You might want to take a closer look at those ashwaganda gummies and collagen powders in your cabinet. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reportedly contacted approximately 600 companies — including Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop and Kourtney Kardashian’s Lemme — with a reminder that they cannot make unsubstantiated product claims.

As the FTC states, wellness companies must back up the health or safety benefits of a product — including over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic products, dietary supplements, and “functional foods” (e.g. protein bars) — with “reliable evidence” pointing to said benefits.

The companies alerted by the consumer protection agency haven’t necessarily violated the law. “The fact that a company is on this list is NOT indication that it has done anything wrong,” the FTC clarifies on a list of the 600-plus companies it contacted.

That said, the situation is a timely reminder that supplements like goop’s Metabolism-Boosting Superpowder, Lemme’s anti-PMS tincture, and MoonJuice’s SuperBeauty pills, aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Because the FDA categorizes dietary supplements as food, vitamins and similar ingestables aren’t subject to the same oversight as medication. As the agency’s website states, “The FDA is not authorized to approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness. In fact, many dietary supplements can be marketed without even notifying the FDA.” Thus, companies have relatively broad leeway to sell products that aren’t proven to be effective, as well as to exaggerate their benefits.

In short: Neither the FDA nor the FTC approve supplements before they hit the market. It’s up to them to take action against unsafe products or misleading marketing claims after the fact.

The recent crackdown on the marketing of wellness supplements is extending to the aesthetics industry. Days after the FTC alert was sent out, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned advertisements exaggerating the benefits of cosmetic treatments such as Botox and filler.

All this goes to show that looks — yes, even the glossy veneer of a skin-smoothing pill or an anti-wrinkle injection — can deceive.


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