SNAIL gel extract was always going to be a tough sell as a beauty product.
Now, a recent Advertising Standards Authority ruling will make it even more difficult to market Glomail’s Celltone regenerative gel in South Africa.
This is the second time the authority has found that the product’s claims to reduce the appearance of scars, stretch marks, spots and wrinkles, as well as to assist with various "skin ailments”, are not backed up by proof.
Celltone, which was promoted by celebrity Cindy Nell, claims to contain snail gel extract "which snails naturally produce to heal their shells”.
It says snail gel’s alleged healing properties were discovered by farm workers harvesting snails, who noticed "the healing effect on their hands”. It sells for R399.
Last year, the authority ordered Glomail to immediately withdraw its misleading claims and not refer to them again unless they brought acceptable evidence to the authority for a new decision.
The latest ruling, delivered last week, comes after Glomail claimed to now have new proof that its product did, in fact, work.
Relying on evidence by a cosmetics expert, John Knowlton of Cosmetics Solutions, and two studies by Future Cosmetics CC, Glomail said the claims were adequately supported and could not be dismissed as misleading.
But, the authority was not convinced and has again ordered Glomail to stop making unsupported claims about the product.
The authority found that, while the evidence appeared to favour Celltone at face value, Knowlton and Future Cosmetics appeared to reach conflicting conclusions, although they did agree on one thing – that there was no proof Celltone diminished the appearance of scarring.
As for the other claims, while the evidence showed there was some improvement in the skin of those using Celltone, it did not last.
"A hypothetical reasonable person would expect the claims to apply as long as the product is being used, but the evidence appears to suggest only a temporary effect for the majority of skin conditions tested. In some instances, no effect appears to have been demonstrated,” the ruling reads.
The matter first came to the authority last year when Cape Town researcher and medical doctor Harris Steinman complained about a "misleading” advert promoting Celltone.
In the latest ruling, Steinman criticised the "very small, non-representative sample sizes” Glomail relied on.
One study referred to had 30 participants, all of them were female; the other involved only white women.
The authority agreed, saying that, while it assumed this typical consumer would be female, there was no reason to presume she would be white. There was nothing to show the study findings applied to all women.
Steinman said yesterday the ruling would help consumers to be more questioning of the products they used.
It would also vindicate those who claimed Celltone did not work, he said.
Glomail’s marketing manager, Varina Singh, said the company would abide by the ruling.