Tooth whitening brand HiSmile advert banned over “clinically proven” claims

Complainants challenged the oral care brand's claims to whiten teeth 2.2x faster than other whitening brands on the grounds of potentially misleading customers

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two ads by tooth whitening brand HiSmile after disputing its claims to be “clinically proven” to whiten teeth faster than competitors.

The complaints concerned a Snapchat story ad for the brand's Teeth Whitening Kit, posted in September 2020, which featured a model placing the whitening produt into her mouth alongside the superimposed text 'THE CLINICALLY TESTED TEETH WHITENING KIT'.

The cover image for the ad also included the caption “Clinically proven at home tooth whitening”.

Meanwhile, a Facebook post by the brand from November 2020 included a video of a male model using the product, with his teeth initially appearing very yellow prior to using HiSmile's kit and very white after.

This was accompanied by the claim: “2.2X FASTER THAN TRADITIONAL WHITENING … Clinically proven teeth whitening”.

However, these claims were challenged by two consumers who questioned whether the brand's claims to be “clinically proven”, “clinically tested” and “2.2X FASTER THAN TRADITIONAL WHITENING” could be substantiated.

One of the complainants also believed that the model's teeth in the Facebook post had been edited to appear more yellow for the 'before' image and whiter for the 'after', potentially misleading consumers about the product's performance.

In response, HiSmile argued that the 'clinically tested' claims could be substantiated and provided an independent safety report to verify the product's safety and legality as a teeth whitening product; an independent clinical test evaluating the tolerability and whitening cosmetic effect of the tooth whitening ingredient used in their product; and an in vitro study comparing the ingredient's whitening effects on human teeth to peroxide-based whitening agents.

The brand also offered an in vitro laboratory test to support its claim that the product could give “whiter teeth in ten minutes” using bovine enamel.

However, the ASA sided with the complainants and agreed that the ads in question did not sufficiently support the claims of being clinically tested and could therefore be misleading to consumers.

It ruled that consumers would interpret the claims as meaning the product had been clinically tested or proven to work as depicted in the ads, including the claim to be able to whiten teeth much faster than traditional whitening treatments.

The data provided by HiSmile, however, was conducted only on the active whitening ingredient in the treatment and not on the product itself.

Furthermore, the ASA said it did not consider the studies carried out on bovine teeth to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate visible whitening effects on human teeth.

The advertising watchdog concluded that the evidence provided by HiSmile did not meet the requirements of what consumers would understand by “clinically proven” or “tested”.

It ordered that the ads must not appear again in their current form, while HiSmile also received a warning not to claim that their product had been clinically tested, exaggerate the potential effects of the product or claim that it could whiten teeth 2.2x faster than traditional whitening treatments without a robust body of evidence to support these claims.

The ruling follows the ASA's decision earlier this month to crack down on 'misleading' filters used by beauty brands and influencers on social media over concerns that these could exaggerate a product's effects.

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