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Beware of miracle cures and deceptive weight loss claims

Created date

January 22nd, 2015
pill bottle
pill bottle

You would think that a product sold by merchants like the Skymall catalog, Amazon, Nordstrom, Sephora, QVC, and Ulta would be 100% legitimate. Not so. Apparently, two companies touting skin care creams and weight loss supplements were making fabulous claims about their products that couldn’t be backed up, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped in.

Lobster weight loss?

DERMAdoctor claimed their “solar-powered” lotion transforms UV rays into red light, giving you the same anti-aging results you would get from laser treatments in a doctor’s office. They also stated that their body lotion mimics the effect of a lobster hormone—one that causes lobsters to shrink before molting—and therefore helps you shrink, too. 

DERMAdoctor made these claims for its Photodynamic Therapy facial lotion, Photodynamic Therapy eye lift lotion, and Shrinking Beauty products sold by major national retailers such as Nordstrom and Sephora. A 5.5 oz tube of Shrinking Beauty, a “firming, sculpting & toning lotion with lobster weight loss inspired technology” sold for $58.  

However, the company lacked reliable scientific evidence to support those claims. The studies it did rely on, the FTC says, had serious flaws or didn’t support the claims in the ads. In a settlement with the FTC, the company must pay a fine of $12,675 and, more importantly, must have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up its claims. 

Another skin care company, Aaron Lilly's Solace International, which marketed the products DermaTend Original and DermaTend Ultra, is also in hot water with the FTC. It touted its DermaTend creams, which sold for $39, as do-it-yourself wart and mole removers. The company claimed their product worked quickly, caused little or no scarring, and was safe (even for children). They also touted a “97% success rate.”

‘Real user results’

DermaTend ads touted “real user results” supposedly showing before and after photos of consumers who had success using the products, and written testimonials. The FTC says the company failed to disclose that reviewers were sometimes paid for their stories.

Bioscience, another Aaron Lilly company, sold a three-month supply of their Lipidryl supplement for $129.99. The FTC complaint charges that ads for Lipidryl falsely claimed that the supplement was clinically proven to cause substantial weight loss (such as 28 pounds in 10 weeks) and reduce users’ waistlines. 

The Aaron Lilly company was fined $402,338 by the FTC and prohibited from making a number of specific unsubstantiated representations of their products.

“These companies made outrageous claims that their products could provide a range of benefits, from removing warts to decreasing the appearance of cellulite to providing substantial weight loss,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The common thread for all of these claims was the fundamental lack of scientific evidence. Consumers deserve better.”

With beauty and weight loss products, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be taken in by fantastic claims of miracle cures or magical weight loss potions.  

If you believe you have been the victim of fraudulent, deceptive, or unfair business practices and wish to file a complaint with the FTC, visit FTCcomplaintassistant.gov or call 1-877-382-4357.

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