NAD Doesn’t Like Nutricosmetic Ad Claims


NEW YORK—The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended Irwin Naturals discontinue certain claims for its “Doctor Developed Clear Pure Complexion" dietary supplement, including the claim that the product was “scientifically developed." NAD found the advertiser could support certain claims, based on the supplements ingredients.

NAD reviewed advertising claims that appeared on product packaging, the advertiser’s website, print advertising and retail customer websites selling the product.  

Claims at issue included: 

  • “Doctor developed powerful nutrition to promote healthy & vibrant skin."
  • “Advanced pro-nutraceutical complex targets internal factors that influence problematic skin."
  • “Clear Pure Complexion is a revolutionary skin-care product that addresses multiple internal factors that can lead to acne-prone skin.  This formula has been scientifically-developed to target the vital organs and systems of the body that directly affect skin health."
  • “By promoting internal balance of the total body system, Clear Pure Complexion works from the inside-out to improve the health and appearance of your skin . . . so you look and feel your best again."

NAD also examined whether the advertising at issue implied the product, developed by Nick Bitz, N.D., and formulated with zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin B6, could treat or eliminate acne. NAD noted that although the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) allows “structure function" claims—accompanied by required language—both the FTC and NAD require all advertising claims relating to a product’s impact on human health be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. When making an express claim of product performance, an advertiser must be able to demonstrate that its product, as formulated for sale, actively performs the function promised or provides the benefit claimed in the advertisement.

NAD recognizes some general claims promising health benefits can be substantiated without clinical studies of the specific product in question. However, the advertiser must still demonstrate that it is scientifically sound to draw conclusions from outside studies and data and apply them to the performance claimed by the advertised product.  

In this case, while the advertiser provided numerous studies and reference articles on Clear Pure Complexion’s ingredients and their properties, there was no actual product testing in the record, and no direct evidence that the product itself would have the same effect as an individual ingredient alone.

Because it is not clear the claims were based on testing of certain ingredients, rather than on the product itself, NAD concluded the claims must be expressly qualified as ingredient claims. Specifically, NAD recommended the advertiser expressly qualify its claims to communicate to consumers that the ingredient zinc is effective in the manner described in the advertising; that vitamin A may be helpful in reducing acne in vitamin A deficient patients; and that vitamin B6 may be helpful in treating acne in vitamin B6 deficient patients. 

NAD found the advertiser’s evidence could, when considered collectively, provide a reasonable basis for the general claim that the Pro-Nutraceutical Complex contains ingredients that have been historically used in traditional medicine to “target internal factors that influence problematic skin." 

NAD recommended the advertiser qualify its claims to communicate that context. NAD determined that the advertiser could not support the claim “the formula has been scientifically developed to target the vital organs and systems of the body that directly affect skin health," and recommended the advertiser discontinue use of the phrase “scientifically-developed."

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said it believes “a marketer should be able to make reasonable claims for the formula as a whole based on the fact that the formula contains ingredients that have been shown to be efficacious.

“Nevertheless, in the spirit of cooperation and support of the self-regulatory process, and despite the above-stated differences with certain findings, Irwin agrees to respond constructively and effectively to the recommendations contained in the NAD decision."