FDA To Lancome: If Your Creams Stimulate Stem Cells Or Whatever, They're Actually Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates both cosmetics and drugs, but they’re not the same thing. The distinction is that drugs affect the structure of your body or the way it works, and cosmetics just make you look nicer. It’s the difference between a tube of mascara and a prescription of Latisse. Try telling that to Lancôme, though. The FDA happened to stop by the company’s website one day, and noticed that the company makes some claims that make their products sound less like cosmetics, and more like drugs.

What do these amazing substances do? The FDA cites one product’s marketing material, which claims to “[boost] the activity of genes and stimulates the production of youth proteins.” Uh huh. Another product supposedly “has been shown to improve the condition around the stem cells and stimulate cell regeneration to reconstruct skin to a denser quality.” That sounds impressive. The site also boasts that one eye cream “helps to re-bundle collagen.” Wow, and I can buy this stuff at Macy’s?

Not so fast, says the FDA, noting in their letter:

The claims on your web site indicate that these products are intended to affect the structure or any function of the human body, rendering them drugs under the Act. The marketing of these products with these claims evidencing these intended uses violates the Act.

WARNING LETTER [FDA] (Thanks, Kelly!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

    How about the fact that both claims are pure bullcrap? I’m hoping that the regulation of advertising is much stricter for drugs, and that’s why the FDA is focusing on the distinction between the two first rather than the veracity of the claim.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Yeah, they’d have to show actual proof that the products are re-bundling collagen. Good luck with that.

      • Jawaka says:

        Well if they can prove it then they’ve confirmed that it’s a drug.

        If they can’t then the product doesn’t do what it claims it can and it’s false advertising

        Sounds like a lose, lose situation for the company.

    • edman007 says:

      Which is what the FDA is doing, if they want to say it they have to prove it, and then the FDA can fine them for selling drugs illegally. If it’s total BS (the more likely case) then the FDA calls them liars and fines them for false advertising. So the FDA is more of just telling them they are about to get fined, what type of fine do they want (though they don’t seem too good at following through on these and actually fineing people).

    • mikedt says:

      That’s the beauty of the FDA response. They don’t have to argue whether or not the claims are true, only that the claims move into the drug category therefore they have to be marketed, tested and data submitted as such.

  2. Bsamm09 says:

    “has been shown to improve the condition around the stem cells and stimulate cell regeneration to reconstruct skin to a denser quality.” That sounds impressive. The site also boasts that one eye cream “helps to re-bundle collagen.”

    *Product may cause loss of eyes, facial skin, vision and bloody discharge. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not handle mascara for fear of birth defects. Use only under direct supervision of a dermatologist or 19-year old girl behind the counter at Macy’s.

  3. dolemite says:

    It’s about time someone started regulating this nonsensical junk. “Creates micro-element crystals that stimulate the feeling of youth particles, giving you a 309% increase in the gut feeling of fine line reduction under 1 micron in size.”

    • Bodger says:

      I always enjoy the claims for hair-care products that they ‘nourish hair’. This must be a very sophisticated and advanced product given that hair is dead keratin. Campbell’s might as well claim that ‘our soup will nourish your dead ancestors’.

      • NeverLetMeDown2 says:

        Sounds like that Campbell’s campaign was designed by the same ad firm that the the “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” campaign in China.*

        *Yes, I know it’s an urban legend. It’s a damn good one though. Having posted this, I think I’ll go off and drink a frosty can of Bite the Wax Tadpole.

    • highfructosepornsyrup says:

      These things ARE regulated. The companies just break the rules all the time because the punishment is insignificant.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I would buy any cream that would make your skin do that in the picture.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So either Lancôme has to admit that their claims are actually false, or they are violating federal law.

    Rock, meet hard place.

    • bar_foo says:

      Not quite. They don’t have to admit that the claims are false–only that they don’t have the kind of scientific evidence that selling the product as a drug would require. So the claim could be unsubstantiated without being false.

  6. milehound says:

    While they’re at it, can the FDA send a warning letter to Ramona Singer (of Real Housewives of New York City fame) for making the following claims on her web site for her skin cream:

    “Tru Renewal created a highly advanced formula that uses Telomere repairing technology. By incorporating the advanced ingredient Teprenone, this innovative cream will rapidly correct all signs of skin aging by promoting the skin’s natural protection and repair factors involved in detoxification, anti-stress and DNA repair.”

    Source: http://www.ramonasinger.com/trurenewal-p1.aspx

  7. dangermike says:

    The cited claims do look like both drug claims and BS to me but affecting the structure or function of the body seems like a rather broad definition. Wouldn’t this make just about any kind of topical cream a drug, even those which don’t actually penetrate tissue? Sunblock, concealers, moisturizers, maskaras, etc., all strike me as things which affect the structure and/or functions of various bodily structures, and while I do believe they should be screened for detrimental effects, I would really think of any of them as ‘drugs’ unless they were specifically designed absorb past the dead epidermal layers of skin.

    • MuleHeadJoe says:

      Sunblock does nothing to the structure of function of the body. It merely blocks ultraviolet radiation from getting through (for some period of time).

      Anyhow, regarding all the make-up items you listed … to avoid the oversight of hte FDA, all they can do is do some prettying up of the outside. That’s kinda the point of the article … the make-up producer is claiming the product is make-up (not under FDA jurisdiction) at the same time that they claim it has some kind of medicinal effect, which if true would put the product fully within FDA’s reach.

      But specifically mascara, concealer … how do you figure these things make any changes? They are just paint you put on the outside, they don’t *do* anything to your actual body parts.

      On the subject of other OTC medications … creams or ointments marketed as treatments (for example, Cort-Aid) are in fact medications and are vetted by the FDA.

  8. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I love me some Lancome lipsticks. They are nice and creamy, and they have one shade that looks amazing on me. But at $27 a tube, I can only buy it like once a year.

    Even so, I don’t fall for this junk, and I don’t typically buy department store cosmetics because at those prices, you’re paying for a name. If you’re going to slather cream on your face to make it soft, $9 Oil of Olay at Walmart or the $6 generic stuff is just as good (assuming you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients). Face cream is face cream. I have tried to tell my sister this and she refuses to believe that drugstore cosmetics are the same as the expensive shit. Well, okay. It’s your money.

    • VintageLydia says:

      Not every expensive cosmetic is worth the price, but there are some that are. That said, even though I’m a bit of a cosmetics junkie, I love the hell out of my Oil of Olay face lotion, too. I’ve been using it since before I even wore make-up.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I had a girl friend who used to buy the Walmart version of Olay. I called it “Oil of Ol’ Roy.”