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Alpecin Shampoo ad gets ASA in a lather over caffeine claims

German shampoo brand Alpecin has had a bad hair day at the hands of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), after a complaint from a professional trichologist that the company could not back up its hair restoration claims.

The campaign, a regional press ad which used Alpecin’s familiar promise that the product provides ‘German engineering for your hair’, was banned after the ASA found that the company could not provide proof that its product helped to reduce the rate of hair loss.

Alpecin, which said that its marketing followed the guidelines of both the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), claimed that it ensured that claims made for its products implied only cosmetic effects, and that the firm had carried out eight separate studies into the product’s benefits.

Despite these assurances, the campaign contained the statement: 'Shampoo is too small a word for it. Alpecin provides caffeine to your hair, so it can actually help to reduce hair loss.' The ad prompted a complaint from a consultant trichologist (a scientist who specialises in the study of hair) that the company could not substantiate its health claims.

The ASA’s investigation found that the studies Alpecin said backed up its products’ efficiency only focused on one of the many causes of hair loss, and that many of the studies did not use control groups.

The watchdog noted that none of the studies purporting to prove the powers of Alpecin Shampoo actually measured the effects of the product itself. It concluded that none of the studies constituted a “well-designed and well-conducted trial,” and that “the claim ‘it can actually help to reduce hair loss’ had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.”

The watchdog has said that the brand, which is owned by German cosmetics concern Dr Kurt Wolff Group, must not state or imply that its product could reduce hair loss without providing evidence first.