NAD Reviews University Medical’s Claims for ‘Acne Free’ Products Following Challenge by Neutrogena

New York, New York – Sept. 17,  2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that University Medical Products USA, Inc., discontinue certain claims for the company’s AcneFree Clear Skin Treatments and AcneFree Severe Acne System. NAD determined that certain claims made for the products were supported by the advertiser’s evidence.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined performance claims made in print, broadcast and Internet advertising and product packaging for AcneFree Clear Skin Treatments and AcneFree Severe Acne System following a challenge by Neutrogena Corporation, a competing manufacturer of skin care products. Claims at issue in the NAD inquiry included:

  • “AcneFree’s time release formula fights acne and keeps clearing 24/7.  The others don’t even come close.”
  • Graph suggesting Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Complete Acne Therapy System (ASCAT) works only for four hours.
  • AcneFree Severe System is “effective even where traditional prescription and over-the-counter treatments have failed.”
  • PROACTIV and NEUTROGENA don’t even come close!
  • TIME-RELEASED Benzoyl Peroxide.
  • ONLY AcneFree Fights Acne 24 Hours!
  • “AcneFree’s time release formula fights acne and keeps clearing.  24/7.  The others don’t even come close”; Graph suggesting Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Complete Acne Therapy System (ASCAT) works only for four hours; Benzoyl Peroxide; PROACTIV and NEUTROGENA don’t even come close!;
  • TIME-RELEASED Benzoyl Peroxide; ONLY AcneFree Fights Acne 24 Hours!

One of the broadcast ads at issue features a teenage girl, who states: “An acne free complexion is important to me.  You never know who will notice. I don’t have time to worry about my skin, that’s why I use Acne Free.  Only AcneFree fights acne and keeps clearing 24/7.  The others don’t even come close….”

As the actress is speaking, the statement “clear skin = confidence” appears on the screen followed by a graph that features acne products Neutrogena and ProActiv working for four hours and AcneFree working 24/7.

At the outset, the advertiser explained that its AcneFree product is based on a patented time-release benzoyl peroxide system which allows it to deliver all day, continuous treatment.  Further, the advertiser noted that in submitting evidence for the claims at issue, it relied on the same studies it used to support the claims in a previous NAD challenge case, including a double-blind cross-over study of 40 male and female participants aged 13 to 39 designed to determine the efficacy of AcneFree and Proactiv “to reduce the incidence and severity of acne lesions following repeated daily use and to determine the safety of these treatments under normal use conditions.”  The time-release component of the formula was tested in another study, submitted confidentially in the current and previous AcneFree cases. The results of that study indicated that a sustained and uniform delivery of benzoyl peroxide over the course of several hours could be extended to 24 hours with reapplication of the product after 12 hours as directed as opposed to benzoyl peroxide treatments without the time-release component. 

In the previous case, NAD determined that the advertiser could tout the product’s time-release attributes but recommended the advertiser modify claims that included “Breakthrough time-released benzoyl-peroxide formula,” “Revolutionary time released formula that keeps oil and bacteria under control 24/7,” “Time-released formula fights acne 24/7” and “Clinically proven to fight acne 24/7.”

Following its review of the evidence, NAD determined that the 24/7 claims in the current case do not make clear that AcneFree releases a steady stream of benzoyl peroxide throughout the day. 

NAD concluded that the claims “AcneFree’s time release formula fights acne and keeps clearing 24/7” and “time-released benzoyl peroxide” are supported by the advertiser’s testing on a stand-alone basis.

However, NAD noted, the claims are not featured in isolation but rather with other claims that expressly communicate that “other formulas” don’t “come close.”  Further, NAD noted, there is no evidence in the record of the current or previous case that ProActiv or any Neutrogena acne product work for only four hours or that they do not work for 24 hours. 

NAD recommended that the claims “The others don’t even come close” and “ONLY AcneFree Fights Acne 24 Hours!,” and the graph which suggests that ProActiv and Neutrogena work only for four hours, be discontinued.

Further, NAD recommended that the claim AcneFree Severe System is “effective even where traditional prescription and over-the-counter treatments have failed” be discontinued because none of the studies to which the advertiser refers tested AcneFree Severe System, nor is there any clinical testing of the AcneFree Severe System and any prescription or over-the-counter treatments in this record, and there is no evidence in the record that shows traditional prescription and over-the-counter treatments are not efficacious as compared to AcneFree Severe System.  

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said it supports self-regulation and “will take the NAD’s recommendations into consideration concerning its future advertising and packaging for the product.”