Nivea Fined for Claiming Skin Cream Caused Weight Loss

NiveaThe maker of Nivea skin creams has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of false advertising by claiming one of its skin creams helps consumers melt away excess pounds.

The settlement prohibits Beiersdorf Inc. from promoting its My Silhouette! skin cream to consumers as a weight-loss treatment and requires the company to fork over $900,000 to the FTC.

"The real skinny on weight loss is that no cream is going to help you fit into your jeans," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "The tried-and-true formula for weight loss is diet and exercise."The FTC's complaint accused Beiersdorf of hoodwinking consumers by claiming regular applications of Nivea My Silhouette! cream to their skin would actually reduce their body size. Beiersdorf marketed the "weight loss" skin cream in nationwide TV ads and via sponsored search results on Google, both of which hyped the cream's "Bio-slim Complex," a combination of ingredients, including anise and white tea, that somehow helps people slim down.

One TV ad depicted a woman getting dressed after having applied Nivea My Silhouette! cream to her stomach and thighs and discovering she's now able to squeeze herself into a pair of old jeans she found in the back of her closet.

During the ad, the voice-over says: "New Nivea My Silhouette! with Bio-Slim Complex helps redefine the appearance of your silhouette and noticeably firm skin in just four weeks. So you can rediscover your favorite jeans. And how they still get his attention. New Nivea My Silhouette! with Bio-Slim Complex. Touch and be touched."

Beiersdorf also purchased sponsored search results from Google so overweight consumers searching for terms like "stomach fat," "nivea slim silhouette" or "thin waist" were directed to the company's ads claiming Nivea My Silhouette! could flatten their stomachs, trim their waistlines and help them drop pounds.

The proposed settlement:

  • Bars Beiersdorf from claiming that any product applied to the skin causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size.
  • Prohibits the company from claiming that any drug, dietary supplement, or cosmetic causes weight or fat loss or a reduction in body size, unless the claim is backed by two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, human clinical studies.
  • Requires that any claim regarding the health benefits of any drug, dietary supplement or cosmetic be backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The Wilton, Conn.-based Beiersdorf Inc. is one of the largest sellers of hand and body care skin creams in the U.S. Nivea My Silhouette! is sold at pharmacy and grocery stores nationwide.

The FTC warns consumers to take any ads promoting cream-based weight loss with a large grain of salt. For more information, see the FTC publication, Weighing the Evidence in Diet Ads.
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