The luxury of menopausal beauty products – substantiated or just marketing?

Menopausal products are big business for brands. But Freeths legal beauty expert Iona Silverman explains how to balance product claims with the law

Claims that products treat symptoms of the menopause will automatically raise a red flag

Menopause is big business. 

Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah Winfrey and others have changed the way we talk about menopause. The conversation has become mainstream and the stigma is gone. Brands are capitalising on this by targeting a demographic of financially independent women with luxury wellness products that promise to combat the symptoms of menopause. Equi London sells a ‘Menopause Formula’, Living M sells a range of collagen boosting skincare designed with hormones in mind and Faace sells a menopause treatment face mask. Voltary, Alpha H and Dr. Barbar Sturm are among a number of luxury brands that cluster their products into a curated ‘Menopause Edit’, making it easier for women to choose luxury products tailored to them.

However, regulators are clamping down on the advertising of menopausal products. Although the menopause itself is not a medical condition, some of the symptoms of the menopause are conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. Symptoms can range from annoying (hot flushes, dry skin) to serious (anxiety, depression). For that reason, if a brand claims that its product can treat the symptoms of the menopause, the product will be considered a medicine, meaning more stringent rules apply to advertising. 

With that in mind, what should luxury brands be thinking about when advertising menopause products, and what are the risk of getting it wrong?

What are the do’s and don’ts for luxury brands?

It is permissible for a brand to merely target its products at menopausal women without promising to treat or alleviate symptoms of the menopause (think, the menopause edit). However the marketing shouldn’t imply that the product or its ingredients offer any additional benefits over and above those that non-menopausal people would receive, or that menopausal women would receive from non-menopausal products.

It is also generally fine to make broad claims that won’t be taken literally, such as “a new you” or “feel fantastic”. Brands can also make sensory claims based on how people look or feel, such as “skin feels smoother” or “radiant-looking skin”.

However consumers want more than broad, bland claims. They want to know that products work, and more importantly that they will work on them. Brands are keen to meet this demand by telling consumers exactly what their product can achieve. They do need to take care however, and should steer clear of unqualified claims such as “cure” or “rejuvenate”. 

Any claim that a product “treats” symptoms of the menopause will automatically raise a red flag with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Brands must hold data to back up any claim that a product will have a specific effect on a person’s body (this is, “reduces menopause symptoms in X% of women”). The ASA expects a high level of substantiation for menopause products, including ideally at least one adequately controlled experimental human study. Self-assessment surveys commonly seen in beauty and hair care ads are not sufficient to substantiate a medical claim. Any addition of a time limit in a claim (“say goodbye to bloating in five days”) raises the risk unless you can substantiate that your product will have the desired effect in that time frame, and permanently thereafter.

What about guarantees? They must be quite specific and consider what exactly is being guaranteed. A general guarantee, for example satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, would be fine. However brands should not guarantee any specific health or wellbeing outcomes.

The bottom line is that brands should avoid misleading consumers. If the ASA finds a brand to have made claims in contravention of its rules, it has the power to pull the ad. More importantly, the ASA will publish their findings on their website. In an industry where reputation is everything, luxury brands cannot afford to be seen to be making claims they can’t substantiate.

Iona Silverman is a partner in Freeths intellectual property and media practice specialising in beauty. She regularly drafts complex agreements relating to branding, marketing and development of technology. Iona also advises on working with influencers, product design and product packaging claims, with a particular interest in environmental claims and greenwashing. She can be reached at [email protected].

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]