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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned ads from four different advertisers in a series of rulings on the marketing of acne treatments.

Online product listings for Johnson & Johnson Clean and Clear, Clearasil, online retailer Feelunique.com and Dermalogica’s MediBac range were banned by the watchdog for making medicinal claims about unlicensed products.

Each of the product listings described acne treatment products. Although each of the brands involved denied that the products were intended to be marketed as medical treatments, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – a UK government agency which ensures that medicines and medical devices work properly – describes acne as a medical condition, and that products stated or implied to alleviate acne were medical claims. None of the products are licensed as medical treatments by the agency.

The ASA, acting on advice from the MHRA, said that acne treatment products should be held to the same standards as other medical devices and treatments, issued bans to each of the advertisers.

Johnson & Johnson’s Clean and Clear brand included product descriptions on its website that claimed its Advantage Spot Control Treatment Gel was “clinically proven to start clearing spots in just four hours”, while Clearasil’s website told readers that its Rapid Action Treatment Cream was “clinically proven to visibly reduce spot size and redness in as fast as four hours.”

Similarly, Feelunique.com’s retail site included a category page for a range of skincare brands described as “effective acne treatment kits, on the spot treatments, balancing cleansers, exfoliators, clarifying lotions and oil-free moisturisers.” Likewise, Dermalogica’s website described its MediBac product as ‘formulated specifically to treat adult acne’.

The ASA told each Johnson & Johnson, Clearasil, Feelunique.com and Dermalogica that the ads “must not appear again in the form complained about” and that the brands should “not make medicinal claims for unlicensed products, in particular claims that their products could prevent or treat acne”.