sells for as much as $132 per container, could target genes to produce “visibly younger skin in just 7 days.” Similarly, ads for the company’s Youth Code products, which sell for as much as $25 per container, claimed the products used “gene science” to “crack the code to younger acting skin.”

Kristina Schake, a spokeswoman for L’Oréal USA, released a statement on behalf of the company: “L’Oréal USA’s recent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission dealt with a limited number of advertising claims the company made for two of its many skincare product lines: Youth Code from the L’Oréal Paris brand and Génifique from the Lancome brand. The claims at issue in this agreement have not been used for some time now, as the company constantly refreshes its advertising. The safety, quality and effectiveness of the company’s products were never in question. Going forward, L’Oreal USA will continue to serve its customers through industry-leading research, scientific innovation and responsible advertising as it has for the last 60 years.”

The company started selling Génifique in 2009, while Youth code products went on sale in the U.S. the following year.