FDA warns on anti-aging claims of cosmetics

Anti-aging creams are a growing share of the cosmetics market, but the FDA warns that if companies claim pharmaceutical benefits from their products, the FDA will review them as drugs.

Kai Ryssdal: All right, now for some completely different Washington news. Seems the Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on the beauty industry. L'Oreal is the latest big cosmetics company to get a stern warning from regulators. The FDA says L'Oreal has to tone down the claims on some of its anti-aging products, or else it'll have to submit them for a formal FDA drug review.

Marketplace's Sarah Gardner has more on on the growing market for cosmeceuticals.


Sarah Gardner: Cosmetics are getting complicated.  And the FDA doesn’t like it.  The agency’s Tamara Ward says by law a cosmetic is:

Tamara Ward: A product that is used to cleanse, beautify, promote attractiveness, etc...

Not, a product that claims to, in the FDA’s language,  alter the body’s function or structure.

L’oreal ad: Genefique from Lancome. Inspired by 10 years of research on genes.

L’Oreal’s advertising says that one-ounce bottle of cream serum ”boosts the activity of genes” and “stimulates production of youth proteins.” L’Oreal hasn’t responded yet to the FDA but there’s a lot at stake here. Anti-aging lotions and potions are now 13 percent of all cosmetic sales and growing.

Karen Doskow is a market researcher at Kline and Company.

Karen Doskow: Even in a downturn, a very soft economy, people are still very concerned about aging and are willing to spend upwards of a hundred dollars on aging products.

And it’s not just wrinkled baby boomers. It’s 30- and 40-somethings desperate not to look like them. Analyst Radia Amari at IBIS World expects L’Oreal to will simply adjust its advertising so its cosmeceutical don’t sound as much like a pharmaceutical.

Radia Amari: But it’s already experiencing increasing sales for the products. So it’s been worth it for the company.

That little one ounce bottle of Genefique, we found it online selling for $84 at Neiman Marcus.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.

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